Good Governance - Effective use of IT

Written evidence submitted by Gartner (IT 40)



Executive Summary


Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this important dialogue. Attached is the Gartner detailed response to the PASC questions.

Drawing upon our experience of assisting governments across Europe there are a four central themes that have emerged which are driving ‘Effective Use of IT’:

n Delivery of citizen centric services

n Provision of assurance that government can be trusted with its citizens data and information in order to be ‘allowed’ to deliver services

n Transparency in the provision of services - that they represent value for money

n ‘Joined- up government’ in order to deliver more efficient and effective services to citizens and the operations of government

The dilemma faced by all governments is whether this is best achieved via a centralised or decentralised model. The approaches adopted are partly based upon national ‘culture and behaviours’ as much as legacy IT systems and supporting operational process and technology architecture.

In examining the 12 PASC questions the key Gartner observations are:

n Technology Governance. U.K. government has not provided the necessarily level of leadership and clarity on the governance model plus accompanying decision rights it wishes to adopt. This has led to confusion on what different levels of government can and cannot decide. Wherever this is the case Gartner experience indicates that decisions are based upon what it best for that department.

n Programme Management. The NAO and OGC represent elements of best practice in terms of assessing, auditing and cataloguing best practice with regards to programme management. Unfortunately there is little evidence to support the contention that their efforts are more than lessons ‘identified’ rather than ‘learnt’.

n Design and delivery of IT Services. Gartner has seen a move toward programmes based on ‘outcomes’ with good guidance provided by OGC. However the relatively low level of maturity of complex programme and supplier management has frequently thwarted the delivery of the desired outcomes to time and cost as well as lacking in agility to respond to environmental changes.

n Government IT Skill-Base. The skills agenda will be a major challenge in the current environment. Significant numbers of highly skilled individuals will leave when they perceive there is no viable, rewarding career in the public sector and attracted by the allure of the commercial world. This will widen the skills gap that already exists and potentially result in even greater reliance on the supplier base.

n Procurement Policies. ‘Accountability to Parliament’ is frequently used to justify overly complex procurement practices. When this is combined with a risk adverse approach to acquisition the result is poor structured contracts that do not represent value for money.

n Ownership. The ‘test’ for government ownership is no different from commercial organisations - if it is vital to the ‘business of government’, and the loss of which would result in a catastrophic inability to deliver services and/or erode citizen confidence and trust in government then it should be ‘owned’ by government. ‘Owned’ is not the same as ‘operate’.

n IT in the Age of Austerity. In an age of austerity there are a number of options which can be adopted; skills services and programmes based on cost reduction, be creative (implies willingness to take risk) and innovative to deliver services in a more cost-effective way, remove duplication and overlap (implies an aggressive move to shared service environment), prioritise services based on agreed criteria. Managing the right blend of options will require mature capability based programme and portfolio management. There is a small amount of anecdotal evidence that the severity of the cuts is causing paralysis in decision making which can result in ‘kill services and programmes’ to meet cost - irrespective of outcome.

n IT & Innovation. There are a number of very innovative programmes across government. In order to realise the true potential of technology there needs to be a stronger ‘sense and respond’ mechanism with relation to citizen needs and a robust governance regime to drive adoption.

n IT Security. ‘Security’ in widest sense - assuring and protecting citizen’s information plus data, protecting national commercial, financial and security interests is an absolute necessity. There is a need to implement a policy driven security architecture. The basis for this programme exists under ‘Cipher’ the outcome of which should be a scalable solution that is capable of supporting all of government and eventually commercial interests.

n Trends in Government. Many governments have similar difficulties and dilemmas as the U.K. Unlike the U.K., the current pressure to cut the cost of government and the expected contribution from IT is not as great in other countries; hence the pressure for radical change is not yet present. As outlined in the opening paragraph there are however common drivers. Each country recognises the need to respond to citizen needs in a transparent and cost-effective way. The delivery of these ‘needs’ is being enabled by IT. The successful governments have a clear articulated strategy and a defined governance mechanism which ensures ‘compliance’ - be it based on a centralised or de-centralised model.

Key Question

Key Observations

Based upon experiences gained whilst supporting and assuring U.K. Government IT

Gartner Comments and Conclusions

Gartner Opinion

PASC Responses


How well is technology policy coordinated across Government?

1.1 Historically, Gartner has limited evidence of coordinated translation of business policy between local and central Government when both areas provide different elements of the same service ‘supply chain’. For example, delivery of benefits centrally vs. through local council services.

1.2 This situation is changing; we are aware of some leading local councils and Government departments changing business strategy and seeking to join up with third sector partners to deliver services and some emergent activities along cross-government lines.

1.3 Gartner is aware of few consistent contractual principles which enable the overall integration and co-ordination of government IT services (other than the basic infrastructure level or networking services) in the numerous large IT supplier contracts. This situation inhibits the rapid and cost-effective rollout of changes to government technology strategy or policy.

