U.K. government exec studies how to exit failing projects

The U.K. government’s newly appointed IT troubleshooter will examine how it can best exit failing technology projects, Computerworld UK has learnt.

Downing Street said lessons had been learnt from the private sector, where companies were able to abandon even the largest IT schemes if they considered them to be failing or having a negative impact on business.

Explaining one of the remits of the review of government IT by Martin Read, the former boss of IT services firm Logica, the government said it would examine exit strategies from national IT projects even if they had “high level backing”, and stated it would not be “afraid” to take these steps.

“Some evidence has shown that it is more common in the private sector to stop large, failing IT projects at an early stage,” the Treasury Office told Computerworld UK.

“Public sector IT may be less flexible in this area, which Martin’s work will investigate.”

Read will present his report of IT projects and the government’s annual UK$13.2 billion spend on them, before the next budget in March 2009. This will enable the government to set out a new budget and IT spending plan for the year.

In his report, he will also examine how the government can keep dedicated teams on board throughout entire project cycles, and will look at how to make sure appointed decision makers include those who have “relevant practical experience of delivery.”

He will look at improving supplier relationships and performance, buying terms, service level agreements and data standardization.

But the treasury did not make any assurances as to whether the government would take the report’s recommendations. “We expect advisers to take an interest in the implementation of their recommendations,” it said.

Read will report to Yvette Cooper, chief secretary to the Treasury. The role of John Suffolk, chief information officer for the public sector, would remain unchanged, the government said. Suffolk reports to Alexis Cleveland, head of transformational government – who in turn reports to cabinet secretary Gus O’Donnell – and was “involved” in bringing in Read who he will work closely alongside, the Treasury said.

The government expects Read’s guidance to affect a range of government departments, including the treasury, the office of government commerce and the cabinet office, “who will be responsible for their implementation.”

Last month Yvette Cooper, chief secretary to the treasury, announced the government was devising a UK$5 billion savings plan driven by IT and back office efficiencies. Martin Read’s IT review will form part of this.

Related content:

Why big government IT projects fail

Building a project management culture

Identifying the barriers to public sector management

Related Download
Improving the State of Affairs With Analytics Sponsor: SAS
Improving the State of Affairs With Analytics
Download this case study-rich white paper to learn why data management and analytics are so crucial in the public sector, and how to put it to work in your organization.
Register Now