New Socitm president calls for IT priorities from new government

The new president of the Society of IT Management (Socitm) says the government must make clear its priorities for public sector IT before repercussions of...

The new president of the Society of IT Management (Socitm) says the government must make clear its priorities for public sector IT before repercussions of the new administration on IT can start to materialise.

While it is obvious that everyone will face stark budget cuts, Hampshire County Council CIO Jos Creese says the form they take will depend on the new government's plans for services and view of IT's place in the organisation.

"We need some clarity from central government, and the priorities of the new administration. We need to know what will happen to stop the ID card project, for example, and what the next stages of Connecting for Health will be.

"We focus on hundreds of projects. We need to know what the government is backing and the projects that really matter."

Changes require intelligent debate

Creese says he would not be surprised to see budget reductions of 15% to 20%, and expects the cuts to come not from the usual minor changes, but from a "fundamental change in how public services are designed, delivered and used."

A lot of the expected changes are not new: shared services, collaboration and process re-engineering have been around for years. But it has not been done uniformly across the public sector, Creese says.

"We can no longer be complacent about that. The enormous pressure we are under will force changes that previously might have been resisted."

What needs to be discussed is how cuts will be achieved, not the goals themselves. Most agree what needs to be done and the priority should be to work out how to do it across the public sector. "Intelligent debate" will be the key to success, according to Creese.

"I would want a robust and strong approach to IT, but not one that is driven by a view that, for example, outsourcing is always the right solution. I want an intelligent debate about the mechanism - less debate about what has to be done and more about how we are going to do it."

Driving Socitm forward

Creese will have a busy year, having just started as president of Socitm while continuing with his job at Hampshire County Council.

He says the society is in a good position to help local government IT staff weather the changes ahead by sharing best practice examples, influencing policies and working in conjunction with other associations such as the BCS.

His plans for the year include continuing to get members more involved with Socitm's work. "I will be working to extend the influence of Socitm, particularly to help respond to the enormous pressure for modernising public services and driving efficiency savings.

"Socitm can be seen as inward looking, so I want to increase the involvement of individual members, who are the strength of the society."

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