back to article Whitehall needs to dump 'unacceptable IT' – outbound G-Cloud chief

Outgoing government G-Cloud programme director Chris Chant has harangued civil servants and tech vendors telling them times are a-changing and so must they. Chant, a career Whitehall civil servant, has warned his fellow CIOs they are “hiding behind the comfort blanket” and must change how they buy IT. “That blanket is on fire …


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  1. Jemma

    Great... fantastic. Not only can they not even keep hold of a physical object with our data on it thats the size of a large print version of the collected works of Charles Dickens, this idiot is proposing putting it in 'the cloud'.

    As a customer of HMG I would like to propose he puts this idea somewhere that doesnt involve cumulonimbus!

    This idea is so many levels of dumb I cant list them here. The best part is the 'savings' to be made. As a former local government IT person I can state categorically that the only reason they aren't still using a network of daisy chained ZX Spectrums and a thermal printer (not to mention 300k acoustic coupler) is they cant get the parts.

    How much do you expect to save when you have to upgrade everything from Windows NT & 16mb RAM or Windows 98?

    Thats over and above the security issues - then theres the joys of what happens to sensitive data when the supplier does a Jobs. You can of course bet your bottom euro that the first data to go on will be abuse victims names and addresses and the like - promptly to be barfed out because some cloudpeon didnt understand the permissions.

    Bad, bad, bad idea & another governmental epic fail waiting to happen.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I was going to suggest...

      ... that he was tackling the problem from the wrong side.

      Then I realised you'd written 'cumulonimbus', and not what I thought it said on first reading.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Put your money where your mouth is

    Yet more mindless waffle from another government minion promising "IT procurement will change".

    I'll believe it when I see it. Somehow, I think the old gravy train is not set to derail anytime in the next few decades..... the outgoing incumbent old suspects are not exactly going to just roll up and die ... they'll find all sorts of nifty ways to ensure their name stays on the contract paperwork together with the same old ludicrous early termination penalties.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Put your money where your mouth is

      As funny as the jog quads, squat jogs comment in Four Lions. LOL

  3. Wibble

    Ownership is key

    Alas government IT is specified by one group: the government's agents called civil servants, but delivered by a completely separate group: the suppliers. Add to that mix a bunch of miscellaneous hangers on all pushing for "better value for money", a culture of complete risk aversion, and you end up with more time being spent on commercial aspects than doing the job.

    Contracts are all about who's got the best negotiator. Government pays little, suppliers pay a lot. Figure out who gets the better contract negotiator.

    The key is ownership. If you have a small internal group responsible for making their own dog food, you often end up with much cheaper results. Of course this then goes off the rails if you don't have people with the right skills.

    Until smaller suppliers can get involved, it'll be the same old big dozen or so who keep delivering the same old same old...

  4. Ru

    "They can no longer rely on delivering poor service for big money and get away with it"

    Oh really.

    Anyone notice a sudden dip in the share price of Capita following this announcement? Anyone? No?

    Hint: this means that charging big bucks for third rate tripe is still a perfectly valid business practise, and is nicely facilitated by by th Government who can't or won't do anything better.

  5. Magnus_Pym

    I thought...

    ... that the idea is that 'cloud' services scale better than 'in house' i.e. The cost of heavy iron behind a service can be varied in proportion to use. If the service is already 'bloody massive' (tm) as is usually the case with a government IT project then the scaling problem is somewhat reduced and all you are doing is paying someone else to do some unnecessary admin. Add the fact that cloudy security is yet to be proved then surly it would be better for Government It to be better managed overall rather than just jumping on another band wagon.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like...

    ... failure to sell the gimmick to the yokels, er, esteemed colleagues elsewhere in government.

    So he's handing out free scoops of "blame" instead. Good show, that man.

    The thing is, of course, that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, but as no civil servant outside of IT is at all interested in just what horrible mess underpins the not-working-very-well stuff he's supposed to rely on for the job, it's a bit of a hard sell, surprisingly. That is failure built right into the project from the start, good sir. No use blaming anyone else for that, thank you.

