back to article UK.gov shuns IT support tower model. Now what the hell do we do?

Escaping the clutches of the big evil system integrators has long been part of the government's IT rhetoric. Yet confusion reigns as to what the strategy actually is now that previous "disaggregation" plans have been torn up – and those contracts are about to expire. Outsourcing overall might be on the rise across the public …

  1. All names Taken
    Alien

    Perfect answer here

    I've got the perfect answer for them but I'd have to charge consultancy fees :-)

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Python

    Every time I hear of GDS now I think of the Python's Spanish Inquisition sketch. GDS dives in from the side going "Aha! We are GDS and our two weapons are Fear and Uncertainty and Doubt! Our three..... "

    1. Dan Paul

      Re: Python

      "Nobody escapes the inquisition"!!!!!!!!

  3. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Ah, the traditional model

    Something not working? Phone the hardware people. Not us guv, must be network, try the network support people. Nah, not the network, must be software. Nah software's okay, must be hardware...

    repeat until will to live is totally extinguished...

    What an efficient use of public money. Do these gov.uk bods have any concept of life in the real world?

    1. Maverick
      Happy

      Re: Ah, the traditional model

      you have answered your own question sir

    2. FlatSpot
      Facepalm

      Re: Ah, the traditional model

      Not quite, because unless you are seriously incompetent, you would use a little bit of ITIL and have a centralised service desk, the odd one or two problem managers and ensured your infrastructure supplier(s) have enterprise level monitoring and therefore would know where the issue lay.

      Yes it does cost money..

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ah, the traditional model

      "Something not working? Phone the hardware people. Not us guv, must be network, try the network support people. Nah, not the network, must be software. Nah software's okay, must be hardware..."

      rinse and repeat at Fujitsu, SERCO, Atos, EDS etc worked for them all, never found anyone wanting to take ownership of fault finding off site

    4. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Ah, the traditional model

      Wait until you phone the Home Office (On an illegal 0845 which they insist you must use and block other access methods) and have the bloke on the end of the phone insist he doesn't work for the Home Office and then can't handle the query (Because he's working for g4s, who answer the phones for the Home Office under contract)

      You can't make it up.

    5. Roland6 Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Ah, the traditional model @Pen-y-gors

      Nothing wrong with the traditional model, it helped to create the rather lucrative SI market...

  4. SolidSquid

    Isn't failing small part of the point of Agile? Make small mistakes early on because it's cheaper to fix a small mistake in a discrete system than fix a large one in a system that's already heavily integrated

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "Isn't failing small part of the point of Agile? "

      yes, except it doesn't.

      People build a clusterfuck which can't scale and then it fucks up enormously when taken off the test bench and put into production use.

  5. BearishTendencies

    It's obvious.....

    Complete disaggregation, 'Government as a Platform' and in-house 'apps' built by GDS or the local 'Digital' team.

    Now let's be fair. Apart from the 'Government as a Platform' buzzword bingo (which seems to me to be just some re-usable apps for common tasks (which there's probably commercial software for already)), that;s how things used to be done. But it relies on....

    1) In-house capacity and capability to run IT

    2) High level procurement skills

    3) High level contract management skills

    Good luck with that.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well well well

    I argued (it seems for decades) with the so-called leadership teams in outsource suppliers and government customer organisations that the concept of towers was irrational as it would create a mandate for the continuation of operational dysfunction, organisational separation and protectionism, rather than a basis for beneficial change. It seems that someone has started to understand that change cannot happen if you create a set of rigid barriers. As I have now left this particular madhouse behind, forgive my Schadenfreude.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Re: Well well well

      I can't help but think of chickens and their chosen domicile.

      The only way to fix that lack of in-house IT teams is to hire a few good people then re-instate training budgets.

      Yes, it costs money, but then so does a crappy little art-installation for the birds to shit on.

      Short-sighted, narrow minded tits, the lot* of them.

      *all the management types that ignored the warnings about the hidden costs of outsourcing.

      Phase 2 will be the realisation that stuffing all your company data in the cloud isn't such a fantastic idea after all.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Well well well

        "*all the management types that ignored the warnings about the hidden costs of outsourcing."

        They all got their bonuses and retired. Do you really think they thought about anything else than their pensions?

  7. SniperPenguin

    "One interim fix to these mega-deals has been the so-called "tower model" where the various IT components are broken up and awarded to different providers – such as desktop, hosting, networks – and managed by one system integration manager (SIAM)."

