The European Commission is preparing a plan to slash its sprawling IT estate after an audit revealed it spends €500m a year on 2,000 IT systems that often do the same thing for different departments.
The outline rationalisation plan would put the European Commission (EC) on a cost-cutting path similar to that being pursued by IT administrators in Whitehall. But outline plans for the EC seen by Computer Weekly play down the potential for open standards and open source software as a source of savings.
Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič proposes cutting IT systems and staff after a six-month audit unearthed a costly IT estate over which there is no central coordination.
The EC learned it has 2,000 information systems supporting about 12 business areas, with 450 systems supporting policy procedures in just 23 directorates and 119 systems to manage grant funding. It employs 3,800 staff and spends €500m a year on systems so disparate that it is incapable of finding common cause between them.
In November, Šefčovič established boards of high-level civil servants under a remit to get a handle on IT project management, and develop a plan to "rationalise", "harmonise", and "use resources more efficiently".
The Secretariat-General backed the plan after Šefčovič said only 40% of Commission IT spending is handled by his Directorate of Administration. Individual departments spend the rest, duplicating systems and neglecting to coordinate their developments.
Šefčovič's Directorate-General for Informatics has established an Information Systems Project Management Board, which under his director general Francisco García Morán would lead development of a revised IT policy. It would develop project management guidelines, vet all IT systems above €500,000 and propose areas for software development.
A High Level Committee on IT, staffed by department directors, and a reformed Committee on Administrative and Budgetary matters, would devise and oversee the rationalisation plan.
Šefčovič's outline plan drew stark contrast with the UK model by playing up the need to protect proprietary software interests and playing down the role that open source and open standards might have in finding common cause between disparate systems.
The administration's Directorate-General approved the outline plan on the proviso that "the Commission does not use open source software which does not protect intellectual property".
The compatibility and interoperability of IT systems were issues to which the Commission should pay heed, it said on receiving Šefčovič's outline plan in October. Šefčovič told administration heads "intellectual property rights would be fully respected" when it pursued the cause of systems compatibility when, for example, it established systems for the newly formed EU foreign service.
Graham Taylor, chief executive of campaign group Open Forum Europe, was baffled by the wording of the Commission's open source proviso. He says the administration has to bring its internal IT strategy in line with the public pronouncements of its Digital Agenda, which made more liberal reference to open source and open standards.