back to article Poor management hampers gov IT

The UK government is failing to achieve the full potential of the £16bn it spends on ICT each year, according to a Kable report. In a report on information management in the UK public sector, Kable found that transformation projects using technology often did not achieve their full potential for efficiency gains. When …


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  1. Pete Silver badge

    Are charge codes ITs biggest problem?

    Consider two companies: BigCo has a turnover of a billion a year. It employs thousands of staff and has an IT department that adheres rigourously to "best practices". On the other hand, LittleCo is run from a single building, has a handful of IT people and an open-door policy.

    Try to get something done in BigCo and you have to fill in an intraweb based work request, citing what, when and who to charge the work to. At some point in the future - defined by the ITIL time frame for responding, you'll get an email back to say "we'll do X for you. It'll take Y person days and we'll charge you Z for it". Even if the entire IT staff is sitting around surfing for pr0n - sorry, that should say: testing internet security filters. You can tell that BigCo takes security very seriously - just look at how much time they charge to it every year.

    In LittleCo, however it's a different story. Someone sticks their head around the door and says "Can I borrow you for half an hour? I'd like your opinion on this new project." "Yes, sure is the reply - I've just got to finish this Exchange problem and I'll pop over".

    We find that LittleCo, while getting the work done, is universally panned by in the IT surveys for not having any quality control processes, procedures, cost-control or standards of service. Whereas BigCo can proudly point to the fact that last year it completed 97.1% of it's IT projects on-time and with 96.3% customer satisfaction. (BTW, 88% of those projects were security audits.)

    Management by numbers is the accountants favourite game. It gives the (wrong) impression that things are

    a.) under control

    b.) managed

    c.) quantifiable

    d.) indicate where improvements can be made.

    Although, as we all know none of the above are in fact, true. Unless BigCo has the ability of contracting out work, if the internal price is too high, it's merely "funny money" and has no bearing on anything - especially what the implication of overspending would be. The more "control" a company puts in place, the more processes, reviews, procedures and methodologies - the larger the number of opportunities it gives to indolent staff to not do any work: "I'd love to help you, but you haven't performed a quality review", "certainly - but you need sign-off from the change committee first". and all the other lines that rattle round Dilbert-esque workplaces on a daily basis.

    So it is with government IT. All their numbers tell them is that they are not producing results. However, since the numbers are the root-cause of the problem, they cannot self-implicate their own inefficiencies as the reason why stuff doesn't get done. It must be poor management, skills shortages, unclear objectives or changing policies. None of which are tangible or actionable - except by introducing more process and control to prevent them happening int he future.

    Personally, I prefer having a head appear around a door anytime. The "head" quickly realises who gets the job done and who's dead-weight - and therefore destined for the next round of redundancies, if they don't move into a government job first.

  2. Craig
    Paris Hilton

    And also in today's news we already knew...

    - not many people like Gordon Brown

    - not many people know their MEP's name


    - Paris Hilton is not a "good girl"

    Seriously... did this come as a surprise to anyone? "Government departments don't do well with IT but if they start managing it better then performance improves" I hope no-one paid for this research...

  3. Anonymous Coward

    ICT is child's play

    Good ICT is a doddle.

    It is easy-peasy.

    (Unless it is very poorly managed and implemented in which case it will look like a dog's breakfast.)


    Not a technology factor

    Is a human factor

    Is a skills related factor

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Gov IT Projects

    I've been involved in 2 major Gov IT projects and if it wasn't my money they where peeing up the wall it would make me laugh for the next 6 months the way they are run.

  5. A


    I work for mediumCo, a local part of globalCo.. the best of both worlds.

    I think.

    The pay may suck, but the satisfaction is high.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And exactly... much did someone get paid for telling us what we already know?

  7. JohnG Silver badge

    If they keep spending the budgets on studies ... mangement consultancies, there is never enough left to pay the actual IT staff and/or contractors who are supposed to implement the grand ideas.

  8. Britt Johnston
    IT Angle

    Consultant's dilemma

    This is a version of the consultant's dilemma.

    If a hired company comes and states 'your processes are poor, incomplete, and different in every office' they will lose the contract. If they agree to build a nationwide data depot, and show max. seven slides, they get the job.

    The textbook solution is to let the business run the project. That works as long as they care about the result.

    Who said that - in this case they don't care?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Poor management hampers gov IT


  10. Paul

    So basically...

    What the report is saying is that successful projects are due to acts of personal heroism by individuals who take responsibility and drive things to completion, while most projects operate on a 'by the numbers' basis with nobody wanting to engage their brains and as a result fail.

    Sounds about par for the course. Organisations with processes mature enough to do 'by the numbers' successfully are as rare as hen's teeth, and regardless of private or public sector, successes are almost always the result of people taking ownership and 'being heroes' to get the job done properly.

  11. Ad Fundum

    Typo alert

    Just wanted to let you know that there's a typo in this otherwise excellent article.

    The title reads: "Poor management hampers gov IT"

    When clearly you meant to say "Poor government hampers IT"

  12. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge


    You nailed it pretty much on the head, only its not the size of the company.

    To sum it up... A certain amount of paperwork and time tracking is important, until the business process of tracking the work itself becomes the 'bottle-neck'.

    There exists some ratio X, defined as the amount of time in man hours spent on tracking and following 'best practices' (Paperwork) versus the underlying man hours on development/support (Actual Work).

    There exists some threshold Y that when X > Y, the process is deemed inefficient. The value of Y depends on the objectives set by the company and are influenced by its environment.

    In larger companies, employees add unnecessary processes in order to justify their existence and salaries. So they are more prone to increasing X.

    So when is a 'best practice' not a 'good practice'? When hinders your ability to meet your objectives...

    The blue boffin head because common sense seems to be lacking in the majority of IT management these days...


    PS. You can call this Gumby's law of Process Management. ;-)

  13. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    Another statement...

    ... from the Department of the Bleedin' Obvious...

  14. Michael Fremlins

    And in other news

    Poor goverment hampers IT management.

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