The Better Public Services A Manifesto calls on all parts of the UK’s public sector “to use technology to reduce or eliminate costly overheads”. One of those costly overheads is us in the CIO community.
I was impressed with the manifesto at its recent launch. Penned by Jerry Fishenden, academics Mark Thompson and Will Venters with contributions from Fishenden’s fellow former CIOs and partners at Stance Global, the document has a welcome clarity. Within days of the launch and discussing the challenges it raises with the former speakers on the Horizon CIO podcast I see that my own local authority requires a senior leader for IT.
That a small market town on the North Downs needs a senior technology leader surely legitimises The Better Public Services Manifesto. Our local authority clearly has a complex and costly technology estate that requires the guiding hand of a business technology leader. That person will need to be great at team leadership, understand and improve the complexities of technology procurement and be able to create partnerships. These are the skills and strengths of a CIO that I have always championed. However, during the last 10 years, many CIOs, and in particular public sector CIOs, have stated to me, the need to engineer themselves out of a job.
Engineering the CIO role out of an organisation is an element of what the Better Public Services A Manifesto calls for. And don’t think of its authors as harsh, they are fully aware of the individual cost of doing that.
None of us want to deny others a job in paradise, but the duplication of senior technology leadership on the salary grades such roles requires is exactly one of the duplications of function I believe the manifesto questions.
“Large scale duplication of commodity functions and processes offers little or no value to citizens. Instead, it consumes precious resources that should be going to the frontline, and prevents services from joining up properly around the needs of the citizens and public sector workers alike,” the manifesto rightly identifies. As the document goes on to explore, the technologies available to all types and levels of the public sector will reduce duplication. And therefore reduce the need for a senior technology leader at District, County, devolved authority and Whitehall departments, as is the current state.
Although a champion of the role of senior technology leadership, I agree with the manifesto, we must play an “active role in saving public services” and that does not mean playing an active role in saving multiple layers of technology leaders.
“Our public services could standardise and consume many of their common administrative functions and processes by exploiting shared digital commons,” the manifesto says. If we are to continue with the confusing levels of District, County, devolved and national government then at least by adopting the Lego bricks model that the manifesto advocates, we can at least engineer the number of CIOs and senior leaders down in local government. The saved funds can then be focused on the challenges the public sector faces, that of a shrinking UK economy, Brexit damage to our ability to trade; an ageing population and rising demand for improved public services.
You can download Better Public Services A Manifesto here
You can listen to the authors explain their new organisation and ethos on the Horizon CIO podcast here.