US Government IT procurement under the microscope – read this excellent report

We’ve been very remiss in not featuring up to now a recent report on government IT purchasing by our US colleagues at Public Spend Forum. It’s called “Billions in the Balance” and subtitled “Removing Barriers to Competition & Driving Innovationin the Public-Sector IT Market”.

The report is authored by Raj Sharma, CEO of Censeo Consulting Group and David Wyld, Professor of Management at Southeastern Louisiana University. They’re both deep experts in US public sector procurement and management, and have been involved in various roles and initiatives across government procurement.

For this report, they interviewed around 20 experts, from public sector procurement leaders to academics and supply side folk, did a thorough literature review and obviously brought their own thoughts and ideas to the party. The result is a serious and insightful document, with some clear views on both why things go wrong in IT procurement, and ideas on how they could be put right.

The authors reckon the USA public sector spends over $200 billion a year on IT products and services. Technology also plays a major role in delivery of policy objectives, just as it does in every developed country these days. And that’s a key point to make here – this is not a report only of interest to readers in the US.

The US has had its fair shre of IT disasters too, such as the recent well-publicised failure of the new Obama-care health IT system. The issues covered ring bells for me based on my personal experience of IT projects in the UK public sector, including a few disasters here too,and I am sure procurement people in pretty much every country will be nodding in agreement at much of this. Try this for example, from the executive summary:

“Add to this complex environment a risk-averse and “check the box” culture, we end up with a slow, prescriptive and cumbersome process that is unable to keep up with the fast-changing technology environment, creates barriers to entry for new and existing suppliers alike, and leaves little flexibility for any partner to propose innovative solutions”.

Does that ring true in your country’s public sector?

The findings in the report fall into five areas.

  • No alignment on problem or desired outcomes
  • Weak leadership and governance
  • “Check the box” culture
  • Requirements too prescriptive
  • Slow procurement processes and closed market

All excellent points and we’ll come back and look at these in more detail soon, but in the meantime, you can download the report here (free on registration). It’s thoroughly recommended.

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