Changing public sector IT suppliers should be more like 'uSwitch for government' says digital COO

By Danny Palmer
14 Jan 2014 View Comments

Public sector organisations should be able to treat IT services like a commodity, switching providers as and when they please.

That's the vision of Tony Singleton, chief operating officer and deputy director operations of Government Digital Service, the Cabinet Office team tasked with transforming IT services and the introduction of G-Cloud within government.

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Singleton made the remarks as part of his opening keynote address at the Government ICT 2014 event, which took place at the QEII Conference Centre in Westminster, London today.

He told the audience that the introduction of digital services is only just the beginning, with the government looking to continually improve what's offered, even when the service is live.

"Once the live service is out there, we're not sitting back on our laurels saying we've done a good job, it's about continually changing, continually improving, continually iterating, so we're delivering services that people want and people use and actually deliver benefits," said Singleton.

The government's digital services chief argued that government departments and agencies should be able to switch IT suppliers as easily as homeowners can switch energy providers with uSwitch, an online service that allows users to compare gas and electricity prices and find the best deal.

"IT is a commodity, and by that I mean it should be as easy to buy and to switch as it is for electricity, gas and so on. In other words, uSwitch for government," Singleton said.

He pointed out that the government needs to take care in selecting the right suppliers for a particular contract, even if that means moving away from a longstanding business partner, because specialist suppliers will have more experience with the issues than the people hiring them.

"It's important that we start selecting suppliers, the right suppliers, not the preferred supplier, and not the solution.

"It's the suppliers who know what it is that should be delivered, we don't need to get involved in it at all," Singleton explained, adding that it's not the supplier or their methods that's the most important factor, it's the end result.

"What really matters is the business outcomes. What really matters is you get the service that you want, that users want and delivers the benefits. It's not spending six months compiling detailed requirements that look very nice," he said.

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