8 Skills and leadership|
100. Many of the complaints we heard about Government
IT can be traced back to a lack of skills in Government; whether
these are the skills needed to manage procurement, understand
new opportunities and innovative approaches or to integrate IT
into the policymaking process. All our other recommendations will
be futile unless the Government addresses the lack of skills and
leadership from senior management necessary for the effective
procurement and use of IT.
An intelligent customer?
101. Discussions about procurement often focus on
the lack of an "intelligent customer" function within
Government to enable it to engage effectively with external suppliers
and stakeholders. The Government's inability to act as an intelligent
customer seems to be a consequence of its decision to outsource
a large amount of its IT operations to the private sector. The
NAO noted that many IT contracts:
are for a government body's whole ICT service,
meaning that civil service staff, knowledge, skills, networks
and infrastructure have been transferred to a supplier. This has
effectively locked government into specific contracts for the
102. Computer Weekly argued that this has created
a situation where "government give contractors the job
of telling it what it needs to buy from them."
Mark Thompson of Judge Business School, University of Cambridge
argued that "there is usually really lousy management
of the contract once it is in place,"
while Professor Willcocks, LSE, has argued that the challenges
facing the NHS IT programmes have been in part caused by a lack
of internal capability to manage large contracts.
One witness, Dr Leonard Anderson of Logicterm Limited, believed
that departments must have the necessary skills or employ an independent
programme management consultant to ensure that the client and
suppliers can work properly in partnership. He concluded that
"complete outsourcing is a recipe for rip-offs".
103. Professor Margetts, Oxford Internet Institute,
provided another example from HMRC:
HMRC took a decision a long time ago, in the
early 1990s, to outsource everythingand I mean everything.
All the expertise went over to the supplier, and a tiny proportion
was spent on managing the contract compared with what the private
sector would have done. We are seeing the consequences of that
104. Similarly, the BCS stated that "departments
generally do not have the overall IT skills capability or capacity
to meet their sometimes ambitious portfolios of change, and have
often become over-dependent on the external marketplace."
It argued that this situation has been exacerbated by "the
high degree of outsourcing of IT services, which makes it more
difficult to develop and maintain the required level of client-side
David Wilde, the CIO of Westminster Council identified one of
the key challenges government faced was striking a balance between
which functions to outsource while still retaining the skills
necessary to manage those services effectively.
105. In their evidence Hewlett Packard identified
several key functions which they believe needed to be retained
in-house. They were:
- Chief Information Officer;
- Development of Information Systems (IS) and IT
Strategy and Architecture;
- Security and Information Assurance Policy;
- Business Analysis and Business Relationship Management;
- Procurement and Contract Management, and
- Business Change and Programme Management.
According to Hewlett Packard the development of IS
and IT Strategy and Architecture, and Contract and Procurement
Management roles were often filled by staff on fixed-term contracts
or external advisers. They described this as "less than
ideal" as it prevented the development of a professional
cadre of staff with these skills and undermined long-term accountability
for the delivery of these functions."
106. The Minister agreed that government had traditionally
struggled to outsource IT functions successfully:
I have a sense that, when you outsource IT in
the quite comprehensive way that some big bits of Government have,
what tends to happen is either an assumption that we have outsourced,
so that is fine, complete and we do not need to worry about it,
or we retain a massive amount of in-house capability to monitor
and man-mark what is being done by the outsourced provider.
One provider told us that they had 2,500 people
working on the outsourced provision but there were 4,000 people
in-house monitoring them, which is insane. What you need is to
have a small but very capable in-house CIO-type capability, which
can scan the market and see what is available.
107. Ian Watmore agreed with this analysis arguing
that when outsourcing governments had "either abdicated,
giving it all away, or we have retained an army, which has just
added to cost and bureaucracy on both sides." Instead
he argued that the government needed a "smaller intelligent
group that can procure and manage a contract in partnership, and
hold them to account when they need to, but help them fix things
when they need to as well." He said that this was a difficult
skill set to find but that the current Government was "buying
108. Managing suppliers is as important as deciding
who to contract with in the first place. To be able to perform
both of these functions government needs the capacity to act as
an intelligent customer. This involves having a small group within
government with the skills to both procure and manage a contract
in partnership with its suppliers. Currently the Government seems
unable to strike the right balance between allowing contractors
enough freedom to operate and ensuring there are appropriate controls
and monitoring in-house. The Government needs to develop the skills
necessary to fill this gap. This should involve recruiting more
IT professionals with experience of the SME sector to help deliver
the objective of greater SME involvement.
