Simon Dickson, who has worked on government IT projects both as a civil servant and a consultant, explains why government IT programmes cost so much:
The simple answer to the question ‘how can a website cost £35m?’ is – because it can.
As soon as big money is on the table, the big consultancies swoop – in numbers. Waves of salespeople, account managers, and business analysts, which the civil service balances out with IT managers and procurement specialists. It’s a very cosy relationship, with both sides keeping each other busy, and everyone taking home a day’s pay.
The BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones is more optimistic. Increased transparency, he hopes, will stop all these massive IT projects overspending:
But another culture is now making its presence felt in Whitehall, the open data movement. It involves releasing the vast amounts of data locked inside government departments and letting anyone who wants to hack it into something useful for nothing. Perhaps, in these straitened times, it’s this culture which will now thrive.
Ah, but you see, Rory, all that data needs to be collated and you need a proper database to manage it. Then you need to maintain the website to ensure that people can get access. Of course the way the data is coded across different departments, agencies and local authorities will need to be harmonised if it is to make any sense. You really need a system to manage the whole thing. Then there’s the risk assessment of releasing all that data and it would be madness not to project manage this development. You should do a benefits realisation assessment against the original business case too, and….well….you can see where I’m going with this, can’t you?
Hat Tip: Patrick Butler