Eight thoughts from Michael Bichard

I went to the launch of the final report of the Work Foundation’s research project on public services and ICT.  There seems to be less substance to this one – and a bit more setting up straw targets in order to knock them down again.  Some of the earlier material they produced had more value – all three reports in the series are available here.

What they did have was Michael Bichard as a guest speaker –  the first Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency, and with a more recent interest in information sharing from his role as chair of the Soham inquiry.  In his view

  1. IT projects need to meet a business need
  2. IT innovations are always as much about cultural change as about technology
  3. IT projects tend to have too broad a specification – there is an attempt to solve too many problems by a single system, which then can’t be delivered
  4. Staff who are users are not sufficiently involved in design
  5. There are not enough business leaders who understand the potential of IT and who have the confidence to deal with IT professionals.  Conversely, there are not enough IT professionals who can deal with organisational issues.  The two together result in a "chasm of miscommunication"
  6. Organisations have not come to terms with the importance of information sharing and information management.  Information management is seen as boring, and the systems (or the absence of systems) which support are not understood by senior management.
  7. Organisations are not doing enough to develop the skills needed to deliver personalised services through service design and re-design – there is a need for a School of Public Sector Service Design.  IT is being used to improve efficiency, not to transform services.
  8. There is a shortage of project management skills – not surprisingly, since they have been undervalued in the public sector for thirty years.

In the discussion which followed, Glyn Evans suggested a couple more, notably that change management needed to be distinguished from project management; most project managers didn’t understand change management.