27th PAC Report 2006-07
Delivering successful IT-enabled business change
Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, today said:
“Not all major government IT projects end up on the rocks: as the successful Payment Modernisation Programme and Pension Credit have shown. If more large IT projects are to be similarly successful, then departments will have to understand what was done to make things go right.
“It’s certainly no good putting someone in charge of the programme who lacks the experience and skills to get the best out of external contractors and stays in post only as long as it takes to get another civil service position. The appointment of the official in charge must be on the basis that he or she is committed to staying the course and that performance and reward are linked to agreed targets and milestones.
“The board of the department must also be fully engaged with the programme and have a crystal clear sense of what they want the outcome to be and how they are going to achieve it. Not least, there must be excellent flows of information with alarms ready to be triggered as risks to delivery become heightened.
“The government has put in place a number of high-level initiatives to make departments raise their game. But to get real purchase those initiatives must be coordinated with one another.
“My Committee asked the OGC to provide a list of the 90 programmes and projects agreed as ‘mission critical’. The fact that this has now been provided is a much-needed first step towards opening up to scrutiny how government departments have been managing their IT-enabled change.”
Mr Leigh was speaking as the Committee published its 27th Report of this Session which, on the basis of evidence from the Office of Government Commerce and the Cabinet Office, examined three main issues: the importance of embedding the lessons from successful programmes and projects to drive up performance; the need to set standards for capacity and competence; and the value of candour in programme and project reporting.
Information technology (IT) plays an increasingly central role in providing major public services. In November 2005, Transformational Government, Enabled by Technology set out the Government’s strategy for delivering IT-enabled public services, which alongside a drive for greater efficiency in the way services are provided, calls for public services to be designed around the needs of the citizen or customer, not the provider. To achieve this vision, the Government is spending about £12-14 billion a year on new and existing information technology and related services to deliver improvements in key areas such as health, education, and law and order. Central civil government has a portfolio of some 120 mission critical or high risk IT-enabled programmes and projects, each of which faces different challenges. The risks are high and, given a history of past failures, government departments need the structures and management processes to secure greater success in IT-enabled programmes and projects.
The Cabinet Office’s Delivery and Transformation Group (formerly the e-Government Unit) and the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) help support departments in delivering IT-enabled change. The Delivery and Transformation Group is responsible for formulating IT strategy and policy, promoting best practice and undertaking departmental Capability Reviews to target underlying issues that affect delivery. The Office of Government Commerce works with departments to help them improve efficiency, gain better value from suppliers, and improve programme and project delivery. The Office of Government Commerce is also responsible for the Gateway Review process. A new Major Projects Review Group in HM Treasury will provide additional scrutiny in the stages up to contract award. With this division of responsibilities across Whitehall, it is important that roles are clear and activities co-ordinated.
The National Audit Office, on the basis of 24 case studies of successful IT-enabled programmes and projects from both public and private sectors, has set out three common principles that underpin successful delivery:
Ensuring senior level engagement
Acting as an intelligent client
Realising the benefits
In the past in departments, board level engagment with major programmes and projects has been found wanting, resulting in a failure to identify and act on imminent risks to delivery. Departments have not always shown themselves to be intelligent clients, with poorly defined requirements and a lack of capacity to engage effectively with suppliers, and only a minority of programmes and projects have carried out final Gateway Reviews to determine if they have delivered the benefits they set out to achieve.
Notes for Editors
1. Contact details for requests for further comment from Mr Edward Leigh are provided below. ISDN facilities are available for broadcasting purposes.
2. The full text of the Committee’s Conclusions and Recommendations is attached to this press notice.
3. This report can be accessed via the internet from around 11.00 am on the day of publication.
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