back to article Cabinet Office claims major savings on ICT

The Cabinet Office has said that freezes on ICT and other spending have saved £500m since May. The department said it saved altogether £1bn through "efficiency and reform measures", with half the sum saved through moratoria on ICT, consulting, recruitment, marketing and property spending. In the 12 months from May 2010 it …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Same old same old...

    £500M is like a tip to those suppliers.

    What the gov should do is spend that £500M on learning how to stop signing up for ridiculous over-priced, over-constrained and overly-large IT contracts. Start by dealing with smaller companies where they have some respect for their customers -- the big boys would wipe their todger on your curtains after giving you one.

    It's the same old same old. The gov's commercial people haven't got a hope against the big boy's top-flight lawyers. Civil Servants keep negotiating 'risk-averse' contracts that tie them in forever. Anyone working outside of central government would have a fit if they saw the prices the big-boys charge for quite basic services. Probably 10x more than is paid for by business on the open market, often much much more.

    IT still isn't seen as a real job in the Civil Service (they don't even have IT grades, yet they do for vets, economists, lawyers...). The only way they can get competent IT resource is either by outsourcing or employing contractors -- and the outsourcers employ the same contractors.

    It's pathetic; government need the IT resource but refuse to acknowledge that they need to pay accordingly, especially for specialists. So they leave themselves with the one option of paying through the nose for externals. It's like the civil service and/or unions can't get their heads around the fact that IT pays a lot more than other 'trades', so they stick their heads in the sand whilst being taken roughly from behind by the aforesaid suppliers. It's maddening that large businesses can deal with this challenge yet the Civil Service seem incapable (clue: if nothing else, technical specialists go on middle management rates, although Civil Servant rates for middle managers aren't particularly good).

    As for software, they still don't buy core software as a single government entity; licences need to be purchased separately. Have they never heard of divide & conquer? Like cleave the head of Microsoft and Oracle and tell them the price for 5M to 10M licences.

    Anon for good reasons.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      You seriously have no idea

      You arent even in the same ball park if you think small companies can cope with large scale government contracts. Take a very "simple" example of a PC rollout to each Government location in the country, how many offices do you think that is? Hundreds if not thousands, then work out all the engineers you need, train them, transport HW, DoAs, stock handling etc. Thats even before the engineer turns up onsite to find no spare power sockets, the helpdesk fielding thousands of calls etc. etc.

      Try another, consolidated infrastructure, so you think the small company down the road can afford to build a data centre for thousands of servers? No you cant outsource it to cheap-as-chips hosting, as it needs to be *secure* and audited.

      You really think somehow that the Gov central IT guys could build a highly resilient SAN and virtualised server farm to handle millions of transactions a day? We arent talking about a few NAS disks bolted together and a network switch. These "same olds" spend millions on RnD, data centres and services for a reason, ie its complicated, expensive and difficult to do reliably.

      So get a grip and think before you spout such garbage in the future! To pay a few quid for a bunch of talented IT staff is only a quarter of the solution and very wide of the mark.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        True, but...

        True, but its not about getting in Joe Bloggs and Son from down the road. There's plenty of Medium sized businesses who can handle this kind of support; much of which is pretty damn generic.

        The reason why these contracts always go to large companies is that middle sized companies "might go out of business" and the risk-averse Civil Servants hate that idea. Of course these companies wouldn't go out of business if they get a slice of this action.

        There's effectively little, if any, true competition between the half-dozen or so large suppliers so prices always remain high (an oligopoly if ever there was one).

        It's infuriating how something like desktop infrastructure is so locked down due to the contract, little if anything gets updated - just look how old the basic applications are (IE6, old versions of Office, etc.), or how old the basic kit is. It should be replaced every 3 years like in most other companies; separate the hardware from the software and it's cheap. Not under current contracts.

        Central gov should look after their own server farms and build the complex secure infrastructure they need, but only if they had their own in-house skilled staff. Given the size of government, they could easily keep highly specialised staff very busy if they were allowed to work across departments.

