Government efficiency adviser: We have to become smarter IT customers

Martin Read, the former chief executive at Logica who is now the government’s efficiency adviser, has urged public sector IT managers to become much better IT customers.

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Martin Read, the former chief executive at Logica who is now the government’s efficiency adviser, has urged public sector IT managers to become much better IT customers.

“It’s not just about being a tougher customer, it’s about being a more thoughtful customer, one who plans properly,” Read told delegates at today’s Public Sector Efficiency Expo in London.

It was in the interest of both government departments and their IT suppliers to forge better relationships and for the government to demand a better return on its expenditure, he said.

Read, who had conducted a review  of government IT during the Labour government, explained: “One of the many departments that had had its budget cut has taken a number of steps - it had cut back on IT expenditure but was also using technology better.

“The chief executive at the supplier was equally happy, because the company’s profits on the account were as strong as usual, even though revenues were down. Everyone doing things better and everyone benefited.”

Too often, Read said, he had found departments were lacking the right information to improve their position as customers and strengthen the way they use technology. “Often the business objectives for departments are not very clear, not well co-ordinated, not transparent or auditable, and barely quantified.”

“Without consistent, regular, accurate information you can’t provide comparisons and find ways forward,” he said. “Also, without that information you can’t hold people accountable.”

Following memoranda of understanding being signed with the government’s largest IT suppliers, Read said there would be a government relationship manager in place for dealing with each provider. “We need a joined up approach, led by users, drawing on proper best practice and experience,” he said.

“Efficiency was not high on the agenda, but now it is,” Read said. “The Efficiency and Reform Board is looking at making sure departments’ objectives are clear, their information available and auditable, and making sure people are held accountable."

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