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Scottish Government hits digital skills barrier



Audit Scotland report highlights recurring problem in finding and retaining staff for IT projects

The Scottish Government needs a strong injection of digital skills, with a current shortage causing significant problems for IT projects, according to a new report from the country’s auditor.

Audit Scotland’s Managing ICT contracts in central government says the problems in recruiting and retaining skilled staff has made it difficult to manage programmes, especially when they have involved using agile techniques.

A survey of central government departments and agencies showed they often lack capabilities in areas such as business intelligence, data analysis and analytics, information security and contract and supplier management. There are also shortages in software and network development.

The report says that higher pay in the private sector is a significant factor in starving government of the right people. In addition, some bodies have not been assessing the skills they require for programmes at the start of the process.

Slow assessment

Audit Scotland highlighted the problem in a report published in August 2012, but the Scottish Government did not carry out a sector-wide skills assessment until August 2014.

In response, it is now creating a system to pool and share resources in the central Digital Transformation Service, but its details are still being developed and it is too early to assess how effective it will be.

Assurance and oversight arrangements have also fallen short, as the framework lacked clarity and the Information Systems Investment Board (ISIB) has lacked the capacity and information to provide the oversight effectively.

The report acknowledges that a revised framework and governance arrangements were introduced in April, but says these have to be carefully managed and require strong leadership. The Office of the Chief Information Officer will support the ISIB but the split of responsibilities has not yet been finalised.

It adds that there are more positive points, with some government bodies having shown good processes such as identifying benefits at the start of a programme and investing in contract management. But this has not applied all round.

Complex challenge

Caroline Gardner, auditor general for Scotland, said: "The difficulties in managing ICT programmes in both the public and private sector are well documented, and remain a complex challenge for the Scottish Government and central government bodies. While steps have been taken to improve, and overcome obstacles such as the shortage of ICT skills in the public sector, today's report shows that significant progress is still needed.

"Our recommendations reflect the continuing work by the Scottish Government and central government bodies and are intended to help them achieve the full benefits of effective ICT; particularly in this time of reducing budgets and increasing demand for public services."

Image: cable by Adhikarimahesh, Wikimedia, Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)




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