IBM UK and Ireland exec Dan Bailey has been seconded to the Cabinet Office for a six-month contract as interim chief technology officer. His tasks are to include the creation of a pan-government CTO council for the cloud, raising questions of a conflict of interest.
At the time of publication, Bailey still stated on his LinkedIn profile that he is cloud services leader and CTO at IBM UKI, but The Reg can confirm he was hired last month by former 29-year Big Blue veteran Joanna Davinson, who was herself recruited as exec director for the Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) within the Cabinet Office in February.
A senior source in government IT told us: "Bailey is leading cross-government conversations on future cloud and data strategy with the Functional Leaders Group."
The fellowship of the cloud he is assembling is to be comprised of 40 chief information and chief digital officers, as well as CTOs.
"Bailey is also working closely with McKinsey on [business cases] and spend review bids, with daily stands," our insider added. Additionally, Bailey will be put to work on helping to draft a hybrid cloud strategy.
The new interim CTO has a six-month contract at CDDO, after which he will return to IBM.
“This essentially puts Bailey at the centre of gov technology decision making,” a source added.
Also swelling the ranks at CDDO is Nigel Matthews, brought on this month as interim chief data officer. He remains a director at data consultancy and data management service provider Quaylogic, according to his LinkedIn profile.
A spokesperson for the Cabinet Office told us: “We can confirm that Dan Bailey and Nigel Matthews have been appointed on an interim basis to the Central Digital and Data Office.
"All secondees to the civil service are required to abide by the statutory Civil Service Code which requires objectivity and impartiality at all times.
"For secondees, as for all civil servants, any potential conflicts of interest are thoroughly assessed and steps are taken to manage any potential or perceived conflicts of interest.
"Neither Dan Bailey or Nigel Matthews will be involved in any procurement processes."
The Cabinet Office also confirmed that Bailey will set up a cloud council and help to write the hybrid cloud strategy.
As we revealed last month, management consultancy McKinsey was brought on board in an eight-week contract valued at £3m to "produce compelling business cases for investment" for Government Digital Services (GDS) and CDDO.
Also working in the heart of government tech circles is Paul Wilmott, non-exec chair of the CDDO, himself a founder and partner at McKinsey for almost 23 years until 2019. He was joined in June by Megan Lee, former engagement manager at McKinsey, who was made director of strategy and performance.
"Joanna Davinson as Director General over CDDO with a 28 year background in IBM and Paul Wilmott as a consultancy supremo in an unpaid chair capacity mean the decade long experiment in user centred, agile delivery with long-lived in-house teams is at risk," said one techie in central government.
As multiple sources told us, a shift to large consultancies and away from SMEs and insourcing is apparent in central government. "Cue large Big Bang programme delivery," said one. Another agreed it is a "complete reversal" of the strategies used by former Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude, who wished for gov.UK to migrate away from the "IT oligopoly" (his words) .
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After helping to define the tech strategy, it could appear to onlookers that IBM and McKinsey seemed well-placed to pick up further contracts when more work is dished out.
"Government is now getting the consultancies to write the procurement opportunities - they are writing the prescriptions for the drugs they want us to take," said a source. Another used a different metaphor involving the consultancies writing "recipes for them to then win."
Providing a backdrop to this is a report published in July entitled Organising for Digital Delivery, written by the Digital Economy Council, which highlighted the highs and lows of public sector IT, pointing out areas for improvement. GDS and CDDO are supposed to act on the findings, with some centred on technical debt, skills and weak procurement practices.
There is an apparent schism growing within the Cabinet Office - which our contacts joked related to civil service structures and fiefdoms.
"This has all arisen from the decision to create CDDO as a separate function within Cabinet Office and split out spend control, governance, standards and DDaT capability away from GDS," a source close. "So GDS is left with a clear focus to build common components and platforms for the rest of gov to use, and to run GOV.UK - but has no teeth anymore in how other depts deliver and run services. That's all with CDDO now.
"With the split GDS has single minded focus on building and running things... but can only look on while the rest gov backslides into big consultancy programme hell. Winning the battle but losing the war." ®