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GO Interview – John McClelland CBE

Wednesday June 29th, 2011

The Scottish Government recently released a review of public sector information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure carried out by John F McClelland CBE.

The report recommends a national ICT strategy to address national needs and that each part of the public sector, such as universities or councils, should move to shared procurement and use of ICT.

The public sector in Scotland invested at least £1.4 billion in ICT in 2009, 60 per cent of this being external spending with industry.

GO spoke exclusively to Mr McClelland about the findings from his review and his thoughts on the importance of shared services and turning his recommendations into reality.

How integral a role will shared services play in providing value for money in ICT?

I see ICT not just as another shared services opportunity but in fact more as a key to unlocking the door to shared services in the public sector. Firstly, many organisations point to the absence of common ICT as a huge inhibitor to pursuing shared services in business and admin processes. Secondly, I know from my own experience that common applications are vital in having common processes and through that the sharing of the resources that provide business processes across multiple organisations.

Incidentally in my report I recommend that organisations come together and agree which one has the ‘implementation’ that is closest to optimum, then select that one and adopt it, including its application. My point here is that the public sector doesn’t have the time or resource in today’s constrained economic environment to spend, say, a year or more designing the perfect business process and then another year or so designing an information systems application to support it. My work uncovered enough exemplar activities to suggest that selecting the best single implementation and adopting it for many is a realistic proposition.

What quick wins did the review identify to tackle fundamental issues?

Quick wins would come from establishing an oversight mechanism for each part of the public sector in Scotland and at a national level in order to drive transformation and address the most urgent opportunities highlighted in my report. One of these is to engage more closely with suppliers in the ICT industry both to take advantage of the overall external spend in Scotland of nearly £900 million per annum and to benefit from the industry’s global experience of dealing with ICT transformation. My report also addresses opportunities in the area of broadband where the Scottish public sector spends around £200 million per annum on more than 140 separate broadband contracts across more than 120 data centres. Pursuit of cloud computing offers an opportunity to address this.

I also recommend that the UK Government’s work on a Public Services Network project be taken advantage of, particularly in the area of standards, protocols and interoperability.

Your report states that the ‘public sector is well behind the private sector in the adoption and deployment of ICT’. Why is this?

The public sector in Scotland is behind the private sector in its adoption of ICT for a number of reasons. One of these is the uneven status of adoption. There are many exemplar activities but they are scattered and certainly not prevalent. Also, citizen-facing applications are not advanced enough in offering online access and delivery of services. Furthermore, across the public sector there is a lag generally in adopting new technologies. Finally, the public sector is lagging in the shared development of ICT having 120 separate data centres is evidence of this standalone and self-sufficient approach.

If all these measures are adopted appropriately, how will the ICT sector look in five years’ time?

In five years’ time I would expect the journey towards my report’s vision for ICT in the public sector to be well advanced. The vision highlights the need for total online access for citizens and the very significant use of ICT in the delivery of public services, with all of this being provided at best value from efficient and highly effective shared ICT.


Mr MrClelland has extensive experience across the private and public sectors. He was Vice President of Worldwide Operations for IBM’s personal computer company before joining Digital Equipment Corporation in 1995 where he was a Senior Vice President. He was also Global Chief Industrial Officer and Board Member of Philips Consumer Electronics, and latterly President of 3Com’s business networks company. John is Chair of NQC Ltd and Chair of the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council. He is also a former Chair of the Renfrewshire Enterprise Company. In 2006, John completed a review of public sector procurement in Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Executive. He is currently a Vice President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. In 1994, John was awarded a CBE for his services to industry and education.

Related links

Public sector ICT review published

Analysys Mason welcomes ICT Review

Socitm backs McClelland Review


1 Comment

  1. Richard Daubenmire

    John,got your note. Congratulations on your closing..
    I hope I have found you via this medium.
    My email is: [email protected]
    Write me if you receive this and I will know we have made contact.

Reply to Richard Daubenmire comment