Oh great. Apparently the IT sector has been ripping off HM Government for years. Which means we are all going to get tarred with the same brush. I’m a vendor, so I must be a money grabbing bugger, right?
Some of the points made in the report are highly justified: £3500 for a laptop seems a little excessive, and not a hint of iOS or brushed aluminium is to be seen. In the supplier’s defence, they’ve probably had to research, build, test and deploy in a secure environment, which has below the line costs not borne by the Govt agency benefitting from this work, but even then this does seem excessive.
It’s also too easy to just shout ‘NPfiT’ or ‘Connecting for Health’ and latterly ‘FiReControl’ loudly whilst waving a placard demanding heads-a-rolling. These have been shambles, but the issue appears to be to be contractual rather than technical. If you negotiate a contract that means it’s cheaper to haul its bleeding carcass over the line than abandon it, then that’s a failure of contract first, technology second. This is the same set of civil servants that write ‘100% availability’ into SLAs on servers, meaning they can’t be taken down to be patched, which means they get clobbered by malware because they are riddled with vulnerabilities.
One of the accusations levelled at the previous Government was that it got caught up trying to make projects look ‘sexy’. And frankly, in my experience, this is on the money because the people buying the stuff get caught up in the moment. I’ve worked on two multimillion pound projects in recent times where stuff has been bought, with very little reference to real world business cases (as opposed to the looney tunes ones being used for the procurement) or actually how the software was being used in the long term. In one specific case, we’d have been better off taking the money and having a party or giving it to charity for all the good it did.
Aha! I hear you say. Surely as an ethical person and a vendor with principles you should have pointed out that the project was the equivalent of buying cows top hats? Yes, and a key part of my job is to ensure that technically we can meet business and use cases. But the alternative is that if someone comes to me and says ‘I have budget and business case signed off, and you are in a competition with other vendors for the business’, I’m going to do my best to win the business. That’s my job. It’s what I get paid to do. Because if I don’t bid for the Top Hat business, someone else will…
So, yes IT vendors have an awful lot to answer for, but do not blame industry for the entire mess.