IT PROFESSION IN GOVERNMENT
109. David Clarke, BCS, expressed concern that the
tendency to outsource government IT functions was undermining
the IT profession within Government.
One of the things that worry me a lot is the
lack of career paths now in this profession in Government. So
much is outsourced; that work used to be the career paths of people
coming up to become those excellent, knowledgeable people at the
top of the tree. By outsourcing a lot of the stuff that you do,
you don't have that career path within Government.
110. The Government Chief Information Officer is
responsible for the IT profession within government. The first
strategy for developing IT skills was out in 2005
and focused on the Skills Framework for the Information Age
which was developed with the IT industry. The NAO found that
there had been "no clear mandate to implement"
111. The Government is also developing its own IT
talent through the Technology in Business Stream of the Civil
Service Fast Stream Programme. Established in 2007-08, this programme
is designed to develop high calibre government IT employees. It
has placed 47 staff in 10 departments. The Technology in Business
Fast Stream has been the most successful of all the Civil Service
Programmes, with more applications per place, the highest growth
in the number of applications.
The BCS commented positively on this scheme, but said that
it was producing "nowhere near enough" people
and could benefit from expansion.
112. The strategic importance of Government developing
and maintaining an intelligent customer function has been repeatedly
highlighted throughout our inquiry. We are very supportive of
the Government's efforts to develop its own talent in-house through
the Technology in Business Fast Stream. The Government should
use this scheme as a basis for a strengthened IT Profession within
Government. It must ensure that it aligns the training curriculum
with its ICT Strategy and wider developments in the world of technology
outside of Government.
Spread of skills
113. Mr Clarke, BCS, emphasised that the skills required
by Government included the ability to manage business change programmes
and understand the role IT plays in those programmes. These are
not technical skills, but competencies that all senior officials
including those on Departmental boards should possess; having
an understanding of technology policy will enable better integration
of technology into policy making and the operation of public services.
This will be increasingly important as the Government seeks to
deliver more services on a "digital by default"
114. When we put concerns regarding the quality of
existing skills to the Government the response we received was
mixed. At official level the prevailing view was that the Government
had the skills it needed. Phil Pavitt, CIO HMRC, told us that
the description of the Government as lacking in skills was not
one he recognised.
This view was echoed by Craig Wilson, Hewlett Packard, who told
us the "Government has some excellent skills in terms
of procurement and leadership now [...]".
However, the Minister was more sceptical commenting that the Government
was "not nearly as good as [it] should be."
115. Knowledge about how modern information systems
and technology can be used to improve public services should not
be restricted to the IT profession - this knowledge is essential
to the work of all senior civil servants responsible for designing
and delivering policy. The Government should explore how departmental
boards and senior officials can best benefit from professional
training and support in technology policy. A systematic programme
to improve these skills across the senior civil service would
also help support the Government's aim of ensuring public services
become "digital by default" by improving the integration
of technology and policy throughout the policy-making process.
ROLE OF SROS
116. Senior Responsible Owners (SROs) are the senior
officials responsible for ensuring that a programme meets its
objectives and delivers the projected benefits.
They are the owner of the overall business change, provide senior
leadership for the programme and take personal responsibility
for the successful delivery of outcomes. A number of organisations
highlighted the importance of SROs. Intellect, the IT industry
trade association argued that:
Senior Responsible Owners (SROs) of appropriate
seniority and experience should lead programmes of all sizes from
conception through procurement and delivery.
However, as the Government acknowledges, this has
not always happened, with SROs often changing several times during
the course of a project. The Institution of Engineering and Technology
and the Royal Academy of Engineering noted that these changes
mean any significant project overruns or failures can be blamed
on previous SROs who have since left the project.
To rectify this situation the Government has announced that it
will require SROs to stay in post until an appropriate break point
in the project.
