back to article UK govt signs IT contracts 'without understanding' the needs

The UK government can be prone to signing contracts for major IT projects before it has a good understanding of the requirements, according to a National Audit Office (NAO) director. Speaking at a Whitehall event examining priorities for the Central Digital and Data Office, the Cabinet Office's central technology team formed a …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No shit, Sherlock?!

    This has been evident for many years, at all levels of government - I witnessed one particularly egregrious f***-up in local government about 30 years ago. Wont listen or take advice from underlings that know what theyre about, try to insist that shit is pure gold, and then waltz off with a huge pay-off to mess up some other organisation.

    1. Spanners Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: No shit, Sherlock?!

      You seem to be describing the Seagull Management System.

      Fly in through the window, flap around and cause problems.

      After a short while, head back through the window leaving a mess, sh1t and other problems behind you.

      I am wondering if the events in Ukraine are Vlad the Invader seeking to leave such a legacy.

    2. Jonathan Richards 1

      Re: No shit, Sherlock?!

      It matches many of my experiences in Defence, as well.

      There are two points that I'd make: first of all that management consultants and IT/IS vendors cultivate the "non-digital leader" (hereinafter PHB) because it is to some extent there that the fulcrum of their marketing leverage rests. It's then hard for the PHB to listen to their own staff contradicting some of those smooth marketing messages, because (a) the contradictions aren't dressed up in marketing jargon, and (b) they don't come with lunch and a really nice Chablis.

      Secondly, there is the fact that fuzzy requirements are somewhat to the contractors advantage. Post-contract changes are pretty lucrative, but the relationship of Profit to Requirement Definition is not linear. A few changes will yield some nice income, and a manageable time overrun. Get in on a contract where the customer can't tell A from the track of a duck, though, and then both parties are in the shit.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: No shit, Sherlock?!

        Also, the management consultant is reassuringly expensive and the local advice is somebody who's on a salary less then the PHB. Advice must be worth what you pay for it, otherwise why pay so much.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No shit, Sherlock?!

      I'm not sure even doubling the pay would help. Tripling is quite literally the start point, looking at the current pay scales.

    4. dinsdale54

      Re: No shit, Sherlock?!

      Agree with the NSS.

      If you don't have the skills to implement it, you probably don't have the skills to write the spec either. The devil is in the details.

      1. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid

        Re: No shit, Sherlock?!

        "If you don't have the skills to implement it, you probably don't have the skills to write the spec either"

        I disagree, you can be skilled enough to understand the requirements and write the spec, without being skilled enough to implement it. You need however to be skilled enough then to engage with the specialists and refine that spec, understanding what's possible etc.

        1. Jonathan Richards 1

          Re: No shit, Sherlock?!

          +1.

          The requirements should also be drafted alongside the test specs. For that, the IT bods are no good at all, you absolutely *need* the end users involved; only they will know how you tell that the deliverables are or are not working correctly.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: No shit, Sherlock?!

            I had the misfortune to work with a software project that resulted from an SSADM study carried out on an existing system with a view to upgrading the hardware/software.

            The SSADM specialists were not allowed, by the customer, to talk to the people actually using the existing system.

            The tender for the new software generated from the study was let with no requirements review by anyone who knew how the tasks were actually carried out or what weird temporary fixes had been applied to the original system to make it work.

            Needless to say the new software really wasn't fit for purpose - PHBs were wailing and gnashing their teeth, even though it was their policy that caused the issue in the first place.

            It was sorted, eventually, at the cost of time (three years) and effeciency (many things that should have been done were delayed until the new software came on line).

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Holmes

      Re: No shit, Sherlock?! - Expanded

      It's not just government.

      I've worked in and for US government agencies, state governments, and private industries.

      Clueless management and poor requirements arr endemic to all.

      1. John Robson Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: No shit, Sherlock?! - Expanded

        "Clueless management and poor requirements arr endemic to all."

        Is that a hint? Are pirates well managed?

  2. wolfetone Silver badge

    "The UK government can be prone to signing contracts for major IT projects before it has a good understanding of the requirements, according to a National Audit Office (NAO) director."

    Can't wait for the next article about water continuing to be wet, although I would argue that it's not just IT projects that get signed off without understanding what it's about. Literally every other aspect of government that requires a signature to unleash funds is done without understanding what is needed. It happens in Health (especially), Education etc.

