Friday, 20 June 2014

Not a good day for IT procurement strategy news

Not a good day for public procurement IT stories: two embarassing stories.  One looks like a procurement risk management and strategy issue linked with implementing a policy, regardless of understanding the risks; the second, concerns procurement project leadership credibility.

The Financial Times suggests the the Cabinet Office strategy of moving from big IT companies may have compromised effective delivery, in that the consortium of SMEs used as a preferred strategy may have stretched capability and led to service failures. 'Shambolic' is the term used!  While there are calls for delaying further rollout until lessons are learnt, is it not obvious that a phased rollout should have started with small departments should have been managed by the client with a watchful eye. Equally, while I can understand the sentiment of the policy, why on earth were ministers not aware of the risks, or were they?

The second story, this time in The Times, concerns the allocation of responsoibility for the Met's 'Total Technology' modernisation programme. It appears that one of those responsible for managing the programme brings with him unfortunate baggage of a past IT failure which cost £15m. While Grant Thornton found the oversight of the failed project in Surrey was 'not fit for purpose' it seems Rowley, who is now leading 'Total Technology', doesn't recognise that as relating to his leadership. Failure to recognise the need to learn lessons isn't a good place to be in - Mr Rowley and the Met need to understand what went wrong at Surrey and how those lessons will be applied in the future. As it is, Rowley's ability to gain the confidence of the programme team may already have compromised success. It is not a good omen.

So some key messages:

  1. A policy needs to be risk assessed and then implementation managed;
  2. If the decision is made to pursue a policy and strategy which is high risk it is best have a phased implementation starting with lower risk areas;
  3. Where a project has failed due to leadership which is 'not fit for purpose' understand the reasons behind that statement, acknowledge the failure if necessary, and be clear how the lessons learnt with be applied;
  4. Do expect a failed leader to deliver better leadership on a bigger programme without ensuring a strong governance structure is in place.

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