Budget: Cutting £7.2bn of IT costs is not enough

There is a need for greater efficiency and effectiveness in government, and as such the Operational Effectiveness Programme is a step in the right direction…

There is a need for greater efficiency and effectiveness in government, and as such the Operational Effectiveness Programme is a step in the right direction, writes Mike Zealley, associate partner at Atos Consulting.

It is good that the government recognises the need for innovative use of IT, and the need for further rationalisation and collaboration in procurement to enable this initiative.

However, given the current economic climate, the associated increase in demand for and expectation of government services, we believe that the OEP may not fully meet the challenge. Current plans focus on "more for even less" when what is needed is "much more, for many more, for much less".

Departmental thinking needs to embrace:

1. A customer-centric view of driving operational efficiency, considering new inter-departmental operating models, with lean, IT-enabled processes extending into the government's supply chain. Too often, we see "silos" of efficiency in isolation. The processes seem streamlined, but they disregard the customer interaction across silos. This is particularly true as the role of private sector and the third sector in delivering public services increases.

By taking an end-to-end view of the customer journey, more waste can be eliminated and the focus put on valuable customer interactions.

2. Adoption of innovative technologies to support the customer-centric target operating models could include:

  • Use of technologies such as Web 2.0 for collaboration between departments
  • Use of social technologies for engaging citizens, Government Gateway for secure identification and transactions, and the provision of more information through portals
  • Better business intelligence and predictive analytics to support policy development and predict service demand, particularly in volatile markets where speed is key
  • Leaning IT provision through shared services, use of carbon neutral technologies and encouraging the use of cloud computing and virtualisation technologies
  • More consistent and joined up adoption of open standards e.g. open source

Through innovative use of IT, departments will be able to improve efficiency to a greater extent than with conventional thinking.

3. With the substantial changes that are needed to deliver OEP and the wider promise, it is vital that sufficient time and effort is invested in ensuring cultural, behavioural change and capability needs are also addressed. Governance and ownership through life of the projects is vital well beyond 'go-live', and greater rigour is required around the management of the portfolio of projects both within and across departments. We continue to support the work of MPRG and the Gateway Reviews in raising visibility of these risks.

To be sustainable, departments need to take an even broader view of benefits realisation. Not only must benefits be fully realised; each project must also embed a culture of continuous improvement to ensure that the inevitable future cost and efficiency challenges are met.

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