Public sector CIOs are woefully unprepared to make the £3.6bn IT budget cuts that the government is looking for, according to a study.
"Just 6% have actioned a plan to deal with the cuts, 14% have a plan but not used it, leaving the other 80% completely unprepared," said VMware UK CEO Mark Newton, who commissioned the study.
The survey of 100 senior public sector finance officers by ComRes showed that two-thirds thought budget cuts from the impending Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) would hit front-line services.
The report showed the UK public sector would have to save £3.6bn on its annual IT budget by 2013 to meet government targets. This was a cut of 22.5% on current levels, said Newton.
Newton said virtualisation of the IT estate helped immediately by lowering capital costs and converting many of them to operating costs. Shrinking the number of servers also had a beneficial effect on energy bills, he said.
The University of Plymouth saved £90,000 a year on energy bills following its virtualisation project, said Newton. "When Stockport NHS Trust went from 43 servers to five, it also cut its power and cooling bills by 83%," he said.
Newton said the move could also free datacentre staff for front-line work in their departments, reducing the impact of budgets on service delivery.
Virtualisation could also improve the reliability of systems such as e-mail, he said. In one case, the unvirtuialised e-mail service was down up to 20 times a month. After the virtualisation project, e-mail had been running for 240 days without a crash, he said.
Zafar Chaudry, CIO for Liverpool Women's and Alder Hey Children's NHS Foundation Trusts, said he had saved £310,000 this year by using IT more smartly.
"Whatever the level of cuts, the expectation will be that we have to maintain service levels. The only way you are going to do that is by automating and virtualising your IT environment," he said.