Chris Chant, the director of the government’s G-Cloud, has criticised CIOs across the UK public sector, claiming that many are not capable of transitioning to the new digital agenda.
In his latest blog Chant insists that the government “hasn’t come nearly far enough” and that unacceptable IT is still pervasive across central departments, suggesting that the latest ‘digital by default’ policy should have been introduced seven years ago.
He said: “Real progress has been blocked by many things including an absence of capability in both departments and their suppliers, by a strong resistance to change, by the perverse incentives of contracts that mean it’s cheaper to pay service credits than to fix the problem and by an unwillingness to embrace the potential of newer and smaller players to offer status quo-busting ideas.”
Chant cited large IT contracts being signed with single providers, expensive and over-engineered solutions and failing to bring in smaller more innovative suppliers as the main failings in government IT. CIOs in the public sector have been “guilty for too long of taking the easy path," he said.
Chant does recognise, however, that in the last 18 months there have been signs of change. He believes that employees in the public sector are now not willing to put up with poor service and delivery, and departments are talking about moving away from large IT contracts.
But he questions whether those in charge of IT in government have the skills to fulfil this desire to change.
“There is still plenty more to do and, if I look back on the last dozen years and honestly reflect on those I’ve worked with and interacted with, this is still a pretty difficult list of stuff to do and some of those people just don’t have the capability to do it," Chant said.
“They will have to look hard at themselves and decide how they are going to resolve that because it will turn out to be the toughest thing that they have done in their career so far.”
The areas CIOs are going to struggle with, according to Chant, is managing multiple suppliers, dealing with the pressure that transparency brings and ensuring the implementation of the digital by default policy.
He finished the blog with a warning to both government CIOs and large IT suppliers.
“CIOs across government need to recognise what has changed and stop hiding behind the comfort blanket of what has always been done before. That blanket is on fire,” Chant said.
“Big suppliers should see the smoke from that comfort blanket and recognise that the world of government IT has changed. They can no longer rely on delivering poor service for big money and get away with it.
“The customer approach is changing and they will need to change too, or be consumed by the flames.”