1.4 Social Media is a good example of a disruptive technology that potentially undermines established policies. Gartner has examined and compared the different approaches Governments can take in this area.1

1.5 Firstly, in Gartner’s view is that there is a need to articulate the difference between policy, strategy and standards.

1.6 Secondly, the citizen-centric view of public services needs to drive Government business needs to join-up information technology solutions across organisational and budgetary boundaries.

1.7 A clearer line of communication between the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (GCIO), across Government, down to the lowest level may assist.

1.8 Policies are needed that mandate standards, communicate best practices and promote the right behaviours to lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).


How effective are its governance arrangements?

2.1 Governance processes on different large-scale, information technology enabled change programmes do not follow a single approach and can lead to delays or obviation of crucial early decisions.

2.2 Some Agencies are audited so frequently, that some Government officers seek to avoid the process or have developed stock answers as the process causes severe disruption to their day job and do not see the benefits of the process

2.3 Continual personnel changes at executive level and the pressure of SROs to be associated with success lead to poor execution of governance processes where often supplier staff outstay the intelligent client representatives of Agencies - especially in large IT programmes or the many Departments where IS functions have been primarily outsourced.

2.4 Poorly defined or supported change programmes are not stopped early enough, leading to the commissioning agency and the media blaming ‘IT programmes’ for poor outcomes and not itself for poor governance. In addition, Gartner questions whether assurance is being performed too frequently, without context and at the wrong level.

2.5 A major factor which sustains the wrong culture appears to be the rigid nature of funding itself. The current budgetary mechanism is yearly, specific to a department and does not reward efficiency. Breaking the current funding model by removing year on year funding and permitting shifting of budgetary spend across departments would engender a new culture focused on outcomes.


Have past lessons from NAO and OGC reviews about unsuccessful IT programmes been learnt and applied?

3.1 There is insufficient evidence to support a view that lessons identified by the NAO/OGC are considered or applied for new information technology based initiatives or reviewed against existing programmes

3.2 Many Government departments do not consistently gather up and utilise programme delivery metrics to consistently assure new or in-flight programmes against.

3.3 Changing requirement (NOMS, RPA) or poor interpretation of technology implications (NIS, CLG) as a result of new policy are consistently cited as reasons for poor performance yet politicians and the media continue to associate failure of Government programmes with "technology".

3.4 Gartner has also found that that Government is inconsistent in how recommendations from NAO and OGC reports are followed up.

3.5 Based on Gartner’s experiences we have yet to see improved consistency in the successful delivery of larger scale ‘IT’ projects and programme. The same problems cited by the NAO in 2003 still exist, namely rapidly changing technology, dynamic user requirements, complexity and oversight.

3.6 What constitutes success is not clearly defined or measured. Success is therefore perceived in eye of the beholder and promotional capability of each programme’s leaders.


How well is IT used in the design, delivery and improvement of public services?

4.1 There are many successful examples that show the UK Government is very capable of using IT to improve public services, yet these successes are not well promoted and less appealing for the media to report on.

4.2 A not-well publicised example of a successful online system is the implementation of the RCUK’s Joint Electronic Submission System (Je-S), developed in-house in 2005 and with a current user base of 140,000, it supports online submission of around 80,000 research grant proposals, fellowships and expenditure statements and allows research organisations to check the status of their grant portfolio online, helping to improve management of current awards and doing away with paper processes altogether.

4.3 A Gartner report on kiosks in 2008 (commissioned by DWP) found limited central assistance available and concluded that there were as many as 20 different kiosk solutions within the U.K. public sector for something which could be bundled as a commodity solution. This is an example where better promotion of success could lead to less duplication of effort and perhaps better aggregation of demand to drive unit price costs lower.

4.4 Proven technology solutions and good practices are inconsistently promoted across government leading to duplication of effort or large scale solutions being developed which are inflexible and reflect the siloed departmental need and not the citizen-centric need.

4.5 Government is getting better at using IT, but IT enabled services are undermined by two underlying issues:

n Demand for IT services outweighs the capacity of public bodies to deliver; capacity to change, to deliver change and operation capability to accept change.

n Ideology and Policy changes occur faster than departments and supplier’s ability to respond. Policy changes invariably require swift turnaround or changes to requirement which usually result in delays, cost overruns or failure to deliver expected business benefits.


What role should IT play in a ‘post-bureaucratic age’?

5.1 To date Government information mechanisms are not as polished as they could be. Data is still manually collated in spreadsheets and localised databases. Gartner is aware of measures and metrics being interpreted differently within the same organisation - with the aim to maximise business unit marketing rather than provide inter or intra departmental comparison. This is the largest obstacle for achieving the UK Govt’s ‘Clear line of sight’ ambitions.

