Two concepts continue to dominate CIO buzzword bingo: 'SIAM' (service integration and management), and 'towers' (IT service towers that is). Both are seen as essential to re-asserting organisational control over IT, with each 'tower' openly competed and separately procured to bring an end to outsourcing everything to a single systems integrator.

Many public sector organisations are only now categorising their core functional requirements into a series of 'towers'. These typically span the likes of user devices, networks, application services and hosting (from cloud to owned data centre). Each tower will be managed and co-ordinated by the overall SIAM function - which will either be run in-house or will supplement in-house skills with external expertise.

This move to multi-sourcing aims to transition public sector IT away from monolithic solutions and suppliers. The intent is to encourage SME-friendly, outcome-based procurements and ensure that contracts for services such as hosting and end user devices remain open to continuing competition.

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Successful multi-sourcing requires a fundamental re-assessment of user needs and service design, and a good understanding of how best to fulfil them using multi-sourcing arrangements. This involves understanding those needs that can be met by commodity components and services and those specific to a particular organisation such as a tax or welfare system - although even these can largely be broken down into well-configured, interoperable commodity components.

This is why both SIAM and the scope of the towers must be carefully defined. Well-implemented, outcome-based multi-sourcing will enable the public sector to benefit from better, cheaper services; an improved ability to meet changing needs; and an injection of new suppliers. But it will fail dismally if it becomes a cynical or naiive bulk re-packaging of current systems, with contracts awarded to the usual suspects.

Smart public sector organisations are replacing top-down solution-mode thinking with a ground-up focus on user needs and outcomes. The resulting procurements will need to be constructed around modular, granular components and genuinely open competition. But to succeed, the current focus needs to mature rapidly from the one-size-fits-all buzzwords of 'SIAM' and 'towers' to the practical realities of exploiting multi-sourcing and disaggregated requirements to deliver better, more cost-effective services.