Selected thoughts from the CIO of Her Majesty, John Suffolk


The third day at WCC2010 started by a keynote of John Suffolk, CIO for Her Majesty’s Government. He presented some thoughts on shifting the paradigm for Government ICT. Here are some interesting tid bits from his talk:

What are you paying for your desktop at home per year? The number that spring to mind is probably far removed from the 2300 sterling it costed the British government.  This has apparently been brought down to GBP 1660 per PC… still a bit on the high side.  Fair enough there are some costs which the home user do not have to foot to the same extent as a business/government… but still….

How many data centers does the British government need? Well they are on 8000 Tier 1 server rooms and 220 higher tiered ones… Why? More important, why so many, and what is the cost?  According to Suffolk a number of 8 – 12 would be more acceptable. Hard to disagree…

What are governments paying for? Do you pay for the design of say a PC replacement program every time?  Why? Surely the vendor contractor has done it before… why pay if there is no learning required?

Long-winded processes must be recouped in bidding costs! Why do we need 70+ days for a bid, the Suppliers must factor those costs into their eventual price… they aren’t a charity after all!  Non-streamlined processes may costs governments tremendous amounts in bidding costs.

So how should governments decide whether they must do-it-yourself, or rather find another way? Suffolk thinks along two dimensions: the uniqueness of the solution, and the size/scale if the capability.  While the high-low and low-high combinations might need some thinking, two options are quite clear… If both are on the high side, i.e. the solution under consideration is unique, and the capability in government is high, simple KEEP it in government.  If both are low, i.e. the solution is not unique, and the size is small, move it to common infrastructure.

Suffolk asserts that one can change the world dramatically when you are not dependent on a specific technology stack.  That is exactly what the British government is doing with their G-Cloud (Government Cloud). The G-Cloud takes the emphasis away from the technology to the business of government… and is that not the way it is supposed to be?

All-in-all, a very enlightening talk by John Suffolk, a CIO clearly tuned into the needs of his industry, i.e. government.

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