Anthony Douglas tells conference that the agency needed long term support from a major company to achieve its transformation
The chief executive of a government agency has supported the case for a systems integrator in partnering on a long term IT transformation.
Anthony Douglas (pictured) of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), was sharing a platform with Steven Cox of Fujitsu at the Central Government Business and Technology Conference, staged by Whitehall Media.
His position runs counter to the government’s general emphasis, promoted by the Government Digital Service and Crown Commercial Service, on reducing the role of systems integrators in favour of more short term buying and business with SMEs.
Fujitsu has been the contracted technology partner for Cafcass for eight years, during which time it has implemented a number of changes such as the provision of video conferencing technology on employees’ laptops, the provision of a 4G capability and the conversion of 2.5 million documents to digital images.
Douglas said it has also helped the agency in achieving improvements in its overall performance. He cited the example of Ofsted inspections, which it used to fail but from which it has more recently been rated as outstanding.
“IT has to be very customised to what we are doing,” he said. “My anxiety about the rotation of contracts is the time it would take for any new organisation to get up to speed with us.
“There’s also a danger of mistaking short termism for innovation. It’s similar to what happens on boards with non-executive directors, who tend to be rotated every three years; they go as soon as they come up to speed.
“We’re in danger of creating an attitude in the public sector that does not truly understand the relationship between longevity and performance.”
He also said that the contract has provided the scope to obtain equipment and services from other suppliers, and that he has not been concerned about breaking it up into smaller units – one of the core elements of the government’s IT strategy –as the potential benefits are outweighed by the breadth of the deal and long term relationship.
“When you work with vulnerable children and adults it needs 10-15 years of investment to develop the bespoke technology,” he said. “And the supplier needs the margins to justify that investment.”
Cafcass’s ongoing work with Fujitsu includes the development of a mobile app to enable users to view the progress of a case.