    'Twould've been nice to be able to trust that someone in a senior government position be smart enough to figure out something besides running an ice cream van named technology failures and free blame. Anyhow, not getting paid enough to stick better approaches in the margin here, so pray sort it out yourself. Cheerio.

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    If if govt CIO's are not very good, why *exactly* should they magically get better?

    it's sometimes called aspirational management and goes something like this.

    Boss "This year we're going to be #1"

    Me "Great. So what's your plan?"

    Boss "We're going to be #1"

    Me "Yes, but *how*?"

    Boss "We're going to be #1"

    Me "Right well I'll get back to work and as soon as you need me give me a shout."

    this might give the impression I've worked for the odd complete cock in my time but of course that would be entirely wrong.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If if govt CIO's are not very good, why *exactly* should they magically get better?

      I'm sure they'll be the number 1 government in the UK by next year!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Burning comfort blanket analogies

    Isn't he aware of what has been happening to the last organisation whose CEO made analogies like this?

  9. SimonG

    Past mistakes are the legacy

    We can't ignore history - as it is history that has created the world we live in today. Using the latest technology is not going to change a great deal unless definitive efforts are made to change the stuff that history has left us with - placing fancy wrapping around a turd does not transform the contents.

    You can draw parallels with the tax system. it is in need of reform but all successive governments have done is tinker at the edges creating a catalogue of unintended consequences.

  10. Crisp

    Whitehall can barely manage pen and paper systems.

    I'd like to see unqualified government IT people kept away from computers until they can learn to use them responsibly.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who's in charge ? ? ?

    You wouldn’t put a painter in charge of an accountancy firm - even though he may do his own accounts. You wouldn’t put a mechanic in charge of a lingerie firm even though he may know all about his wife’s clothes. You wouldn’t put a lawyer in charge of a garage even though he drives a car.

    So why do people always think they should be in charge of IT when they know nothing about it.

    We’ve all seen it. The guy who has a PC at home and has created his first web page. Suddenly he is an IT Expert! He knows all about it and somewhere down the line he meets up with the MD who perhaps knows even less. The meeting results in our expert being put in charge of a major project. You can guess the rest.

    I know of one top 100 Law Firm whose marketing department decided that they would purchase a CRM (Customer Relations Management) program. They listened to the guys who were selling the program - who surprisingly, were very positive about the product! No contact was made with the firm’s IT department. Bear in mind that Law Firms are supposed to be composed of intelligent people! The law firm bought the product and delivered the software to the IT Department and asked how long it would take to load this on to the system. When they had it explained to them that they would need to prepare / clean their data and that they would need to buy upgrades of their core operating systems, upgraded the licences, upgrade other interfacing programs and so on, they were very surprised! The cost added was around £250,000. The work was accomplished in due course and many man hours were incurred. Their (the lawyers and Marketing Department) excuse was that they didn’t understand the complex terminology used in IT. How is your Latin? Think about the language that Laywers use! What about these terms Res nulis, Coram non judice, Doli incapax, Uberrima fides etc. So on that basis we shouldn’t bother to consult a lawyer should we?

    This is why government projects always go wrong, cost so much money and do not deliver. Incidentally, have you noticed how many MPs are Lawyers? There is a lesson there somewhere!

    It is true that one doesn’t need detailed knowledge but the overall concept and principles MUST be present or projects will surely go awry.

    There are very few out there who have the vision to see the final solution (big projects) and the way to get there. They are rare - very rare.

    Let technical people make technical decisions.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who's in charge ? ? ?

      The way of the world mate. I spend my life staring in disbelief at some of the decisions I see made.

      I sat three years ago, listen to a bloke resign a major contract because he was so crap, and he'd been strategically outmanoevred by a supplier.

      It was me as an outside, and three short, small, women who'd all been overseen because they were small, two of whom could have been this guy to death intellectually, all shaking our heads at this tall, thick bloke, who was there because he had "presence,"


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