Successful IT projects can pave the way for further cost cutting
Only by earning the trust of senior management will public sector IT departments see their budgets boosted, as they get the green light to deliver projects that could cut costs across the organisation.
According to Socitm, the fact that public sector IT budgets have been cut in recent times - down 15.75 per cent in real terms since 2008, it says - indicates that senior management does not always believe in IT's ability to deliver wider cost savings.
The public sector tech association argues organisations should be maintaining or increasing their technology spend to support transformational projects - such as flexible working, shared services, streamlining business processes and e-procurement - which could generate greater cost savings elsewhere in the organisation.
But in order to get the go-ahead for this kind of work, IT departments need to prove they can deliver.
"You've got to make sure the IT service is credible... in the eyes of the people using the service and if you're not at the starting gate on that, then you're going to be in danger to being subject to major cutbacks which will impact your ability to transform the rest of the organisation," Socitm Insight programme manager Martin Greenwood told silicon.com.
Regular review meetings will help projects stay on track
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The credibility of IT departments can be damaged by failure to ensure tech projects deliver the promised benefits. According to Socitm, such failures can be the result of weak IT governance and technology bosses who focus on completing projects rather than ensuring they deliver the intended results.
Socitm advises IT bosses to be more rigorous with management of projects to make sure they stay on track, such as instituting regular review meetings as a project progresses and a thorough post-implementation review once it has been completed.
Senior management also needs to look at tightening up the governance framework for selecting and investing in IT projects as it's ultimately their responsibility, rather than that of the IT department. "Often this framework isn't very clear or doesn't exist and when things start to go wrong, the wrong people are getting blamed," said Greenwood.
Meanwhile, managers of the business areas for which the technology is being provided need to improve the business processes to get the best out of tech investment. If they don't work closely with the IT team it's unlikely they will get the full benefits: "service managers can't abdicate their responsibility", Greenwood said.
In addition, IT managers must make sure that the right people take responsibility when it comes to project appraisal and managing benefits. "Obviously IT managers have got a role to play in supporting that process but they can't be blamed for the fact that the benefits haven't been realised. That is not their responsibility," said Greenwood.
Communications is also key, he added: "[IT managers have] got to have the right relationship with their users, they've got to treat customer service as absolutely critical, they've got to listen to what their more senior customers are expecting from them and they've got to be at one with the rest of the organisation. The relationships are absolutely critical," he said.
"If your user satisfaction is dropping then your users will have less confidence in your ability to do the transformation work, which they will need you to do."