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Tuesday 15 December 2009

2020 Vision – UK Public Sector IT

Shared servicesIn Last decade, Next decade, Richard reviewed the tremendous changes in the IT sector over the past ten years. This week we bring you our views on what the next ten years will offer.

We start with Tola Sargeant’s predictions for the UK Public Sector. We will publish views on Social Media, Software, and IT Services during the rest of the week.  

2020 vision: Public Sector IT

The next decade will be very different from the last for the UK public sector. After years of increases in public spending, the public sector will have to cope with savage budget cuts as the government battles to reduce the record £180bn budget deficit racked up at the end of the previous decade. The resulting cuts in public spending in the early part of the decade will affect all areas of the public sector and drive some fundamental changes in the way many public services are delivered.

Technology enables change

The unprecedented nature of the savings required will force many public sector organisations to challenge the way they currently do things and transform their operations in the pursuit of efficiency and productivity improvements. The most forward thinking government departments and agencies will use this as an opportunity for true innovation. (Others, of course, will drag their heels but even they will be forced to make changes as the decade progresses.) Technology will be a key enabler for this change, and private sector organisations will play an increasingly important role.

Overcoming barriers

Significant budget cuts early in the decade will be the ‘stick’ that finally forces many public sector organisations to overcome the political and cultural barriers that had prevented the widespread adoption of shared services in the ‘00s. Shared services will finally gather momentum, particularly in the back office, as government organisations realise there is no alternative if they are to achieve such substantial cost reductions. Local government will lead the way with real up take from around 2012.

The pursuit of further savings and the desire to transform services will also drive greater use of IT and business process outsourcing across the public sector. Moreover, it will gradually become more acceptable for the public sector to use offshore services – both indirectly provided via onshore suppliers and directly with India-based companies - as the need to cut costs makes things that were inconceivable last decade a possibility. By 2020, the likes of TCS, HCL and Wipro will be appearing among the Top 20 suppliers to UK government.

Opening up the market

After a decade that brought us a series of huge government IT programmes - such as the National Programme for IT in the NHS (NPfIT) and the Defence Information Infrastructure (DII) - big national IT projects will be out of favour. Increasingly seen as high-risk and potentially high cost, large high-profile IT programmes will tend to be broken into smaller chunks or let locally to a range of suppliers using nationally agreed frameworks. In general, there will be greater emphasis on open standards and standards-based frameworks, particularly in health and social care. Open source software will gain popularity in education but will largely remain a bargaining tool in other areas of the public sector.

Blurring the boundaries

The desire to achieve efficiencies, share costs, join up services, devolve decision making and get closer to the citizen will all contribute to a blurring of the boundaries between different areas of the UK public sector. There will be much closer links between health, social care and education and between the different organisations responsible for ‘homeland security’, for example. The trend will be particularly apparent in ‘local’ government where shared services deals will increasingly cater for a range of public sector organisations in an area including local authorities, education establishments, the police and healthcare. 

Power to the citizen

The next decade will also be characterised by a shift in the balance of power between the government and the citizen. The citizens’ expectations about the level of service they’ll receive from public sector organisations, and the way in which they should be able to access public services, will continue to increase. Generations who can’t live without social networking sites, You Tube and iPhones will demand more online interaction with public sector organisations – from their GP to their children’s school - and greater transparency than ever before.  By the end of the decade all major government transactional services will be carried out online.

Personalisation will also be high on the agenda. For example, citizens will have much greater choice over how they spend the public funds available for the cost of their health or social care. The delivery of health and social care services will also be more closely integrated and the use of telehealth and telecare monitoring services will become the norm by the end of the decade.

Getting greener & reaching for the Clouds

The Greenness of IT will become an increasingly important consideration during procurements early in the decade, if only because of the cost savings implied by greater energy efficiency. Technologies such as virtualisation will benefit as a result, particularly in central government.

On the other hand, G-Cloud (or Government Cloud) will be the ‘shared services’ of the decade. There’ll be plenty of hype about the benefits it would undoubtedly bring to government but cultural and political barriers put up by risk-averse civil servants will hamper its adoption and progress will be frustratingly slow.

Posted by Tola Sargeant at '09:36' - Tagged: publicsector