That’s Some Business Case You Got There, Area 12

Speaking of changes … the Danish central administration is facing some major changes.

Yesterday, Computerworld broke the news (Gigantisk it-revolution pÃ¥ vej i staten): The government will establish two centralised, state-wide administrative service centres, one for IT service, and one for HR, travel admin, financial management, etc. Today, the Minister of Taxation came out and presented the IT service centre plan. Estimated savings: 425 million DKK annually, a lot of money compared to the US. Significant staff reductions are planned: In IT, from current 1.576 FTE to 1.132 over three years. The IT-consolidation will reduce today’s 4.000 servers to around 700.

On Tuesday, the Minister of Finance presented the central government budget proposal for 2008, which enforces a 1% spending freeze. Hmm, guess they’ve read Kotter’s eight steps to change management, where step one is to create a sense of urgency for changes.

Michael Karvø and other experts applauds the plan. And so do I. But just as Kim Viborg Andersen, professor at Copenhagen Business School, I do also see some if not many pitfalls and significant risk elements. The central government administration is a darn complex beast, and only rarely acts as one enterprise. On the other hand, over the past several years there has been many attempts at enterprise solutions at the state-wide level, especially with administrative services, so in some areas, these changes are just “natural” next steps towards “the state as an enterprise”.

Been there, done that? Dorte Toft reminds us that it is barely a decade ago since the Danish state had its own, central IT-service centre, the Datacentralen, which was then sold out to CSC. Whether the new plan is in fact a revival of Datacentralen – Datacentralen 2.0? – is quite unclear to me. From what I can read (also I haven’t seen the actual proposal/report) the plan will not necessarily mean more insoucing and “home taking” of tasks and operations. It’s more about re-souring, if you want – moving tasks and operations from individual ministries and agencies to the new service centre.

IMO, it’s a good strategy to go with Area 12 in this process of enterprising the state. “Area 12” is the call name for the service area called “Administration and Management” in the Government Business Reference Model, FORM, which the Ministry of Finance released late last year. FORM must now be seen as a very essential tool in the implementation of the plan, and I really hope the decision makers will understand that. Basically, they need to understand what is administrative IT and what’s not, and that is exactly what FORM can help with.

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