Government IT reforms: Why the spectre of failure haunts coalition plans

Can the coalition succeed where others have failed?

Efforts by the coalition to overhaul public sector IT sound laudable and depressingly familiar in equal measure. So, what's to say plans for tech reform will work this time, asks's Nick Heath.

Public service reform is high on the political agenda. A freshly appointed IT tsar is remoulding government tech strategy and IT suppliers are being squeezed. With the public sector's high-tech spend in its crosshairs, government promises that a forthcoming major efficiency review will "represent a radical and fundamental challenge to the way the government does its business".

If you think I'm talking about February 2011, you're wrong. All the facts in the preceding paragraph, including the review cited in the quotation, date from 2004 - a time when Whitehall was celebrating slashing supplier margins and looking forward to a new age of low-cost, shared IT and back-office service delivery.

Jump forward seven years and it's hard to shake off the sense of déj