    But do you know what part of the whole system that gets signed off with 100% clarity, foresight and understanding? Aspects relating to wages, expenses, and how to get a peerage.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Can't wait for the next article about water continuing to be wet

      Followed by ones explaining the Pope's support for the Nicene Creed and ursine preferences for arboreal sanitary facilities.

  3. macjules

    Ui/UX?

    Surely they must have people who have done user experience before committing to billion pound budgets? This is at the very heart of any digital planning.

    1. batfink Silver badge

      Re: Ui/UX?

      Don't be silly man. That would infer some competence.

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: Ui/UX?

        That would infer some competence.

        Sir Humphrey says: I have an Oxon First, I don't need competence.

    2. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid

      Re: Ui/UX?

      If you're responsible for billions of pounds, there's every chance that your user experience is now out of date.

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    ""We found in large scale programmes that, before things start for real, [there is] insufficient thinking, analysis, architecture and design. Often this is actually skipped over,"

    But why expect governments to do IT differently to the way they do everything else?

    It might be argued that when governments have to face unexpected events - pandemics, wars or the like they have to make decisions on the fly. But even in those cases the decisions would be easier and more effective if there had been some preparation made to deal with such events.

    1. batfink Silver badge

      There's also the electoral cycle. By the time the shit hits the fan, it's possible that the original perpetrators will be gone anyway, so it'll be somebody else's problem.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Think of "Yes Minister". The ministers may change but the back office civil servants will always be there no matter what.

        1. batfink Silver badge

          Yes, but they're generally trying to implement the latest Minister's Really Brilliant Idea....

          1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

            No, they're usually trying to get the Minister to implement their long held plans. See: Home Office and Identity Cards.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Quite. There's a headline on BBC News saying the Home Office needs to get a grip. There's only one ting they've had a grip on for years and that's successive Home Secs. And much good has it done either.

        2. WanderingHaggis

          Indeed there but not listened too but expected to clean up the mess and carry the can for the minister.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      I was just going to say that I find it in some small way comforting that Government is representative of "The People".

      1. Ken G Silver badge
    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      All that detailed design up front? Sound like a waterfall project, and we all know how successful they are.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Really?

        Many waterfall projects have succeeded; many agile projects have failed.

        Oddly, it doesn't seem to be down to the methodology so much as the overall management. And if you don't know what your overall design and requirements are going to be (even if you don't have the fine detail), you are asking for trouble.

  5. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    Reality

    The problem is that if a proper set of requirements and specs, from concept through to support, are done then the estimated costs will be too high and the projects won't get started. I suspect that there are some bright people in the civil service whose main job is to get enough of the project started to make it self sustaining without breaking the current administration's 5-year budget.

    I've managed a couple of MoD development projects. They had a full set of requirement specs, but at the preliminary design reviews it was apparent that that the MoD had left some areas of their requirements either undefined, vague or disguised. Their assumption was that once we were on the hook (fixed price) then their commercial people were better than our commercial people and they'd get the extra stuff for free and not have to ask for more money from the chancellor. It didn't work out well - for either of us.

    1. steamnut

      Do they ever learn?

      I was just two days into an MOD contract and opened the "XXXXXX Specification Document". There were lots of pages marked "this page intentionally left blank" and paragraph sections with TBA in them.

      It was reminiscent of the Blackadder scene where they are planning to go around the world. Melchett says: "“Blackadder, here’s a map of the known world (hands over blank parchment)… fill it in as you go along”"

      On my project I was given a fairly complete section to code and told not to worry about the rest for now. At every point where an API call was required I made something up and updated the specification document. It was coding by the serendipity method.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Do they ever learn?

        “Blackadder, here’s a map of the known world (hands over blank parchment)… fill it in as you go along”

        This extends all the way down to small software houses. Having just arrived in one I was given the job of looking after a system they'd put together for one client which they were now trying to sell to a few more. For two of the customers it was something new, for the third they'd been told it would drop in in place of what they already had. I already had problems such as trying to pick it apart and reassemble it in such a way that users in one part of the business didn't have access to every other users' part of the database. I quickly found out I had another: that it was in no way going to be a drop in replacement - the data model was too different.

        So I asked management what the spec was for what I was to produce. I was told that whatever I produced would be the spec.

