When people say “be more like the private sector”, I want to cry

A relatively short post for me…. 🙂

I’ve been having a range of conversations lately and some if not most of them include an odd reference to the public sector budget deficit and how the public sector should be doing more things like the private sector.

Now I’ve tolerated those statements for a while because I know the people saying them don’t mean that we should be more like the private sector generally but expand on this and suggest very specific things such as a particular approach to something or how they invested in X and managed to get a great return on that investment.

However in a general sense, the public sector can’t be like the private sector whilst we still have a vast number of statutory duties to meet (over 1200), equality impact assessments to complete on service changes, effective consultation and engagement activities to conduct and of course managing all of this with a rapidly shrinking budget and with no billionaire investors waiting in the wings to bail us out with no hidden agenda other than maintaining the outcomes – unless you are a person who see’s outsourcing/commissioning as the being the same “bailing out”…for the record I don’t.

I’m not for a second suggesting that we can’t learn from other sectors, nor should we stop trying to reduce inefficiencies where they exist and transform services to deliver better outcomes. That is simply a no brainer now…So a plea – please stop making broad statements like “be more like the private sector” instead be very specific about what it is someone else is doing which you think the public sector can learn from. It would be far more helpful and constructive.

It’s all just Business

For those who don’t know me – I work as an Enterprise Architect in Corporate ICT for Devon County Council – The challenge for an Enterprise Architect is to focus on the whole Business and not just the IT function or service – we are employed to facilitate Transformational Change across the whole Business. Not an easy job as such but a very interesting and challenging one.

So for me what I do is ALL about the Business of the County Council.

I have recently posted (a collaborative effort with Martin Howitt) on our team blog about the wider implications of the changing landscape of corporate ICT and how that effected our ability to realise cost savings to the scale we hear about and need to deliver.

But we must first address some key issues and get organisational acceptance to some basic building blocks of Effective and Efficient organisations.

IT offers no value on its own. It really is ALL about the Business. The people outside of IT (Business People) are the people in control of the organisation and they specify the priorities and direction through strategy. So why don’t they control IT more effectively? Why isn’t there one Governance stream in an organisation – Business Governance?

IT governance is really business governance. In many organizations, IT has led the way in implementing governance over critical decisions related to strategy, business architecture, investments, change, programs, risk and sourcing. Over time, organizations have realized that decisions in these areas need to be coordinated across the enterprise and have elevated and consolidated these activities outside and above IT.

Via – HBR – What does the future hold for IT?

In the team post we talk about how core IT competencies need to be mainstreamed into the Business. What we really mean by this is that Business Leaders should have the skills and competencies to procure IT solutions, manage IT contracts and drive value from the investments they make – not just in IT.

Another issue which is critical is how will the current Heads of IT or CIO’s deal with the current financial situation.

I see two options in local government:

  1. Drive cost savings, innovation and transformation in the organisation through radical approaches to ICT delivery and infrastructure.
  2. Play safe and wait for someone in the Business to make the decision for them

If I were a CIO or head of IT, i know which one i would rather opt for as Option 2 pretty much spells “outsourcing” to me.

The following presentation covers the CIO dilemma well and is worth checking out.