So cost-cutting is the order of the day in the UK public sector, and IT departments are no exception. We are expected to do more with less; to reduce our operational costs; to cut back on what we do. Fair enough.

Some of the traditional ways IT departments can do this are well-documented and rehearsed. Virtualisation of servers (and increasing, desktops), rationalisation of the applications portfolio,  automation (where possible, and if not, then downgrading) of support functions, and cutting back on what projects get done. All these things can reduce the costs of the IT department and from where I sit they appear to be being pursued vigorously.

Since IT is a support function, however, I have to ask what the impact of this cost-cutting is on our client services. If we reduce the application portfolio and force our Community Services department to use the same time-recording system as our Highways department, what does that do for them?

I see this as an issue of demand and supply-side behaviours. Cutting operational costs in a support function is a supply-side strategy. Enabling the client to cut costs, however, is a demand-side strategy – and while it might take actual IT investment to do it, the spend by these departments is so much higher than the overall IT spend in my organisation that we have the potential to realise much bigger cost savings.

Perhaps that “duplicate” time-recording system has a tiny feature that is allowing our client service to streamline the way they work and making savings of several time-recording systems every year? We’ll never know unless we properly understand the value that the IT infrastructure provides to the business.