        Fortunately, shortly after as I was leaving Embankment station I bumped into someone from my previous employer's customer and more or less offered a job there and then (the ensuing interview was one question "Are you still interested?").

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Reality

      "I suspect that there are some bright people in the civil service" Not so much - one thing the external contractors are good at is spotting people who know what they are talking about and lifting them out of the way one way or another. You'd be surprised the number of people who had a great salary for a couple of years before being in-outsourced.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A Different Reality.........Much More Cynical......

      @Headley_Grange

      Quote 1: "...a good understanding of the requirements..."

      Quote 2: "...the detail of requirements and complexity start to emerge over time as the programme gets underway..."

      Once upon a time, a long time ago (in the 1980's), I worked for a big consulting firm. This firm REFUSED to bid for huge design-to-implementation projects.

      The firm won a lot of work by suggesting that the work should be split into two contracts:

      (1) A short (i.e. low cost) contract to do the analysis and write the requirements

      (2) A second contract to do the design and implementation

      In fact, this firm sometimes won contract #1, but even when they did win contract #1, they didn't always win contract #2.

      ......but at least there was an opportunity to ASSESS the quality of the requirements written at the end of #1!!!

      This article seems to imply that thirtysome years later, an obvious lesson has not been learned!!

      Why am I not surprised? Huge contracts, billions of pounds (sterling), no opportunity to change course (until 100s of millions have disappeared).....

      .....and, of course, plenty of time for politicians and civil servants to retire.....to cushy directorships.....with consultancies!!!!!!!!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A Different Reality.........Much More Cynical......

        I have worked for a defence contractor that has also worked on several projects like this.

        Step 1: Bid to prove the company is capable of requirements analysis for a given project title. Money given to perform requirements analysis and provide an initial overview of key concepts of the solution.

        Step 2: Customer selects 'x' number of companies to perform analysis and manages questions. For example: if one of the bidders asks a question regarding the requirement analysis, the answer gets shared to all others performing the analysis (all done anonymously, so no-one knows who else is performing the analysis).

        Step 3: Bid to prove your analysis and provide an initial overview of concepts. At this stage everyone now has a clearer view of the requirements, and the customer has not only an initial concept to review, but can also understand who understands the issues better, how quickly things move in the company and how everyone has worked to come up with a solution.

        It takes more money and time upfront, but at least its more likely issues are ironed out early.

      2. Headley_Grange Silver badge

        Re: A Different Reality.........Much More Cynical......

        Splitting the requirements phase from the implementation phase is a good approach but the risk is that the client takes the requirements output from the first phase and treats it as a shopping list from which they pick stuff until they hit their budget limits. Unless the requirements phase was run on the basis of it being a shopping list then the client will probably get a half-arsed implementation that ends up costing at least as much as doing it "properly" would have done and whoever did the requirements will be blamed for all the problems.

  6. trevorde Silver badge

    Only one person can save us

    Dido Harding!

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Only one person can save us

      Dido Harding is in the library. Dido Harding has been saved.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Only one person can save us

      I'm sure Dildo Hardening is a character in some dodgy movie

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Only one person can save us

      Where's Amber #hashtags Rudd, when we need her?

      And no, I'm not sneering. Real people use encryption, because they aren't bloody stupid, especially in times of war.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Only one person can save us

        Check her wonkypedia page. She's now a security consultant. Either that or an editor with a sense of humour has been at work on it.

    4. ICL1900-G3 Bronze badge

      Re: Only one person can save us

      I reckon the Rev Paula Vennells would be a useful pair of hands, too.

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Trollface

    "signing contracts [..] before it has a good understanding of the requirements"

    I am shocked. Shocked, I tell you.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: "signing contracts [..] before it has a good understanding of the requirements"

      It's almost as if the objective was to sign the contract and transfer the money, rather than the objective being whatever the IT project was about.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: "signing contracts [..] before it has a good understanding of the requirements"

        This is more or less Sir Humphrey's explanation. The public is assured by the fact that the government is spending large sums of money on something. As I recall it applied to both Trident and the NHS.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: "signing contracts [..] before it has a good understanding of the requirements"

          Oh well... if it's expensive then it must be good. Very reassuring.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yeah, we know ...

