Headstart: E-business – Putting the basics first.

The drive to put government services online by 2005 is under threat because of the inability of departments to put innovative internet ideas into practice.

A new study by Forrester Research claims the malaise cuts across all departments and could end up costing the UK billions which the government had hoped to make in efficiency savings by putting services onto the internet.

Analysts at Forrester also questioned whether there was a need to put services online by 2005.

It claimed that the government should get basics right in putting services onto the net rather than meeting a self-imposed deadline.

Forrester studied work within 14 departments and it concluded that all 14 lacked the knowledge to establish innovative services.

‘All government departments suffer from gaps in knowledge and understanding and the ability to implement innovative services is holding the government back,’ said Caroline Sceats, an analyst with Forrester.

The research group graded the 14 departments on their attempts to put government services on the net.

The Office for National Statistics, Customs & Excise and Social Security all fared worst getting an ‘E’ grade for their efforts. Top of the class were the Departments for Education and Employment, Environment, Transport and the Regions, Culture, Media and Sport, and the Inland Revenue who all received a ‘C’ grade.

Embarrassingly for the government, the office of the e-envoy only received a ‘D’ as did its host department the Cabinet Office.

Forrester gave its grades for a department’s long-term vision, how they would make that vision work and what kind of help they could receive from commercial partners.

It claimed that part of the reason for the low marks was that change had to be embraced by the civil service that was more used to tradition than reform.

Sceats said the biggest problem was engaging the private sector in delivering reform.

She called on the government to change the way it issues tenders for businesses, finds suppliers and manages projects.

Some projects still worked to 18-month buying cycles are many times longer than those in the electronic industry were used to.

New e-envoy Andrew Pinder though, dismissed the findings.

He said that he found nothing worrying or new from Forrester’s findings and claimed the government was on course to meet its target of putting services online by 2005.

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