Profile: Steve Lamey, the man uniting HM Customs and Revenue's IT systems.
...But Steve Lamey, chief information officer at the combined Inland Revenue and Customs & Excise department, is sticking to the excuses. 'We don't expect [computer server] chillers to break and bring down networks,' he says. 'But we're looking to get those things right and I already know that we'll be better next time.
People want our systems to be more available and robust - they don't want a repeat of 31 January.'
As for 'unexploded bombs', they're Lamey's euphemism for computer bugs, hidden deep within the systems, that unless uncovered could cause them to fail.Lamey
has good reason to be bullish about the future robustness of the combined department's IT set-up, given that he's
the man with the onerous task of bringing its systems into the 21st century.
The former IT head of BG Group
stepped into the hot seat last October, taking up the reins of what is arguably the most ambitious IT project ever faced by central government.His
task is to ensure that Revenue
and Customs (between them employing 98,500 staff) have a fully integrated IT system within the next three years, which provides value to its 'customers' - essentially every man, woman, child and business in the UK.
'It's one of my more interesting challenges,' Lamey
says in his
typically understated manner.His
first, and easiest, job was to change the IT department's name to 'information management solutions', a moniker he
believes is symbolic of its new strategy and culture.
But rather than simply upgrading the back office functions, any changes he
makes will have a direct impact on the way Revenue and Customs deals with its customers or 'clients'.
For the time being, Lamey
is going through a process of due diligence as the IT currently in place across the departments undergoes a series of health checks, 'to give us an objective view of where we are' ? a process that still has months to run.
These health checks focus on what Lamey
describes as 'non-sexy, IT stuff' - and the results have already thrown up some interesting problems including 'environment inheritance' issues like crumbling bricks and mortar and the housing around vital servers.
'Most of the outages we've suffered have been things like chillers breaking down in our data centres or power supplies being cut off, and not necessarily because the systems have been falling apart - although we've had enough challenges with those anyway.'Lamey's team are working closely with consultants Capgemini and Fujitsu, incumbent IT suppliers for the Revenue and Customs, to integrate the systems (see box, top right).But as the recipients of billions of pounds of taxpayers' money, Lamey is under no illusions as to the level of service demanded of his suppliers - and his own team - if they're to avoid the glare of the National Audit Office or Public Accounts Committee in the future.
is more than aware of the challenges ahead and fully expects to be judged before the department's three-year plan to transform and integrate IT is completed. 'I'm expected to have stabilised systems within 12 months, so perhaps I can be blamed for problems from six months' time,' he
Project governance and integration of the contracts are key.But he
also believes that fundamental changes to the way accountants, finance directors and the general public use IT systems to deal with the combined department are just as important.Lamey
is confident that in addition to cost savings for business, his
IT plans will result in more accessible processes ? from online filing to submitting VAT returns.
says that Revenue
and Customs is 'sensitive' to the enormous powers of the combined organisation, 'but that's the whole point of bringing the two together ? to make it a much more efficient and effective government department'.
So is Lamey
the right person to take on a job of such scale, breadth and complexity?He
, for one, believes his
private sector experience of huge change management projects will stand him in good stead for his
latest challenge.Lamey spent 22 years at gas giant BOC, including the last two as director of global information and management user services, before joining British Gas in 2000 as CIO and vice-president of information management.
It was during his
time at BG that Lamey
led a global roll-out of SAP
, integrating the company's global IT function and slashing the group's IT suppliers from 190 to 80.
can instil a private sector, customer-facing culture into the Revenue
and Customs, then his
efforts must surely be viewed as a success.
When three became oneWhen Steve Lamey
stepped into the Revenue
and Customs CIO hot seat in October, he
assumed far more than a new job title - he
also took on one on the biggest IT challenges around.
is 'very confident' about the efforts to make the Revenue's
systems more resilient, he
says he'll be in a better position to comment in six months' time.But all the signs are good.Capgemini's work has been of a high quality. 'January and February were the two highest service-level agreement scores we've ever had on our Revenue contract,' he