    Way, way back in time the then Inland Revenue delivered CESA, the last major IT project entirely designed, developed and delivered under Civil Service control. It was on time, under budget, and delivered every function point working at go-live. The IT function was then privatised and the issues described became very apparent. All the IT knowledge had been packed off to the private sector and the contracts under which projects were developed were specified such that the companies delivering could bleed the government dry.

  9. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Cretins’r’Us ..... Tar All with Collateral Dishonour.

    Such serial incompetence in government though appears all to easily thought well worthy of a knighthood, with glaring evidence of such an abomination most recently demonstrated in the positing of Gavin Williamson for ...... well, now surely is surely rendered a thoroughly dubious honour.

    I wonder if Gavin was threatening to walk and talk about all that he gleaned while in high Office. Spill the dope on shenanigans uncovered ..... "Give us a Knighthood or the dogs on Fleet Street get it!” .... etc etc.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't matter anyway...

    Since Michael Keegan (Husband to Gillian MP and cabinet minister), who was Fujitsu CEO from 2015-2019, also know as the cover up years of the Horizon Post Office Scandal, and in 2018 a Non Executive Director for Centerprise International who based in Basingstoke (as Fujitsu are) who supply Fujitsu the computers they use on their Government projects, has joined the cabinet office (as he did in 2019) as 'Crown Representative.

    His main role as Crown Representative is where he oversees the Government’s relationships with suppliers, basically helps award contracts to "industry partners".

    Can you guess who has been winning a lot of Government projects since 2019? Despite Horizon being exposed as an awful piece of shite, spoiler, they get their computers from Centerprise International.

    So just assume all these projects will go to them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Doesn't matter anyway...

      Bracknell, dear heart, not Basingstoke.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Doesn't matter anyway...

        Close enough.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Doesn't matter anyway...

        umm...

        No definitely Basingstoke

        Centerprise International

        Hampshire International, Business Park, Lime Tree Way, Basingstoke RG24 8GQ

        Fujitsu

        Viables Industrial Estate, Jays Close Basingstoke Hampshire RG22 4BY

        Sure FJ have other offices, but I imagine you work for FUJ as the mindset that you don't understand there is life outside of Bracknell makes sense.

        Bracknell (BRA01) is of course the location where Fujitsu staff met with Post Office staff in 2010 and agreed to withhold evidence from Seema Misra's defence team...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Doesn't matter anyway...

      Clown Representative surely?

  11. VoiceOfTruth Silver badge

    Stupid educated people in government

    There is a difference between being intelligent and being educated. A lot of the high-ups in government (both politics and civil service) have useless degrees. I include PPE and law as a useless degree. It's a made up degree for chinless sons of somebody's uncle who was famous once upon a time. Amazingly quite a few of these educated dimwits end up in government. They are the chair polishers. They are the sort of people who order warships which break down in the warm waters of the Persian Gulf.

    1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      Re: Stupid educated people in government

      I dunno. I've worked for companies run mostly by people with engineering and science degrees and I don't believe that there's much correlation between the qualifications of the high-paid-help and their ability to make questionable decisions about the direction of engineering projects.

      1. john.w

        Re: Stupid educated people in government

        The situation could be improved by never letting the inventor retain control of a company, the two skills necessary rarely inhabit the same brain.

      2. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Stupid educated people in government

        I'd prefer an overpromoted engineer in a management position in engineering than a non-engineering trained manager in an engineering management position,

        1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Stupid educated people in government

          Speaking as an engineer, I've worked somewhere where we had a non engineering trained manager in an engineering manglement position. He actually said "I dont need to know what you do here, I'm here to manage"

          Also the same place laid off 33% of the workforce 4 months later, along with aforementioned mangler.

          And some of the tales I know about working for the government you would not believe ....

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Stupid educated people in government

            He actually said "I dont need to know what you do here, I'm here to manage"

            As was pointed out in a previous thread this can work out providing he really is a manager, takes care to appoint the best people he can who actually know the engineering or whatever it is, listens to what they say and makes it possible for them to get on with it. But these are rare beasts.

            1. Richard 12 Silver badge

              Re: Stupid educated people in government

              Not quite. While a manager doesn't need to be able to do any of the stuff themselves, they must know what everyone (including other departments) can do, and what the company needs doing.

              The whole point of management is to line up the stuff that needs doing with the people who can do it sufficiently well.

