|Title||Realising benefits from UK government ICT projects|
Dr Jonghyuk Cha, a research associate in the University of Manchester, has completed his doctoral research at Alliance Manchester Business School early this year with the supervision of Professors Graham Winch and Mike Newman. The research project titled “Performance of public sector information systems projects: The case of UK central government” aims to contribute to a deeper understanding of why realising benefits from information systems (IS) projects continues to be challenging in the public sector. By exploring the 10-year experience of UK central government IS projects (2004-2013), this research seeks to provide empirical evidence and emphasise the necessity of a public service provider’s distinctive project management and benefits realisation capabilities.
Essentially, the research highlights that there is a capability gap when realising benefits; this causes ambiguity between practical completion (the system works as expected) and the expected business benefits from using the system. One of the contributory factors to this gap is the domination of supplier-focused project management where a temporary project team consisting of technology suppliers and public service providers is set up (see Figure). Supporting evidence for this argument comes from National Audit Office Value-for-Money (NAO VfM) reports. These were a critical source for systematic cross-analysis to access the lessons and insights from the UK government projects. From these reports, 31 IS projects cases were analysed using the content analysis method; it examines valid inferences from textual data to generate an inductive taxonomy of performance drivers.
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The clear conclusion from this data is that the accountability of benefits from the delivery of IS projects is almost entirely on the owner side (i.e. the government public service provider). The results suggest the need for the project owner to ensure that in addition to project front-end capabilities (organisational and strategic aspects), there should also be a focus on project back-end capabilities such as training and knowledge transfer. Having this in place is a necessity to achieve operational benefits from IS.
These research outputs may be used to underpin investment decisions in the development of project capabilities, achieving greater success in the transformation of service delivery in the future. For the next step of this research theme, a further project is under way to update this cross-analysis of NAO VfM reports. It will cover all the IPA transformation projects and programmes (e.g. transport infrastructure, defence, health and welfare) for the period from 2012 to 2016.
A copy of the thesis can be downloaded here: