Government CIO Suffolk tells Indian suppliers: ‘bid, bid, bid’

UK government chief information officer John Suffolk has encouraged Indian suppliers to compete for IT work in the public sector ahead of the massive spending cuts to be announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review.

UK government chief information officer John Suffolk has encouraged Indian suppliers to compete for IT work in the public sector ahead of the massive spending cuts to be announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review.

Speaking exclusively to Computer Weekly, Suffolk - an outspoken supporter of transparency in government IT procurement - has said he has "no reservations whatsoever" on Asian firms possibly claiming a slice of the outsourcing pie services giants such as Fujitsu, Capgemini and IBM already enjoy.

"As far as we are concerned, the more suppliers bidding for government work, creates a positive, vibrant, innovative IT community and that is what we ought to promote," Suffolk said.

"I spend a lot of time with our Indian colleagues, they are hugely talented and I encourage them to bid: it's their commercial decision whether do so and they will be treated like anybody else," he said.

"In fact, we have to do that legally under the European Procurement rules. So yes please: bid, bid, bid."

Do thinks differently

According to Suffolk, the upcoming Spending Review presents an opportunity for departments to "do things differently" as departments may be asked to slash their IT budgets by anything between a quarter to almost half the current levels.

"I have no inside track into [the 20 October announcement] - that is for ministers to decide. However, as the old saying goes, you should never waste a crisis: halving the structural deficit, which is the government's stated priority is a big opportunity for everybody, in technology and outside, to look at what they do and think of better and more effective ways of doing it," said Suffolk.

"In essence, I am hoping that is going to be an opportunity that we will take. It is quite hard for any organisation to reduce their cost by 25%-40%. However, if you look at the way technology has changed, there are so many different options today which we didn't have 10 years ago: departments have different options," he said.

"My belief is that everything we do will come under scrutiny and we'll change in some shape of form and I think that is absolutely right."

Innovate in the cloud

In terms of possible approaches departments could take on technology in a worst case scenario, Suffolk believes that there are possibilities to generate savings by using innovative datacentre design, cloud computing, software-as-a-service, as well as crowd-sourced software development.

"Don't get me wrong, you will always have legacy but it doesn't matter where you look, massive change is possible," said Suffolk.

"I don't think there is a silver bullet - you need to have many silver bullets. Shared services, common infrastructure, app stores and making more of the SME market, thinking differently in terms of project delivery are all part of the solution," he said.

"You can't pigeonhole yourself and only do this or that because the answer may vary across different areas. The more people tie themselves to methodologies, single streaming, solutions or architectures, the more they are stifling the innovative approaches that we could take."

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