The new Government ICT strategy has just been published, which I am glad about for two reasons. Firstly, it means people will stop pestering me asking when it’s going to be published, and secondly, it says nice things about the DWP Shared Services, which is something Fujitsu provides.
This is a system whereby the DWP payroll, finance, HR and procurement functions (i.e. the quintessential ‘back office’ functions), provided by Fujitsu, also takes responsibility for providing those functions to the Cabinet Office and the Department for Education. Why have three HR departments when one will work just fine? Nor is it about simply cutting people. The changes mean people are freed up to focus on core activity, i.e. education policy implementation in the case of the DfE.
The DWP had already in fact taken on these functions for Jobcentre Plus, but as this is effectively a subsidiary of the DWP there were fewer obstacles. Not least that DWP could dictate to Jobcentre Plus “this is how we’re going to do it” (although I have no idea if that is what happened). Working with purely ‘external’ customers, has been successful because a lot of work was done to bring everybody involved “on-side”. Shared services simply cannot and does not work if one or more parties do not have their heart in it. Telling a business, department or agency that you can perform something they do better and more cheaply often encounters resistance. The most frequent refrain is that “oh, but you don’t know how we do it here”. The trick is to work with them to work out what they ultimately want from the system, and then to demonstrate that actually the system on offer does meet their needs. This is why the DWP Shared Services have been successful.
The result: lower costs all-round.
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