              If you don't know what needs doing or who can do what, and worse, don't care, then the only question is how much damage you'll cause.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Stupid educated people in government

        "I don't believe that there's much correlation between the qualifications of the high-paid-help and their ability to make questionable decisions about the direction of engineering projects."

        The one skill you can rely on finding in people who successfully climb corporate ladders is corporate ladder climbing. Anything else is a bonus. As corporate ladder climbing is usually their full-time occupation there's seldom room for anything else.

  12. ColinPa Silver badge

    Piggy in the middle

    A friend of mine worked on a major UK Government project and had to manage all of the changes that came in "after the spec was agreed". He said they charged money even to consider a change, and there were many changes. There were often had contradictory requests from left hand and right hand of government.

    He partially solved this by organising a day with all of the stake holders in one room to discuss the high level implementation. He said he was amazed that his first task was to get people to introduce themselves to the other attendees. Many of the people had not met the rest of the team, and had no idea they existed, even thought they had, in theory, collaborated on the original requirements and come up with the common list of requirements.

    My friend had a list of questions like "what happens if someone changes their name, or changes sex",but they did not get to these questions, they got stuck on the first chart "stake holders and their interests".

    He said that they had several iterations of these get-together meetings, and gradually converged on the requirements and what was actually needed.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Piggy in the middle

      The first requirement is to know what and/or who requires something.

    2. Outski Silver badge

      Re: Piggy in the middle

      Three months after joining the civil service as a very junior spod (admin officer, one rung up from admin assistant, the lowest CS grade), I was chairing user group, and worse, technical assurance meetings for a project in the low millions. That with a degree in fuck all to do with IT or project management (theology, so, yes, some might say a degree in fuck all, before some smart-arse comes along :o) )

      Oh, and the actual PM fucked off for the three weeks of implementation. Needless to say, the project failed (and the main consulting company were then hired to do the post-mortem).

  13. localzuk Silver badge

    Decisions are made by important people

    We can't be having technical specialists making decisions can we? They're nowhere near important enough.

    Gotta have a big fancy title and a big fancy office to make decisions. And decisions can only be made after meeting with the potential companies multiple times, perhaps over dinner in a fancy restaurant or maybe in a box at a sports match. No no, technical specialists are there to take the *blame*, not make decisions. That'd be absurd.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The thing the office doesn't seem to understand is that the details of the requirements are moving targets as laws and regulations change, especially for the government IT systems themselves, but also for anything that has to feed the government's insatiable appetite for paperwork/data/forms.

    We don't do "waterfall" development in the industry any more; requirements are never analyzed to death before a project is launched, only enough design details and issue identification to get a handle on the scope of the project.

    1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      In the good old days (mostly pre-80s) the uncertainty was managed with cost-plus contracts. Government contractors had to agree their cost/overhead structure with the Gov. and were allowed to make a fixed profit on those costs. It didn't mean that requirements weren't agreed at the start - far from it - but it meant that there was less risk, uncertainty, fear or whatever on both sides and contracts weren't padded with risk and hidden costs.

      The main difference between today and then, however, isn't the cost structure. The customer had to understand the requirements and development process as well as the supplier in order that they could work together to manage change as it came along as well as making sure that the supplier wasn't taking the piss. A large multi-million pound project would have a significant engineering and project management team on the customer side that broadly matched the suppliers' in discipline if not in size. I worked one cost+ contract where customer change requests would come in with their assumed tech., cost and schedule impact and they were usually pretty accurate.

      I think that's the problem today; customers seem to assume that they can abdicate responsibility (and blame) to a contractor just cos they are paying for them to do it. Contractually that might be case, but practically it's a foolish approach in my opinion.

      1. Ken G Silver badge

        It's called risk transfer, it's meant to be a good thing

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          It is good

          For the large contractors.

          They get the taxpayer to assume all the risk, while helpfully taking on all the profit.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      The thing the office doesn't seem to understand is that the details of the requirements are moving targets as laws and regulations change

      I think you'll find that the NAO understands that very well. If there's one department in Whitehall (actually Buckingham Palace Rd IIRC) that aren't idiots it's the NAO. It must be very frustrating for them.

      requirements are never analyzed to death before a project is launched, only enough design details and issue identification to get a handle on the scope of the project.

      Thy name is "Fragile".

