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back to article Tories pat small biz heads in open source IT procurement pledge

Shadow chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne claimed today that the Conservative party, if elected to form the next government, would meet its "ambition" of ensuring that the next generation of "Googles, Microsofts and Facebooks" were British companies. The Tories pledged in their technology manifesto that they would be the …

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Unhappy

Hmpf

No mention of canning ID cards or reducing unnecessary surveillance?

Nope, sorry, although it's better than current Labour policies, it's no vote-winner for me.

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skunkworks?

In this context I'm guessing it'll be a place that just produces foul smelling vapourware

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WTF?

Management costs?

Does anyone in the tories know anything about IT or IT procurement?

Honestly, it sounds like a sweeping comment from a dedicated labour supporter, but it's not. The fact is that if you take out 10 supplier contracts for 10 parts of a system, you then have to integrate these 10 components successfully, provide a similar GUI or interface of some kind and continually hold meeting after meeting to negotiate among the different suppliers. All of this massively increases costs of delivering a system. Anyone heard of the NHS IT project, the whole reason this has yet to suceed (and the tories want to scrap it completely) is due to complex stakeholder managment of having so many different trusts/groups involved, and it just not working in the end after all of the money and effort.

For an example of how to do IT procurement, rather than this Tory cr@p idea, look up the recent article in Computing Weekly about Aviva's social collaboration roll out. They took 140 days, and rolled out a global deployment to 50,000+ users, with a minimal team from one supplier (happened to be Microsoft) working with an internal team. Came in well under budget, ahead of schedule with extra features delivered, all because management were excluded from the project once they had set the original guidelines. Off went the team, made the system and deployed it. Job done...

This is the future, or could be, however looks like the public sector at least must be resigned to decades more poor IT due to political will interfering where they're not qualified.

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The first Tory mega-IT project to go over-budget and be delayed

The mega-database needed to track every item of local government spending over £500. I wonder if any bright spark has done any rule-of-thumb capacity planning on this? And when it's been up and running for a year, and the visits are well into, ooh, double-digits, who'll get the short straw to stand up in Parliament and announce they're switching it off?

Maybe they can host it on the DOTP infrastructure.

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Happy

smart

Since they're looking to get intelligent ideas, as an alternative to skunkworks, maybe they should consider smartshop.

@AC 14:34: You may not be pro-Tory but do you work for Aviva? I'm not sure I'd agree with you entirely. Successful IT projects are pretty rare. Fragmenting the workload in the way you suggest does create a prohibitive communication overhead, but it needn't be so.

Personally I'd get the in-house smackheads to produce a UI Toolkit (use Qt, say), a communication framework, and some data requirements (filch Google Health API, say) - or just dictate standards. Individual hospitals can then either develop their own software that meets the standards, or software companies could produce their wares speculatively and sell them - in much the same way that the rest of the software industry works. Can I have some consultancy fees, please?

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Joke

Brown

"We at Vulture Towers assume the Tories own take on "skunkworks" has nothing whatsoever to do with this colourful, down-wid-da-kids outfit, even if it does sport head wear once spotted on William Hague's shiny bonce."

The first thing I saw on the page was a "Brown Waterfall Bong" - I wonder if that the kind the prime minister uses in the evenings?

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Black Helicopters

Umm - the Open Source track is at least genuine

The whole "we want anything as long as it's Microsoft" trend started with New Labour coming into power. I'll leave the "buddies" aspect aside for a moment, but focus this time on consultancies.

Consultancies will NOT deliver you Open Source if they can possible help it. OSS has the association with "Open", and some sandal wearing geek might mention that the tax payer's money should be made back available to the public (like they do in Germany and the US). Bye bye lock-in market, because a politician couldn't be seen to waste public funds (well, not publicly, obviously). Cost efficiency is never in a consultancies' interest, also because an unused budget is one that disappears - efficiency is effectively punished.

Before New Labour came in, the core network had just been established and some key services had been built. Unix was very much in favour because it simply ran, and anyone who's ever been near SunOS knows that that meant Open Source because gcc plus libraries was just simpler to manage, and there was also a fair dose of Linux and BSD around. Standards in eGIF were open.

All that disappeared or ended stuck in closets when the government changed, and this change was actively supported by consultancies having a vast investment in MS toolsets. There was no way they would allow clients to go on a track that would require new acquisition of stuff they could not control or recycle ad infinitum whilst charging for "new" every time.

I wonder if that's going to change. Lobbing consultancies out is one thing, but to use contractors you'll need some people who hold it together. They are still there, but the quantity is vastly reduced.

Thankfully, as far as I can tell their quality isn't.

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Big Brother

Government IT bodies

Does the UK Government need another IT body? Doesn' t every arm of government already have at least one? Isn' t there a uniting body in the form of the Government IT Profession?

Wasn' t it always the Tory ethos that Government should govern and that professional people within the commercial sector were inevitably the best people to do the more specialist work? It may seem like we have had a Labour government forever, but the Tories were screwing up Defence procurement and government IT projects long before they arrived. Wasn' t there a time when each Royal Naval vessel had it' s own bespoke IT system? How' s that for an interoperability nightmare? Would I trust Microsoft with a nuclear reactor - NO. Would I trust Linus Torvalds with a nuclear reactor- errr...

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Stop

We can't afford to go on with the current systems

@AC 14:34 - surely the whole problem with the NHS IT project was that it was a massive expensive single IT system imposed on all the trusts, and guess what, they all wanted to do their own thing. If they had been allowed to procure smaller local systems or components of systems, with open interfaces to allow them to talk to each other, we would not have flushed £13bn down the drain on this disastrous project.

Not sure I buy into all the tory policy, but almost every big IT system bought by government for 20+ years (including the previous tory administration) has been an over budget expensive failure, usually with taxpayers ending up paying for the failings of the IT companies. Something has to change, and the government's IT strategy appears to be written by someone who has swallowed a dictionary of buzzwords but just doesn't get the fact that something needs to be done to fix the mess. I'm delighted to see that someone at least has the balls to take on the big IT companies and tell them that their days of ripping off GBP are over - hope the tories do actually carry through on this rather than this being pre-election showboating.

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Pint

Oh yeah... and the VC's are where?

So lets assume that he's right and capping is a good idea... does he have any idea how and where the VC funding is going to come from in the UK to "ensure that the next generation of "Googles, Microsofts and Facebooks" were British companies."

I'm guessing thats a brain half full type of wish...

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