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The recent BBC interview with Bill Crothers about IT suppliers in the public sector was depressingly familiar. In particular, the remark from Sir Francis Maude1 about the government department that was charged £30,000 for changing the text on a web page sent a shudder down my spine. Just to put this into context for a moment, £30,000 is almost three times what someone working for 37 hours a week on minimum wage would earn. These are ludicrous sums of money for what should be very simple processes.
The sad fact is that IT suppliers often charge unreasonable amounts to deliver (sometimes without success) IT projects which then take huge amounts of money and manpower to manage.
The Government is not alone in this challenge. I regularly hear similar stories when I meet organisations in the private sector who are unable to update product details on their website without choking on a process that takes weeks or even months.
The frustration here is that Drupal can create a well-controlled workflow for editing and publishing content to a live site with just a few simple configuration steps. The power to control content is then permanently in the hands of the content creators rather than the IT department. That control can also extend to site creation too with solutions like Acquia Cloud Site Factory. Therefore, these types of changes should cost nothing.
The UK Government has been trying to encourage new, smaller and disruptive IT suppliers into the supply chain through the Government Digital Service. Charters like G-Cloud and the Digital Services Framework should make it easier for governmental bodies to access these services with less red tape and faster delivery. Many think this type of framework is one of the best examples of transforming supply of IT services to Government. Vivek Kundra recently commented2 that G-Cloud is the future of public procurement. He should know - he transformed the Whitehouse's digital presence while CIO there.
Open source solutions like Drupal and cloud platforms like Acquia's are proven to deliver value. Our work with Westminster City Council and the State of Georgia, where there is a 7 digit saving, is testament to this.
Legislating and creating frameworks for engagement is one way to improve things but what about governing projects and, heaven forbid killing, doomed projects before they cost the taxpayer more?
Open Data takes much of the philosophy of open source to allow the community (customers, suppliers and stakeholders) to take public data and create new and undiscovered applications for that data. The one that springs to mind is the IT Dashboard created in the US3 that allows any citizen to see the status of public projects. It shows whether projects are on schedule, on budget and delivering to the expected quality. It even shows the photo of the CIO and rates the status of their investments. I can't think of a better incentive to ensure that projects are governed professionally and problems identified before good public money is sent after bad - true transparency at work.
Oh and this dashboard was delivered using Drupal, so the source for the project is available for anyone to download and implement at this link: https://sourceforge.net/projects/it-dashboard
I truly believe that if all projects in the public sector had this level of stakeholder visibility then headlines, such the recent one about the failed £100m Digital Media Initiative at the BBC4, would become a thing of the past.