Written evidence submitted by Intellect|
1. ABOUT INTELLECT
1.1 Intellect is the UK trade association for
the IT, telecommunications and electronics industries, representing
770 member companies from SMEs to large multinationals, which
account for approximately 10% of UK GDP. We are a not-for-profit
and technology-neutral organisation.
1.2 The majority of our members supply the UK
public sector. This submission draws on their collective expertise
and presents the perspective of the UK technology industry.
2. SUMMARY AND
2.1 Technology for the consumer is moving ahead
at light speed. Yet UK citizens and frontline public sector staff
often are forced to deal with outdated public services.
2.2 Great leaps have been made in productivity
in the private sector by using technology to drive new ways of
working. But the UK government has made only patchy progress towards
adopting modern business practices for running its operations.
2.3 Government operates in silos, procurement
is not fit-for-purpose, a risk-averse culture prevails, technology
policy co-ordination and governance are ineffective, and the best
people with the best skills are not made best use of. Adoption
of new technology is slow, and innovative suppliers keen to enter
the market encounter a host of barriers. Public services are designed
around the structure of government as opposed to citizens' needs.
2.4 However, there are also scores of examples
of excellence. The Oyster card service and congestion charging
in London, online driver's license renewals and tax returns, smart
phones for emergency service workers, the digital x-ray service
and a host of back-office efficiency initiatives are improving
services and cutting costs. The Tell Us Once initiative, which
has started small and is now scaling up, is a great example of
2.5 The "age of austerity" may serve
as a catalyst for radical change, or it may lead to even greater
risk aversion and a retrenchment that stifles innovation. Intellect
and the technology industry have worked long and hard with the
UK government to achieve change, but with mixed results. However,
we are encouraged by the new government's appetite to drive reform,
and are confident that longstanding problems can be solved by
bringing a joined-up government together with a joined-up technology
2.6 Throughout this submission we make recommendations
for how things could be done differently. The following are priorities.
2.6.1 Use private sector processes as the
standard by which to measure government processes. Government
is indeed different, but there's no reason we shouldn't aim for
the same standard as the private sector.
2.6.2 First, decide your business needs. Then,
decide on the technology. Department heads tend to own budgets,
not CIOs. Their needs drive ICT requirements and these should
be co-ordinated across government.
2.6.3 Ensure accountability and leadership.
There should be Ministerial sponsorship for all large programmes,
ideally maintained through transitions of responsibility. Senior
Responsible Owners (SROs) of appropriate seniority and experience
should lead programmes of all sizes from conception through procurement
2.6.4 Incentivise civil servants to deliver
policy and financial outcomes. Civil service bonuses should
be explicitly linked to delivering policy or cost reductions.
Overseeing a significant technology-enabled business change programme
should be a requirement for reaching the top.
2.6.5 Follow through on reforms to procurement.
The Efficiency and Reform Group has taken a number of steps to
take procurement reform to the next level. We are keen to see
this work accelerated and initiatives implemented.
2.6.6 Suppliers have some great ideas. Listen
to them. Engaging with suppliers, large and small, is key
to understanding the art of the possible. Ideas that could save
greater than £1 million or 5% should be reviewed with permanent
secretaries or Ministers. As part of the transparency agenda,
these ideas and the subsequent decisions made could be published
3.1 How well is technology policy co-ordinated
3.1.1 Despite many hours of debate in CIO/CTO
Councils, OGC/ERG and the Cabinet Office, there is little evidence
that, even if a cross-government policy for technology exists,
it has had any major positive impact. Some commonality is emerging
in specific areas, such as information assurance, but government
departments and agencies often resist centrally driven policy.
3.1.2 If the government wishes to be regarded
as a single customer by suppliers, it must behave as one. All
across the public sector, departmental heads own budgets, not
CIOs. Their needs drive ICT requirements and they are often not
co-ordinated. Policy should therefore be co-ordinated at the business
process level; co-ordination of ICT standards will follow. Does
a change make the citizen's or user's job easier and does it reduce
administration and increase service? If not, why are we doing
this? These should be the questions asked. Instead suppliers are
always asked about technology and price.
3.1.3 Strategic supplier engagement has been
effective in the past (eg through the Strategic Supply Board)
in bringing government together with the industry to find solutions
to shared problems. This type of collective action is vital to
the success of government.
3.2 How effective are its governance arrangements?
3.2.1 Budget holders prioritise according to
their business needs and implement governance accordingly. Technology
governance will be, and has been, a secondary requirement.
3.2.2 Governance is generally effective on a
departmental/agency/authority basis, but not across government.
Revenues and benefits systems, for example, could be very usefully
standardised across local government to link with DWP's systems.
Instead, local government is still using a variety of systems
at a great cost premium.
3.2.3 Monitoring and tracking of implementation
leaves much to be desired - there is no standardised mechanism
for proof of value or re-use, little use of benchmarking and poor
attention to return on investment or total cost of ownership.
3.2.4 The Gateway and Major Projects Review processes
were designed to intervene in major projects that didn't have
upfront business cases or demonstrated signs of going off the
rails. Many of these reviews have become box-ticking exercises.
