Headlines: November 17th, 2006



A report today from the National Audit Office looks at how IT systems can be introduced successfully in public services and says it will help to move away from the current situation where IT projects in the public sector are often associated with failure. The report says the successful introduction of IT systems is a crucial element in major Government programmes and it pinpoints factors which have contributed to success and looks at how they can be repeated.

The report features more than 20 IT-enabled programmes and projects, from both the public and the private sectors in the UK and abroad, to show how success can be achieved. It also details what the Government can do to improve the chances of success. The NAO says the report is a clear challenge to departments to take action to reduce the risk of failure and embrace innovation while still safeguarding the taxpayer.

The report lists three core principles it believes contribute to success. There has to be clear leadership with senior decision makers being kept informed of progress and risks so they can ensure they do not create undue pressure by making premature and unrealistic announcements about delivery dates. Departments also have to act as intelligent clients who understand the business process and they must realise the benefits of the projects and sell those benefits to users.

In the past, the report says, the 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.

Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office, said, “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.” He added that success could never be guaranteed but it should not be an unfathomable mystery.