Dr Alf’s report from the Brookings Institution, about large scale IT projects in the public sector, is interesting and timely.Repeated delays and project failures are it seems normal in America and elsewhere, just as they are in the UK.
The situation in the UK is worse, however, on a number of levels:
1) The UK overall is a low growth economy, which has averaged 1.4% growth since 1946, and it is dogged by low productivity and structural debts of £3 billion gbp a month, plus the £1.5 trillon we currently owe.We therefore can afford project failures less than other more efficiently run countries
2) Low UK productivity means that projects take longer than they should, thus adding to the cost and take longer to fix when things go wrong. This is evidenced by the fact that in terms of value per taxpayer pound, we are about 20th in the world, and three-times the cost of Singapore which spends £1 gbp for every £3 gbp that we spend on projects and the delivery of public services.
3) The UK does not decision-tree its public sector projects properly and it allows mission-creep to the point where civil service mandarins “gold plate” original specifications to the point where MOD projects can end up costing 12 times the original estimate. The MOD, in Dr Alf’s lifetime, has never managed to complete a single project on time and within budget,the Home Office is regarded as not fit for purpose by at least four former Home Secretaries and has written-off the more than £2 billion gbp costs of “E-Borders” which is a joint BT Global Services/Raytheon Defence Systems project designed to count people into and out of the country. Effectively, now because of the failure of that project the whereabouts of 7 million illegal aliens remains forever unknown, along with the 250,000 who come here and remain here each year using purchased spare NI numbers and bogus documentation generated by people smugglers, snakehead gangs in China, organised crime etc. The extra costs of housing, infrastructure, schools, hospitals, roads and services all stem from this failure of an IT project to control our borders.
Thus, what is needed is not just better project management of IT costs but better decision treeing of Government policies and their consequences as happens in countries like Singapore, Switzerland and Germany, where legislators and officials often have backgrounds in science, engineering, business and numerate disciplines, and are capable of really good critical-thinking, coupled with a desire to make the people more prosperous, rather than fleece them at every turn.
WHO COULD HELP WITH THIS?
Certainly not the Big 4 management consultancies and the systems integrators and outsourcers like Capita, IBM Global Services and BT Global Services, who have loyalties to their shareholders and partners and who have failed.
Certainly not the Civil Service itself because it is a cause of the problem.
The search should end quickly with the appointment of the 1200 interims who still live and are qualified to do the work that is necessary. Open these links for excellent, explanatory, expert and extremely popular blogs from Dr Alf:
Will it happen?
Well it’s new minister at the Cabinet Office but Catch 22 and cronyism still prevail. In short, there are too many snouts in the trough.