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back to article UK.gov to drive stake through heart of big IT outsourcing deals

A wave of huge government IT outsourcing contracts finishing this year won’t be renewed as No.10 snatches back control of Whitehall technology from tech firms. Civil servants will now be expected to take greater responsibility for their departments’ systems and policy, and only engage with suppliers through G-Cloud. Ahead of …

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Location

So instead of company being brought into look after system x and all associated software and hardware, the kit is re-purchased at a datacentre by a single entity, who spins up some VMware and Self-Service and now some company is being brought into look after the system and associated software and hardware at the datacentre instead...

Where's the cost saving?

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FAIL

Re: Location

"The OFT is examining whether competition is working, whether small suppliers are being excluded and whether big vendors are making interoperability difficult"

Yeah I can see that moving everything into a G-Cloud ie. a gov. secure multi-million pound data centre (dont forget the standby data centre) thats right up the street of the small IT provider...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Location

The saving comes from the "new company" are probably government employees and are not interested in making a profit....

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So will they actually appoint properly skilled "CIOs" this time or will they fall back to the time honoured practice of deciding specialists are too narrowly focussed and so need professional "managers" who've had a "more rounded" education and probably have a degree in arts and history some somewhere jolly posh?

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Anonymous Coward

I can answer that.

They will be the ex head of some big four, who has never written a line of code in his life, or it will be some female professional manager, who has never written a line of code in his life, or it will be someone from the Guardian, who has ....

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It may not be perfect , but anyone who decides that design decsions should be taken in house and not to outsource all technical knowledge to suppliers is on the right track.

They need this sort of thinking in the MOD as well, becuase BAE is being allowed to shag them roughtly from behind!

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Snoop proofing the snoopers

Presumably being at or near the top of the world snooping league HMGov wants to take care of their own data and keep these terrible international data snoopers out of their own precious data.

I just hope they make a real effort to get the right people in to do the job and to pay a decent rate for it rather than getting the sort of 'scientist' that DEFRA has often had who often have been good enough to recognise a cow as much as 3 times out of 5!

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Re: Snoop proofing the snoopers

And that depends on how big or far-away the cow is.

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Pint

Re: Snoop proofing the snoopers

A local farmer has taken to keeping a horse (or an incredibly ugly cow...) with one of his herds. This has to be doing DEFRA's heads in even from close up! Perhaps they can adapt the techniques from this to suit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Monty_Python's_Flying_Circus_episodes#3._How_to_Recognise_Different_Types_of_Trees_From_Quite_a_Long_Way_Away

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Dear Gov Depts -

Having encouraged you to outsource and sack your IT departments, we are now encouraging you to insource them again. To make this process easier, we have gutted the Civil Service pension and frozen wages to ensure you can offer a less attractive deal than the private sector. Of course we will continue to let Ministers creep the scope of every project so that they are impossible to implement. When you inevitably fail miserably, we will use that as justification to privatise your department.

Signed - The Resident Geniuses at the Cabinet Office

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WTF?

Re: Dear Gov Depts -

The thing that amazes me is that here we are with a conservative government and they are re-nationalising the country's government IT services. Did I wake up in a parallel universe?

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How is spending £81,000 on "Business Strategy and Analysis for Cloud" actually going to achieve this? They appear to have outsourced the insourcing?

http://gcloud.civilservice.gov.uk/about/sales-information/

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Down the rabbit hole.....or IT in wonderland (UK Government)

As a previous contracted IT worker to the government, who was subsequently head hunted by the Home Office, I would share these thoughts.

1. There is almost no-one in government who has the slightest knowledge of IT or how it works.

2. Promotion is not based on merit but length of service.

3. Budgets are handed out to people who do not know the value of money.

4. There are a few (and you all know who they are) IT companies, who take advantage of the above and seek to actively discredit anyone who points out their inadequacies.

5. Prime example, the local Department "board" will appoint anyone who has owned a pc and is a civil servant as "Head of IT or IT Manager" because he/she is one of "them", then hire a contractor who actually knows something about IT to sort out the mess so the "manager" can take the credit.

Been there, done that. You would need to appoint an IT Czar who could fire civil servants to get anything working, I for one would not want to know at any price.

