Littlefish’s Dave Aspindle explains why it is important the disaggregation of IT services should continue, irrespective of the political landscape
The recent reports that Brexit will lead to government organisations rolling-over on existing IT contracts and simply renewing, is hugely disappointing as it could significantly impact the government’s digital and innovation agenda.
In the last few years, the Government’s Digital Strategy (GDS) has made great strides by invigorating the skills and desire of government IT organisations to enable change and do things differently.
This is apparent within the new Government Transformation Strategy 2017 to 2020 policy paper:
“The imperative is to change, therefore – and to do so at pace and at scale. This is the meaning of transformation. It is, in essence, a change of working, of culture and of disposition – changes that are made possible by digital technology. That technology is not changing itself; it enables the change that is so transformative,” said the Rt Hon Ben Gummer MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General.
The key here being transformation, not transition.
Now more so than ever with the advent of Brexit (and also the snap General Election), government departments should carry on regardless and continue to lead the charge on transformation. One of the key enablers to transformation is making sure your own house is in order. That means securing a solid, agile, disaggregated IT service, enabled through the supply chain with the transition to new, enthusiastic, flexible, and specialist service providers.
Equally, with the well-documented skills gap in the public sector and the new IR35 legislation that impairs transformation, there is also a need for government users of technology to continue to effectively deal with its supply chain to deliver best value whilst at the same time introducing the agility and innovation that will drive the transformation required.
A disaggregated approach
At the heart of this transition is Service Integration, and the Service Desk. The Government IT Strategy of 2012 stated that Service Integration and Management (SIAM) would help break the stranglehold the large outsourcers had on government and the wider industry. That was until Alex Holmes, the then Deputy Director and Chief of Staff in the Office to the CTO, announced in a blog in February 2015 that the SIAM tower model was no longer an acceptable approach to procurement for Whitehall departments.
But many government departments had already started with the SIAM approach and were well on the way to disaggregating the large outsourced contracts, with some success. Now, the terminology has moved on, but disaggregation, multi-sourcing and service integration remains an accepted approach, with tangible benefits to the status quo.
We are witnessing a plethora of government organisations starting to deliver the agility required to enable the transformational change mandated to them. Multi-sourcing or disaggregation achieves the combined goals of insourcing control, lowering cost and enabling change. Historic England is a recent prime exemplar of this.
Today, there is a multitude of procurement frameworks – such as technology services (RM1058) and the Digital Marketplace – that support the disaggregated approach. Users can now procure the component services that used to make up the monolithic, inflexible, expensive, energy-sapping, single-source IT service contracts. With a small hint of oversimplification, you can relocate your legacy equipment into the Crown Hosting Service, buy the managed infrastructure and application support services through Technology Services, whilst providing end-user services as either two components, Service Desk and End-User-Compute or as a single service, procured again through technology services or G-Cloud. The take-on or onboarding is then simply a matter of transition, within a few weeks or at most months. ‘Quick wins’, immediate improvements, and more user-aligned services are now the norm when it comes to transition outputs. The overall outcome is a set of building blocks that can flex and change as the digital transformation agenda gathers momentum and builds the new services from similarly procured standard components.
Service integration and the service desk remain pivotal to effective disaggregation and the government’s transition agenda here. With the recent focus on a new business-led, accreditation scheme, Service Integration should be regarded as a set of common-sense management practices, much as we regard PRINCE2/PMP, ITIL and ITSM.
There are many practising organisations with real experience of delivery, and whilst the government strategy in the long-term is to insource service management and control, departments and users can procure consultancy and delivery services from the Digital Marketplace to assist and enable this journey.
Not often seen as a commodity service, the service desk can also be procured as a separate component of your IT service operation, with specialist providers offering 24/7, agile capabilities with a focus on quality and user experience in line with the transformation strategy. Transition is easy and the immediate benefit on user productivity and morale should not be underestimated. We have seen this for government customers such as the National Audit Office, Parliamentary Digital Services, The Pensions Advisory Service and Historic England.
Brexit should not stop progress
In summary, often, in uncertain times, the default response of government departments is to ‘stick with what they know’ and take the easy road. However, the current Government Transformation Strategy provides this generation with an opportunity to build upon the progress the sector has made in transforming and transitioning from large single-sourced monolithic relationships. The service desk is at the heart of this digital transformation agenda and will cushion the impact changes will have on users, whilst enabling organisations to insource key service management responsibilities with confidence.
Brexit is not an excuse for not getting the best value from your supply chain. Disaggregation or multi-sourcing is truly delivering agility, flexibility and innovation in IT service delivery – the benefits and ease, far outweigh the risk of simply rolling-over on existing IT contracts.
Head of Public Sector