Public sector IT 'on the verge of era of delivery'

Government CIO Ian Watmore assesses progress on his pointers for a successful technology profession

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Government CIO Ian Watmore assesses progress on his pointers for a successful technology profession

When I started in the Cabinet Office a year ago I gave 10 pointers for what successful technology would look like:

"A clear strategic roadmap and policy framework laid down for the next cycle of technology-enabled reform"
Last week we published such a strategy entitled Transformational Government - Enabled by Technology. We believe it is the first comprehensive, business-led strategy to cover technology deployment across the whole public sector.

Some people believe that such a strategy will fail due to the culture of the public sector. I reject that view. Indeed, I am optimistic that we are on the verge of an era of delivery. So what does such a strategy have within it to give me that optimism, especially for my other success measures?

"There has been real progress in the reform of public services underpinned by technology in the eyes of citizens and taxpayers"
I believe we are now delivering successful reforms right across the public sector, but what I think is not the point - it is what citizens and businesses think. So we are going to ask them and publish their views, routinely and systematically, to create "market" pressure on delivery.

"Public services have kept pace with UK citizens' experience of technology in use by commerce"
Investment has been made in e-enabling services, from which we can drive high take-up in areas that are critical to people's lives. However, there is more to be done to exploit the channel offered by the mobile telephone and other mobile technologies. And we see great potential from the new digital technologies in the home.

"Public servants increasingly believe they have good technology tools to help them execute their roles"
A Service Transformation Board of front-line officials will steer the strategy's implementation, we will routinely consult with front-line staff on what is needed, and we will deploy technology imaginatively to help policy makers tackle the most challenging problems in our communities.

"IT has greatly assisted the achievement of the efficiency review objectives of 2004"
Shared services provide the opportunity to reduce waste and inefficiency by re-using assets and sharing investments with others. We have appointed a director to oversee this programme, help to unlock the savings already identified in the efficiency review and create a basis for the next round of efficiencies.

"There is an appropriate balance between security and ease of access for services supported by technology"
The key to this is risk management, supported in practice by tiered networks and an updated protective marking scheme for electronically held information. Government will also play its part to promote public confidence by leading the Get Safe Online campaign on internet safety.

"The capability and capacity to handle the most complex mission-critical projects now exists in government, so there is confidence to press ahead with more reform"
Through professional management techniques such as portfolio management, we are confident we can openly improve our record of success. We will deliver an annual report to parliament, audited by the National Audit Office, which will be reporting next year for the first time on a raft of our most successful projects.

"There is a strong team ethic within the extended technology community across government and a sense of career, competence and achievement within technology professionals"
The CIO Council has already created a sense of teamwork and competence among the leaders of our profession. The creation of a profession based on the Skills Framework for the Information Age will spread this across our 50,000 professionals, making it the place to be for people who want to achieve lasting change through technology.

"UK government has achieved a strong competitive and collaborative relationship with technology suppliers both large and small"
The strategy recognises the "patchy" record of suppliers and the "difficult" nature of government as a client. Proposals for revamping arrangements with suppliers aim to achieve the desired spirit of partnership underpinned by strong performance management.

"The UK is among the leading countries for effective and efficient technology-enabled government"
We aspire to be in the very top tier. One prerequisite is to have a published, comprehensive strategy for deploying technology in support of our business. Our Transformational Government strategy is not an end in itself, but the beginning of a new era of delivery recognised by citizens and businesses alike.

Ian Watmore is government CIO and head of e-government

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