Gartner Advises CIOs About Change In Government

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Gartner analyst John Kost advises public-sector CIOs on how to prepare for changes in government, from being brutally honest in transition reports to establishing credibility by starting small

With a general election in the United Kingdom only months away, analyst house Gartner has advised CIOs of public sector organisations on how best to deal with a change in government, in a briefing in London today.

Speaking to eWEEK Europe, Gartner’s research vice president John Kost explained that the advice was given irrespective of which political party wins the next general election.

“We began doing work in 2006 in places where an election or change of government was a possibility,” Kost said. “The advice is still useful even if the same government or Prime Minister is returned to power, but is designed to help CIO’s of public sector organisations prepare for a new government.” The Gartner briefing in London on Tuesday explores the profound impact elections can have on public sector organisations and on IT projects already underway.

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“There are a number of stages that CIOs need to prepare for,” explained Kost. “It starts with the run up to the election. During this time political candidates often don’t speak about IT per se, but they may cover stuff that requires the use of IT, such as laptops for students etc, which has obvious IT implications.”

However Kost warned that sometimes political candidates may say something that is more obscure in the way it would effect CIOs and IT managers, such as improving the efficiency of the electrical grid, which could actually have a pretty big impact on IT in the future.

“What happens when there is a change in government is that the new government requests the bureaucrats (i.e. the civil service) to prepare transition reports on the current situation and current IT projects,” Kost said. “Often these transition reports are badly done, as the transition teams are often not aware of what questions to ask etc. So we advise any public sector CIO to think carefully about what they are going to say in the transition report.”

“Be honest if, for example, an IT project is crap and should be killed off, or there are problems with particular projects or existing systems. This is your opportunity not to carry on with badly planned projects, or those that are not going to provide value,” he said.

“We see a lot of these transition reports,” said Kost, “and a lot of them are a real waste of paper.”

“Also be very cognisant that the new government may not trust what they are being told, as well as the people telling them this information. Our advice is to start small and prove in a short period of time that you can deliver value, which will help establish your credibly with the new leadership,” said Kost. “And only when you have established your creditability, then you can go for more complex projects.”

Kost admitted that there are two schools of politicians. “One believes that IT is a magic wand that can solve all problems,” said Kost. “However the larger portion of politicians are essentially ignorant about IT, or are scared of it and don’t understand it. These politicians are largely influenced by news of IT failures.”

Kost also said that one of the main problems with dealing with government or public sector IT projects is that governance is often poor. “Many people are afraid to make decisions and sometimes they are not getting enough information to make decisions. Sometimes IT people are not getting enough guidance and are left to make their own decisions,” said Kost. “We need to educate, so that there are enough proactive decision makers. Remember, government people can be very smart, but they often lack IT understanding.”