Lack of budget to hire good IT providers is issue for public sector - IT official

Friday, July 15, 2011

Lack of budget to hire competent IT providers that can adapt to Chile's public sector needs is the main problem when it comes to outsourcing services, the head of the IT department at the economy department, Maria Eugenia Nabalón, told BNamericas.

According to Nabalón, the problem is that the companies which could provide the solutions government needs are not participating in public tenders because the budget is too low.

"The problem here is that the budget we have for projects is in general too low, some companies that I know could be providing the solution, like SAP, are being left out or simply don't participate," she said. "I believe that, when you want something good, you need to make a special effort, in all areas. In this case it's money. Although the public sector has all the intentions for continuous improvement, without more resources it can't be done... They want us to do more, but bureaucracy's still an issue and without the proper technology, this becomes very difficult to achieve."

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Providers for the public sector are currently registered in the online government procurement portal ChileCompra.

Additionally, said Nabalón, most providers do not have a person who is in charge of managing the user requirements and ensure traceability with the work done and the service offered. "Our general experience with providers has not been good," she said, adding that providers are too "self-focused," because they offer a solution coming from their own standpoint.

"What is missing in most providers is an architect, someone who can serve as a link between the company and the client," said Nabalón.

Constant changes in user requirements after the agreement for the development of an IT project, is another area for improvement, she added, as the current way of doing things translates into an extended period of time for rollout and a signficant boost in price.

"This is a problem for both the public and private sectors. Users are always changing their requirements, but here [in the economy department] it's even worse. So when we hire a company to develop some software, for example, the users keep changing, they want modifications, they want to add things, making the project endless. This, in terms of costs, means it gets more and more expensive and the relationship with the provider, worse and worse."

In order to resolve this issue, the department has managed to hire more people to develop most of the projects internally. This, said Nabalón, has made the project more manageable because the insiders know their users' needs and can make the projects more adaptable.

"When we structure a project, we know the users that we're going be working with, so we can adapt internally to their needs. This won't cost us more money, maybe more man hours but this is better than having a contract," said Nabalón.