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Dr Mark Thompson makes an impact on Government IT


Dr Mark ThompsonDr Mark Thompson, University Lecturer in Information Systems at Cambridge Judge Business School, has contributed to a parliamentary report published last week on Government IT.

The report, titled A recipe for rip-offs: time for a new approach: further report, was published on Thursday 26 January 2012 by the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC). It is a follow-up to the Government’s response to an earlier report published in July 2011, where the committee expressed concern about:

  • the Government’s over-reliance on an ‘oligopoly’ of large suppliers
  • the costs and risks arising from skills gaps within Whitehall
  • the problems arising from legacy IT systems
  • weaknesses in the Government’s capacity to plan and drive through wholesale change in the way it uses and exploits IT in delivering public services

In his comments, Dr Thompson highlighted two key criticisms of the Government’s response document. He explained:

The Government is to be commended on its constructive and proactive response to the PASC Report. However, in my response, I identify several areas where more detailed proposals will be required if the Government is to tackle the very significant cultural barriers to change within the public sector. Furthermore, I have suggested ways in which the Government should consider how the various initiatives it has proposed will work together to embed the utility economics of open standards within public service design and delivery, rather than thinking of these as separate workstreams of activity. Open behaviours are primarily about culture change, and this requires a multi-facetted approach.”

Dr Thompson also spoke at the PPM Club – a regular event organised by Gartner that took place at the Institute of Directors in Pall Mall, London on Thursday 26 January.

The aim of the event is to bring together a small group of senior people from within the public sector to discuss a range of issues relating to delivery of programmes and projects (PPM) within public sectors. Dr Thompson’s talk, “Killing off the White Elephants”, took on the thinking behind the work on Open Standards in Government IT and started to apply it to the broader question of redesigning public services themselves. He commented:

The key points from my talk included the idea that the IT arena was a good starting point for looking at the broader implications of open standards on public services themselves. The focus within Government needs to shift from ‘inputs’ to ‘outcomes’ so services are thought of in terms of components, rather than more traditional, vertically organised service towers. I also touched on the notion that if the Government became a ‘component trader’, it would be in a position to generate an Open Services marketplace, where smaller service providers will provide flexible, agile and cheaper public services, based on common platforms.

The thinking behind these proposals challenges traditional integrated ‘closed’ business models, within both private and public sectors and these implications require much greater public engagement and debate than they are currently receiving.”

As well as being a University Lecturer in Information Systems at Cambridge Judge Business School, Dr Thompson is also ICT Futures Advisor to the Cabinet Office and Director at Methods Consulting.