Comment – Mega-Scale IT projects in the public sector | Brookings Institution – John Gelmini

English: Project development stages

English: Project development stages (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.


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.

John Gelmini

Interim Manager and 22nd Century futurology?

Last week, I told our “virtual” aspiring Interim Manager that I had four searching questions for him/her and suggested that he/she reflect carefully and come back and see me again in a month.

For the benefit of the reader who has not seen the first blog, with over twenty years experience as an Independent Interim Executive, I am often asked for some tips by new entrants to the industry.

I plan to run a series of related blogs on and around this theme. So to make it easier to read, I am going to adopt the third person from now on. Let me introduce, the two actors:

1. “Virtually” – Virtually is an old sage of an Interim Manager, with lots of scars, war-stories, anecdotes, and knows absolutely everybody in the industry.

2. “Friendly” – Friendly is our aspiring Interim Manager. Friendly is serious about becoming an Interim Manager but does not want to make too many mistakes in learning the ropes. Friendly is looking to Virtually as a virtual Mentor.

Both “Virtually” and “Friendly” are characters created for this blog.

Here is their second conversation:

Virtually: Hello Friendly. Nice to see you again! I hope that you have been doing some serious thinking? Do you remember my four questions from last month?

Friendly: Thank you for seeing me again Virtually. Yes, I have been doing some serious thinking about your four questions. To recap you asked me to consider the following:

1. “Why do you want to be an Independent Interim Executive?”
2. “What makes you think that you will be successful as an “Independent Interim Executive?”
3. “How many months can you survive without bringing in an income?”
4. “What do you know about the interim market?”

Virtually: OK, excellent! Before moving on, I want to be absolutely sure that you have really reflected on my four questions. Imagine that you are being interviewed by Dr. Batt, the Chief Executive of GothamPark Interims, one of the largest interim agencies. So can you please give me your responses to the four questions? I shall give you a half an hour, without iteruption. Please try to use your imagination.

Friendly: Thanks Virtually! I’ll assume that I’m answering the questions posed by Dr. Bat of GothamPark Interims. I have seen their web site. OK here goes!

1. “Why do you want to be an Independent Interim Executive?”

Well, ever since I left GothamCity University, where I studied Applied Starship Engineering, I have had a strong personal motivation to run my own business. Both my parents have run their own businesses and I guess it’s in my blood! After university, I joined the Starship Services sector, seeing this as a major growth sector, after the repeated crashes in the Financial Services sector in the twenty-first century. I joined Alpha Services, as a Management Trainee, working in Finance, Operations, and latterly Marketing. After ten years, I was head-hunted to join Zeta Services, where I worked for five years, in Project Management in the Marketing area, introducing new products and services – this was a really exciting time, working with the pioneers of inter-galactic services, like Dr. How! When Zeta decided to consolidate its Marketing activities off-planet on the moon, I decided to take a generous redundancy package. I took a year out travelling, and in the last six months have taken some Gold Belt courses in Sixty Sigma. Now, I am actively looking to break into Interim Management.

2. “What makes you think that you will be successful as an “Independent Interim Executive?”

That’s a fair question, Dr. Bat! Well, firstly my background is pure Starship Services and the regulatory change required over the next ten years will be a natural, in my opinion, for Starship Services Project Managers, like myself and my Sixty Sigma training should help me differentiate myself too! It is not as if I am trying to become an Interim Manager in the Financial Services sector which has been in decline for fifty years. I believe that my training in Starship Engineering, and career in intergalactic services has given me the confidence, and stamina to be self-employed. I am self-disiplined and believe that I really have the aptitude to be an Independent Project Manager. With a technology and marketing background, plus a personal interest intergalactic network marketing, I truly believe, I have the right profile.

3. “How many months can you survive without bringing in an income?”

I still have eigteen months of redundancy settlement left and I can always take an early retirement pension income. All my pensions have an over thirty early retirement option.

4. “What do you know about the interim market?”

Well I have done some desk research and talked to a few people. I know that the industry changed fundamentally in the early twenty first century when technological change drove transaction costs down with average margins now at one percent. Most of the marginal players were forced to leave the industry leaving the three or four big-players, like GothamCity, dominating the intergalactic market.


OK Friendly, I can see that you have quite a sense of humour and a very vivid imagination! Unfortunately, we are still stuck in the twenty first century and it’s pretty tough out there. I would still counsel you to be cautious before committing yourself. I would recommend that you consider taking the Association of Professional Interims induction course, as next step. The API full-day interactive workshop is for senior executives who are thinking of making a career change into Interim Management – it’s focused on the 21st. century! The objectives of the day are two-fold:
a. To provide the delegate with all the facts (warts and all) about life as an interim executive (so that they can make a fully informed decision for themselves), and,
b. To help them understand what they need to do and how to go about doing it, to give themselves

By all means, come back and talk to me again after the workshop, OK?


OK Virtually, will do but I really enjoyed answering the questions in the twenty-second century context!