Automating, 1980s: Arthur Andersen and the Operational Strategy
This chapter concerns itself with the divergence of many accounting firms into consultancy services (giving rise to the “accountancy generation”). The chapter explores how the consultancy industry began to change in nature with greater numbers of firms offering long-term IT support to state departments seeking public sector efficiencies, as the “data processing generation” of consultancies entered the state market in the 1970s and 1980s. The second case study of this book rests here, covering Arthur Andersen’s work on the “Operational Strategy.” Here, the American firm’s work supporting the Department of Health and Social Security’s computerisation of social security benefits throughout the 1980s is addressed. The case study highlights how influential the historically under-researched cadre of executive and clerical civil servants were in driving the Operational Strategy. Particular attention is placed on the political rationale for the Operational Strategy, and how the automation of the machinery of government was used to quell public unrest.