As a consequence, projects that aren't fit-for-purpose are not
stopped or re-scoped.
3.2.5 The new government is starting to make
a positive impact, with the creation of the Efficiency and Reform
Group, the role of government COO, and the drive to mandate policies
and consolidate solutions from the centre. It is too early to
tell how the ERG will impact major project delivery but the Major
Projects Review Group's new processes are designed to intervene
more directly. These may serve as effective mechanisms for central
government, but the wider public sector is another matter.
3.3 Have past lessons from NAO and OGC reviews
about unsuccessful IT programmes been learnt and applied?
3.3.1 While some lessons have been learnt and
applied, the same mistakes are repeated over and over again. In
fact, the recommendations from "Getting IT Right",
published 11 years ago by Intellect's predecessor, the CSSA, remain
valid. We still need a single, stable source of strong leadership,
a modular approach to delivery, and early engagement with a broad
spectrum of the industry to highlight opportunities and challenges.
3.3.2 More work needs to be done to improve business
planning, defining outcome-based requirements and managing projects.
Government is not good at drawing a line under requirements, and
continuous redrafting adds delay, cost and complexity. It is far
better to get a base-line service in that works and build on it
at a later stage. There also tends to be too much focus on quick
wins, avoiding the real challenges.
3.3.3 In general projects should not be implemented
with a customer vs. supplier mentality, but instead delivered
in partnership. A silo approach is inefficient; a programme approach
based on strategic needs would be preferable. Additionally, traditional
project implementation methodologies (eg "waterfall")
are less appropriate to "the new world", where rapid
prototyping can achieve faster time to market at lower risk and
3.4 How well is IT used in the design, delivery
and improvement of public services?
3.4.1 Technology tends to be considered separately
from business change. The traditional "design everything
up front" approach to requirements specification and contract
terms prevents the industry really engaging to support improved
outcomes. This leads to technology being shoehorned into set practices
rather than informing or shaping new ways of doing things.
3.4.2 Most government services are underpinned
by ICT. DirectGov, the Pensions Advisory Service and Self Assessment
online, for example, have used ICT to help provide real value.
Much more is possible, however. In the future it should be possible
to have one secure entry point to access the relevant information
concerning individual citizens, including tax and benefit information.
Online interaction between the individual and government concerning
any errors, actions or updates should be possible.
3.4.3 Delivering services online will not necessarily
be the best or only option, but technology generally helps to
substantially improve services and cut costs. Therefore, when
determining solutions to their business needs, government budget
holders should operate on a "digital by default" basis
and provide clear justification for running services in other,
more costly ways. The corollary to this is to turn off the other
"channels" once digital services are running effectively
to avoid costly duplication of processes.
3.4.4 Improvements to government business processes
have lagged behind those in the private sector. Government is
indeed different. Nevertheless, the private sector should be used
as a benchmark. Government non-executive directors should be an
excellent source of information on best practice.
3.5 What role should IT play in a "post-bureaucratic
3.5.1 Technology-enabled change can transform
citizens' interaction with government. Transparency of information
will enable public accountability and better engagement with the
democratic process. Open public data will allow developers to
design services that meet the needs of citizensthe apps
created around the London cycle hire scheme are a good example.
The government skunkworks and technology demonstrators will be
used to quickly look at how things might be done differently or
3.5.2 ICT is a tool to satisfy the business requirements
of the day. In the past, ICT has been perceived as a "business
cost". In the post-bureaucratic age it should be a key enabler
within the new government's strategy, assisting to fix problems,
but this must work hand in hand with policy and process change.
A better way of looking at this question might be, "What
changes in government business requirements will emerge in a post-bureaucratic
3.6 What skills does Government have and what
are those it must develop in order to acquire IT capability?
3.6.1 In general the government IT profession
has made some good progress to develop key skills. At present
there are high levels of various skills all over government. "Intelligent
customer" skills can be quite good in individual departments,
but not across the board. Project and change management skills
are lacking. More people are needed who thoroughly understand
the government's business priorities, suppliers and contracts.
3.6.2 The challenge for government is using the
most skilled people for the right jobs in the right places. Centres
of competence and real technical experts are not generally recognised
across government, and there is little attempt to reuse existing
skills and experience. This more of a management issue, as opposed
to an underlying ICT issue.
3.7 How well do current procurement policies
and practices work?
3.7.1 The procurement process is lengthy and
cumbersome (especially counterproductive when procuring technology
due to its rapid evolution). Procurement varies widely and depends
on the maturity of the government customer. Some government bodies
procure very professionally and efficiently. However, government
procurers often focus on following all the rules, as opposed to
3.7.2 Government customers operate in an environment
that allows little ability to take risks, where there is an increasing
prevalence of legal challenge, and where they are encouraged only
to meet the aims of their respective departments. Proper due diligence,
feasibility studies and planning are often poorly conducted at
the expense of the procurement process further down the line.
