Seven in 10 government IT projects fail

Department for Work and Pensions' CIO has called for government IT projects to be more efficient in terms of cost, delivery and quality

Seven in 10 government IT projects have failed, according to the chief information officer of the Department for Work and Pensions.

Joe Harley called for projects to be completed at a lower cost to the taxpayer, and said the government wanted to reduce the number of project failures to just one in 10.

Speaking at the Government UK IT Summit this week, Harley said: "Today, only 30 percent of government IT projects and programmes are successful. We want 90 percent by 2010/11. We want to achieve a 20 percent overall reduction on IT spend in government, including reducing the total cost of a government laptop by 40 percent [in the same timescale]."

Harley said that the criteria for success of a project included whether it was delivered on time, to cost, and to the quality promised. While private sector IT projects had a similar failure rate, government IT projects needed to be more efficient both in terms of cost and delivery, Harley said.

"The government spends £14bn per year on IT in the UK. It's not sustainable as a government to continue to spend at these levels. We need to up the quality while reducing the spend," Harley added.

One government project that has been heavily criticised in terms of missed deadlines and inflated costs is the troubled NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT), which is overseen by Connecting for Health (CfH).

Andy Burn, head of information management and technology planning for CfH, said that, while the project had achieved some successes, taken as a whole, it had failed so far. "The programme still has three wheels still on. It's not in hand in some respects, but it is in others. At a local level, progress has been made over the years. At an organisational level, less [progress has been made]. The challenge is joining up services — we've been struggling with that for quite some time."

Burn added that it would take a lot of work to put NPfIT back on track. "Inevitably, with the size of the programme, we're bound to be up against the wall [for the next year]. For the next decade, not for the next year."