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Category Archives: Consulting

The interesting Gartner Blog Network also addresses Government 2.0 and the challenges the public sector faces to embrace new technology. A few days ago Andrea DiMaio posted an entry called “Vendors and Consultants Should Not Be Driving Government 2.0” a followup on his post from last July Why The IT Industry Could Derail Government 2.0″. Both entries discuss the influence vendors and IT consultants might have on e-Government initiatives and highlights that neither consultants nor vendors should drive Government 2.0. He points out an all time classic principal-agent dilemma. In this case: Do vendors and consultancies want to provide an optimal solution for Government 2.0 projects which might reduce IT spending significantly (e.g. by switching to Linux instead of sticking to Windows)? I differentiate three kind of external IT partners w.r.t. their own economic interests and stress some aspects on side of the public sector.

Vendors, Consultancies & Vendors and Consultancies

In the case of vendors this dilemma is apparent and everyone working for the public sector should be aware of this. Hence ideas coming from vendors should be considered carefully and evaluated against other ideas. In the case of consultancies it should be reasonable to assume that their solutions exhibit a greater degree of independence from proprietary IT solutions than vendors. However, consultancies differ in the degree of freedom from IT-vendors. Why do vendors such as Microsoft differentiate between “Certified Partner” and “Certified Gold Partner”? Assuming no economic interest would be naive. Really complicated the entire issue turns if consultancies are owned by IT vendors like Perot Systems (acquired by Dell). Hence, there are at least three categories of partners which the public sector deals with: 1) independent IT consultancies, 2) IT vendors and 3) IT consultacnies which are owned by IT vendors.

Public Sector

While IT initiatives in the private sector are either aimed to increase revenue or to cut costs the goals for governmental IT initiatives are less tangible. The first question is of political nature: Shall governmental IT strategies ease the bureaucratic burden of citizens or is it to gain more control about citizens? Hence, shall IT serve the citizens or the political system? It’s a question about power. Is this question answered a second one arises: How can one assure that bureaucrats implement a policy if “bureaucrats are people who are, at least, not entirely motivated by the general welfare or the interest of the state” as Niskanen stated? Is it realistic to ask bureaucrats help to make themselves obsolete because IT will take over their job?

While I agree with Andrea DiMaio’s analysis w.r.t. to vendors and consultancies I don’t perceive government and bureaucrats as the perfect decision maker either. This holds true especially in countries where the tradition of  the US “Freedom of Information Act” is missing and even more complicated in countries with a strong federalism like Germany. Hence, politicians, bureaucrats, vendors and consultants should always ask themself the question whether a certain IT project helps to facilitate the open society. If you’re answer is no, please don’t do it!

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