Requirements are based on technology specifics instead of business
and performance outcomes, and these are sometimes set without
engaging potential suppliers at all before going to market. There
are stacks of overlapping framework agreements across government
that are never used.
3.7.3 Intellect has done a huge amount of work
with the government over the years to develop potential improvements,
but implementation has been slow. Our top-line recommendations
are the following.
220.127.116.11 Senior leadership is vital. Procurements
should be led by the SRO, not procurement professionals. This
should be mirrored by a senior lead on the supplier sidea
Senior Responsible Industry Executive.
18.104.22.168 An elite team of government advisers
that provides support across government combined with boiler plate
contract terms and other paperwork will help minimise the need
for external third party advisers.
22.214.171.124 SME participation can be improved by
using iterative and incremental procurements to prove and pilot
potential solutions before wider roll-out.
3.8 What infrastructure, data or other assets
does government need to own, or to control directly, in order
to make effective use of IT?
3.8.1 This is dependent on the processes to be
supported, so mature government-industry dialogue on who should
own what is required. Except for very high security work, the
government has no inherent need to own or control infrastructure
and data assets. Government will likely wish to own or control
its business critical processes; however, support systems can
be run by other organisations at much lower cost.
3.8.2 Despite large-scale virtualisation in the
private sector to sharply reduce operating costs, there has been
little progress towards consolidating the approximately 200 data
centres across government. Is there a need for government to own
its data centre estate? Why not simply outsource data centre capacity
progressively, starting with the least-efficient facilities? In
addition, secure "public clouds" (applicable to up to
85% of government requirements) could serve as a catalyst for
greater use of standard infrastructure and back office services
at very competitive prices.
3.9 How will public sector IT adapt to the
new "age of austerity"?
3.9.1 Austerity is already forcing some behavioural
change and increasing the pace of collaboration. However, budget
cuts could lead to even greater aversion to risk in the public
sector and a hunkering-down mentality that stifles innovation.
In fact, technology companies are reporting an overly-conservative
approach appearing in many areas of government.
3.9.2 To ensure budget cuts lead to productive
change, radical decisions need to be taken at the business level
and civil servants need to be incentivised to take calculated
risks. For example, civil service bonuses should be explicitly
linked to the delivery of policy or financial outcomes, and overseeing
a major technology change programme should be a necessary step
for reaching the top.
3.9.3 Sweating assets will likely be a popular
short-term strategy, but this is not a long-term solution. Greater
agility and the ability to modernise easily and cheaply will need
to be the focus. A strong centre can help by providing a core,
intelligent customer function. Many technology-enabled reform
initiatives with the potential to improve services and cut costs
have been on the table for at least two years; these should be
put into action as soon as possible. More generally, it would
be beneficial for government and industry to work together to
explore new financial models, taking into account companies' focus
on in-year revenue and the government's focus on savings in-year
or over the life of parliament.
3.10 How well does Government take advantage
of new technological developments and external expertise?
3.10.1 Progress has lagged far behind the private
sector. Cloud computing, for example, holds enormous potential
to cut costs and change government's service delivery model, but
adoption has been slow. Government's access to new technology
is significantly limited by its procurement processes and the
high cost for new suppliers to enter the market. In a more service-oriented
world this wouldn't matter as suppliers would develop or incorporate
new technology in order to drive prices down or profits up.
3.11 How appropriate is the Government's existing
approach to information security, information assurance and privacy?
3.11.1 Security needs to be infused into government's
DNA. However, the levels of security provided need to be commensurate
with the respective services. Costs to develop high security systems
outweigh the need to secure certain types of information. Currently,
some security criteria are applied to all levels of documentation
or service irrespective of the sensitivity and nature of the material,
significantly increasing complexity and cost. The government's
existing approach risks blocking its ability to take advantage
of major developments that could help drive out cost and increase
3.11.2 Recently, there have been some positive
developments to how government addresses data handling and information
security. Since the data losses in 2007-08, government and industry
have focused on resolving problems in the government's supply
chain through the Information Security & Assurance Board.
The board has proved a successful partnership between government
and industry and could be used as a model for broader information
assurance and cyber security challenges.
3.11.3 Common commercial standards of data security
and privacy should apply to many areas. A better question here
might be, "Who should decide the exceptions to adopting private
sector data and privacy standards and what process should be used
to make those decisions?"
3.12 How well does the UK compare to other
countries with regard to government procurement and application
of IT systems?
3.12.1 The US has similar challenges, recently
finding "another 1,000 data centres" and declaring they
were losing the cyber war.
3.12.2 Most European countries have far fewer
government departments than the UK. Many have one Department of
Finance, for instance, which would handle all responsibilities
currently held by HMRC, DWP and HM Treasury in the UK. Europe
also has a much larger regional government structure that is less
centralised, which keeps projects smaller. This has made it much
easier to procure and implement ICT systems.
3.12.3 In some areas the UK has led the way.
For example, the Netherlands is adopting our Concept Viability
approach and Australia is adopting the procurement pre-qualification
tool and IT supplier code of best practice.
8 http://www.intellectuk.org/component/option,com_docman/task,doc_download/gid,131/ Back