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Government CTO Liam Maxwell on C-level change

Graham Jarvis | April 29, 2013
The government is scrapping the cross-government CIO role. Since the coalition took office in 2010 there has been a significant level of CIO churn in Whitehall. Liam Maxwell, currently the Government CTO, has risen through the ranks and is considered to be a major reformer. CIO UK met with Maxwell recently to discuss a wide range of issues, including the politics of his role, the Government Digital Service, G-Cloud, SME vendors and -- of course -- cuts.

At Windsor and Maidenhead Maxwell claims the council improved public services and cut taxes by 12%. He describes this achievement as being "the most fun, as we were up for pretty much anything that changed the way we could deliver, and lots of that was based around new technology."

Maxwell's team introduced a scheme that paid residents to get involved in recycling. Most people had thought this was an idea that just wasn't possible. He claims that the initiative saved the council money, improved the council's services and helped local business.

Maxwell says in his council times taught him that you have to collaborate to help people to get to where they need to be.

The fact that he has been so close to the Conservatives implies that his appointment might have been politically motivated, but he scoffs at this suggestion.

"I was appointed Deputy Government CIO through an externally advertised, fair and open competition, and the recruitment exercise was chaired by a Civil Service Commissioner." So as an existing Civil Servant, his appointment as Government CTO is what he calls a "managed move".

Maxwell says his deputy CIO and ICT Futures positions prior to becoming CTO permitted him to "view from the inside how systems work inside government, and the expenditure controls that were brought in by the government in 2010 meant that we could analyse the activity and challenge the way people across the public sector and government were spending their budgets to advise them accordingly."

Alongside his new boss Mike Bracken, the executive director of the Government Digital Service, Maxwell is working on implementing the government's 'digital by default' strategy, which aims to make it easier for IT firms to bid for public sector contracts while also reducing the cost of procuring, managing and implementation.

Forming part of the backbone of the government's IT strategy is cloud computing and G-Cloud II.

"Cloud computing is one of the strategies we've have employed to make government IT more cost-effective and to involve a wider range of suppliers, and we are moving to a cloud-first position.

"The government CloudStore offers a dynamic procurement system that permits companies to sell their technologies."

Part of this strategy involves disaggregating IT expenditure away from large systems integrators.

"We are increasing the business we do with SMEs quarter on quarter, and this is direct expenditure, but there are a number of larger suppliers that have SMEs within their supply chain and so it is more difficult to ascertain the value of business with SMEs by this route." In his view a key outcome of this strategy is more choice and better value for the taxpayer.


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