Feeds

NAO gets loved up on gov IT

Takes pet projects for walk in the sun

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

The reason for such failures in the private sector should be obvious to anyone. Competition forces companies to cut corners, budgets and time, so that many projects fail. In the public sector the same happens because things are run to a political timetable.

So Gateway Reviews - the OGC's panacea for shoddy IT - tend to get shoved in a drawer and the series of reviews tail off before they have done their job. There's so much to do and so little time.

The efforts begun in 2004 by Ian Watmore (now the head of government "transformation") to improve professionalism and street sense among government IT bods will help see that these and earlier recommendations are better followed eventually. But there is something very peculiar about government IT that makes it a little harder to get right than anything ever attempted in the public sector.

That idiosyncrasy may explain why the thing that by Standish's measure is the number one reason for IT project success, is by the NAO's reckoning worth burying in the body of the report: that is, user acceptance. It's basic human psychology that if you try and turn someone's world upside down without their agreement or "buy-in", they'll kick up a stink.

So any private firm worth its salt will include intended users of a computer system in its design from the outset, because it usually involves radical change. Most computer systems, by the extension of their application, have users who exist outside the firm - those people who are the intended recipients of the benefits of computerisation. It's harder to get their involvement in the design and development of an IT system, but it's easy to tell if they like the change: if they don't like it, they can take their business elsewhere.

The trouble with many government systems, however, is that the users don't have much choice in what's foisted on them beyond a vote every four years for a hotch-potch of manifesto commitments that have to be lumped like a bargain bag bought lock stock at a car boot sale just for the sake of that one shiny bauble nestled on the top of all the tat.

A shining exception to this rule is the DWP BACS system, which the NAO said was well liked by benefits claimants, despite strong initial resistance to the idea. The abysmal failure of the Child Support Agency is a prime proof. The Identity Card system will be very interesting for the same reason. It is being foisted on its "users". (Perhaps they'll learn to love the convenience it brings).

This unfortunate reality makes a nonsense of this government's talk of citizens being customers, no matter how much choice it creates by getting the private sector to deliver public services. ®

* £1.5bn of 14bn being spent on UK government IT projects this year

** Standish Group's Top 10 Reasons for Success:

  1. User involvement
  2. Executive management support
  3. Clear business objectives
  4. Optimising scope
  5. Agile process
  6. Project manager expertise
  7. Financial management
  8. Skilled resources
  9. Formal methodology
  10. Standard tools and infrastructure

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.