Ahead of next week's emergency Budget, Francis Maude, head honcho of the Efficiency and Reform Group (ERG), has outlined plans to renegotiate government IT contracts to net £95m in planned savings. Targets by project have not been set, but Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General Maude said: “Each project will need …
Save £95 million once or every year?
£95 million would be useful on a personal level but spread over 65 million people it ain't so much. What percentage of the spend is that?
Every little helps
I'd rather be in the black for a quid than in the red.
How to save 95 million a year, every year, per department ***
1. have a public blacklist of 'principal consultants' whose projects fail to deliver.
2. Every year, put the bottom 5% on it.
3. Ban public sector contracts from any company that hires any of the people on the list, for all time.
1. Hire the techie staff doing the work.
2. Insource it.
** Except for the NHS where you'd save 5 billion a year.
I'm at a consultancy - no, not one you've heard of - who does a fair bit of public sector work. In my experience it's not the consultants who are the problem, most of these guys are at least competent and just want to get on with the job. What screws up public sector projects is constant changes to spec/budget/timescale demanded by a customer who has to shift with the prevailing political wind. Trying to get a civil servant to agree to a concrete requirements spec or rollout plan is like nailing jelly.
If in doubt ...
... blame the client!!
Sorry, as a consultant it is your job to manage expectations. If you aren't doing that, you have failed.
Quick! Freeze the contracts!
I need to get my brother-in-law to set up a consultancy to bid for them!
it is quite likely that the previous lot negotiated contracts with suppliers where once the money has been spent, the taxpayer ain't getting it back. This is the reason that any savings made now look rather meagre.
HOWEVER, if you factor in the savings we will now be making by NOT engaging in further white elephants like the NIR and NHS spine thingummy, it looks a little rosier.
Bear in mind that NewLab would have most likely continued to plough our money into such projects, with the Johnsonesque* excuse that they would make us money (by circuitously re-routing the contents of our pockets into the treasury - the 'us' making money here being the state, the ICT suppliers, and their ex-politician non-executive board members).
We are unfortuantely now left with a situation where we have a great big deficit as a pretty much direct result of the previous lot pissing all our money up the wall (think wasteful projects, unjustified wars, selling the country's gold at the lowest price possible, etc.) To coin a rather unpleasant metaphor; try as they might, the new lot won't be able to scrape that piss back off again, as it'll have all drained away.
* This neologism should enter the OED right now as an adjective describing the behaviour where a politician claims that taxes do not exist if paid for by other forms of taxation.
"1. have a public blacklist of 'principal consultants' whose projects fail to deliver.
2. Every year, put the bottom 5% on it.
3. Ban public sector contracts from any company that hires any of the people on the list, for all time."
We've heard of that.
Try working with the Public Sector before you blame the suppliers
Having worked for a supplier with the public sector whilst the supplier has to shoulder some of the blame it cannot be blamed for everything. We said in contracts that the public body had to make sure that their staff attended meetings, no staff attended. We told them they had to make sure they had support contracts in place, no support contracts. We told them the price was fixed in relation to the scope, they changed the scope time and time again.
Working with the public sector means dealing with fly by night contract staff employed because public sector wages can't afford to buy permanent staff. It means dealing with empire building and personal agendas. It means trying to stay out of political in-fighting (and this has nothing to do with the politicians and their parties). The lack of commercial knowledge is frightening. It means explaining that we make a profit does not mean we are ripping you off.
Suppliers also suffer from imposed terms by the OGC in the UK, including terms that we would not expect to see e.g, we must pay our sub-contractors within 30 days (why should the customer dictate our financial policies?) or worse having individual staff sign commitments around data security, privacy, etc and making them personally liable as a result.
Finally, it would be nice just once if a Public sector customer could learn to read English so that they can understand the words in the contract and not consistently try to add new ones in so that they don't have to pay for all the new software they want for free.