The Cabinet Office, with the support of most Government departments has made a conscious decision to move away from massive contracts with massive SI’s.
The fear of change that existed as a result of conscious effort to introduce FUD by the BIG SI’s is being broken apart and shown for what it is, complete utter nonsense. The reality is that the examples they cite are either edge cases or failures by Big SI’s themselves. SME’s don’t want to deliver, they need to deliver.
SME models make delivery an imperative that we live or die by, so we are not focussed on getting cash from the process; we are focussed on getting paid fairly for the successful outcome.
Civil servants around the UK are reacting with vigour to the challenges and opportunities being presented, they see the chance so many of them have been waiting for to make the real impact the joined the civil service to make.
Positive impact on the economy
One of the least referenced but most important impacts as this move spreads across Government is the massively positive impact on the overall economy as a whole.
Knowledge and skills
SME’s are known for their inherently focus on building new skills and learning. This move by Government removes one of the biggest challenges to developing the skills and knowledge needed for enterprises; the opportunity to be exposed to projects that allow them to develop core skills and competencies is being made with an almost obsessive period of skill development by the SME community. As Government is sharing the information that was previously only made available to the few big SI’s they are finding that if you make this available to SME’s they will dedicate themselves to developing the knowledge and skills needed by Government. SME’s are taking this knowledge and skills and implementing it widely in an array of areas.
SME’s hire local people to deliver local services; this means that we are getting away from single locations of high unemployment distributing the jobs around the country. SME’s lead the way in flexible working with more direct and compassionate relationships with their employees enabling more flexible working patterns.
SME’s have always lead the way in apprenticeships providing an environment that allows them to flourish with more direct engagement on projects and more practical real life skills. These local opportunities are allowing young people to stay in more rural locations and not be forced to move into the major economic centres.
The Government’s only function is to deliver cost effective services that the citizens need in a timely fashion, time and time again we have seen failure to do this. SMEs are enabling real value to be delivered quickly allowing us all to have a better quality of life now rather than waiting 5 years for a solution that inevitably is out of date, cost to much and does not deliver what it promised.
SME’s are run by the entrepreneurs of the country, as they develop new skills, intellectual property and processes they start to drive out into the broader world. This natural expansion into overseas markets brings much needed revenue and jobs back to the UK rather than the natural tendencies of the Big SI’s to reverse this.
Money staying in the UK
This drive towards SME’s inevitably means that more money is staying here than going overseas. SME’s are noted for spending locally and always look to support local economies where they live and work. SME’s are less likely to send the profits overseas and less likely to leverage tax loopholes by off shoring the money.
Better Government projects
Projects are getting smaller and more innovative. Departments are learning how to do small and developing the structures, process and skills needed to deliver them.
SME’s are less constrained by the innovation killing processes of the massive SI’s. SME’s know what’s expected of them is to approach problems and opportunities in new and different ways and this is the reason most of them were setup. The people behind these small companies got tired of seeing things done in archaic and laborious ways, the frustration they felt drove them to go it alone and look to introduce newer, better, leaner and different approaches. Now these people are on the Government’s side working with them to deliver real value to the citizens of the country.
SMEs work in new more flexible ways that are inherently more agile than the rigid archaic practices we see around Government. The constraints that have been forced down the throats of departments are being removed and allowing them to run at the pace they want to. Small companies want tight projects that can be delivered using innovation and lean processes rather than wanting projects to be bigger and more cumbersome (where the SI’s make their money). This approach combined with the reformative approach towards using newer more modern methodologies across Government means that we are seeing real agility being introduced to Government.
Faster delivery of value
As projects get smaller they are delivering more rapidly, we still face constraints being forced on projects by the Big SI’s but even with these greater value is being delivered every day across Government. Supported by the departments change is being driven into the projects that mean not only are projects being delivered faster but that the systems have to change to allow this speed to occur and drive more delivery to citizens.
Stronger Government departments
The direct impact on departments should not be underestimated. Departments are having to up-skill and in-source a huge amount more than previously. Whereas before they chucked huge sums of taxpayers’ money at single huge vendors in an effort to outsource not only the doing but the risks associated now they are recognising that not only is it impossible to outsource risk but that they get a better end result if they control the doing.
Impact on budgets
All Government departments have to hit massive targets for cutting their budgets. They are being forced to do more with less. They are now focussed on spending better for greater value than previously and have realised the key to this is regaining control. Managing projects directly and being directly involved in the decisions made may mean money needs spending within departments rather than giving it all way to the big SI’s but the control they are gaining is massively reducing the overall spend and ensuring that the value from the projects is recouped as early as possible.
The introduction of open source and open standards is also protecting their budgets going forward as they can no longer be held to ransom in the way they have been. Now if they are not getting what they need, they have the choice and control to move to a different provider without having to worry about changing the technology or whether or not they can get at their own data.
Impact on civil servants
Civil servants have to take on tasks that were previously done by big SI. Where they once have one place to get everything done, now they have to coordinate across multiple vendors. They have to make decisions based on inputs from numerous sources and take ownership of these and deal with the inevitable issues these raise.
What this means in real terms are those departments have to reshape and develop new skills that allow all this to happen in a time when budgets are being cut. This is no easy task however they are recognising that not only is this necessary but it means that they have more control and keeping skills within Government allowing departments to make better choices not only now but forever.
Fundamentally allowing them to keep control with the departments and spend money where they will get the best results for the citizens they serve.
The area that needs more investment is in the skills development of the internal teams in departments and even either increasing numbers or reallocation of resources from other areas to ensure that this change is continued and successful.
Technology Industry reaction
An industry that is used to major change happening frequently is reacting with fervour to what is seen by most as a real sense of progress and strive for change within Government. Initially it was met with caution as we have seen so many previous efforts stifled by the political power wheeled by the major SI. Now not only has the industry realised that this time Government is serious but that they are past the point of no return and that now is the time to come forward with new approaches, services and products to help Government deliver better value to citizens.
We are starting to see a huge surge in innovation as the money that was being siphoned off shore is now being used to develop new products and services from SME’s.
Impact on big SIs
Having to become more lean and accountable, being challenged in their working practices by SME’s who are not afraid to ask why it’s necessary to take 6 weeks to update a logo.
Proprietary software: the end is nigh
Vendors are being forced to release their grasp on our data and Intellectual property. Government departments for years have handed over the knowledge to a few major players who then wrapped this within the software, patents and licenses which the Government then have to pay to use. SME’s are always looking for ways to innovate and naturally biased towards using open source technologies that free our data and intellectual property from the grasps of the few and create a new playing field that based on services and innovation rather than vendor lock in.
Departments are now gaining from work done not only within other Government departments but other Governments and commercial companies all over the world.
The Government has woken up, the SME’s have jumped onboard and the entire country is benefiting from this disruption. It is now an unstoppable force for good that has proven itself across the board as the correct and only intelligent way forward.