    In other words, replacing:

    - A small team of competent, in-house IT staff liasing with vendors based on systems knowledge

    with

    - A massively expensive contractor who charges £96/hr for "support technicians" (frontline helpdesk staff) to make the same calls to Vendors and blindly perform changes / updates told to them without thought for impact or issues resolving from this (as that is a *new* support call, and will likely get assigned to someone else)

  8. D Moss Esq
    1. NeilMc

      Re: Policy is limpidly clear

      Govt Department Maypole dancing its bloomin obvious what these tossers are up to......

  9. A. Lloyd Flanagan

    I'm not from the UK

    But this whole argument sounds like the things I've seen in industry, where management flounders around for a silver bullet -- because they don't want to spend the time and money to get competent IT management in place. You either run in-house IT with *people who know what they're doing*, or you outsource with the outsourcers managed by *people who are very good at it*.

    I think what I'm trying to say is that the traditional bureaucratic approach is doomed here.

  10. IHateWearingATie

    Reason it will never work? Salaries outside paygrades.

    It's time to give up on the idea of ever having central government IT functions unless the grade structure is changed. You just cannot recruit perm staff with the necessary skills if you are trying to fit into the civil service pay grades.

    For example - bottom of the deputy director pay grade is somewhere around £50-60k (I seem to remember). A dep director is not a doer, he/she would be someone managing an entire IT project - the pyramid then flows down to the point where to fit in with the grades and salaries, anyone who actually does any work like cutting code or configuring development environments could be on a maxium of £30k ish (my guess is the old HEO grade in DWP, or Grade D in HM Treasury). In Central London.

    Now, I'm not saying that you can't live on £30k in London, but anyone half decent could make more elsewhere.

    1. BearishTendencies

      GDS solved that

      Everyone is SCS or Band A, near enough.

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And our next trick will be

    Just wait until GDS take over the jobs of "those in the South West"

  13. All names Taken
    Alien

    Re: Ah, the traditional model

    They do things that way by design (whoever 'they' happen to be).

    It is the limited/no liabilities approach and explains why a lot of psuedo-companies chase after guvmint contracts (either with or without help from capita?)

    From a taxpayers point of view no liabilities model looks like what it is - a waste of public money.

    From a psuedo-company or procurement process point of view it is a nice little earner in which those involved will never snitch on the others doing the same.

    Why do you think guvmint funded stuff needs inspectors?

    psuedo-company is roughly what used to be fully funded directly by guvmint dosh employed by national, regional, shire-like, local guvmints byt now pretend to be private companies but usually owned by the state?

  14. Dan Paul

    C.R.A.P.

    Completely Ridiculous Asswipe Politicians.

    This is why outsourcing IT is such a bad idea, none of them understand what the IT department does for the government besides "overhead". Trouble is, the government IT people were the only ones who knew what they wanted (until they were outsourced). Obviously makes it difficult to fullfill the contract requirements.

    And that is what you get when you outsource anything. A handful of C.R.A.P.

    1. BearishTendencies

      Re: C.R.A.P.

      You missed off the ita at the end.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Investment

    A concern is that whilst confusion reigns at Aviation House, mainly because they are still learning what to do, this leaves Suppliers with increased risk. Does a company invest the money required to build and bid for a particular model with the risk it will be torn down and replaced with another faniciful scheme or focus on another Industry where there are more certainties and better returns?

    Most of the organisation that I know are trimming down their Public Sector focus, stopping development focused on the UK Government's particular requirements and leaving the Enterprise solutions with Enterprise T&C's available for Government to procure, at Enterprise prices.

    If Government want to get prices and terms respective to the size of business they can offer as a whole, then they need to act as one customer

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Investment

      A very insightful post sir,

      My experience on the NHS NPfIT project was one of a centrally procured project that was foisted on SHA's and Care Trusts that had been marginally engaged in the NHS wide strategy.

      This lead to a disconnect between Suppliers and SHA and Trusts in terms of requirements and solutions, a point that was amplified by the central procurement of a solution that was common and scalable in a one solution fits all scenario and yet did not recognise the 1 > 4 speed nature of some trusts IT strategy.

      In effect some trusts had little modern IT and were desperate for the new solution and others with a good IT team had to consider downgrading their current investment to come on board.

      By the time this was realised the "caeser like" the previously private sector Management Consultant that had architected this contractual nightmare had cashed in his chips and no doubt retired to a Caribbean beach to enjoy his bonus and peeled grapes.

      We all know what happened after that.

  16. Bornslippy

    I think you'll find its the SIAM bit which is not policy rather than "Towers" as such i.e. hiring one of the SIs to take responsibility for all the other outsourcers. In-sourcing that integration role makes much more sense, although it will take time and money to find the right people and build a properly responsible team with the right culture and capabilities in each department. It still makes some kind of sense to outsource the mobile phone service to a mobile phone company, the cloud provision to a cloud provider etc

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