Expensive IT initiatives across local government deliver little in the way of productivity benefits among staff because of a lack of investment in skills and cultural change.
Although new technologies are seen as key to productivity improvements, IT implementations across local government are falling short of expectations because staff do not have the appropriate IT skills to use them and managers are failing to address the change management issues key to successful rollout, a new study warns.
As local government finds itself under increasing pressure to slash overheads amid widespread public sector belt-tightening, a survey by management consultant Knox D'Arcy finds that making better use of existing resources – including IT – could result in massive cost savings without frontline services needing to be cut.
The management consultancy found that more than two thirds of the working day of junior staff in local government was "lost", with local government staff productive on average 32 per cent of the time, compared to 44 per cent in the private sector.
In a 30,000-person county council, bringing local government utilisation rates up to their private sector equivalents could result in the same work being done by 8,000 fewer staff, the consultancy says.
Although Knox D'Arcy blames broader management issues for the productivity failings, including poor supervision and inefficient working practices, it also admits there is a tendency to see IT as a silver bullet to productivity issues but criticises managers for failing to address the human elements of IT implementations.
Paul Weekes, the report's author and principal consultant at Knox D'Arcy, said: “Workplace IT is on a different planet to where it was 20 years ago, yet when you analyse management behaviour, it has not kept pace. You would hope that great availability of data, particularly performance data, would make managers more productive but in fact there is a tendency for them to spend their whole day sifting through emails rather than actively managing their people.
“They need to divorce themselves from the belief that significant improvements cannot be achieved without investing in IT. The focus needs to be on reviewing what people are doing in a timely fashion and personal accountability for staff performance so people know what is expected of them on a day-to-day basis.”