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Gov IT bods must shield their budgets from gov's knife – Socitm

Increased use of council ICT services putting the squeeze on managers

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A report from the public sector IT directors' group Socitm has identified four ongoing priorities for ICT managers in the wake of continuing austerity.

The priorities are: protecting ICT budget share by promoting the role and achievements ICT functions; focusing on reducing total costs of ownership; reviewing insourcing versus outsourcing; and reviewing information and technology strategies.

Titled Making do with less, Socitm's report and summary of the results for 2011 from its benchmarking service – which assesses the performance of council ICT departments – argues that the tension between the growing demand for ICT services and the role ICT is expected to play in transforming other services has led to a decline in user satisfaction.

The report says there is no sign of light at the end of the austerity tunnel. "While there are variations in the proportions of overall budget allocated to ICT, no organisation has escaped the funding squeeze," it says.

"On the plus side, the evidence to date suggests that ICT functions will respond well to the extreme challenges likely in the years ahead."

The report highlights the importance of benchmarking as a tool for ICT managers. It argues that only analysing an organisation's costs or performance without reference to other organisations is not a good starting point when arguing for scarce resources.

Benchmarking allows organisations to probe into processes and procedures, ask relevant questions that reveal how to strip out costs and increase efficiency, and accurately target opportunities to save, according to the document.

The report adds that benchmarking also plays a key role in preparing for and managing the performance of both shared and outsourced services - routes many authorities are embarking on in the search for major savings. According to Socitm, in both cases benchmarking establishes baseline costs and performance against which future progress can be measured.

With regard to outsourcing, the report says that benchmarking in advance of outsourcing can encourage organisations to make savings before awarding a contract.

This article was originally published at Government Computing.

Government Computing covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

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