Salesforce's EMEA President, Steve Garnett, has said that he hopes the government will stop pursuing multi-year, multi-billion pound IT projects and instead focus their efforts on agile, digital adoption.
Speaking to Computerworld UK at Dreamforce in San Francisco this week, Garnett said that the private sector isn't carrying out these monolithic projects anymore and that traditional software vendors can't deliver what is required in the digital age.
His comments come after a number of high profile IT failings in the public sector, including the NHS' National Programme for IT and DWP's Universal Credit, which have seen hundreds of millions of taxpayer's money wasted on useless IT assets.
The Cabinet Office, through the creation of the Government's Digital Service, has been pursuing a digital by default agenda, where it hopes to overhaul legacy infrastructure in Whitehall and digitise government transactions in a bid to save £1.7 billion a year after 2015.
It has also been attempting to squeeze out the traditional suppliers to government, which have continued to fail on large projects, through a number of procurement and commercial reforms.
Garnett praised key technology leaders in government for this approach.
“I've been super impressed with the Cabinet Office, with Francis Maude [minister for the Cabinet Office], Stephen Kelly [chief operating officer], and Liam Maxwell [chief technology officer]. These guys really get it and they realise that the government should be participating in this revolution,” said Garnett.
“[I think this is the end of these huge IT projects] and I certainly hope so as a tax payer. Do you see some of the biggest commercial companies in the world doing these mega projects? They stopped many years ago.”
He added: “I don't see these mega £3-5 billion projects that then fail after five years. Five years is too long to deliver a project! The requirements have changed, the political landscape has changed, so you need that smaller, agile, get it up, get it running, get it out, get the user feedback, tweak it – an iterative process. You just cant do this at this pace with traditional software.”
Garnett said you could take Salesforce's latest tagline – the 'Internet of Customers'- and easily replace it with the word 'citizen'. Salesforce hopes that it can become the enterprise platform for application development on mobile, via its recently announced Salesforce 1, which allows companies (or governments) to better serve and connect to its customers/citizens.
SAP and Oracle are slow-lane IT
However, Garnett recognises that the Cabinet Office and departments across Whitehall are tied into legacy systems and to applications, provided by the likes of SAP, Oracle and IBM – but he doesn't see this as a problem.
He said that the government needs to recognise the need for two lane IT, where the back-end is a stable platform that keeps the lights on, but the front-end is used for innovation and better connecting with citizens.
“You can't just rip everything out that you have done, but Phillips aren't doing that, neither is Unilever [Salesforce customers]. But what they are doing is innovation in the front office, innovation in front of your customer, this is where you've got to move faster,” said Garnett.
“You don't generally innovate around your finance systems, you don't generally innovate around your manufacturing systems – a lot of that process innovation took place in the 80s and 90s so you can't really squeeze too much more out of that. It's stable, it's static.”
He added: “How you behave in front of the customer is the differentiator. These companies know from their experience of putting SAP and Oracle in the back office, if they tried to do that in the front office they will only get there in five years time. It's creating this sort of segmentation of speeds: the fast lane, which is in front of your customer, and there's a slow lane, or hard shoulder, where you put your SAPs and Oracles.”