E-government: from strategy to delivery

Ian Watmore, former government CIO and newly appointed head of the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit, considers the challenges of delivering citizen-centred reforms

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Ian Watmore, former government CIO and newly appointed head of the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit, considers the challenges of delivering citizen-centred reforms

Many commentators have welcomed our Transformational Government strategy published in November, but warned of the challenges in delivering it. When the job of leading the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit was advertised late last year, it therefore seemed natural for me to apply for it, providing, of course, I could take the technology responsibility with me. I am therefore delighted to be starting this new role, championing delivery across the public services, with technology playing a key role.

My original objective in taking on the government CIO post was to help ensure that technology supported the business transformation of government itself. The creation of the CIO Council, the publication of our Transformational Government strategy, the establishment of an IT profession, and the Transforming Public Services agenda which we drove through our EU presidency have all set this objective well on its way.

The focus has now moved from whether we have the right support, business direction or CIO leadership team to achieve these aims. Instead it is on delivery - of citizen-centred reforms, shared services and professionalism - to bring about the transformation which we all seek.

This was the focus of our CIO Council last week on our first anniversary. The agenda we set ourselves for 2005 has been met, and overall we believe that we have begun to bounce back from the low esteem in which public sector IT has been held over the last decade.

Indeed, the prime minister said in his evidence to the Parliamentary Liaison Committee in November that often "IT is the means of visibly manifesting a deeper problem" when things go wrong. As a result of the work we and others have been doing, he thought government now had a "better process in place and better calibre people" for delivering major IT-enabled programmes of change.

So at last week's CIO Council we focused on the 2006 (and beyond) agenda under the banner of moving from strategy to delivery.

The resultant plan for this will be published at the end of the financial year, as promised. We focused hard on areas such as shared services, a national IT academy, identity management and portfolio management - all highlighted in the Transformational Government strategy. And we were particularly keen to clarify those actions which will be achieved in 2006 prior to the annual report to parliament which our strategy demands at the end of this year.

It was particularly gratifying to me to see the way the CIO Council now functions as a team, and all of the actions were seamlessly picked up by members of the council under the programme management of Andrew Stott, my deputy CIO, who will be acting CIO until my permanent successor is appointed. It is very much business as usual, and the council and I will collectively and quickly push ahead with a recruitment of the next government CIO.

I have been incredibly proud to be the first government CIO, and it has been the best role of my career to date (and I have had some good ones). We are now looking for candidates who have personal credibility in this role, who will take on the agenda set by the council as their own, and who will build upon the genuine team we now have across central and local government and the wider public sector.

Such candidates may be drawn from the council itself, from the CIO community or the IT industry. It is a genuinely open competition, and we look forward to an intense competition for what has often been described as the most important job in UK IT.

In short we are looking for someone who will be perfectly at home in The Thick of IT...

Ian Watmore began work as head of the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit this month. In September 2004 he became the first government CIO and head of e-government. Before his appointment to Whitehall he was managing director of Accenture UK from 2000

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