The Cabinet Office is set to spend 40 percent less on its IT after replacing its outsourced 'Flex' Fujitsu contract with an in-house service, according to CTO Tom Read.
The contract with Fujitsu was signed in 2007 and expired this month, but the department has been working on replacing it since October 2013 and started rolling out the new internal service last August.
"This approach is better- it's certainly cheaper. We're achieving 40 percent savings compared to the outsourced services we had before," Read told delegates at Government ICT 2015 conference.
A crucial part of the initiative has been avoiding a 'one-size-fits-all' approach, allowing users to pick their own devices and giving them maximum flexibility over software tools, Read explained.
As part of the project civil servants were offered a choice between five laptops: three running Windows 8 and two MacBooks. About 55 percent chose Windows devices with 45 percent selecting MacBooks, Read said.
The department has not bought any servers for the new IT service but instead opted for virtualised infrastructure. Read said: "It's all on cloud - Infrastructure-as-a-Service - so if we aren't happy with it, we can just move it to another supplier."
The Cabinet Office has also implemented Google Apps for work and is allowing civil servants to use project management software Trello and notetaking tool Evernote.
"We have a 'yes-first' policy on browser-based apps. It means you can access good services that often aren't available on fat clients," Read added.
One of the biggest innovations has been implementing real-time document collaboration, according to Read.
"People were crying out for it. Previously they'd been sending stuff back and forth constantly. Putting in Google Apps allows them to collaborate on documents in real time, which has massively cut down on people waiting for others to put changes in," he said.
"Now people are taking laptops into meetings and doing the work there and then, instead of taking minutes, forming 'actions' then going away and implementing them."
The department has 2,430 civil servants and the contract with Fujitsu cost about £7,000 per user per year, equivalent to £17 million annually, according to former Cabinet Office director Chris Chant.
If the 40 percent reduction- equivalent to £6.8 million- is sustained year-on-year, the Cabinet Office's new annual technology budget will be about £10 million.
Offering advice to departments set to replace their own ICT estates, Read said services should be bought individually and slotted together rather than outsourced, with all key decisions taken inhouse. Departments shouldn't underestimate the importance of in-house skills, he added.
Read said: "We need the best people in government. We need to not rely on people telling us what we want. We outsource too much...but you can't outsource risk."
Civil servants working on ICT replacement programmes should aim to move to "loosely coupled services and short contracts", he explained.
"Be wary of suppliers who won't do anything shorter than a three year deal. If people are trying to lock you in for longer, there's usually a reason," Read advised.
The Cabinet Office is currently looking for a chief digital officer (CDO), due to be appointed this spring.
The newly-created post will combine the roles of CIO, CTO and CDO to take charge of the department's digital and technology services, reporting directly to permanent secretary Richard Heaton. They will be responsible for recruiting and leading five new in-house digital and technology teams for the department.