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Re: Down the rabbit hole.....or IT in wonderland (UK Government)

There are good IT departments and people in UK Government - I know that for a fact. The Home Office is not representative - in fact it's a centre of excellence for generally being crap at everything

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Big Brother

Re: Down the rabbit hole.....or IT in wonderland (UK Government)

"There are good IT departments and people in UK Government - I know that for a fact. The Home Office is not representative - in fact it's a centre of excellence for generally being crap at everything"

There spy-on-everyone-all-the-time-forever plans (the National ID register and Snoopers Charter) make much more sense now.

Still mad, disproportionate and grossly undemocratic of course.

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WTF?

Re: Down the rabbit hole.....or IT in wonderland (UK Government)

1. Absolute Rubbish, it's just the limited places you have worked (we call them office farms)has not exposed you to the talent.

2. Unbelieveable Rubbish. In the UKAF yes, but there is a reson for that, in Civil Service (MOD especially) promotion is based on merit only and certainly NOT age. In fact I might even send you the PRG on that.

3. Budgets are handed out to 4STAR/3STAR who then allocate it as any executive board. Do you think your director knows what a vga lead is? Why would the MOD be any different.

4. Yes, there are and I am one such person who (soft charge) buys 1 meter ST-ST patch leads for £15 quid and grinds my teeth. Don't you understand this is how PPP works. I'd name them but for losing myjob. You won't name them because that would be like killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

5. Laughable. Maybe 20 years ago but not now.

As for your final point, we don't want you, stay away, your limited knowledge would cause much more harm than good.

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Re: Down the rabbit hole.....or IT in wonderland (UK Government)

Being a civil servant who has worked with IT contractors in the setup of a new government department I would share these thoughts

1) All The IT staff I worked with were SAP qualified, had IT degrees before applying for their posts, had previous experience in web design and or technical support. The managers had IT experience from the private sector before joining the civil service.

2) Length of service has no bearing on a promotion. All promotions within the civil service must be through "open and fair competition" which includes a blind sift of applications via the recruitment department then an interview that must include someone impartial from HR or the recruitment team. Staff can also not be "appointed", any new post or promotion now has to be authorised by the Secretary of State before the position can be made available.

3) All contract managers must have experience in handling contracts before getting their position but they all have to comply with EU guidelines which have a 70% weighting towards cost when choosing the preferred vendor so as to promote "competition".

Now here's my experience of IT contractors;

1) They were hired mercenaries who didn't care about the projects they were working on, most moved on to other projects before finishing their existing work or would go on holiday during testing.

2) They wanted to provide a pre-packaged solution wherever possible instead of working with the clients to create a package that met the design briefs.

3) They provided products designed to fail. As of "Go Live" not all systems were functioning properly and the contractor wanted additional money to fix these problems.

4) They don't supply what they've been contracted to supply. I worked with a sub-contractor the main contractor paid over £1,000,000 for to setup another contract for our scanning solution. Based on the contractor and sub-contractor's recommendation their preferred vendor was selected and up until the contract expired we weren't provided with half the functionality that was agreed and the other half was so buggy the system barely functioned and one of our IT staff had to learn how the system was designed because to fix the system they had to keep sending someone based in Brazil which would take over a month to arrange..

5) Blacklisting the contractor is pointless because in our situation the contract was given to a smaller contractor beating out the bigger contractors. That small contractor was bough out by one of the big five, dissolved and the contract kept by the big contractor and causing all the issues above.

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Anonymous Coward

Maxwells silver hammer

As someone familiar with the RPA, I would strongly suggest Maxwell checks again as to why the cost of transaction is so high, it won't be because against the advice of the IT suppliers, the civil servants, DEFRA itself and the EU that a certain caravan loving member of the Labour Party introduced the most complex, most difficult, most insane method of calculating benefits seen this side of Universal Credit.

Not one person on the supply side wanted this stupidity, the client side 'leadership' were terrified that a farmer might, just might, make an unexpected profit out of this, so they introduced the most awkward system they could to thwart them.

And on another note, if Maxwell knows a large scale cloud provider based in the UK that can run at IL5 can he please let the rest of us know, otherwise we might think he's talking bollocks yet again.

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Joke

Re: Maxwells silver hammer

>a large scale cloud provider based in the UK that can run at IL5

FCO Services or the Cabinet Office?

Or do you want to run at IL5 without direct government supervison ... :)

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Facepalm

Go Team "Oligopoly" ;-)

Faults:

So, it's all the fault of the nasty, wicked oligarchic IT 'cabals' is it? Nothing to do with over a decade of Gov decisions to push the work to outsourcers in the mad belief that it was a cost saving?

