ICT Disaggregation in Government
THE OLD WORLD
Over the years many government departments and agencies have outsourced their ICT services to large System Integrator (SI) organisations, in some instances believing they had also outsourced the risk by doing so.
Outsourcing everything to SIs has proven not to work on many levels. The practice has led to: a) contract lock-in with departments paying a premium in both time and money for any ‘contract changes’; b) business risk in moving away from the chosen supplier leading to multiple extensions with no real competition; c) capital investment in physical infrastructure that becomes outdated and sub-optimal over the course of the contracts requiring constant upgrades (in many cases legacy infrastructure becomes either over or under specified to meet an organisation’s changing requirements and a barrier to transformation); d) the inability to take advantage of new technology and cost reductions to name but a few.
The world has changed and government has woken up to the fact that having a small number of large SIs controlling billions of pounds of government ICT spend isn’t driving innovation or efficiency, and more importantly, isn’t delivering the services UK citizens expect, need and deserve.
There has been much debate around the tower model, stimulated by recent Government Digital Service (GDS) and Cabinet Office comments on how some recent implementations of the ‘tower model’ remain procurement driven and have failed to achieve true service disaggregation, and deliver the benefits that an effective disaggregated ICT service environment offers.
The debate is no longer whether services should be disaggregated, but is now about how best to achieve it at the lowest cost, and with minimal risk to service continuity. Much of the debate around ‘tower models’ seems to be missing the fundamental skills challenge facing public sector bodies. Not every government department currently has the in-house expertise and governance to manage multiple suppliers and successfully integrate their services.
In some cases this is driving departments into the relative comfort of old-style procurement practices. Delivering transformative services, previously managed entirely by a small number of major suppliers, requires a significant commitment to rapidly gain the in-house skills needed to take overall control of the disaggregated service environment, and ultimately deliver the required benefits for their users and citizens.