A rather worthwhile piece here on how government IT spending has raised costs, reduced flexibility, diminished service and locked inefficient processes into working practices.
The writing is now on the wall for the combination of centralisation, process bureaucracy and inappropriate IT systems which have been such a disempowering feature of our public services for the past decade. Research published in the American Journal of Medicine shows that IT investment in health services doesn’t cut costs:
In fact, the hospitals which had invested most quickly in IT solutions had found that their administration costs had risen the most. Those on the ‘Most Wired’ list had not managed to cut their costs at all.
This is important stuff because it confirms that one of the most disastrous aspects of New Labour centralisation has been the massive IT projects in public services. They didn’t just cost a huge amount. They also set processes in concrete, so that they became inflexible.
That is the real disaster about the government’s misuse of IT: it has taken the exhausting bureaucracy and it has made it even more inflexible than before. It can’t now be reformed without dumping entire IT systems.
And more here…
The news that Sir Peter Gershon has been swallowed by the Conservative Party is bad news for public services. It implies that Cameron will follow the Gershon prescription for efficiency – and that means more of the same.
In fact, the 2004 Gershon Review – which included coachloads of representatives from the IT consultants PA Consulting – has been disastrous for public services. It decided (surprise, surprise!) that huge investment in IT was required.
The result has been huge factory back office processing systems, vast waste, less human contact with the general public – who have to interact via call centres which may or may not have the particular issue they are calling about on their software.
It has meant a de-humanising sclerosis for public service systems, and it has locked inefficiencies into concrete processes. The systems thinker John Seddon reckons that public sector call centres are wasting between 40 and 80 per cent of their efforts as a result. See for example some of the discussion on this on www.systemsthinking.co.uk
H/T Mr Eugenides