Public Sector Programming Prowess or Paralysis?

I have to admit that in a former life I spent a year working in a media publicity role with a division of the Department of Trade & Industry that shall remain nameless. Now, I could never be a civil servant so I have to admire what they do on the one hand.

I have to admit that in a former life I spent a year working in a media publicity role with a division of the Department of Trade & Industry that shall remain nameless. Now, I could never be a civil servant so I have to admire what they do on the one hand. On the other hand, I have never in my life seen so many ‘tea and biscuits’ meetings hosted to discuss precisely nothing at all. It’s a different planet I tell you. It’s not so much a matter of, “Am I needed at this meeting?” But more of a, “Well, I’ve been invited and they do have those jammy ones.”

So with that ever so slightly cynical thought in mind, this week I met up with business analytics software company Applix to hear about their solution for Westminster City Council. I put my views to UK-based VP for Applix EMEA Martin Richmond-Coggan. He assured me that for the type of business analytics solutions his company is proffering, councils like Westminster are seeing a three month turn around time – a time span that reflects and compares favourably with projects in the private sector.

The story is that in March 2007 eighteen initiatives to improve life in the heart of London were outlined to help form the ‘One City’ programme that aims to make Westminster the best governed city in the world by creating strong communities, supported by excellent council services. Westminster City Council brought in Applix’ integrated, one platform solution to unify Westminster’s disparate data and help underpin their ‘One City’ initiative

Although Cognos recently announced that it will acquire Applix for the tidy sum of US$339, Richmond-Coggan is bullish about the positive future prospects for Applix under the Cognos banner. Indeed, Rob Ashe, chief executive of Cognos, said that the deal represented "a terrific strategic fit" for the company.

So did the meeting change my mind and lift me out of my cynical dungeon? Answer: a bit. Westminster City Council is clearly pleased with the results of the first stage implementation so far, but it is still early days so they plan to review in three months and decide on extension plans.

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