Good Governance - Effective use of IT

Written evidence submitted by Canon UK Ltd (IT 49)


The following answers relate, primarily, to the experience of Canon (UK) Ltd. as a major supplier of print, software and associated services to the UK public sector.

Please note, answers have been limited to the questions where Canon UK is best placed to provide insight.


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

A frequent issue is the lack of centralised ownership of horizontal processes. For example, in the procurement of print, along with associated software and support infrastructure, public sector organisations often procure products and services for one department or organisation at a time.

As the procurement of print delivers similar services regardless of organisation, there is scope for such horizontal processes to be procured on a pan-departmental or even pan-organisational level. This offers significant efficiencies in terms of cost and the procurement process itself.


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

A key opportunity for the Public Sector is to support a shift away from narrow industry service level agreements (SLAs) to an outcome-centric approach to add value to an organisation.

Narrowly defined, industry-standard SLAs are a common element of IT procurement. Typically, supplier performance will be measured against there pre-negotiated SLAs with little consideration for the value and impact they have on an organisation’s business requirements and public service deliverables. By shifting to an organisation-centric approach, supplier can be measured on how their service and service levels enhance the delivery of public services thereby creating a win-win situation.


Question 7. How well do current procurement policies and practices work?

There are three key areas where current procurement policies have a significant scope for adding more value: ongoing contract management, the procurement process itself and the primary objectives of public sector procurement.

Successful contract management enables an organisation to ensure best-value from a supplier and ensure that the ongoing and evolving needs of the organisation are adequately supported. Whilst the public sector is often highly pro-active during the procurement process, frequently this approach does not continue to the "business as usual" phase once a contract has been signed. By ensuring there is constant and ongoing management of all contracts additional efficiencies will be gained by ensuring suppliers are aware of an organisation’s business requirements, are held to account when and if under-performing and are able to plan and develop services as the organisation’s needs evolve.

Secondly, the procurement process itself provides great scope for improvement. Whilst there are certain legal requirements that need to be fulfilled in public sector procurement, organisations often engage in a long, costly and onerous process without "commercially interrogating" EU legislation to understand how perceived barriers can be overcome to eliminate cost.

The primary objective of procurement projects is the third area that needs to be addressed. The public sector typically procures on price, and is often highly effective at ensuring significant discount levels for contractual business. Whilst this reduces spend on certain commodity items, it does not support maximising operational efficiencies. A value-centric approach that focuses on the key service deliverables of an organisation would open up supplier negotiations to generate innovation in procurement.

By linking the value added to operations through IT systems and stipulating deliverables such as reducing the time taken to access data or days taken to process invoices, organisations would have the opportunity to unlock significant value in supplier negotiations and thereby enhance service delivery.


Question 8 . What infrastructure, data or other assets does government need to own, or to control directly, in order to make effective use of IT?

Whilst the public sector is often able to effectively negotiate best-pricing for certain commodity products through framework agreements, there is still significant overlap in commodity procurement.

By enabling defined pricing and procurement channels for commodity products with pre-defined specifications, substantial cost and process efficiencies could be made. Organisations would no longer need to invest in costly procurement processes for commodity items if access to a simple preferred supplier catalogue were created. Commodity items with a defined specification could be purchased directly by the department needing them, freeing up time of procurement professional to invest in more complicated projects.


9. How will public sector IT adapt to the new "age of austerity"

Process mapping will support a great deal of the shift IT will undergo in the age of austerity. Understanding of information flows and the requirements of organisations will be key to their cost effective development.

This approach will lend itself to the development of greater IT flexibility to support a more mobile and agile workforce. For example IT will need to adapt to support mobile users with seamless technology access including back office systems and printing. IT will also need to be agile enough to effectively cope with the ebbs and flow of organisations’ workflows and workforces. A good example of this is the proposed closure of schools in Scotland due to demographic changes. ( Further demographic changes can also be expects as a result of the baby boom experienced in the credit crunch, both are examples of where public sector IT will need to adapt its deliverables within a few years.


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

As a major supplier to the UK public sector, Canon UK has seen an encouraging uptake of new technology and services to support greater efficiencies. Whilst the is not the case across the board, there are many examples of best practice such as Fife Council, Hertfordshire County Council and South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust to name a few.

The main difference to the private sector is that of agility. Typically, private sector organisations are able to implement new technology at a much faster pace.


Question 11. How appropriate is the Government’s existing approach to information security, information assurance and privacy?

There is a need for a greater level of consistency in IA policies. A good example of this is Hard Disk Drive (HDD) policies. Organisations often have detailed and robust policies for HDD management, storage and disposal at end of life, however, these policies are rarely implemented across the board.

PCs and laptops are generally subject to strict IA procedures as are IT networks. An area that is often overlooked is that of HDDs embedded within multifunctional printing and copying devices. These modern MFDs effectively have similar capabilities to PCs and can store significant amounts of data. There are, however, rarely subject to the same IA policies of PCs.

By extending the IA policies of PCs and laptops to MFDs and including data encryption, overwrite and HDD removal options where appropriate, a considerable hole in current IA would be plugged.

January 2011