Local councils shed CIOs as cuts bite
Opportunity for outsourcers, but pickings may be slim
Many local councils that jettisoned CIOs or senior decision-makers in the rush to cut costs lack a coherent IT strategy, according to a panel debate by Netgear.
The Coalition last week boasted that the Efficiency and Reform Group (ERG) had saved £800m by squeezing public sector suppliers, but others further down the food chain continue to seek ways to slash budgets upwards of 33 per cent.
This is leading to a flattened management structure as CIOs who used to set IT strategy are elbowed into the jobs market, said Doug Maclean, consulting director at the Society of IT Managers.
"There are fewer councils now who've got anyone who approaches the role of the CIO," he said. "In many cases there is no real manager driving the service forward; there's no one making strategic decisions."
Mclean described the public sector as a "huge data information collection machine" but argued not many councils understood the value of this, providing an opening for savvy resellers.
However, some traditional vendors and suppliers are not nimble enough to help hard-pressed councils, which are considering the shared services alternative.
David Grasty, lead ICT Business Partner at Kingston Council, said: "We are looking for flexibility above all else." He added, "Merging council IT departments provides a sensible way of maximising resources and talent to drive strategic IT plans."
The dearth of senior decision-makers is leading to a hike in outsourcing deals, said Stephen Harley, Milton Keynes Branch Manager at ACS Office Solutions.
"A major trend we are seeing currently is that public sector bodies that previously had their own IT teams have now entered into outsourcing contracts. Channel partners have become the IT department and manage the services for various organisations, especially in the education sector."
Public sector specialists in the reseller and integrator channel must fill the void left by the dwindling toll of senior IT bods.
Jonathan Hallet, VAR director at Netgear, said the channel must "step-up to the challenge to provide public sector workers with the strategic direction they clearly need at a price they can afford".
The old adage that "where there is mystery there is margin" is applicable in circumstances where the customer is akin to a rudderless ship cast adrift on the high seas. Sadly in this situation that ship has already been plundered. ®
Why not lose a couple of tiers of Local Government top management.
Fewer people let go much larger financial savings. I'd rather have three roadsweepers saved than one Chief Operating Officer any day.
Agreed with AC 13:06 GMT
A bit like the forces story reported in El Reg today there tend to be several ranks of structure above local authority level that tends to be rather poorly presented to the public.
Regionality is a big theme and most smaller Councils with or without CIOs or any CxOs are probably going to follow what big neighbouring Councils do anyway.
While bigger Councils might do a full sweep analysis and put forward recommendations to elected members smaller councils will probably just ratify the options chosen elsewhere = no need for CIO anything really (well, maybe one per region).
Cost savings on procurement potential too.
"Many local councils that jettisoned CIOs or senior decision-makers in the rush to cut costs lack a coherent IT strategy"
s/that jettisoned CIOs or senior decision-makers in the rush to cut costs//
No big thing really
Well, maybe not quite as big as what it is made to be.
Most Councils exist in a region that already has policies or guidelines plus, I daresay, quite a few indicators about where to go arrive via Whitehall.
What is challenged, challenging and probably equally welcome is a change to practice that a regional policy/guideline must automatically mean that each Council in the area must appoint a CIO - even if it is a token, ratify the options type appointment.
Really, really bad move. When will public sector organisations realise they need to keep at least a core staff of PMs and techies who know what they're doing and can work with a supplier to keep things on track? Too many NGOs etc expect an outsourcer to come up with a magic bullet solution and aren't willing (or able) to provide the guidance needed to keep a project under control.
Result: Getting shamelessly rooked by companies like mine for systems that don't quite do the job. Hey, it pays my bills, but I'm a taxpayer too.