In an article published by international think-tank, Brookings, Niam Yaraghi writes about why government IT projects often fail and what can be done to improve their rate of success.
Before I retired from mainstream activities, I was a international transformation specialist who rescued large, high-risk IT programs from failure.
So for me, the article by Niam Yaraghi is rather simplistic. It fails to address the role of major IT houses and consultancies who peddle their expertise, yet step away when the stack of cards crashes – but they always seem to get paid. Whether it’s the US or the UK, in big government IT projects, there’s a massive amount of cronyism. In the UK, for example, top-government IT posts go to former partners of major consultancies. The cronyism cranks up the cost-plus engine, calling in lower level cronies and the taxpayer stomps up the bill. Big recruiters perpetuate the cronyism peddling contractors. All of this is peretuated by deploying bureaucratic methodologies that have been seriously discredited.
To really understand why government IT projects fail, it’s necessary to take a subjective look at the problem. I would recommend reading one of my most popular blogs, which looked at UK local authorities investing in shared services.
For me, the best way to get value-for-money and effective service quality from the public sector is to downsize government at every-level, outsourcing and offshoring as much as possible, just retaining policy units in the public sector. Of course, there are strategic considerations and national risks to consider but these can be mitigated.
For me, the big bureaucracies and their cronies will never be able to deliver effectively. By the way, I’m not biased against the public sector, the same remedies should be deployed with big banks! I admit that I don’t like bureaucracies, especially those that are big on broken-processes.