Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Government IT Projects

Louise Bagshawe has a piece on the Blue Blog about government IT projects that highlights some of the failures, over spends and over runs of IT projects and looks at alternative private sector projects. Personally I don't think the piece hangs together all that well as large scale goverenment IT projects don't correlate well to her private sector examples. She also failed to point out the excellent www.makeITbetter.org.uk which took apart a leaked copy of the current government's leaked IT strategy and put forward an alternative which included 8 practical steps and an overarching principle as well.

One only has to look at the devastating failures of IT projects over the past decade to see that radical reform  of goverenment's approach to IT is desperately needed. Since 1997 approximately £100 billion has been spent on IT projects, far more than any other European country, however despite this expenditure a study found that 70% of recent IT projects have failed.

The list is endless but a few personal favourites include:

  • Broadband procurement, a £200m project to save the costs of procuring broadband by pooling resources, saved just £3.5m
  • National Programme for IT, delayed to date and forecast to be £10.3 billion over budget
  • Department for Work and Pensions Customer Information system, £48 million over budget
  • NOMIS and LIBRA systems for the Ministry of justice, still not complete, and £620 million over budget
  • NHS IT modernisation programme, has cost £12bn so far, with the pilot beign delivered 4 years late and is in the process of being abandoned

These are just a smattering of examples that show that IT procurement is becoming the defence industry of the modern age. Just as defence procurement (see the A400m for example) never delivers on time or on cost, neither does the IT industry, and for some reason despite contracts being signed and companies being contracted to deliver at a certain cost, the government continues to pay more and more money, in effect billions of pounds more than they contracted to do so. And just like the defence industry there are just a few giants, companies like EDS (now owned by HP) and Siemens who are sacred cows given projects again and again despite their track record and their failure to deliver in the past.

The solution is clear, radical reform of IT procurement and contracting and most importantly project management within the civil service and ministers that understand the projects that are being embarked upon, rather than believing the radical claims of suppliers.

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