The government's new IT strategy, to be announced later this year, will focus on beefing up Whitehall's handling of IT suppliers, according to documents seen by Computer Weekly.
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The strategy will include a "supplier management initiative", led by the CIO Council of top government IT managers. The initiative aims to make Whitehall a "world-class enterprise IT customer" and end a "patchy" track record on public sector IT.
It suggests actions to improve supplier management, including establishing baseline benchmarks for suppliers, and getting the CIO Council to lead the management of strategic IT suppliers' relationships and performance across government through a "common assessment framework".
Richard Bacon, an MP on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which has investigated many government IT disasters, said the initiative could help tackle the government's problems in dealing with the IT industry, but warned that many of its ideas had been tried before.
In 2000, the Office of Government Commerce was established by the Treasury and the Cabinet Office in part to create a more consistent approach to IT purchasing across government.
In November 2001, Andrew Smith, then Treasury chief secretary, pledged to "reform the relationship between government and the IT industry". This was the goal of the Senior IT Forum, set up to liaise with the IT industry by the OGC. "We are serious about partnership and working openly with the IT industry," Smith said at the time.
Since then the PAC and other select committees have reported on a series of failed IT-related projects, including tax credits and modernisation at the Child Support Agency, Customs and Excise and GCHQ.
Bacon said "The OGC has done good things, but it has fallen victim to some extent of what often besets public service. Whitehall divides itself into fiefdoms and the OGC has little more than the power of persuasion and encouragement over them."
CIO Council's action programme
- Undertake a forward look at procurement demands for IT, develop a sourcing strategy, ensure capacity and competition in market, develop emerging suppliers
- Lead management of IT supplier relationships and performance across government using a common assessment framework, understand supplier strategies
- Agree performance and development plans with key suppliers on existing portfolios
- Encourage the use of standardised contracts and services
- Establish a baseline benchmark for performance and development
- Review generic supply issues and make recommendations for change
- Share intelligence.