Richard Clarke (UK) - Government IT: Waste Not, Want Not

The public sector is not spoilt for choice when it comes to IT options. With a focus on energy saving, Richard Clarke, head of public sector at 1E, argues that with savings, comes the possibility of ameliorating the standards of public sector IT infrastructure.

A simple focus on IT efficiency could significantly help public sector organisations address the challenge of working to reduced budgets, as organisations including Newham University Hospital, Peterborough City Council and Princess Alexandra Hospital have found.

True, public sector IT has not always been seen to be as efficient or delivered as much value for money as it could have. Before throwing more money at the problem, or adopting a rip and replace strategy, public sector organisations should squeeze every drop of use out of the IT investments that they have already committed to. How can they identify unused IT, remove it and then optimise what is remaining?

The drive to introduce the latest technology has created endemic waste in IT environments today. Globally, organisations will spend over $8 trillion on IT (both new products and ongoing maintenance) in the next 5 years , according to IDC's 2011 predictions, and of this sum, over £16bn a year is spent on IT across the UK public sector. Austerity measures make investing in new products and services more difficult than before, but where certain upgrades are necessary (Windows 7 for example), government CIOs must ensure that they are implementing and using these assets efficiently.

Before investing, however, organisations need to evaluate what IT they have and determine what is actually providing tangible benefit or even being used at all. An efficiency audit of existing infrastructure to determine what is actually delivering value, or simply what is being used, is the first step. For an organisation to achieve this, five primary questions must be addressed:

1.) What is being used? This question strikes fear into the heart of many IT professionals. Whether asked about software, PCs or servers, many IT professionals don't know how to accurately find the answer. This leads to IT waste - costly and avoidable.

2.) When is it being used? Technology is not always a 24/7 need. For example, a staggering 52% of PCs are left on unnecessarily within the public sector. Ensuring these PCs are turned off can deliver rapid and quantifiable savings.

3.) Is it generating business value? Finding the servers that are actually supporting current business needs can be a challenge if organisations are relying simply on utilisation measures as useless servers can often look ‘busy.'

4.) Can it be centralised? The push to create a more centralised IT infrastructure can create major money-saving efficiencies, reducing the number of servers and better using network bandwidth and availability.

5.) Can it be automated? Reallocating the mundane, repetitive and often downright boring IT tasks to computers lets IT teams focus on more strategic initiatives. It also avoids procedure deviations and dramatically speeds up processes.

Take the forthcoming migration to Windows 7. With less than 1000 days to go until the switch, necessary due to Windows XP support ending in 2014, simple automation can reduce the complexity of this task and deliver significant efficiency savings for the public sector. Imagine a cure for two of the major headaches in a Windows 7 migration project - finding the best time to upgrade a user's PC and ensuring that they retain their full suite of software. An automated solution can deliver this - allowing the IT department to focus on delivering business value while keeping users happy. Self-service automation of the request, approval and delivery process can also deliver average cost savings of £24 per request.

This is also a great example of the importance of maximising the investment in existing hardware and sweating every asset. Although it may seem less challenging to simply call a vendor and ask for new laptops with Windows 7, if the existing hardware is already compatible then the efficient solution is to automate that migration yourself.

It's no secret that public sector IT could use a reputation facelift, but by applying simple efficiency measures, IT managers can also deliver real benefits to their organisations. By looking back and ensuring that every investment is really working for the organisation, public sector IT executives can make savings in both time and money.

Efficiency in practise

One organisation that is taking real steps to improve energy efficiency quickly is Newham University Hospital NHS Trust. Recognised for its approach to embracing the sustainability and carbon reduction agenda, the NHS Trust was recently named ‘greenest hospital' at the Healthcare, Excellence and Leadership (HEAL) 2010 awards and shortlisted for public sector green IT project of the year at the green IT awards 2011. 1E has been helping them drive their advanced PC power management project to enable projected C02 emission reductions by 143 metric tonnes and 264,552 KWh of electricity per year. The Trust stands to make cash savings of over £18,500 per year, year-on -year as a result.

Similarly, a major concern for Princess Alexandra Hospital was the constant battle with ensuring that PCs were switched off at night. You can watch this video to hear how Bill Dickson explains how the NHS Trust's deployment of advanced PC power management was simple yet effective, leading to a repeatable, annual saving of £27,000 and a reduction in CO2 footprint of 420 tonnes.

(1) Source: $8 trillion figure over five years is based on IDC's prediction that worldwide IT spending will reach $1.6 trillion per year (IDC predictions 2011, Welcome to the New Mainstream, Frank Gens, Senior Vice President and Chief Analyst)
(2)Source: Intellect UK
(3)Source: ICT Power Management Project Case Study


By Richard Clarke, head of public sector at 1E