Government IT projects are prone to overreach themselves, inspired, as they often are, by a faith in technology for technology's sake. There is a tendency to reach for centralist solutions, where a more organic and piecemeal approach would be more effective. But not always.
Shared services are delivering real benefits in the public sector. And their use is being driven by the departments at the sharp end of service delivery.
In the abstract, the idea of one government department buying in a service from another seems like a good idea bound to come to grief on the rocky realities of territorial politics.
However, if multinational companies are content with "sharing" out-of-the-box enterprise software across regions and divisions, should not that be so of UK government departments?
And, indeed, IT-enabled practices that have proved successful in the private sector are being replicated in government, more or less naturally, to achieve specific business goals.
One example is NHS Shared Business Services, which provides finance, accounting, and payroll services to more than 100 health organisations. There is no prescriptive mandate for NHS trusts to join Shared Business Services it is a pragmatic matter, but one that arguably has benefits over wholesale outsourcing.
Another example is the disaster recovery consortium in Wales, which brings together three councils in the creation of a service that goes beyond what each could have afforded on their own.
And we report in this issue that Edinburgh City Council is considering taking its IT infrastructure partnership with BT, established in 2001, and from which it says it has derived cost savings, to market as a shared service.
Government IT - it's not all bad news.