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400 Days Later UK Government IT Is In-line With Its Users' Needs and Multisourcing Is the Star of the Show


Quite a debate has blown around how the UK Government procures IT services.

Rightly or wrongly, it's not very often that the private sector can look to the public sector for inspiration, but a revamp of the Government's Digital Service is worth learning a few lessons from.

To summarise recent achievement, the whole UK Government IT estate has been redesigned to be more user focussed with everything being accessed via one gateway website. They gave themselves 400 days to achieve this1.

But for me the most interesting part of the story is a conscious move towards a pure "Multisourced" approach and away from a hybrid tower mechanism that was stifling creativity and innovation.

The aims of the shift in emphasis were to “deliver modern, flexible technology services that are at least as good as those people use at home. These services will also be cheaper than those currently in place.”

To anyone used to multisourcing this will sound familiar.

  • Take a look at the guiding principles, architects of the scheme promised
  • To start with user needs
  • To design with choice and flexibility in mind
  • To be transparent throughout
  • To favour short contracts
  • To bring the best of consumer technology to the enterprise
  • To build a long-term capability

To be fair, if you work for a private organisation or business with tight delivery deadlines and budgets, the chances are that you will already be a convert to multisourcing.

The top seven reasons to multisource;

  1. Save money – whilst still improving and constantly enhancing IT support and services
  2. Access and utilise essential IT resources in the most efficient ways
  3. Align and integrate best of breed providers – to benefit your business, not the providers
  4. Optimise in-house staffing levels and resources
  5. Reduce management overheads, ease supplier management, and streamline processes
  6. Reduce operational risk through contract freedom and flexibility
  7. Improve compliance and security

If you're seeking to better protect your organisation through best practice frameworks and enhanced IT service delivery, improve governance and save money, then multisourcing will deliver in spades time after time, and it repeatedly does within the private sector. But what of government?

Now, anyone with a basic grasp of government IT will instantly identify what a complex merger and marriage of different systems and procedures this move to a single gateway has been, each system was originally set up to meet different needs, and none of them were the user's!!

It is a change in both structure and ethos – a change that simply would not have been possible with either the old outsourcing methodology or the hybrid "Tower" System that evolved in the UK's government IT sector as a halfway compromise between outsourcing and multisourcing.

Indeed, departments familiar with the old outsourcing protocols had sleep walked into a solution whereby a procurement-led mind-set was applied to the problem of what to do when legacy outsourcing contracts ended. Instead of a root and branch paradigm shift and adoption of multisourcing, they ended up outsourcing their IT as contracts ended, but rather than issuing large umbrella contracts as before, they outsourced in bits and pieces.

The Tower method looked like multisourcing, but it was actually just a siloed form of outsourcing. Vendors adapted to fit what they saw as government policy and between them, somehow, they managed to lose the benefits of both.

As Alex Holmes, Deputy Director and Chief of Staff in the Office of the CTO, wrote in his blog2, "It was still all about us, not about the needs of our users ... Organisations have adopted the Tower Model, believing they are following government policy and using best practice, but they are doing neither ... the Tower Model is not condoned and not in line with Government policy. Government should use the best of what is already out there – not develop its own model."

It was a nettle that needed grasping.

Public sector budgets are increasingly under scrutiny and threat from cuts and government departments are now facing many of the same business pressures that the private sector has had to deal with for years.

It makes utter sense that multisourcing - a private sector, business case driven solution to IT procurement to meet those business challenges - is now being adopted by the public funded sector.

It was an obvious and yet a brave move and I for one cannot wait to read about the next 400 days and beyond as the benefits of multisourcing benefit the taxpayers and users of government IT services.

Some Project Managers are seeing each of these already emerging trends for 2015 as an aggravation - I think that each is a great opportunity to expand the influence of project management talent within their organisation and all of them point to one overarching and very encouraging trend - that the Project Manager's role is growing, their workload is growing and their importance to their business is growing.

And long may that trend continue.

Contact us to learn more about how Multisourcing from Stoneseed can help you to ensure high-quality, dynamic and cost effective IT services.

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