Friday, 20 May 2016

The risk of unshared service at Whitehall

Few will be surprised at the failure of the Whitehall Shared Service, set up in 2013, to deliver its anticipated savings.  I remember when first being asked to give a view on the tender document saying the major risk would be getting sufficient buy-in from the departments to deliver the benefits.  Sure enough, only two departments have now adopted the 'shared service', four others having dropped out along the way.  You can read the NAO report but, to me, for the initiative to be a success there needed to be leadership, risk management, change management, technical capability of the provider and programme management.  I'm sure the Major Projects regime will have its own view - let's face it the MPA must have to provide some accountability for delivery.
  1. Leadership: who was/is leading this initiative providing a compelling agrument to ensure and the potential user departments stay the journey?
  2. Risk management: How were the risks accessed and managed, particuluarly the risk of failing to deliver the business case, failure to have sufficient confidence in the new solution to shift from the old systems, failure to gain ownership of the departments, and more, to grow the number of users, failure to ensure the provider will sufficient income to 'stay the distance'?
  3. Change management: I fear that like so many of these projects the emphasis will have been on the technical solution and as a result the 'people aspects' will have been sidelined - these initiatives are never just a technical solution, there will be people who need to want to shift to the new ways of working.
  4. Does it work: Of course the technology has to do  what it is supposed to better than the 'old ways' but it also has to remain current and reflect the speed to innovation in technology.
Now those politically and managerially responsible need to have a response plan. Can they learn the lessons, salvage the relationships with those who have 'dropped out' and still make the investment deliver its projected benefits?  For the rest of us we can only learn.

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