117. We welcome the Government's intention to
strengthen the role of Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) by ensuring
that they stay in post until an appropriate break point in the
project. Wherever possible SROs should stay in post to oversee
the delivery of the benefits for which they are accountable and
which the project was intended to deliver. It should be in Ministers'
interests to ensure that this happens, and Ministers should take
a personal interest in the leadership of politically sensitive
118. We are concerned that despite the catalogue
of costly project failures rarely does anyone - suppliers, officials
or ministers - seem to be held to account. It is therefore important
that, when SROs do move on they should remain accountable for
those decisions taken on their watch, and that Ministers should
be held accountable when this does not happen.
ROLE OF CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICERS
119. Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are a department's
most senior official directly responsible for information management
and the related technical systems. They play an increasingly important
and demanding role ensuring that organisations are well placed
to manage the information required to deliver their objectives.
Ian Watmore praised the quality of the current CIOs working in
Government describing them as "some of the very best people
from the private sector. About half the CIOs from the last three
or four years came directly from the private sector and were really
120. However, some witnesses expressed concerns about
the CIO Council
and the lack of impact the Council's work has had.
A number of witnesses argued that CIOs should have a higher profile
within departments and advocated that they should serve on departmental
boards. Roger Marshal, former Chair of EURIM said that:
It cannot be emphasised too strongly that CIOs
or their equivalent must be given the resources and authority
within public sector organisations in order to impose good practice
and eliminate poor practice. In comparable private sector organisations
[...] there will invariably be a main board director who both
understands and can represent the interests of IT professionalism.
This should be the case in the public sector too.
Hewlett Packard made similar points, arguing that
while the importance of the departmental CIO was increasingly
recognised, "the function remains inconsistently adopted
- some are members of their department's board and accountable
to the Permanent Secretary, others less senior. More could be
done to strengthen the role of the departmental CIO in policy
121. Of the 14 departments we surveyed as part of
our research into Government IT only three (DWP, HMRC and Office
of National Statistics) reported that their CIO sat on the departmental
board. This is presumably due to the large amount of information
processed by these departments.
122. When we put these concerns to Ian Watmore he
acknowledged that the level of CIO appointments "has been
the source of some controversy over many years." However
he argued that every function "whether it is IT, finance,
HR [....] wants to have their person on the board, and the view
of departmental leads was that the boards would become overly
big and complex."
Minister also argued that one of the risks of having CIOs on departmental
boards was that it led to IT being compartmentalised with the
rest of the board not taking an interest in large IT-driven programmes.
He said that there was a danger that people would say:
"He or she is doing the technology. None
of us needs to worry about the IT projects." Actually Ministers
need to be taking an interest in big projects generally, including
IT projects, and so do permanent secretaries. I do not think they
have in the past to nearly a great enough extent, so someone down
there in the bowels of the organisation will deal with it.
124. Ministers should reconsider the governance
arrangements for their departments' information systems and associated
IT. Whilst it may not always be appropriate for the CIO to be
a board level appointment, we think that more department boards
should include CIOs given the essential role that information
and technology play in delivering Departments' services. Where
CIOs are not on a departmental board, another member of their
Board should have proven expertise in, and act as a champion for,
information and technology issues.
135 National Audit Office, Information and Communications
Technology in government, p 17 Back
End IT dinosaurs' reign of terror, MPs told, Computer Weekly,23
February 2010 Back
Ev w142 Back
Ev w40 Back
Q 31 [Professor Margetts] Back
Ev 97 Back
Q 295 Back
Ev 106-107 Back
Q 541 Back
Q 542 Back
Q 193 [Mr Clarke] Back
Cabinet Office, Transformational Government - enabled by technology,
Cm6683, November 2005. Back
National Audit Office, Information and Communications Technology
in government, p18 Back
Qq 196-199 Back
Note of informal evidence session. Back
Q 430 Back
Q 541 Back
Ev 113 Back
Ev w121 Back
Ev 119 Back
Q 542 Back
A group of all departmental CIOs Back
Ev w56 Back
Ev w56 Back
Ev 107 Back
Q 560 Back
Q 561 [Francis Maude] Back