Private sector IT can give cost-cutting lessons: an open letter to Francis Maude

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has appealed for help from anyone who can help the government cut costs.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has appealed for help from anyone who can help the government cut costs.

While it is great to see former government CIO and Accenture alumnus Ian Watmore spearheading the Efficiency and Reform Group, the coalition government would gain yet more insight into cost-cutting by turning to private sector enterprise IT, writes David Roberts, executive director at the Corporate IT Forum.

As we all know, Francis Maude recently summoned 19 of the government's IT suppliers to tell them to cut costs. The government, which favours a smaller, arguably more efficient state, wants to reappraise each of its contracts.

Maude said at the time of his meeting with the suppliers, "Some of [the savings] will come out of margins but we will also invite ideas on how we can structure things differently to reduce complexity and cost."

Private sector IT is well used to gaining efficiencies through cutting costs and to negotiating and renegotiating with suppliers.

It also fails to succumb to an excess of initiatives, and does not suffer failing projects gladly.

When Ian Watmore moved on from government for a fleeting stint at the moribund Football Association, Computer Weekly rightly hailed the private sector discipline he had brought to Whitehall - a discipline trained on delivering benefits rather than just completing projects.

"People", he said, "sit too often in Whitehall and do not get out to the front line enough, and do not see the consequences of things that look good on bits of paper in Whitehall but are not actually translating properly in the front line."

The Corporate IT Forum, which includes 23 central and local government organisations. as well as many of the UK's most admired private sector businesses, has amassed a body of shared knowledge and experience that would be of value to the work of the Efficiency and Reform Group. It has run workshops over the past year on such matters as squeezing value out of the leading enterprise software suppliers, renegotiating outsourcing contracts, and using IT make corporate organisations more efficient and sustainable.

Mr Maude - you know where we are.

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