The government will attempt to slash £3.2 billion from its more than £10 billion annual IT costs, according to a new strategy document published today.

The government will attempt to slash£3.2 billion from its annual IT costs, according to a new strategy document published today.

The new ‘ICT strategy’, to be led by government chief information officer John Suffolk, promises to focus on a “smarter, cheaper and greener” setup, cutting costs from its more than £16 billion current expenditure. The new model will deliver “a secure and resilient ICT infrastructure that will enable faster, better services for the public", he said.

To the alarm of some analysts, the target of improving project delivery is only one of fourteen targets. It was announced to much less fanfare in spite of high profile project failures.

Shared services will form a key part of the strategy, aiming to “remove unnecessary overlaps between departments and avoid costly duplication of technology”. The much-hyped government cloud, or G-Cloud, is another key element, and will aim to enable public sector bodies to select and host IT services from one network. It also aims to be quick and cheap to switch suppliers.

Some £300 million would be saved through reducing of the number of public sector datacentres, the government said. It will move from “hundreds” to 10 to 12, also promising to reduce power and cooling requirements by 75 percent. A new ‘Application Store’ will target £500 million savings annually, as a marketplace for sharing and reusing basic applications.

Instead of each department specifying, building and designing its own desktop computers, they will in the future take part in a common desktop strategy. This would save a further £400 million, the government said. It is also targeting a more common software coding architecture and standards.

Other elements of the strategy include the use of open source software, better data security, professionalising IT-enabled change, supply management and international “alignment”.

But analysts were uncertain on how deliverable the savings were. Jan Duffy, research director with IDC’s Government Insights group, said the document was “fairly safe, not revolutionary”.

The savings depended on proper execution of the strategy, not on the document itself, she said. “Will it save money? I suppose it could. I’m just not persuaded that some elements will definitely provide the promised savings.”

Public sector IT managers’ association Socitm recently criticised such efficiency targets, under the Operational Efficiency Programme, as “unrealistic”.

While a reduction in datacentres “makes a lot of sense”, Duffy said, savings from the cloud could take longer to realise. A whole “culture change” was required in this area.

There were “great opportunities” for shared services, she said, “but so far it’s mainly a lot of talk, it needs the right management and a real visionary”.

“What this doesn’t address at all is how the government will capitalise on usage of the technology they’ve got,” she said. “Many staff can’t use the tools. There need to be clearer, better processes, and better training.”

An element announced to little fanfare is the aim of instilling “reliable project delivery”, in spite of much-publicised difficulties on projects such as the £12.7 billion NHS National Programme for IT, the near £8 billion Ministry of Defence DII scheme, and a raft of other large change programmes.

“Project delivery needs to be more important,” said Duffy. “A lot of these changes, and the results of existing projects, rely on excellent project management. There need to be more contingencies and a way out when things are failing.”

Tola Sargeant, research director at TechMarketView, agreed that many of the steps, including datacentre rationalisation, were “logical”, and that “now is the time to take action, looking at the economy”.

But there were “barriers” to shared service adoption, she warned. “There are concerns over the logistics of changing the systems, and there would need to be a real culture change among the people for it to work.”