Good Governance - Effective use of IT

Written evidence submitted by CISCO (IT 48)

CISCO Systems

CISCO has around 2500 employees in the UK and had revenue of over 7 Billion GBP in 2009. Cisco is a provider of network services and products to all the major fixed and mobile telecoms providers in the UK. Additionally, most FSTE companies use Cisco equipment in the design and building of their networks. Government is a major client and CISCO has a presence in educational, health service, local government and defence.

1. How well is technology policy co-ordinated across Government?

A Reasonable job of co-ordination has been done in the recent past but current management and impact of austerity measures are a cause for concern.

Central leadership and vision is needed as well as single mandate. The use of CIO and CTO councils to co-ordinate needs re-emphasis. Examples of success include the CTO council development of Cross Government Enterprise Architecture (XGEA) that offered a strong point of co-ordination. Examples where central co-ordination has not succeed in introducing common standards and savings include the NPIA, Identify Services and Healthcare. There needs more executive backing to bring changes desired. Structures need to be revisited.

Cabinet Office appears to be under-resourced and in a fast changing technological area under-skilled for such as task. Cabinet Office using and relying on industry more could meet this gap.

2.      How effective are its governance arrangements?

Concern of resourcing, skills and prioritization. There is a concern that dispersed efforts are largely ineffective. Externally, it is difficult to be clear on the overall governance arrangements on security, identity, communications, infrastructure, education, shared services, economies of scale. Recent reorganization around security according to the National Security Strategy shows direction and intention but in other departmental areas clarity is lacking. During workforce reduction in central government, attention needs to be paid to maintain ICT resource required to govern effectively.

There may be scope for creation of a Minister for ICT. Other leading ICT nations such as Nordics, India , Korea, Japan have adopted this solution to ICT governance. This unifies some of the challenges and provides the leadership needed which supplements the health, education, tax, etc.

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

Each IT project fails for its own reasons. However, commonly skills, understanding user requirements, change in leadership/ policy and changing remit lead to failure. The UK does not have sufficient grasp of management optimization to deliver ICT productivity and service improvements. Given how central UK governance is, the inability to provide integrated enterprise architecture supported by unique administrative and budgetary systems is probably the main current "issue". If management optimization and constant review were made, this would allow innovation of public service to be built upon a solid framework.

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

Historically, we have a poor track record. Nonetheless, it does appear to be improving. Industry has invested a large amount of time and effort into working with and educating government actors on how they should expand their use of ICT for business value.
Unwillingness to address cultural and process change has limited the impact and benefits of ICT design and innovation. To some degree this is beginning to change and austerity may force rethinking of management and services methods more suited to deliver productivity – simple, structure and responsive.

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

Post-bureaucratic age requires government agencies to use data better to provide information. The inability to share information is an issue. Privacy and security needs to be balanced with usability. The UK has the highest economic use of the Internet for ecommerce of all OECD nations – without the highest access speeds or any better security. The population’s willingness to use effective ICT solutions may well be ahead of the government’s willingness to provide them. In Cabinet people avoid using shared services at all costs due to 3 password/login all of which needs to be a combination of letters, numbers, capitals and symbols. In the NHS, only being allowed to take 2 pieces of private information on house visits – a postcode, name or telephone number on scraps of paper – while hand held devices with security would resolve the issue.

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

Government needs to rethink its’ approach to ICT. Should government continue to have such high reliance on outsourcers in the future? In 2004 the Transformation Government paper highlighted IT professionalism in Government as a key issue – this was heralded as an opportunity to rebalance skills into Government so that there would be less dependence on external providers. This has not happened and bringing in skilled ICT personnel may well be key to developing and managing growth in a more economical manner and provide the freedom from vendor ‘lock-in’ which would offer savings.
7.      How well do current procurement policies and practices work?
There is scope for improvement. OGC and BuyingSolutions need to interface better with industry and draw on trusted advice. They are now in ERG and substantial change is afoot. Change Management is an issue as policies change frequently and without consultation. There is often little or no commentary or narrative around changes and no real feedback opportunities on new requirements. It is not unusual for published timescales and given dates to be missed

8.      What infrastructure, data or other assets does government need to own, or to control directly, in order to make effective use of IT?
In most instances, outsourced managed services can deliver basic services if there is an adequate contract and review process. In areas of vital national interest networks, data centres and software should be government specific.

