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The UK government wants to reload the Matrix. But is there a glitch?

To borrow a line from the Matrix everyone knows (you know, the Keanu Reeves classic), “choice, the problem is choice.” According to the architects of the shared services cluster strategy for the UK government, this also applies to the civil service and its lack of interoperability. It’s a problem for which the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) thinks it has a solution for, going by the name of the Matrix.

Speaking to a Public Accounts Committee in January this year about the proposed clusters, specifically the Matrix one, Nathan Moores, the shared services strategy director at the Cabinet Office, said that “departments have traditionally had their own view on how they would like to do HR, finance and commercial, so the big step change is to get the departments to work as clusters.”

Moores is going to have his work cut out. Eight central government departments running unconnected ERP, HR and finance systems will hope to be brought under one SaaS roof. These departments range across HM Treasury, the Department for Education, BEIS and more. Half are already using Cloud technology; half aren’t.

As Moores embarks on what is called in the tender “a bundled procurement” for back-office IT services for Matrix, anyone could be forgiven if they are experiencing a moment of déjà vu. Government IT projects have poor form. As a National Audit Office (NAO) report on 25 years of government IT projects revealed a couple of years ago, “there is a gap between what government intends to achieve and what it delivers to citizens and service users, which wastes taxpayers’ money and delays improvements in public services.”


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