It’s the same old story. It seems like every time the government or public sector go anywhere near an IT project, it falls apart. The public sector is not known for its IT expertise or IT project management skills. News about system failures, project failures and inconceivably expensive and wasteful computer system-led disasters is distressingly common. So this latest piece of news isn’t exactly unexpected.
What’s the latest IT disaster in the making?
It appears HMRC is “overly complacent” about the imminent changes to the way it buys IT, or at least that’s what a government committee says. Worse still, failing to make the transition adequately smooth will leave Britain’s public finances in a state of “havoc”.
HMRC currently spends a massive 84% of its IT budget on a long-standing contract with Capgemini, Fujitsu and Accenture. Originally signed in 2004, the contract was eventually extended to run until 2017. The government made dramatic changes to their IT procurement protocols in the meantime, ruling that such ‘mega-contracts’ should be dropped and replaced with a series of smaller, more manageable deals. On 27th January 2015 a Public Accounts Committee report was filed, in which the south Norfolk MP Richard Bacon said HMRC was nowhere near prepared for the changes. In his words:
“HMRC faces an enormous challenge in moving to a new contracting model by 2017, with many short-duration contracts with multiple suppliers, and appears complacent given the scale of the transformation required.”
But there’s more. HMRC’s IT contractor management record is incredibly poor. It currently delivers very little – if any – confidence that the tax man can achieve the transition smoothly and effectively. And it’s even less likely they’ll be able to manage the proposed new model with any level of success, never mind maximise the value for money they’re supposed to get for taxpayers.
Is it the IT experts’ fault?
Is this the fault of the IT experts themselves? It’s highly unlikely. Public sector IT projects tend to be dogged by horribly poor committee-led decision making, confirmation bias and endless interference. Instead of making IT professionals’ lives easier the public sector tends to made them impossible. If the private sector ‘worked’ the same way, it would be in a similar state of chaos.
Let’s just hope the naysayers are wrong this time, for all our sakes. In your experience, what do you expect will happen?