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G-Cloud chief's departure hints at sour grapes in government IT

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Cloud Computing Services - Chris Chant heads up the G-Cloud project

There have been some notable moves in the world of government IT personnel this month, and V3 wonders if it’s alone in spotting a potential link between them.

Last week, Chris Chant, a government IT veteran whose most recent role was to lead the government’s cloud computing project, stepped down from the position with the Home Office CIO set to take over at the end of the month.

The G-Cloud project lets public sector bodies purchase systems from a selection of vetted vendors on a pay-as-you-use basis, and is an attempt to prevent the costly, unwieldy and ultimately unsuccessful IT contracts of the past, which have seen millions of pounds of public funding wasted.

Although it could be argued that the timing of Chant’s departure isn’t such a blow as it comes after the project went live, rather than jeopardising it before launch, G-Cloud could still do with its champion on-board at this early stage to ensure it continues on the right path.

Chant also had plans to open up the CloudStore to third parties to host, plans that may never be followed up now he's gone.

To coincide with the news of his departure, Chant posted a scathing blog post about government’s approach to IT, headlined ‘#Unacceptable IT is pervasive’, listing a series of complaints about the single supplier, out of date technology in use in the public sector.

“CIOs across government, including me in various roles at the centre of government, have been guilty for too long of taking the easy path,” he lamented.

What's interesting to note is that just a week before Chant’s departure from the world of government IT, Liam Maxwell was appointed the new deputy government CIO, reporting into CIO Andy Nelson, who himself only took the position in January.

V3 can't help but wonder whether the timing of Chant’s rant and subsequent departure was purely coincidence, or whether it was in response to others getting the nod for the top spots in government IT.

After all, surely the man who developed and launched the G-Cloud project, which – if it goes as planned – could totally turn government IT on its head and make the public sector a leader in innovative technology use, would be an ideal fit to lead the government’s IT strategy?

Chant certainly didn’t hide his feelings about the lack of suitability of certain government IT chiefs.

“CIOs will need to increase the capability of their teams – and their own capability too – otherwise they will find that they are no longer playing a part in this new approach.  Some CIOs and some teams will not be able to make that transition,” he noted.

“CIOs across government need to recognise what has changed and stop hiding behind the comfort blanket of what has always been done before. That blanket is on fire.”

Chant clearly doesn’t have a high opinion of current public sector CIOs, so he could be frustrated that unqualified people – in his view – are being put in charge and won’t make the necessary changes to improve government IT strategy.

Perhaps his resignation was a drastic way of making the government sit up and take notice of the current poor state of its IT.

Then again, perhaps he just wants to retire to a nice, quiet life by the sea or in the countryside, far away from all the Humphreys and Malcolms in Whitehall.

16 Apr 2012

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