Central resource

September 12, 2012

In a report from the Audit Scotland, who are usually a well informed and rational bunch, there is a proposal for a central resource to get over project issues in Scottish central government systems development. The report “Managing ICT contracts: An audit of three public sector programmes” (PDF, 25 pages, 856 Kb + other options) looked at three programmes and found issues with their management, along with the Gateway system also used by the English government. The report stresses the need to ensure the implementation of the opportunities from the McClelland Report (reported here in March 2012 under “Scotland the Brave“) and the resultant action plan. One of the programmes has been cancelled at significant cost, a further contract has been given a years notice, so there are obviously issues and although the public bodies claim benefits they are unable to quantify them – how many more times will money be wasted without proper benefits realization and effective programme management being used?

In general the Auditor General advises “The Scottish Government needs to address these weaknesses and strengthen its strategic oversight of ICT investment to ensure the public sector delivers programmes that improve public services and provide value for money.”

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Scotland the brave

March 13, 2012

When the matter of how to deliver the vision within Planting the Flag has been raised at the Local CIO Council (LCIOC), the McClelland Report (PDF 58 pages, 489 Kb) is mentioned. I’m not sure how far south of the border this study has made inroads but on the LCIOC with its representation from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, we are unable to ignore the good work being done in the devolved administrations, and this is a particular example. The McClelland Report was published in June 2011, so whilst it is not hot news is highly relevant to the use of ICT across the UK public sector

How well it would actually travel in its entirety I’m not sure since amongst the recommendations (Section 14) there is 14.1.2 which states – “An overarching national public sector IT strategy should be developed which addresses national imperatives and pan public sector opportunities”, which may not go down so well in still Balkanized England. However the report on page 36 found in Scotland that – “The fragmented public sector landscape, although not an environment where sharing is prevalent, is partially populated with examples of excellence from individual organisations which have also in some cases installed the same common systems capability as others. Sometimes these common systems are deployed in a single shared instance but in most cases not. This has evolved into a complex landscape and one where a detailed plan is required to build on these points of excellence and partial sharing and extend them to create a network of common applications which are shared through being centrally hosted in a minimum number of “instances” for each sub-sector.” This might also describe England and the approach be effective here.

It also proposes in 14.4.3 that the “approach should incorporate aggressive pursuit of internal and external “Cloud Computing” concepts. Sustainability should be a key consideration.” – Yippee – green being fundamental at last! Whilst 14.4.10 involves what the citizen wants – “At the national level there should be a formal project dedicated to citizen priorities including seamless cross sector integration of service and data and in particular the needs of the elderly, sick and other vulnerable groups. It should also include other areas such as transport access and data management”.

Whilst it isn’t probably suitable to transfer directly from a devolved authority to England the approach within the report could reduce the replication that continually haunts English public services.