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Friday, March 25, 2005

Shortage of key IT skills in public sector

Public sector information technology projects and their suppliers are grappling with a shortage of key skills on which their successful delivery depends, Richard Granger, director of the National Health Service's £6.2bn IT programme has warned.
He said the IT industry had lost between 100,000 and 250,000 jobs since 2000 so there was now "real difficulty" in getting core software written and assembling "the high quality teams needed to deliver complex programmes".
Mr Granger told the Healthcare Computing conference in Harrogate that the shortage stemmed from the huge expansion of the business in the late 1990s needed to deal with the millennium bug.
That brought forward the replacement of older IT systems that subsequently produced a slowing in spending compounded when the dotcom bubble burst. The job losses meant "succession planning", in which junior staff moved up to become team leaders and project managers "has fallen apart in our industry and that is causing real problems with major programmes," he said.
The issue had not been helped by the revival in demand for IT projects in the private sector, which had come on top of a big expansion in public sector programmes, he said.
He had discussed the issue with the chief executives of the big NHS suppliers and with the trade association Intellect, adding: "There are massive demands for resources that just aren't in the market. That bodes ill for the medium term."
He said that 10 years ago all the software for big public sector programmes was written in the UK. The NHS project, however, was having to use programmers in the US and in India to develop core software.
And while the staff were high quality, and in the case of India low cost, that still led to difficulties with time zones and different cultures, which mattered when programming for health.


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