PASC 6: Skills adrift in a shark infested sea.

Filed under: People,Policy,Standards,Strategy — lenand @ 8:44 pm

The sixth of the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) 12 questions, asks:

6. What skills does Government have and what are those it must develop in order to acquire IT capability?

Government does not have clue what IT skills are available from staff in central or local government. There is no coordinated Government asset register for people or information assets. There is no interoperability between human resource systems to enable an easy audit of skills.

Secondly, there is no obligation to use standard definition of skills and career paths. What it must NOT do is try and establish a new bureaucratic skills register. It will fail. It must establish a standard of common information required from every public sector organisation. This will take time. Dr A was once given such a poisoned chalice in a large multi-national company, eight years after the project started. The original concept failed. After a post mortem, the replacement project succeeded.

You can’t control a skills development process until you know the baseline and what end-point you are trying to achieve. Government is fragmented into thousands of independent units. Very few are capable of providing a total service with the latest technology – neither should it. There is a case for a flexible, mobile IT workforce for developing modern systems. Multi-national private sector organisations develop staff in a matrix organisation where development staff have a functional career path, but are assigned to operating units for projects, pay and rations. Promotion and skill development is a joint responsibility between the IT Function and the operating company.

Replace the “IT Function” with a Government CIO role and “operating company” with department, agency and local authority. A policy that only considers the careers of a few ‘fast track’ graduates is not fit for purpose, given the dependence of Government on so many IT staff. Working as an understudy, or a bag carrier, to expensive external consultants does not give the level of responsibility needed.

People are our greatest asset, and public sector IT has completely lost its way. Serendipity, longevity and risk aversion are the hallmarks of many careers. This should be changed to public sector career planning, flexibility and leadership.

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