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Stand Up & Be Counted

You’re not making many friends”, I was told last week, referring of course to my most recent comments on IT procurement and in particular, the story on the health service email project.

I suppose, it’s really a question of how one defines ‘friends’. The CW360 mail bag has been attracting interesting and supportive letters from vendors, civil servants and doctors. I’ve even been asked along to the European Parliament, to chat with the commissioner and some MEPs in November but there’s a suggestion that other ‘friends in high places’ aren’t too impressed with my ‘King’s new clothes argument’.

What the mailbag tells me, is that people working at the leading edge of the larger public sector IT projects are concerned and as one distinguished source wrote “Public-sector PFI and outsourcing contracts need some radical new, professional re-engineering if they are to continue." Another reader with public sector responsibility commented: “After sitting and watching for some time I am just about to start asking questions. Your article seems to support my line of questioning.”

I plan to keep this particular ‘Thought for the Day’ brief. My intention is not to attack any particular government minister, department or strategy, because my experience and quite possibly your own, tells me that the great machine would simply roll into a state of denial and like Martin Sixsmith, I would find myself suddenly consigned to the lunatic fringe of journalism.

One of my academic friends, involved in eGovernment failures around the world, has concluded: “it emerged that failure can have benefits: but only if those around the project can learn from that failure”. I would argue that in the UK, there is little evidence that we are learning from our mistakes and instead and from what our readers are telling me, we are throwing ever-increasing sums of public money at projects of dubious value.

I’ve asked before and I’ll ask again. It’s time that the entire public sector process was reviewed in an effort to determine whether there is a better, more manageable, more accountable and more cost-effective means of rolling-out ‘Big’ ICT projects. Even a 10% saving on costs would represent an astronomical sum, which might even help towards achieving an appointment with my local GP inside ten days or a little more money for books in school.

The system we have in place today is in urgent reform. We are not a rich country and we can’t afford to waste what public money we have on technology which isn’t cost effective of fit for purpose.

I want to hear what you think about this. Am I on the fringe or too close to the truth?

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