5.2 The U.S. spending dashboard an initiative which enables transparency of IT spend and ultimately, the intention will be to enable pooling of demand.

5.3 Gartner believe PBA can only work if information is used as the glue to bridge the gap between political aspirations, the desire for a unified approach and the local desires for greater control.

5.4 The role of government in a market-driven democratic society should set the boundaries and standards for the market for IT products and services and then encourage healthy competition.

5.5 Where there is potential divergence in important areas then it should intervene as far as is necessary to bring cohesion. Where it spots excellence then it should give recognition and promote the best practice that actually works in a particular sector.

5.6 This is what the post-bureaucratic age should mean; 80% light touch, 20% regulation and formal constraint.


What skills does Government have and what are those it must develop in order to acquire IT capability?

6.1 A Gartner survey of over 150 blue chip CIOs concluded that enterprises’ retain and develop five core skills7. HM Government and its agencies already have these five skills but to varying degrees of maturity across departments and generally of less capability than its outsourced suppliers.

6.2 The drive to procure the lowest costs does not encourage suppliers to provide and commit their highest performing staff or service offerings. Anecdotally there is evidence that Government Suppliers rarely provide "A Team" staff. Consequently project, programmes and other IT related change programmes often take longer to deliver the outputs, outcomes and benefits expected

6.3 The Australian Queensland government has endorsed using the U.K. developed Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) as part of its whole-of-government initiatives aimed at improving management of the ICT workforce. The U.K. lacks a transparent and coordinated use of a framework like SFIA to understand at the staff level where the real IT skill gaps are most evident, and a then the development of meaningful and action orientated mitigation programme.

6.4 Gartner predicts that by 2014, government agency IT infrastructure and operational head count will fall at least 20%3

6.5 The existing civil service career path is one well geared toward executive management, administration and operations. However the specialist nature of IT management across government is not well served by the existing structure and results in a heavy dependence on external consultancies and suppliers. To that end, HR departments struggle to attract the best talent in IT management.

6.6 The next CEO of Tesco is their current head of group IT, Philip Clarke. Is this a career path that should be more prevalent in Government?


How well do current procurement policies and practices work?

7.1 Whilst rules guarantee transparency and fairness for the select few, they also in practice, extend procurement life cycles, ramp up costs and preclude many smaller businesses from engaging with public sector organisations. Consequently, the high barriers to entry reduce the competitive landscape for Government.

7.2 Extended procurements for complex solutions requiring fixed prices for unconfirmed requirements do not effectively transfer risk. System Integrators have mastered this process to a point where they often know more about the business than the internal IT team managing them.

7.3 Commercial practices confuse the process to reduce price and support the adage ‘you get what you pay for’. A relaxation of the strict adherence to process would energise the competitive landscape, encourage smaller IT businesses to engage with public bodies and invigorate further growth in U.K. based technologies businesses.

7.4 Adoption of proven sourcing models such as market comparison models and reverse auction methods for commoditised IT could stimulate further competition and help drive consumption of IT services away from a supply dominated market to a more cost-effective demand driven model.


What infrastructure, data or other assets does government need to own, or to control directly, in order to make effective use of IT?

8.1 Data, networks and infrastructure that are sensitive, necessary for defence of the realm or vulnerable to exploitation by criminal elements must remain under the control of Government. Crucial to delivery of this is the evolving need for secure support, data operations and network infrastructures. These represent HMG’s critical infrastructure and Gartner believes should be retained by publicly controlled bodies.

8.2 Examples where data can be better and more efficiently managed if outsourced to third parties:

n HR records,

n Payroll,

n Education,

n Health,

n National archive,

n Operational management information,

n Aspects of local government

8.3 Gartner predicts by 2015, public or community clouds will supplement at least 50% of government IT shared services and centralization initiatives. 3

8.4 Centralization and shared services can achieve 15% and, in some cases, 20% reductions in operating costs within three to five years; however, governments have rarely achieved the intended benefits of cost savings and service improvements in the planned time frame.

8.5 Using public cloud services generates the types of economies of scale and sharing of resources that can reduce costs and increase choices of technologies.

8.6 Resistance from user agencies to adopt shared or centralized services is one of the most challenging barriers to achieving benefits.

8.7 The U.S. General Services Agency will be an early high-profile test case to help determine if large cloud suppliers, in this case Google, can adequately support the e-mail and collaboration needs of large federal agencies.


How will public sector IT adapt to the new ‘age of austerity’?

9.1 Gartner research shows that simply forcing incumbent suppliers to reduce cost (and by definition services) has a significant reduction in service quality.

9.2 As HM Government seeks to amalgamate, share services and merge to save money, it is also continuing to create new departments and break down agencies to foster new policies, processes and ways of working. This level of change is disruptive and adds to IT costs.

