5 Integrating IT|
65. A common theme emerging from our evidence is
that IT must be integrated into the development of all new policy
and initiatives. It was suggested previous IT failures had been
caused by a lack of linkage with the business of government. As
the Open Rights Group put it:
You don't want a policy on shovels when your
actual problem is gardening - you need a policy on gardening.
Therefore, the question isn't how to use IT the question is "How
do we manage this problem, and does IT fit into this case".
66. A number of witnesses argued that it was wrong
to think of large projects which involved IT as "IT projects"
but that they should instead be regarded as "IT-enabled business
change programmes". Glyn Evans, Vice President of Soctim
It sometimes seems that every other year we have
some inquiry into why IT projects fail, whereas perhaps a more
meaningful question is why do we try and run business change projects
as if they were IT projects [...]
The danger of focusing, in effect, on the IT bit of change is
that you don't do well any of the other elements. In such circumstances
it's amazing that any IT projects actually succeed.
ThinkGov, an IT consultancy, echoed this sentiment,
"there are very few Information Technology failures, but
plenty of examples where a public sector business change project
using IT has been mismanaged."
Intellect commented that the Government should focus on establishing
departments' business needs first and then deciding what technology
to use and that currently
"technology tends to be considered separately from business
Westminster Council reinforced this point, arguing that "too
often IT is viewed as a dark art or worse still something that
will just deliver without needing to engage with the deliverers."
67. Sirius argued that IT is too often an "afterthought"
with policy development and legislation both being conducted in
"isolation to the technical environment or technological
One company, commenting on IT management in HMRC, said that "the
IT part of HMRC effectively dictates HMRC strategy because IT
seems to sit at the heart of everything. The IT tail wags the
68. Hewlett Packard highlighted the importance of
integrating IT at the start of policy development.
IT is now on the critical path of almost any
significant policy initiative. It is not sensible for policy to
be developed without considering the way in which IT might support
its delivery [...] In particular, it is important that IT is not
treated as an afterthought which comes at the end of the policy
We suggested to the Government that the technology
that would deliver any new policy should be considered early on
in the policy development process and given the same importance
attributed to the legal or financial implications of a policy.
Ian Watmore was very receptive to this idea saying that:
I absolutely think that delivery of the policy,
in all its guises, should be thought about right at the beginning
when you are making policy, and delivery includes technology,
organisational change, people and the other things as well. I
69. Government should ensure that the IT implications
of new initiatives are properly considered near the start of the
policy process on a par with the legal and financial considerations.
This should simply be an extension of thinking about how the policy
will be implemented in practice. We recommend that analysis of
these issues be included in all policy submissions to Ministers.
70. Another flaw that seems to haunt government's
approach to IT is over-specifying technical solutions to problems.
Microsoft argued that there was a tendency towards:
Long, detailed and very prescriptive definitions
of every aspect of the system to be delivered. This is not limited
to the functions that the system must deliver, but also specifies
many aspects of how the system must do it, often down to the specific
technology. Not only does this make the bidding process more complex
and expensive, but also eliminates any opportunity for innovative
71. Similarly a number of SMEs believed that there
was a mindset of getting things done rather than getting things
right: "Big problems require big solutions" was
how one SME described Whitehall's attitude. Little consideration
was given to how public services could be better designed and
delivered, and the role of modern information systems in helping
to make that happen. Procurement appears aimed solely at dictating
solutions, "we know what the solution is, come and deliver
it", rather than setting out desired outcomes and then
letting an open market provide potential solutions.
72. A number of useful suggestions were made as to
how combat government's tendency to over-specify. One of these
was that the Government should spend much more time thinking about
what it wants to achieve before starting the formal procurement
process itself. Sureyya Cansoy, Intellect's director of public
there is not enough preparation on procurement
before a Government department or agency goes out to procure and
publishes its contract notice. They don't spend enough time understanding
the art of the possible, they don't spend enough time thinking
about the business outcomes that the project or programme is trying
Once the formal procurement process has begun government
is, understandably, unwilling to talk to individual companies
for fear of having the eventual contracting decision challenged.
73. One mechanism government uses to talk to the
IT industry at an early stage in a systems development is Intellect's
"Concept Viability" scheme which provides suppliers
with the opportunity to give government departments honest feedback
on whether the project or programme is designed well, whether
it would work, whether the commercial arrangements are the most
appropriate ones, and whether their budgets are realistic before
a contract notice is issued.
This scheme has received positive reviews from the National
Audit Office (NAO)
although some SMEs were less positive arguing that they struggled
to get access to the scheme.
74. An alternative model, used by the oil and gas
industries for providing a conduit between technology innovators
and industry, was recommended to us. The Industry Technology Facilitator
enables the oil and gas industries to tap into supplier-side innovation
and deployment. It runs as an independent organisation outside
of the normal commercial and supply chain interests and enables
an informed dialogue to take place, something that appears to
be lacking in government's current approach to IT.
75. We agree with our witnesses who argued that
there was no such thing as an IT project - only policy initiatives
and business programmes that use technology in their delivery.
One of the primary reasons for these project failures is a lack
of focus on the outcome and how the IT project fits into the wider
benefits the Government wants to achieve. The Government must
stop departments specifying IT solutions and ensure they specify
what outcomes they wish to achieve, within the broad technical
parameters to ensure interoperability. The market should then
be able to provide a range of possible IT solutions.
91 Ev 130 Back
Ev 139 Back
Ev w34 Back
Ev 113 Back
Ev 114 Back
Ev 89 Back
Ev w45 Back
Note submitted in confidence to the Committee. Back
Ev 105 Back
Q 557 Back
Ev w145 Back
SME Seminar Back
Q 190 [Ms Cansoy] Back
Q 174 [Ms Cansoy] Back
National Audit Office, Delivering Successful IT-enabled business
change, para 3.24 Back
SME seminar. Back
See http/www.oil-itf.com/index Back
Ev w147-148 Back