Why does Public Sector IT ‘fail’ so often ?

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Simply put it is unrealistic expectations; typically government announces a new policy, assigns a war chest to it and then expect the relevant Department of Health /Transport/ Education to deliver.

The timescales to deliver real benefits at scale for example in the National Health Service are in the 10-15 year timeframe.

But politicians /finance /business cases developers demand returns on investment in sub 2 years.

Compare this with any pharmaceutical development programme, 8-10 years from initial discovery to mass market launch, benefits realised thereafter. These companies rely on just 2 out of 10 of their risks paying out big to cover the losses of the other 8 which never see the light of day Somehow that’s realistic and achievable and keeps the shareholders happy, but for public sector IT – equally complex – it isn’t everything must suceed regardless of risk!

What makes government IT so difficult ?

The programmes span a number of different ‘worlds’ – political, commercial, technical, academic, and market forces – all with different institutional logics

Differences in norms, values, priorities and ways of working between these six worlds, and imperfect attempts to bridge these differences, account for most of the instability in the National Health Service and the IT programme – and this in turn explains many of the problems encountered.

This is made worse by the increased creation of ALB’s (Arm’s length bodies)and quangos it is the need to please all these different groups before starting which causes the delays

Therefore the task of designing and implementing ‘solutions’ is problematic as no-one organisation has the power or the mandate to produce a workable national solution


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