Letter: IT strikes again

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The Independent Culture
Sir: The Government is not alone in suffering costly computer failures ("Whitehall's computer chaos grows", 12 July). It just happens to be rather better at washing its dirty projects in public than the private sector.

The Government also suffers from two major IT project problems. First, projects are necessarily huge since they deal with millions of pensioners, welfare claimants, passport holders etc. Large size brings large risks.

The pity is that parts of the UK government have not learnt what any half-decent cook or DIYer knows: if you've got a big job to do, break it down into several smaller tasks. The US government has already legislated on this to demand a "one step at a time" approach that reduces size and risk. The UK should follow suit.

Second, projects are afflicted by a "two tribes" mentality. IT staff understand technology but not government. Public officials and politicians understand government but not the technology. "Hybrid managers", who understand both perspectives, are the answer.

But instead, the tribal gap is worsening with growing sub-contracting of government IT work to the private sector. This creates a clash of culture and values, and passes the buck of government IT leadership to commercial firms.


University of Manchester