Feature

Wake-up call for public sector IT

Don't fight outsourcing, town hall IT bosses told. Mike Simons reports

Public sector IT departments should emphasise innovation and flexibility "even if this results in more outsourcing of current production" says a new report from the Society of Information Technology Management (Socitm).

Tony Blair's Modernising Government agenda puts information and communications technology and the management of change at the heart of local government. However, the need for investment, the impact of service delivery and the scale of new programmes and the associated risks require top-level decision making and management. This can no longer simply be delegated to IT directors.

That is the warning from public sector IT managers' body Socitm in an analysis entitled The Technology Challenge in Year 2000: opportunities and risks.

Socitm has taken analysis from research organisation Gartner and given it a public sector spin. The document studies technological developments and looks at the business process and risk management implications.

IT managers are advised to embrace Web technology and reshape the organisation to do business online. They must alsolook for opportunities to lead the organisation's innovation strategy rather than produce the IT component of some one else's strategy, the report said.

Socitm warned that IT managers should not fight outsourcing but use it selectively and remain in control. However, they should not outsource the capacity to innovate and must beware of being squeezed, with innovation being "stolen" by users and the outsourcing of production.

As top management teams get smaller, fewer heads of IT departments have direct reporting lines to chief executives, according to Socitm.

The report said, "Heads of ICT should use all means available to establish a corporate leadership in ICT strategy whether by management board, groups, elected member (councillors) committees, or simply a regular item on the management team agenda, which the head of ICT speaks to directly."

The Technology Challenge in Year 2000, Socitm, PO Box 121, Northampton, NN4 6TG 01604-674800

Managing technology risk: Socitm

  • Instigate effective medium-term planning to cope with the growing shortages of ICT skills

  • Create an information culture to exploit technology's potential

  • Be aware of the security implications and plan how to deal with them

    Technology Challenge in 2000: products

    Linux

    "Linux is right at the top of the hype cycle The advice is not to commit to large-scale deployment. However, Linux may well be used in an organisation as a niche product in selected areas such as Domain Name System, Web, proxy and e-mail servers."

    XML

    "The technology clearly promises much, [but] it is not as simple to use as it might seem on the surface. The problem is that it is fast developing and loosely defined technology." Socitm said it could not be confident that initiatives to agree standards would succeed.

    Voice over IP

    "Voice transmission over the Net has obvious attractions. [However] VoIP will not be a readily deliverable and cost beneficial option in the UK for at least four years. The current barriers are cost and quality."

    Smartcards

    "The technology has been around for some time but not really advanced beyond the pilot and the experiment. If major service outlets such as banks and petrol stations found smartcards a commercial proposition, then local government would surely follow. Local government will find it much more difficult to take a lead by using their own cards for local authority services. The kind of multi-function facility that will suit the variety of applications in local government is a long way off."

    Mobile devices

    "In terms of total corporate traffic, wireless is likely to grow from 5% to 15% over the next five years. Organisations should consider providing private leased lines direct to their mobile communications provider since many calls will be to/from the corporate fixed infrastructure rather than over the public network.

    Digital TV

    "This is the one channel that in the opinion of many will transform the way government services might be delivered because it takes government direct to the home Digital TV will become within four years or so a standard business communication device."

    Channel development

    "The number of electronic service channels will increase... As far as the public sector is concerned there is one other very important point. The new electronic service channels will not displace existing channels such as personal visits to offices or transactions by letter. Private sector companies usually have choice in this but local government at least is a people-centred service and does not have that choice."


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    This was first published in May 2000

     

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