Quarkside

04/11/2011

Why is there no British “Google”?

Filed under: Innovation,Policy — lenand @ 10:13 am
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James Clark, an MBA from the Cass Business school, reported his research to the Conservative Technology Forum earlier this week. It was well researched, producing evidence, not just anecdote. First of all he smoked out two red herrings

  1.  British culture is unsuited to entrepreneurs.
  2.  Shortage of money for start-ups.

By looking at a the historical background of start-ups in the USA the was able to identify four drivers that we don’t get right in the UK. Not only that, he gave some recommendations for policy consideration.

  1. Culture:  Some aspects of our culture can act as “inhibitors”.  Policy should focus on enhancing cultural “activators”
  2.  Knowledge and Experience: Not enough of the “right” kind of knowledge.  Policy should utilise local resources (people and industrial) whilst reducing barriers to importing talent
  3. Finance: Financing gaps at crucial growth stages. Policy should target funding gaps and incentivise investment, but not crowd out private activity
  4. Networks: Networks are stratified and information is poorly distributed Policy should target basic levels of information sharing and create “shared spaces” for start-ups.

The probing questions after the presentation were answered with great authority. Quarkside raised the issue of the difficulties of innovative SMEs  getting close to any procurement action in central government. The culture is wrong. But a noble Lord promised to take up the issue at ministerial levels. Let’s see how it progresses.  Maybe Liam Maxwell, supremo for ICT Innovation in the Cabinet Office, can make a difference.

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08/01/2011

PASC 7: Procurement = Parson’s Egg

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

7. How well do current procurement policies and practices work?

The evidence is mixed. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t. Most local authority projects work to budget and many are delivered on time. The headline problem is the failure of big projects. There’s an adequate OGC Gateway process. It just isn’t followed, or improperly understood. If private sector projects are aware of a great risk of failure, they will often cancel projects on behalf of the shareholders.

Good programme management, and all that it entails, is the missing ingredient. The best programmes integrate the work of clients and suppliers in a working partnership. They have common goals and clear leadership. There is clarity of governance and accountability.

Complete outsourcing is a recipe for rip-offs. The client must have matching skills or employ an independent programme management consultant.

05/01/2011

PASC 12: Look at corruption

Filed under: Governance,People,Policy,Politics,Process,Risk — lenand @ 11:07 am
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12 questions have been posed by the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC).  Here is the first, which shall be the last:

No 12.  How well does the UK compare to other countries with regard to government procurement and application of IT systems?

Quarkside believes that the relative performance of government procurement is closely linked to Transparency International’s corruption league table. In 2010 the UK was in 20th position. It would be interesting to compare procurement performance with competitor countries that rank higher, such as Japan, Germany, Scandinavia. The USA is ranked 22nd, but the sampling errors probably make them equivalent.

The UK has a history of failed IT procurements. Most have not exposed their risk registers and provided the transparency that could have prevented the wastage of public resources. For more background see Quarkside’s blog on the “Risk Revolution. Catastrophe Killer.” Questioning people at every level in an organsation about perceived levels of corruption might produce some interesting results.

Countries lower down the corruption table frequently have a cosy relationship between suppliers and politicians. Selection procedures favour the big suppliers, who have to increase costs to pay for lavish levels of hospitality and inflated ‘consideration’ payments. There’s a message about avoiding such behaviour in the UK. It may mean employing people with the appropriate skills directly and not relying entirely on external consultants. Whilst working abroad, I heard a supplier say that he proposed an expensive database management system above a free one “because they can’t mark up free software”. He implied that there is more benefit to public ‘servants’ if contract costs are higher.

Corruption lies in the cultural sub-dimension of ‘People’ in the Quarkside seven dimension information governance model (7DIG).  The acceptance of favours is only part of the problem; it is also the treatment of those who expose potentially corrupt behaviour. Whistleblowers invariably lose out from any attempt to expose questionable practice.

Application of IT systems is the third thing to consider, AFTER confirming the service requirements and establishing the governance. Initial adoption of packages based on other countries systems, laws and culture is doomed to repeat the mistakes of recent procurements. To repeat Quarkside philosophy:

  1. Process: What is needed?
  2. Governance: How is it controlled?
  3. Technology: How is it to be done?

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