  15. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "NAO also sees a lack of digital knowledge"

    Not, I suspect, just a lack of digital knowledge. There frequently seems to be a distinct lack of business knowledge as well - of what a system is expected to deliver in concrete terms for both the department in question and any third parties using it. There seems to be a tacit assumption that 'digital is better' regardless of all other considerations. Consequently, poorly operating 'non-digital' systems become the model for implementing their digital replacements, ignoring the opportunity to improve the underlying business processes (which are often where the greatest inefficiencies, sources of error etc. are to be found). So the reality is that decisions are driven by technological trends, rather than by business requirements. Very few if any of those actually interacting with the existing systems day to day get asked how well they perform or what improvements should be made. Such guidance as is sought comes from 'industry expert' consultants, that are inevitably biased in favour of the latest gizmos, if not directly by ties to specific vendors.

    1. sgj100

      Re: "NAO also sees a lack of digital knowledge"

      "Consequently, poorly operating 'non-digital' systems become the model for implementing their digital replacements, ignoring the opportunity to improve the underlying business processes (which are often where the greatest inefficiencies, sources of error etc. are to be found)."

      In my experience this is a key point. Digitising an existing process that is overly complex and inefficient without first simplifying it rarely works well. I recall one particular project (not in the public sector) I managed where it took the retirement of the key stakeholder before the full benefits could be realised (cost savings and better customer service).

  16. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    The Fateful Path that Results in a Titanic Sinking Ship in AWEsome Sees*

    Quite why the likes of the Civil Service and Secret Intelligence and Security Services, which are presumably both life long professional type commitments, take orders from the amateurs of Parliament, only there because a very few cronies in their neck of the woods and from the hoods voted them into a right cushy number, does not bode well for the state of their intelligence either, which entertains all notions of their being quite obviously devoid of any form of engaging foresight and deep and dark insight and energising innovative leadership.

    And whenever engaging energising foresight and deep and dark innovative insights be forthcoming and freely shared with any or all of the above only to be studiously ignored and quietly denied any response in an official reply, do home based secrets find a foreign and alien land in which to experiment and prosper in novel developments with Greater Astute ACTive Programs and Projects under Advanced IntelAIgent Management.

    * .... https://www.army.mod.uk/news-and-events/events/army-warfighting-experiment/

  17. DevOpsTimothyC Bronze badge
    Joke

    MP not IT Director

    Dam-it Jim I'm an MP not an IT Director

  18. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

    But but but...

    But there is always good money to be made in prolonging a problem - and it takes skill to do it properly. That view works from both the customer and supplier sides.

  19. Giles C Silver badge

    Ideas

    Some of the truest sayings in business

    https://despair.com/collections/posters

    Enjoy…

  20. Eclectic Man Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Change is easy, making things better is hard.

    Well, I don't suppose much of that comes as any surprise to regular Register readers.

    Then I saw the magic word: "McKinsey".

    "

    Lee joined the CDDO from management consultancy McKinsey, which last year won a £3m government contract "seeking expert consultancy support to design the cross-departmental approach to tackling core digital, data and technology (DDaT) priorities, developing cross-government business cases and work plans."

    "

    We're doomed.

    But at least Lee knows how to play buzzword bingo:

    "

    "Recognising that digital and data is inherently part of how we all do business, we've established a permanent secretary level digital and data board to raise the profile of our agenda across government. We're [also] strengthening our links to communities in the transformation space, in the operation space and beyond," she said.

    "

    The conclusion is altogether too familiar to those who have worked in 'the transformation space' or 'the operation space' (or beyond, wherever that may be).

    "

    Last summer, an independent report on Organising for Digital Delivery written by the Digital Economy Council, warned of "uncertain quality of technical product delivery" with central government. It added that projects would fail due to a failure to support best practise.

    "

    I have to say I disagree with the following phrase on two levels: " we had to conclude that it underestimated how easy it is to achieve change in the real world." "

    I think they should have said it underestimated how *difficult* it is to achieve *improvements* in the real world. But then I'm a cynical old git.

    Not wishing to offend anyone with my language, but WTF does all that actually mean???

  21. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Joke

    Poacher turned Gamekeeper?

    Lee joined the CDDO from management consultancy McKinsey... "

    1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

      Re: Poacher turned Gamekeeper?

      Poacher turned poacher, more like!

  22. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Anyway, she'll probably be anointed a Dame for services to consulting or something at the end of it. Failure is no bar for getting one. It's a bit like getting a carriage clock in the old days...