There are major benefits in central provision and management of data. Identity management is a high-risk area in which central government action would be appropriate. Having multiple government sites with numerous sign-on is in itself counter productive, fragmented and frustrating.
9.      How will public sector IT adapt to the new ‘age of austerity’?
ICT can drive costs savings in the workforce, the workplace and in the use of energy and resources. IT options are well understood. Two examples are location independent workforce (LIW) and shared services. Location independent workforces need to be provided the necessary infrastructure and support tools. Given the work of the BDUK and ultrafast broadband roll out in the UK, there is a real opportunity for government to jump to the next level of workforce management. LIW would allow large numbers of staff to be relocated across the country and provide virtual decentralization to support the localization agenda. Additionally, where needed telepresence centres could be established and shared in local government offices to facilitate the one-to-one meetings needed as part of the LIW movement.

Shared infrastructure and shared services would underpin the development of LIW. While the government is intellectually aligned to these two ideas, there remains reluctance to move quickly to converge organisations at a business level and to drive cultural and process change. Government department all are behind sharing services, but the overall approach is "you are free to share my services".

The taking back of central procurement and the renegotiation of ICT contracts is a major step in sending out a strong message of control. Along with the £95 million cut in spending, government can set the agenda is enforcing innovation in management, design and delivery of ICT; nonetheless, £95m as part of £16billion will be of limited impact. The objective of more online deliver of service needs to be incentivized. This could be done through supply-side control of ICT budgets and minimal interoperability and open standards approach or this could be done through demand-side actions.

Demand -side would provide either financial incentive to complete transactions on line - a reduced cost to citizens. However, countries, which have better connectivity and higher rates of ICT literacy and home computer usage, attest to the fact that many citizens prefer one-to-one engagement between public/civil servants. This includes younger ICT trained citizens not solely the hard-to-reach or frequent users of public services. The existing physical presence trust models of ‘civil servant/public/ business’ relations have been created over 150 years so the extension to government web-presence requires targeted actions. Additional study needs to address reticence in using interactive government services. How could this be addressed?

Firstly, ICT can be placed into the citizen/civil servant interaction. Any one-on-one meetings would revolve around the LCD screen being shared with the citizen instead of the civil servant owning their PC. The actions taken on the PC need to become a common activity. Gradually, this would move from data input by the civil servant to data input from the citizen. This prepares the citizen for remote delivery or kiosk input if assistance is needed. Gradualist actions are needed to build confidence and trust in ICT enabled government.

Secondly, the ICT enablement of public services is built upon the pre-requisite of simplified interactions; however, provision is not enough. The handing in a set of complete papers to a local authority and having this signed-off or accepted is an act of completion, which has psychological and social significance. The sense of completion of ICT deliver services is ‘missed’ by the public. One of the immediate concerns is the autocorrecting of input on online forms. This needs to be done after each field is completed, not after a page is submitted.

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

Civil servants are often too internally focused between lead government departments and ‘bilaterals’ when the actual advice needed is external. Government needs to strengthen its industry engagement. Events with industry are seen as risking commercial involvement or endorsement. Nevertheless, this also varies greatly between companies. Personal connections are not a basis for government/industry interaction. Central government would benefit from developing an industry engagement strategy, which is public and understood by civil servants. It would address the fragmented and unsystematic engagement to date. If advice is sought , then this would also provide the feedback loop needed to understand when advice is implemented in a selective or restricted manner.

11.  How appropriate is the Government’s existing approach to information security, information assurance and privacy?
There is a need to balance the cost and ICT constraints associated with security provision against the genuine need of Government to exploit ICT for business gain. It is appropriate to begin a dialogue with industry in this area. The challenge of cyber security and terrorism require a united effort to ensure the UK has the optimal solution for industrial, economic and military purposes.

This has been of concern within PSN where there was a genuine industry view on the right approach for securing IL3 traffic. The industry consensus was view set aside and a government department implemented their preferred approach. The detail behind the decision (in as far as possible) needs to be feedback into the industry. Failure to provide feedback after active engagement jeopardizes goodwill and future co-operation. The decision taken, against industry opinion, may already be having adverse effects in connected areas of ICT.

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

In a post-bureaucratic age, identity/ identities’ management is key to enable simpler, faster services. The ending of national identity programme will have a serious impact on delivery of full interaction in ICT services.

Other countries do have a Minister for ICT that regroups many of the challenges currently dispersed between delivery organisation and Cabinet Office.

Other countries do have significant failures.

On value-for-money the UK does need to have better tendering and negotiation positions. Services procured and delivered on an ongoing basis which are significantly higher than those available outside contract should be used as leverage in a more routine manner.

January 2011