Government IT projects fail to win over staff

Public sector IT programmes lack staff buy-in, according to a report from think-tank the Work Foundation.

Public sector IT programmes lack staff buy-in, according to a report from think-tank the Work Foundation.

IT's ability to underpin both choice and efficiency in public service makes it a key political weapon in the coming general election, and the government is investing heavily, with major IT initiatives in the NHS and the criminal justice system.

But researchers found marked disparities between the general public’s perception of major government IT projects and those of public sector staff.

On choice, a quarter of the general public said that having a range of options to access services was the most important element, but only 10% of public sector staff agreed, the Work Foundation said.

Public sector IT projects faced an uphill struggle against staff perceptions, the report said. "There is staff scepticism about the role ICT can play in improving public services. Media reports on large-scale IT projects in the public sector tend to be negative, and focus on the problems and ‘wasted’ money. Some projects do go badly wrong, such as the Child Support Agency’s IT system making payments to only one in eight single parents."

Meanwhile successful projects went unrecognised, the report said.

Communicating effectively with staff, managing organisational change and creating a solid business case were among the other challenges facing public sector IT projects, it said.

The report recommended that managers should be more aware of how IT can help in their objectives and be able to communicate this to staff.

It also said there should be far more effective engagement with staff, getting them involved in designing technology and testing ways of working. Staff should also be able to see how their input helped to shape services.

Doctors’ bodies have been critical of the £6.2bn NHS IT programme because of its lack of engagement with staff.

The Work Foundation report comes at the same time as a CBI survey has found that 86% of business leaders believe that planned savings of £21.5bn, outlined in the Gershon efficiency review, will be missed, with only 4% saying they will be met.

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