Whitehall IT leaders highlight barriers to digital transformation

Senior Whitehall IT leaders are not confident in-depth digital transformation will take place across government over the coming years, due to barriers like poor procurement and a lack of investment, a survey has found.

A poll of 100 senior government IT professionals commissioned by not-for-profit IT firm Eduserv found 71 percent were not confident work to improve procurement will be prioritised. 65 percent said they did not think there would more effort to boost collaboration across departments.

On the positive side, the respondents said the main focus for IT is on helping to improve the organisations’ services rather than cutting costs. And the top two benefits of cloud services cited were that they helped to improve services and offered better flexibility.

However a quarter said security concerns were a barrier while 24 percent said they were held back by legacy IT contract lock-in.

The survey also found that most government departments lack an IT strategy aligned to future business needs and IT staff are not involved early enough in planning cycles and strategic decisions.

78 percent did not think the IT strategy was sufficiently focused on the wider organisation and just 10 percent said ‘IT works effectively with department leads to identify/meet needs’.

The survey found some progress, with the focus for IT and in particular cloud services increasingly on enabling better services rather than saving money. However it is clear more work needs to be done to tackle issues with legacy contract lock-in, over-complex procurement, and involving IT and digital staff earlier on in decision-making.

In particular the findings raise questions over the viability of plans for ‘Government as a Platform’, which would see the government move away from siloed, standalone systems to shared, common platforms – for example for booking appointments or making payments.

It is an idea gaining popularity within Whitehall, with digital director Mike Bracken placing it at the top of his list of future plans in a blog post this week.

Before the election former Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said: “From early in the next Parliament we will start to develop common platforms for booking appointments, payments and messaging”.

The government has already built a number of common platforms across Whitehall, like GOV.UK for publishing, GOV.UK Verify for identity assurance and the digital marketplace for buying technology, Bracken has said.

But the Government Digital Service believes there are “another 30” common platforms it can build. These include status tracking for applications, plus an address and contact details platform so citizens’ information can be updated for all of government once.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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