9.3 Gartner predicts by the end of 2011, at least 30% of governments worldwide will implement initiatives to reduce IT costs by 20% or more. 3

9.4 Alternative delivery and acquisition models, such as cloud computing, open-source software and "crowdsourcing," will be increasingly attractive to government executives that need to achieve ‘better for less’.

9.5 However, most government executives will protect their political turf rather than take necessary risks; therefore, unless governance and project and portfolio management are mature enough, departments, agencies and local jurisdictions will not reap the benefits of radical cost cutting.


How well does Government take advantage of new technological developments and external expertise?

10.1 Gartner recently provided input for a high level departmental report. Alternative suggestions for dealing with a subset of citizens were commented on as too radical and the comparison to the retail sector as "alien to Government."

10.2 This is an example where the U.K. Public sector often errs on the side of caution in comparison to countries such as Canada and Singapore, and this cultural psyche may well be stifling operational ambition as well as technology development for a set of citizens that regularly transact on the Web.

10.3 Similarly, Gartner believes the lack of promotion of successful technology solutions across government suppress the appetite for change.

10.4 Should Government be a technological leader? No

10.5 Should Government support innovation using proven technology and ingenuity to apply this to the Government context? Yes.

10.6 Gartner predicts by 2015, more than 50% of government outcomes will depend on consumer or highly commoditized technologies.3

10.7 Like other industry sectors, government is affected by an influx of consumer devices, and although demographics and compliance requirements are less conducive to rapid adoption, consumer-class social media - such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter - are creeping in to support internal and external collaboration. Employees will choose the right balance.

10.8 The Hype Cycle for Government Transformation identifies technologies that have the potential to help public-sector organizations transform their operational and service delivery goals.6


How appropriate is the Government’s existing approach to information security, information assurance and privacy?

11.1 New technologies continuously bring new challenges to the security arena, social media being a topical example.

11.2 Governments implement information security according to a balance of risk, practicality and affordability. ISO 27001 provides a valid framework and set of standards for managing information security and as such can be independently audited, with maturity assessments being used as a constructive stimulant to improvement.

11.3 Gartner believe that in the context of the ‘Big Society’ where there will be a much broader community of interests involved in the delivery of some traditional government duties that there is also a need to establish practical systems and methods for implementing a workable regime for maintaining the integrity of personal and/or operational data.

11.4 Responsibility for establishing the generic security regime for the vast majority of government should not be owned by GCHQ, given their position as guardian of the most secure assets. GCHQ cannot but help over-specify and in doing so create a mini-industry around compliance and accreditation.

11.5 Gartner Research have been working with the U.S. Government to reflect some of the latest thinking globally.4


How well does the U.K. compare to other countries with regard to government procurement and application of IT systems?

12.1 If we assess a single solution area such as Shared Services that has gained attention in the public sector in the U.K., Australia and Canada as a strategy to optimize costs; Successful implementations have been experienced mainly in the U.K., local, state and provincial level in the U.S., Canada and Australia, but other countries, such as South Africa, the Netherlands, the Nordics, Germany, France and Italy, also have some experience with implementing the model.

12.2 At the shared services level, the comparison among countries can be meaningful to learn about good practices across different jurisdictions; in particular, for shared services, Anglo-Saxon countries, such as U.K., Canada and Australia are certainly more mature than Southern European countries and to a certain extent more mature than U.S. ( ).

12.3 Gartner is aware of several international comparisons available. Unfortunately, these reviews put initiatives that are developed in very different contexts, political situations, and procedural and legal constraints on the same level. These surveys cannot always take into account that for the same service, different parts of government deliver different parts of the value chain, such as DWP and local councils supply chain for the disbursement of council benefits.

12.4 In essence, Gartner believes that it is more important that each country assesses its own capability to define a complete vision for using IT to improve service delivery8.

12.5 With those caveats in mind, international comparison could be applied, but should be narrowed down to areas where apple-to-apple comparisons in terms of contexts, political situations and procedural and legal constraints are feasible.



1. Comparing Social-Media Policies for Government (Gartner ID: G00173181), December 2009.

2. Implementing Lean in IT (Gartner ID: G00174947), February 2010.

3. Predicts 2011: Government CIOs Must Balance Cost Containment with IT Innovation (Gartner ID: G00208687), November 2010.

4. New U.S. Government Security Guidelines for Social Media Are a Start, but Only a Start (Gartner ID: G00171713), October 2009.

5. OECD ‘Open & Innovative Government’ Venice Conference, November 2010:

6. Hype Cycle for Government Transformation, 2010, (Gartner ID: G00205343), July 2010

7. EXP Premier, The Reality of IS Lite, (Gartner ID: G-11-7022), September 2003

8. Using the E-Government Assessment Questionnaire" (G00153058).

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January 2011