Government ICT strategy: one year one and counting

The government’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Strategy, published in 2010, set out the way in which the government ICT landscape would change over the current spending review period: it included 30 points of action which it believed would lay the foundations for achieving the Strategy’s core objectives of reducing waste and project failure and stimulating economic growth, creating a common ICT infrastructure, using ICT to enable and deliver change and strengthening governance. The government maintained that all these changes were crucial if the UK’s ICT structure was to be cost-effective and fit for purpose in the Twenty First Century. Now, twelve months after the implementation of the strategic plan, the government has published its first annual review which sets out exactly how much progress has been achieved to date, and assesses whether it is on track to meet each of its key targets. In this article, we’ll have a look at the first of the government’s 3 strategic targets – reducing waste and stimulating economic growth through spending controls.

Reducing waste and project failure, and stimulating economic growth

The principal objective of the ICT Strategy was to reduce waste and stimulate economic growth by implementing spend controls to ensure new ICT spend was more closely controlled and aligned to strategy principles, increasing the reuse and sharing of existing solutions, and applying lean and agile methodologies that reduced waste, were more responsive to changing requirements and reduced the risk of project failure. The metrics released by Cabinet Office minister, Francis Maude, are encouraging and would indicate that substantial progress has already been achieved.

Spend controls and reusing solutions:

The government has introduced new innovative approaches to spending control which it argues delivers greater value from suppliers: software license transfer across government and renegotiation of existing licensing terms have so far led to over £7million in savings, whilst the use of e-Auctions by HMRC has procured 16,000 desktop machines, which saved the taxpayer just under £2 million.

ICT spend controls contracts are now in place which have effectively reduced spending and ensured that any new money spent remains true to the ICT strategy principles. So far savings of £159.6 million on ICT contracts have been delivered as a result of these spending controls.  This same process is also used to assess whether existing solutions can be re-used by checking against ‘ASK ICT’ (Asset and Services Knowledgebase. This database records details about government ICT equipment, systems and services, and their availability for re-use. The database now covers over 1 million ICT assets across central government, and has been extended to agencies and arms-length bodies over the course of the last year.

Open Source

A procurement toolkit, security guidance and total cost of ownership model have been published to support the evaluation of open source software, and the Open Source Advisory Panel has been established to help overcome the technical and cultural barriers that have prevented greater usage of open source in central government.

Improving the way government sources ICT

The government aimed to transform the purchase of common goods and services through centralised category management by means of standardised specification and aggregated spending, to deliver sustainable cost reductions of approximately 25 percent over four years from the 2009/10 baseline spend of £13bn.

By March 2012 centralised category management of ICT had delivered £140 million savings against the 2009/10 baseline. £660 million of central government ICT category spending is now under the management of the Government Procurement Service, which has in the same period of 2011/12 delivered a further saving of £140 million.

Working with SMEs

The cycle time for the procurement process for new contracts and frameworks has been reduced by over 22 percent against 2009/10. The Contracts Finder website, which provides information to the supply community about current and future contracts valued at over £10,000, is already receiving 95,000 page views per week. Most government departments are now publishing 100 percent of contracts, and the remaining departments are working to achieve the same level of compliance. The cycle time for new procurement contracts has already been reduced by over 22 percent against the 2009/10 baseline. The proportion of central government direct spending with SMEs across all procurements including ICT is predicted to double from 6.5 percent of direct spend in 2009/10, to 13.7 percent for 2011/12.

The government is also consulting on new frameworks that will enable more agile procurement, and open the market to more SMEs. Some existing frameworks that are limited to existing large suppliers will be replaced with simpler frameworks that introduce greater competition into the provision of ICT goods and services and establish a truly level playing field.

Ending the oligopoly of large suppliers

The recent work to restructure HMRC’s ASPIRE ICT services contract demonstrated how government is working to ensure better value for taxpayers, break up large contracts, and create opportunities for new, smaller companies to enter the market. HMRC and the Cabinet Office negotiated with the supplier, Capgemini, to restructure of the current ASPIRE contract, resulting in significant savings for HMRC. The restructuring will lead to a more diverse supply chain with transparent pricing, open choice for HMRC, and significantly enhanced value for money

Government has improved the quality of its ICT management information. The cloud framework required all suppliers to publish openly full details of their pricing. The pricing levels achieved for provision of these services are being used as benchmarks against which incumbent suppliers are being measured. The government expects all supplier costs to be reduced to match or better these benchmarks, producing substantial cost reductions.

Agile project delivery and Lean

Government departments have nominated agile projects (57% are already running one or more projects using agile techniques). DWP Universal Credit, currently the largest ICT programme in government, has continued to innovate on the application of agile principles at the level of a major programme. The Number 10 e-petitions site was delivered by the GDS using agile methods. This allowed the project to be completed within eight weeks. It was developed by a number of SMEs, and built on open source software using open standards

Work is also underway on the SIP commitment to establish a framework to enable departments to buy in appropriate agile SME expertise. Interim advice for departments on alternative routes to procure this is now in place. An alpha version of an online cross-government centre of excellence for sharing best practice on the application of agile techniques has been created by the Government Digital Service and was launched in May 2012.