Government IT – 180 Degree Turn – Chris Chant

This is the text of a (great) speech that Chris Chant gave at yesterday’s Tea Camp:

First of all to acknowledge a small and important bunch of people who have been delivering some great stuff in gov IT And those who have been working their socks off but through no fault of theirs ON THE WRONG THING – it’s tough being in IT. 

People now can be using the fruits of your work EVERY DAY. There aren’t many things like that – electricity maybe. 

But we need to face  some  UNAVOIDABLE TRUTHS head on 

The vast majority of Gov IT in todays market is outrageously expensive, ridiculously slow,  poor quality and most unforgivably rarely user centric in any meaningful way 

Let’s start with a personal view of the unacceptable. 

It is unacceptable, not to know the cost of a service and the real exit costs – commercial, technical and from a business de- integration standpoint. 

It is unacceptable now to enter into contracts for longer than a year…….
And to those who say “what about supplier upfront  infrastructure costs”, I say ask shops how they do it, ask small garages how they cover the costs of hydraulic hoists and computers 

It is unacceptable, not to know how many staff we have working on IT 

It is unacceptable, not to know what all those staff do. 

It is unacceptable, not to know what systems we own, how much they cost and how much or even IF they are used 

It is unacceptable, not to know when users give up on an online service 

And it is unacceptable, not to know why 

Of course It is unacceptable that they do! 

It is unacceptable to have a successful online service and then to remind customers to use it with a postal mail shot 

It is unacceptable not to be able to communicate with customers securely electronically  

It is unacceptable, not to be able to do our work from any device we choose. 

It is unacceptable to pay up to £3500 per person per year for a desktop 

It is unacceptable for your corporate desktop to take 10 mins to boot up in the morning and the same to shut down 

It is unacceptable for staff to be unable to access Twitter or YouTube or not able to access the online service they are supporting in a call centre 

It’s unacceptable in this day an age, to ensure people are “working” by restricting access to the Internet. 

It is unacceptable, that 80% of Gov IT is controlled by 5 corporations. It is unacceptable, to outsource your IT strategy

It is unacceptable to see the cost of changing 1 word/colour or 1 line of code as £50k  

It is unacceptable to wait 12 weeks to get a server commissioned  


It is unacceptable, not to engage directly with the most agile,  forward thinking suppliers, the SME market.

Things have changed and we haven’t, until now 


Cloud will be cheaper – by the time you factor in the time spent now procuring and accrediting individual solutions,  

Using cloud solutions that have already been secured and accredited will be cheaper almost always.  

We will only pay for what we use, even models emerging for DR 

Over time, for most, products will be pre-procured and security accredited 

We will know from the outset the cost of the product and importantly the cost of exit 

Contracts will be under a year and the business impact of exit will be visible 

Price and service performance will be visible to all. Which will drive a provider to low cost high performance products 

We will not get ourselves locked in, in any way 

We will make fewer changes to the standard configuration of our desktops ( for as long as we provide them) so they will be more reliable, faster and cost less 

82% saving in GDS over corporate systems, includes great kit and IL3 access when needed. 

We will be able to migrate quickly to pre procured products that we need. Either as our needs change or if we are dissatisfied with service or price 

Our staff, over time, will become our system integrators until services in this space mature at the right price. What they won’t be doing is spending years on procurement and security work that has been done by others a hundred times before. 

People will be setting up some services in minutes instead of years 

FDPs and cross cutters don’t have all the answers now must iterate and iterate delivery, policy AND  process – will this approach work – I believe it will – certainly the Herculean effort spending 2 years working out requirements, another year in a procurement process and 3 years delivering some massive bespoke system hasn’t covered us in glory 

The first manifestations of this total transformation of the way Government uses technology will come in the next couple of days. 

We will publish a strategic implementation plan and OJEU which will together demonstrate solid commitment to change the way we work. 

But cloud is very much applicable to restricted and confidential. Services already being developed 

Cloud is PAYG, is elastic, is on demand, put down as fast as you pick up 

Not bound by old rules and ways of working 

Not lock ourselves in business or commercial 

Aggregation of demand is not the only way to drive down cost 

Commerce doesn’t only work that way – M &S 

IT service must start around user need not around outdated and ill applied security concerns 

CESG know this local practitioners often don’t  

We start from “this is what the user needs”, then comes the system (at the right price), then comes the security wrapper to make it appropriately safe 

And that, for many,  is a 180* turn – and it’s the way all Gov IT must be delivered from now on.

(any transcription or editing errors are mine)

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