2 Implementing the Strategy |
6. ERG described the new powers which it hoped would
enable the Strategy to succeed where previous initiatives had
failed to improve ICT. Controls laid down in the Spending Review
mean that ERG can intervene in departments directly, stepping
in to micro-manage projects if necessary. ERG recognised that
these powers should be used selectively.
7. Ensuring the buy-in of departments to the direction
and objectives of the Strategy is essential. ERG told us how commitment
from each department's Chief Information Officer (CIO) was easier
to obtain now that CIOs met regularly, and were accountable to
the Government CIO for delivery of their actions in the Strategy.
CIOs need sufficient standing within their departments to influence
progress. ERG told us that only four CIOs sat on their respective
departmental Boards at the time of our hearing,
but that CIOs had better access than before to key committees
and could escalate any concerns to the Government CIO if needed.
8. Key causes of ICT project failure include over-ambitious
expectations on the part of the department, and, in turn, over-confident
proposals from the ICT suppliers. Projects with long timescales
were then out-of-date by the time the ICT was implemented, and
incurred increased costs as changes to the project were made.
ERG welcomed the list of Common Causes of Project Failure produced
jointly by the National Audit Office and the Office of Government
Commerce, and said it had been helpful in assessing projects
and programmes and managing the risks.
ERG told us that it was moving towards shorter, more iterative
projects with timeframes of two to three years. One example was
the Department for Work and Pensions' Universal Credit project
which had a deadline of October 2013.
If successful, ERG said this project would be a suitable benchmark
for the development and implementation of future ICT systems.
9. Another reason for the failure of ICT projects
in the past has been a lack of clarity about the policy.
ERG told us that in future a 'starting gate review' would be performed
on every major project. The review would be a check against the
common causes of failure and would allow ERG to press, if necessary,
for greater clarity from policy-makers and Ministers.
10. The Strategy aims to create a fairer and
more competitive marketplace, putting an end to the oligopoly
of large suppliers and providing greater direct opportunities
for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
The balance of power in the procurement process has leaned towards
large suppliers, which have a vested interest in long timescales.
ERG accepted that using an SME as a subcontractor through one
of the large ICT suppliers could result in government paying a
profit margin to both suppliers. Removing the obstacles that hinder
the direct participation of SMEs and the voluntary sector was
therefore a key element of the Strategy.
However, previous initiatives supporting greater use of SMEs had
were now being challenged to find ways in which SMEs could engage
and contract with them directly. ERG initiatives included providing
websites and meetings where SMEs could pitch their ideas rather
than responding to requests for proposals. ERG has also recruited
an 'SME Crown commercial representative' who is leading on SME
involvement in government.
11. The Government plans to move more public services
online and ERG stressed to us the importance of designing services
around the needs of the user. ERG would shortly be appointing
a 'Director of Digital' to lead on improving and extending government's
presence on the Internet.
ERG said that it had proved very useful, in the development of
Universal Credit, to include citizens - typical users of the service
- in the design process.
It also referred to the Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency's online
system for car tax, which was designed from the point of view
of the motorist; joining up information about the individual,
the car, the insurance and the MOT test.
12. Approximately nine million people in the
United Kingdom have never used the Internet. They are often the
hardest to reach, for example the elderly. For the elderly or
those from poor backgrounds, the Internet can be very enabling.
It is important that they are not disadvantaged by the shift to
online services. ERG told us it was encouraging the use of alternative
means through which to access the Internet, including online centres,
libraries and post offices.
13. The Strategy only makes one reference to cyber-security
despite government plans to introduce new ways of working via
new technologies, which rely on the Internet. This move to Internet-enabled
technology increases cyber-security risks. ERG told us that it
needed to balance cyber-security requirements against the risk
of making services impractical to use because they were smothered
by excessive security.
14. Government has a clear need for cyber-security
skills, but the witnesses could not say how many cyber-security
professionals were working within government compared with what
was actually needed. The Government of the United States of America
had already identified that it would need to double its capability
to meet a shortfall in skills. The Strategic Defence Review had
allocated £650 million to cyber-security, which ERG told
us would support the development of a wider capability.
And, the Minister for the Cabinet Office had, since May 2011,
taken responsibility for cyber-security.
15. Ensuring that the right ICT skills are in place
will be critical, and this goes well beyond cyber-security skills.
ERG told us that there were high-quality staff within both the
centre of government and individual departments, but there were
probably not enough of them. ERG had limited understanding of
the size and capability of the existing Civil Service ICT workforce.
It undertook to address workforce planning, at least at departmental
level, in its ICT Capability Strategy, due for publication in
16. In the current economic climate it is likely
that ICT will continue to be subject to heavy cuts - maybe 30%
to 50% - which will inevitably involve job losses.
ERG assured us that attempts were being made to ensure that those
staff with important skills did not leave on voluntary redundancy
schemes. In addition, departments were increasing their in-house
skills by replacing contractors and consultants with civil servants.
17. We reminded the witnesses that we have often
raised concerns about the role of the Senior Responsible Owner
(SRO), who is responsible for ensuring that a project or programme
of change meets its objectives and delivers the projected benefits.
In 2006 half of SROs were in their first role and half spent less
than 20% of their time on their SRO duties.
There had been cases where the role had been treated more like
that of a non-executive chairman performed on a part-time basis.
Many had no relevant experience and it was common for an SRO to
change jobs every 15 to 18 months, leaving new SROs able to blame
their predecessors for failures.
ERG told us that with shorter projects the risk of the SRO departing
before implementation was reduced. Departments would be required
to do risk assessments and, if for any reason the SRO had to change,
to put in place arrangements to ensure a smooth hand over of responsibility.
18. In the past, the Cabinet Office has not had the
clout or ability to establish the level of management or coordination
across government that was needed to deliver a successful ICT
success will partly depend on the work of the new Major Projects
Authority, but ERG could not provide any detail on the nature
or the number of the projects to be in its purview. Potentially
the Major Projects Authority could manage a portfolio of more
than 50 major projects, of which ERG estimated that around two-thirds
could have a major ICT component. ERG described the Major Projects
Authority as a small, powerful team of approximately 40 people,
which was already up to full strength.
The team would appoint experts to review projects and would have
the right to intervene directly where significant concerns arose.
It would also have access to Ministers if necessary to get issues
12 Qq 3 and 7 Back
Qq 4-7 Back
Department for Work and Pensions, HM Revenue and Customs, Office
for National Statistics and the Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency Back
Qq 48-51 and supplementary note to Qq 49-50 Back
Qq 1, 15, 34, 78 Back
Q2; http://www.ogc.gov.uk/documents/Project_Failure.pdf Back
Qq 15 and 36- 41 Back
Q 41 Back
Qq 15, 18 Back
Qq 15,17-18 Back
Cabinet Office, Government ICT Strategy, March 2011 Back
Qq 34, 78, 97 Back
Qq 34, 45-46 and 85 Back
Q 35 Back
Q 84 Back
Qq 12, 76 Back
Qq 76, 36 and 101 Back
Q 1 Back
Qq 1, 73 Back
Qq 1,73 Back
Q 61 Back
Qq 64-69 Back
Q 61 Back
Qq 7, 97-98 and supplementary note to Q 99 Back
Q 7-8, 53-57 Back
Qq 53-57 and supplementary note to Q57 Back
Q20; Committee of Public Accounts, Delivering successful IT-enabled
business change, Twenty-seventh Report of Session 2006-07,
HC 113 Back
Q 25 Back
Qq 25,52 and 60 Back
Q 60 Back
Q 3 Back
Qq 23, 30 and 32-33 Back