        As it is, each department or agency effectively has their own IT staff. They need to be supplied centrally - Jim Hacker's Department Of Administrative Affairs would be the best place to put them.

        One of the biggest costs at the moment is changing suppliers. These suppliers know this and do their damnedest to keep it that way; once selected, government is locked in. If government owned much of the infrastructure, they could negotiate lower-level service contracts.

        Once centralised, they can negotiate properly with The Usual Suspects. More importantly they can stop repeating the same old same old work -- such as the aforesaid desktop infrastructure. Finally some real economies of scale can be realised.

        Anon for good reasons.

      2. David Gale

        Why would you give away the crown jewels to the private sector

        If central government can't justify skilling-up to reap the rewards of in-house scale then who can?

        Time for 'policy' to stop masquerading as 'strategy'.

        David Gale


      3. Anonymous Coward

        Re:You seriously have no idea

        Somebody has been listening to the usual suspects from firms like Prize Wally and Cockup.

        Having done multi-national programmes with S&P50 Firms, as well as SMEs and the Public sector, I have first hand knowledge of what "in house" talent can achieve, and how the public sector get ripped off by con-sultants farmed out by the usual suspects. (normally liberal arts burger fliping degree holders, fresh out of Uni, with no knowledge of the subject they are consulting on, and with an IT literacy level that would rule them out for consideration for a ground up trainee programmer role)

        Big Firms £12Bn NPfIT, ID Cards, etc. The government paid for them, the big firms designed, built and drove the train wrecks.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    Savings or Penny Wise, Pound Foolish?

    Whilst there has been a lot of stupid projects, badly run in the public sector, wasting vast quantities of money and resources, one has to wonder if the "blanket" approach is throwing the baby out with the bath water.

    As an example I have come accross one £17m/pa paper based system (using over 200k bits of paper/yr), backed up by 3 spreadsheets. Detailed audit of the processes being unfeasible, and the team where still managing to spot genuine billing mistakes by eye and memory.

    Replacement computer based system would cost less than £50k over 4 years, with an average spotted mistake being in the region of £10k, and the system would save 1FTE after the first year, so if it spotted 2 of the smaller mistakes per year, the system would pay for it's self, and the staff saving is gravy. (my suspicision was that it would spot a lot more than 2 mistakes per year, given the complexity, and number of low paid players, in the process under management)

  3. John Smith 19 Gold badge


    "Replacement computer based system would cost less than £50k over 4 years, with an average spotted mistake being in the region of £10k, and the system would save 1FTE after the first year, "

    But *someone* would have to be responsible for the implementation.

    It might go wrong.

    Senior (and aspiring to be senior) civil servants find the few decisions the have to actually *make* the better their chances of promotion.

    On the basis described I'd do it in a heartbeat.

    Once again the UK civil service maintains its usual high standards of FAIL.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Use Professionals (from the right field)

      I will declare an interest here, in that I have provided services for the public sector.

      I will avoid some specifics for certain reasons......

      A few years back, a pan-european system was needed, and HMG was given the PM role. So they assigned it to a very senior civil servant, who was a technical specialist in a non-IT field.

      What this chap did not know about his area of specialism, was not worth knowing, and he could have had a good career in Academia or the private sector teaching or running research projects.


      He operated his e-mail by secatary (litterally), what he knew about IT could be written on the back of a postage stamp (in large type).

      So unsurprisingly the system had to be built twice, and version 2.0 had serious flaws as an internet based with legal and public health considerations.

      Appoint very bright chap to run the project .......Good Idea

      Appoint non-IT Literate, with no specialist support to run complex technology project ....BAD Idea

      1. David Gale

        Where are the IT architects?

        Worse still, would be to allow government IT to proceed without any architectural strategy OR governance. Oh, we do,,,

        David Gale


      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge


        But, but

        He had a double First in English and History from an Oxbridge college.

        Of *course* he can a major IT implementation and procurement project.

  4. launcap Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I know we saved a bundle..

    .. by not going with one of the big outsourcing providers (our current contract ends on Jan 31st) but going with a midrange one who is actually keen on providing a service rather than just milking us as a cash-cow.

