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Ex-Logica boss to teach UK.gov how to identify crap IT

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The government has turned to the former boss of Logica to try and it teach it how to run IT projects and jettison them as quickly as possible when it becomes apparent they have got it wrong again.

Martin Read, who was forced out of Logica last year, will carry out a review of the government’s £13bn annual IT spend as part of a general operations review already announced by the Treasury.

It seems the objectives of the review have already been set. It aims to get the government’s flagship projects to deliver the results they’re supposed to, and find further savings for the government, both in terms of the IT spend, and from the projects themselves.

This is no small task. The UK has wholeheartedly applied the latest technological thinking to the traditional business of government, developing whole new ways to waste tax payers’ cash in the process.

Whether it’s flagship projects such as the NHS NPfIT or HMRC’s tax credit system, or simply the government’s continuing inventiveness in launching websites that no-one ever visits, Whitehall has comprehensively rewritten the book on screwing up IT projects.

A spokesman for the Treasury said one key aim for Read would be looking at ways of keeping “dedicated teams on projects from start to finish”. Another is “not being afraid to abandon a project just because it’s high profile”.

Both those aims would run totally counter to the traditional government way of doing things. The very essence of politics and public sector work is to never finish a project and to get out while the going’s good. And because no-one has a start to finish view of a particular, no-one can really see how crippled it is, so the chances of anyone sticking their neck on the line and saying it should be pulled are next to zero.

Read should certainly have a handle on this – after all, Logica pulled in its share of government work while he was at the helm.

In the Treasury’s release announcing his appointment, Read said: “The private sector has made significant strides forward in this area in recent years and my work will examine the scope for the public sector to benefit from this experience, in order to deliver further efficiencies over the coming period."

Perhaps he can tap his successor at Logica for some advice. Andy Green concluded a review of the firm in April. He decided it had too many staff, and overheads were too high. He also decided the company should focus on... the UK commercial sector.

It seems Read’s brief is to think the unthinkable. Whether the government will actually do the unthinkable is quite another matter. ®

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