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Delivering successful IT-enabled business change

The successful introduction of IT systems is a crucial element in major Government programmes to deliver better services to the public -whether through providing new services, making existing services more efficient and responsive to citizens’ needs, or improving organisational performance. A report published today by the National Audit Office identifies common threads in IT-enabled programmes and projects, to pinpoint the key factors which have contributed to success and how they can be replicated in future by the public sector.

The NAO report features some two dozen IT-enabled programmes and projects, from both the public and the private sectors, within the UK and overseas, which demonstrate how success can be achieved. The report identifies what Government can do to enhance the chances of bringing about IT success and represents a clear challenge to departments to take action to reduce the risk of failure and embrace innovation while safeguarding the taxpayer.

From analysing these examples of IT-enabled change, the NAO identified three core principles which contribute to delivering successful IT programmes and projects:
 

  • Ensuring senior level engagement: clear and engaged board leadership, keeping senior decision makers informed of progress and risks and, for example, not creating undue pressure by making premature and unrealistic announcements about delivery dates
  • Acting as an “intelligent client”: understanding the business process the department is aiming to change, having the right programme management skills, training the staff and creating effective and equal relationships with suppliers
  • Realising the benefits: selling the benefits to users, winning wider support for the change, and assessing whether the programme or project has achieved what it set out to do

In the past, Government has not always shown itself to be an intelligent client, with poorly defined requirements and a lack of capacity to engage effectively with suppliers. A number of recent initiatives have been introduced aimed at improving public sector performance in managing IT projects, including the appointment of Chief Information Officers in departments and further tightening of the OGC Gateway Review process. For example, in response to insufficient numbers of programmes and projects being subject to a final Gateway Review to determine if they have delivered the benefits they set out to achieve, the Office of Government Commerce Supervisory Board has set a general rule that programmes and projects should undergo a Gate 5 Review to assess the benefits they have delivered within twelve months of “going live”.

“IT projects in the public sector have too often been associated with failure – this report provides an opportunity to change that. Learning from experience is not just a case of appreciating what went wrong, but also encompasses understanding what went right. Success can never be guaranteed, but it should not be an unfathomable mystery. The common threads among these IT programmes and projects are evidence that a favourable outcome is not a matter of luck, but is the result of sound judgement.”

Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office

Notes for Editors

  1. Details of the 24 case studies are contained in a companion volume to this report and include the Department for Work and Pensions’ Pension Credit, DEFRA’s programme for citizens at risk of fuel poverty, OGCbuying.solutions’ eSourcing to allow strategic procurement activities to be conducted online, DTI’s Consumer Direct which provides consumers with a single access number to free advice when problems arise when dealing with traders, Transport for London’s Oyster® card and the New York City 3-1-1 Citizen Service Center.
  2. Chief Information Officers sit at or near board level and are responsible for championing the department’s IT projects.
  3. An OGC Gateway Review is a review of an acquisition programme or procurement project carried out at a key decision point by a team of experienced people, independent of the project team. There are five OGC Gateway Reviews during the lifecycle of a project, three before contract award and two looking at service implementation and confirmation of the operational benefits. A project is reviewed at the OGC Gateway Review appropriate to the point reached in its lifecycle. Retrospective or combined OGC Gateway Reviews are not supported. The process emphasises early review for maximum added value. OGC Gateway Review 0 is a programme-only review that is repeated throughout the programme’s life; it can be applied to policy implementation, business change or other types of delivery programme involving acquisition. It sets the programme review in the wider policy or corporate context.
  4. The OGC Supervisory Board is chaired by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Members include the Cabinet Secretary and Permanent Secretaries.
  5. Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website, which is at www.nao.org.uk. Hard copies can be obtained from The Stationery Office on 0845 702 3474.
  6. The Comptroller and Auditor General, Sir John Bourn, is the head of the National Audit Office which employs some 850 staff. He and the NAO are totally independent of Government. He certifies the accounts of all Government departments and a wide range of other public sector bodies; and he has statutory authority to report to Parliament on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which departments and other bodies have used their resources.

PN: 59/06