    It'll save us about 30% per year. As well as having *much* better SLAs and T&Cs than our previous contract. It's really, really worth going to someone for whom your contract is a goodly fraction of their annual income rather than less than the rounding error on their management accounts.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    False economy

    Given the grief we are going through to get this country back on it's feet, they are hardly likely to say, "Holy Crap we messed up! We didn't realise dumping all those essential services would cause more grief in the long run!". Little bit of spin, bit of good news after the student riots and just in time for Crimbo!

    Not saying we spend our way out of recession, but we need to spend on essentials and stop cutting back on stuff that actually makes this country work.

    This penny pinching will come back to bite us hard very soon!

    1. Starkadder


      Cutting back on stuff that makes this country work: that includes ContactPoint, ID cards, Vetting and Barring and the bodged Fire Control Centres?

      A (very) senior civil servant has admitted to me that the civil servants had a lot of (very rude, they have no manners she says) Labour Ministers breathing heavily down their necks who all wanted bright gleaming IT Projects that would "Solve a major problem." Neither Labour Ministers nor civil servants understood that the approach to most big systems is necessarily incremental. Do what you know how to do, and do it well. The DVLA, for example, has never run a world shattering IT system, but what it does pretty much works, not brilliantly, but it works. That's because there are no big brownie points to be earned by introducing shiny all new all singing all dancing programs into an office staffed by relatively low rankers in Swansea. Makes you think

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Definition of Saving

    Saving = doing the same for less ?

    definition of the same could be at a services / business level

    Doing nothing, and hence not spending money, is not a saving.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      ...if they didn't need to spend the money in the first place.

      Not everything that is provided needs to be provided. Where to find the margin is not always political.

      A small example from a few years ago, a local authority provided a shopping service for older people at a significant cost per person. It was a big decision to enable them (the older people) to use online shopping services which would deliver free (as part of the provider's CSR)

      Lots of "what if they are exploited" meetings.

      From a Big Society (TM) perspective encouraging collective behaviour so a group of older people can aggregate their spend to avoid being at the whim of a provider's CSR might be even better.

      And this is the point (here) if people can organise to do it themselves, should the state seek to displace that activity?

      That is political but it is also economics.

      This principle is widely applicable, (with slight adaption to, e.g, housing benefit) but it will always generate unhappy losers: those that used to provide unnecessary services or charge to the limit of state subsidy

      It is political leadership to face them down.

      Anonymous, because of the flak from the losers (actual not perjorative usage)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re: Big Society

    "It is political leadership to face them down." But it's not in the interests of anyone with a stake in the current political system to show that leadership, any more than it is to many commercial interests from multinational corporations to local entrepreneurs. Leftists want a centralised nanny state, the right wants to oil the consumerist machine - enabling grass-roots collectivism serves neither of those interests.

  8. Bram

    IT Professionals

    At the present I don't think there isn't many medium size companies that can cope with any governement project, because the way the some government projects are run is completely bonkers.

    The money that is wasted could be used to invest medium size firms that are on the cusp of being able to do big nationwide projects and all could be well and done a lot cheaper and far more agile in the future, but the problem is...

    Governments are political and people run projects not because they are the best person for the job but because they have been there for twenty odd years doing project support (and know nothing of business management let alone it project management).

    Here's what happens

    One admin staff decides to take important data home with them in blatant disregard of policy and looses it in the pub, press catch on to it and then a knee jerk reaction, hello new IT project bolted on to the end of another to improve IT security and all IT projects have to incorporate this change into their project regardless of the relevancy.

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge


    "Leftists want a centralised nanny state, the right wants to oil the consumerist machine "

    I've found that members of *nominally* left leaning parties have sponsored very "Business friendly" policies and members of right leaning parties to encourage the growth of state monitoring and surveillance.

    You'd do better to divide up the players into those who seek to control their population (for their own good of course). Call them Authoritarians and those who accept (and possibly encourage) people to make their own choices, call them Democrats.

    Don't expect them to line up on party lines.

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