Costs:

Current costs to deliver are sooo expensive then? I suppose that has nothing to do with outrageously complex RFP/ITT processes (which incidentally help mid/senior civil servants increase the size of their fiefdom as they request more & more staff to cope with the Bid Process). The current system requires massively complex business processes to be delivered with almost zero tolerance service downt-time and active failover systems that cost a fortune. Having led dozens of Bids as a paid-up "oligarch" I've lost count of the number of times I've had offers to reduce cost by reducing complexity rebuffed by Civil Servants.

GCloud:

So, a system that currently delivers on 1.5% of Gov IT Budget, after 3 years of pain and the combined "oligarchs" having spent twice as much in responding to requests than the Gov has put in contracts; will deliver a 48.5% uplift in its share of Gov Business in 2 years?

I may stop laughing by Friday....

...doubt it though

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Go Team "Oligopoly" ;-)

Gosh, I read this and thought I'd written it :)

We've suggested time and time again ways to reduce costs, but as you say, they are never taken up. One set of big costs are the SLA's, (requests/demands for 99.999% isn't that unusual, 99.99% is a little easier), us suggesting 99.5% is wholly unacceptable. When we point out that this will add a massive amount to the costs, we just get a blank look and a re-statement of the demands.

Also the penalties associated with SLA's are onerous. As I don't wish to be identified (NSA excluded), on my project, a days outage on my project will pay for a very expensive Italian sports car with a new German sports car (tubo'ed) thrown in as well for good measure. So we have to price that in as risk.

if the govt would listen to what their IT suppliers actually told them, we could cut costs and maintain a sensible profit margin, because at the end of the day I'm beholden to my shareholders. If we make a sensible profit, we're OK, we won't make super profits as we have open book accounting, but we have to make some profit. I would have thought a Conservative govt might have realised that but then again, associating any intelligence to a politician more interested in his media profile than doing actual work was my own stupidity.

It's my sodding taxes they're spending. I look forward to the day I can sit down with the govt client and have a sensible conversation, rather than having to smile as civil servants take their one chance of giving us a kicking. They seem to forget that the more onerous the requirements, the more we have to charge.

One day, somebody with a brain will look at how the govt works with suppliers but until that time, we'll keep calm and soldier on.

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Re: Go Team "Oligopoly" ;-)

Argh, the "5 9's" debate; you are ringing many bells with that one. On one occasion I found myself in a "full & frank" conversation with a large-Departmental CTO. He wanted us to underwrite 99.999 for a piece of software. When I mentioned the software company would only guarantee 99.5 his answer was "I don't care" - we charged a huge premium for the extra few .49 - madness.

Our Tax money at work <grrr>

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FAIL

£4m -> £45k. Impressive. Now let's see that with a *big* system.

I'm talking £100m minimum

Or one of those bespoke MoD contraptions because (as you know) no one anywhere does anything like what the MoD does. IE develop, store and move staff and equipment around the world.

"Stake through the heart of outsourcing"

More like a piece of wet celery.

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Childcatcher

Re: £4m -> £45k. Impressive. Now let's see that with a *big* system.

>I'm talking £100m minimum

But what if the problem not the op/capex cost for things which are used, but rather, wastage?

Surely the point of the cloud is to do all your pre-prod work with on-demand and then scale out at capacity testing / staging time. Could it be that lots of kit ends up under-used / never used. In my experience, not knowing what you are doing leads to massive over spec'ing, so maybe pooling resources for all .gov.uk projects until they are almost prod-ready does lead to savings.

Certainly you have to plan for scaling, but maybe many projects are killed before birth and the savings come from never buying the pram and the car seat.

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Control is good, architecture questionable...

Grabbing back control is an important first step to dealing with the blatant corruption and lobbied interests that have been running the show for too long. However, until such time as someone is empowered to put the citizen at the centre of the architectural model, we are throwing good money after bad.

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Anonymous Coward

About time

Its great to see the government taking responsibility for its brain at last.

Hopefully this will herald a new generation of IT-literate managers who see new tech as an opportunity rather than an unfortunate cost threatening their cozy lifestyle - no longer opting to absolve themselves of all responsibility by outsourcing their brain to a third party.

The amount of money the uk economy has leaked in recent decades to foreign IT outsourcing firms is obscene!

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