  23. Chris Coles

    Many Senior Civil Servants are not permitted to read newspapers, watch TV or listen to the radio

    By chance of birth I come into this debate with uncommon knowledge, the existence of the extreme religious sect called; Plymouth Brethren "Exclusives". My uncle Peter was such, and my eldest brother once told me that, if I walked up to his front door and knocked on it, he would slam the door in my face while describing me as a "Heathen". A cousin, brought up within that family, eventually decided to leave and in doing so, had to leave behind his wife and children. Many such exclusives are in fact, senior civil servants, as was my uncle Peter, who I understand was Clerk of Works to the House of Commons. Again, I also gather that the same problem applies to the US, and, indeed, of all places, China. These are people that do not read anything other than a bible, (or in China the "Party doctrine). Again, within such communities, who are not permitted any normal social interaction with outsiders; they will only gather together with others of their sect. So it will be imperative that they only promote to the most senior levels of the civil service; other members of their sect. These people, exclusives, are not permitted ANY external social interaction, or as the title of this states; they are not permitted to read newspapers, watch TV or listen to the radio. They have no contact whatsoever with their surrounding communities; this is an entirely exclusive group that consider themselves to be above everyone else.

    It is thus no wonder that they cannot take proper command of any new technology.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Many Senior Civil Servants are not permitted to read newspapers, watch TV or listen to the radio

      It is thus no wonder that they cannot take proper command of any new technology. ... Chris Coles

      It is most fortunate then, Chris C, that much new technology can take proper command of them with novel virtual controls at the behest of A.N.Others both beyond their physical reach and intellectual ken.

      Quite why anyone sane would want to behave as if a hermit and generally unknown in a magical kingdom, is something many a shrink would just love to wax lyrical about ..... :-) and charge plenty for the pleasure of trying to help what to many would be a very strange mind.

      Imagine the disadvantages there be in not knowing of the worlds being administered to where booze and narcotics and hallucinogens and the wanton sexual excesses of the flesh are a default pleasure and/or curse, for such Brethren are surely not known to those mighty masses.

      PS ...... I have assumed what you have told us there, Chris C, is true and not some fanciful misleading tale. Such has become something of a perverse industry which many who really should know better are now totally addicted to and wholly reliant upon to survive and not be torn to shreds by justifiable angry crowd.

      PPS ..... Not permitted by whom and/or what and for what reasons are questions worthy of being answered to find out who or what on Earth thinks such a situation appropriate today and in worlds tomorrow ‽ .

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Many Senior Civil Servants are not permitted to read newspapers, watch TV or listen to the radio

      I worked for these people for years.

      They have got to be the worst people I have ever worked for in my life, very very self centred, and despite all the teachings of god, incredibly deceitful and untrustworthy.

      I overheard a conversation between a community member and a "normal" person, the normal person came in to work at 6am (the community do love an early start) looking very very tired and I would say broken, he was pulled to the side and asked why he looked this way, he explained that his daughter had tried to commit suicide during the night and had been up comforting her, he was told that this was work and he was to not bring his problems to the office.

      I personally suffered due to them, they would pile on the work and the responsibilities and then complain when things started to crumble, despite my cries for help it was never forthcoming, so I stopped doing all the extra work as my contract was poorly written and they couldn't do much about it, so magically my figures were fudged and I was forced out, luckily I had kept lots of evidence and managed to secure a lovely brown envelope on my way out, but still to this day I suffer because of the way they treated me.

      I implore anyone working for them to leave, they might pay well, very well in fact, but you are very much a pawn in their grand plan to build more churches and abuse their women with their backward thinking ways.

      I only stayed because the pay was extreme and I wanted a house, but COVID put pay to that and their boot out the door.

  24. short a sandwich
    Joke

    In other news

    The stove is hot

    Bears relieve themselves in tree rich environments.

    The leader of the Roman Catholic Church has a big balcony and red socks.

  25. Potemkine! Silver badge

    There are generalists in government – I'm not talking about digital specialists – who make a lot of the decisions about the scope, shape, and potentially the outcomes of major digital programmes, when really they are not qualified to do that

    This isn't limited to government only, I only plenty of organizations, public or privates, where this happens routinely.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So?

    I have never worked in the public sector, but in all the companies I've worked for, the same crap happens. It's just that it doesn't make the news.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like