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Despite continuing interest in outsourcing local government IT projects, new research from the Society of IT Management (Socitm) has revealed that users don't like it. The survey found that user satisfaction is, on average, 13 per cent lower in largely outsourced councils than in those that keep their IT in-house.

Socitm's benchmarking survey, based on data from 2003 and 2004, gives councils scores out of seven for user satisfaction. Of the ten councils classed as 'outsourcers', four scored lower than four out of seven, compared with only three of the 75 councils that had kept everything in house.

In two councils in particular, (Socitm does not name names) user satisfaction was measured before, and again some time after, outsourcing. In one case, it had dropped by 27 per cent, and in the other by 32 per cent. Socitm says it sees similar trends on other measures such as perceived value for money, and performance of the IT unit.

Socitm's Martin Greenwood argues that user satisfaction is a good indicator of how successful an IT project will be in other areas: "Efficiency gains through investment in ICT will only be made if the ICT service is credible. A large slice of that credibility must come from what users think of the service they receive and the degree to which ICT helps them deliver high-quality services," he says.

But outsourcing specialists Kable see no signs that the outsourcing trend is slowing down. It expects the amount spent on outsourced IT projects by the public sector will grow by nearly 20 per cent in the next year or so, reaching a total of £6bn by 2007.

Socitm's report is available free to Socitm Insight subscribers here. Anyone else will have to pony up £150 to have a look at the whole report. ®

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