‘Don’t be scared to let people use your tech’, government IT teams told

Written by Rebecca Hill on 9 March 2017 in News
News

DfE IT leader Dave Rutt has called on digital teams to let users test their tech – and raised concerns that tax reforms are driving contractors out of the public sector.

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Tech teams sometimes need to relinquish control and give users the chance to play - Photo credit: Pexels

Government digital teams can sometimes be “scared of technology” and not want to open it up for users to try, according to Dave Rutt, the head of project and programme delivery in the IT group at the Department for Education.

Speaking at the Public Sector ICT event on 8 March, Rutt set out the main priorities for government IT.

These included allowing users to test their tools, a general lack of digital skills within Whitehall and concerns that tax reforms would leave the public sector lacking digitally-skilled contractors.


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Rutt said that digital teams should aim to provide a seamless end-to-end experience for users, make sure the technology worked and ensure the platforms are robust and compliant with security.

However, he added that they also needed to recognise that “everybody in the department is part of your digital team”.

He said: “I think there’s a great tendency for us as IT professionals to be slightly scared of tech, and don’t want to open up that functionalist – that’s very frustrating from a user’s point of view.”

Instead, digital teams need to let people use it, and suggested that they engage with key use groups to understand what they needed and see what happened if they were given the “chance to play with it”.

Rutt advised teams to find the busiest people, because they would give you the most honest answers: “Busy people won’t use it if it doesn’t add value.”

He also said digital teams needed to make adopting standard solutions easy, with little administrative effort and low maintenance systems. “Conversely, make adoption of something unusual, not impossible, but certainly more difficult,” he said.

IR35 puts pressure on ‘meagre resources’

Rutt also discussed the widespread concerns that efforts by HMRC to tighten up a piece of tax legislation known as IR35 would have an adverse effect on government digital teams.

The reforms, which come into force next month, will see a clampdown on contractors who are not paying the correct amount of tax, and many IT workers – whose skills can easily transfer to the private sector – have said they will stop working for government rather than risk being deemed "inside" IR35.

“It wouldn’t be a meeting if IR35 wasn’t mentioned,” Rutt said. “The threat of contractors leaving government is putting even more pressure on our fairly meagre internal resources.”

Multiple sources contacted by PublicTechnology have confirmed that this is the case, with some estimating that as many as 90% of contractors are planning to leave by the end of this month.

However, HMRC has strongly denied this effect, saying that it is monitoring the changes “and we have yet to see any cause for concern” or any evidence of “any movement to the private sector”.

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