The UK government's technology shopping catalogue G-Cloud is creeping through the corridors of power - but a wave of outsourcing decisions has sapped Whitehall’s ability to set the nation's tech strategy, and the entrenched interests of incumbent IT suppliers stand in its way. That’s the takeaway from outgoing G-Cloud director …
The UK government doesn't care about shit IT.
Shit IT brings more bums on seats.
If we made 20,000 NHS jobs redundant tomorrow due to some super software, the government wouldn't implement it, because that's 20,000 people unemployed, and voting against them. As can be seen by the unemployment whining since Cleggaron got in, (more women than men in the public sector unemployed,) it goes out of its way to generate sort of non jobs for single mothers, women with arts degrees, and so on. This is its job. If it didn't do this, and the boiler failed, would you call a diversity officer? No. So they have to make jobs for people who can't do anything.
It would rather waste 10 Billion on a five year job which fails, one day after re-election, than make four major league techies, millionaires for delivering it for one hundredth of the price, in 6 weeks.
Politicians win popularity contests. They don't win IQ tests, honesty competitions, the Miriam Stoppard award for niceness etc. Popularity contests are won by making large numbers of people happy, and large numbers of those large numbers are happy when they're deluded into thinking their job is worthwhile, so finding ways to actually sack them is the quickest way of getting unelected. The Cabinet Office spends way, way, way more time thinking about what people will think of what they're doing, than whether what they're doing will work.
PFI may have been discredited but I think you'll find it is still widely used across government. While it is a much more expensive way of funding projects, thats only tax payer's money - the more important thing is that due to an accounting fudge it keeps the costs off the capital budgets, which makes all those national statistics look much better.
Similar accounting fudges apply to QE, assets lent to the IMF & European Central Bank which have sunk in value, and the annual accounts of every bank & other financial institution in the UK.
( where 'fudge' => special rules available to specific organizations only )
the big firms get the work not because they are the best or that Government does not look at the offerings of small and medium sized companies, they get it because unlike their smaller competitors they can afford to take on the risks associated with large complex projects with punitive penalties and onerous terms. Go look an OGC contract for a deal over £10 million, it requires the supplier to make sure that they pay their subcontractors within 30 days(surely govt interference in the market!!), it requires them to implement the appropriate security for personal data but with no commitment to pay the costs of doing that and by the way makes them wholly responsible paying the costs related to any data breach (paying for new bank accounts for people, setting up helplines, etc).
If you make contracts onerous and try to force all the risk on the supplier, then smaller companies are never going to be able to compete and G-Cloud and all the other great Govt schemes in this area are never going to lead to the usurpation of the work granted to the so called big 6.
Re: In reality....
In reality, in my experience, except for a very few exceptions, actually it's Government who bears all the real risk. You may wish to ask some of the over 200 SMEs on the GCloud framework if they find the terms to onorous. We still strive to improve that however
Re: In reality....
> unlike their smaller competitors they can afford to take on the risks associated
It's called Product & Public Liability Insurance plus Professional Indemnity insurance my dear.
If you think the big firms pay for their more significant ****-ups out of their own pockets, you are mistaken.
> punitive penalties and onerous terms
Perhaps the contracts shouldn't have "punitive penalties and onerous terms" in the first place.
On one memorable occasion I refused to sign off a project as fit for purpose (little things like locking remote workers out) in our section and not fulfilling the stated aims. So they changed the aims and rolled it out anyway and my next job included being section champion for the adoption. Oh how I laughed.
@AC 16:31 PFI has not been allowed for IT projects since a HMT report in 2003. So they don't call it that anymore.
proof of no skills required.
Now they just need to sell that Microsoft windows LIC to the GOVt for $4,000 per seat!
"I find it difficult to imagine how anybody came to that decision"
"Over the years some departments have outsourced their IT strategy. I find it difficult to imagine how anybody came to that decision"
Ooh, they want to have their cake AND eat it too ?
Once they outsource, either traditionally or especially to "the cloud" then IMO they lose the right to set IT strategy, thats for the sourcer to decide, they have to be able to decide the best way to fulfill governments requirements without interference, or they just get teh worst of all worlds.
Whats the point in outsourcing, if you want to decide how its all done in detail ? Do it yourself in that case.
If you lease a car for 5 years (outsource) or rent one for a week (cloud) in neither case do you direct how the manufacturer builds it, or what components it uses. You may choose or reject a renter if you dont like the cars they have, but you don't rent from hertz but insist they have to supply a Ford but with Honda brakes.
Re: "I find it difficult to imagine how anybody came to that decision"
I agree but what we have done in many cases is paid the leasing company to set the strategy as to whether we buy, lease or rent by the week. Sorry if I wasn't clear in what I meant by strategy
onshore or offshore?
Nice one Chris. Sad to see you go. It's a good start. But there is a fly in this ointment.
The vast majority of contracts I've seen have "most economically advantageous terms" as the primary criteria.
Quality and UK TCO are not really measured, the suppliers effectively write and mark their own homework, and the deliverable is too widely defined to be SMART. So the gov gets exactly what they wanted. Cheap (though only in a narrow sense). The fact it is "shit" is irrelevant.
This behaviour is entrenched in the contractual and costing assumptions built into the process.
We are starting to see some public sector rationality in this space. I worry, however, that the budgetary guillotine, which ignores total cost to the taxpayer, will tend to discourage a change of practice. We shall see...
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