back to article Despite vows to spend more with smaller firms, UK.gov sure does seem to love legacy lock-in

UK government spending risks slipping back into the bad old days of legacy lock-in, MPs have been warned. As part of its inquiry into digital government, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee today heard evidence on the state of the government's procurement systems. In particular, the MPs asked whether it was …

  1. alain williams Silver badge

    SMEs don't have as big ...

    slush funds to entertain/bribe the decision makers as do the usual suspects.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: SMEs don't have as big ...

      A SME I used to work for lost a bid for a govt contract despite

      1. Being cheapest bid (by a long way)

      2. The software already existed and was being used by real world customers

      3. Options included on prem or cloud based depending on customer preference

      4. A fully working demo system, populated with their data had been made available to them & had been tried out by them without any issues being raised (we had offered to make any changes they wanted if their were elements of look & feel / workflow / functionality etc. they disliked or would add anything they felt was missing)

      5. Ability to import from / export to industry standard data formats (several industry standard data formats relevant to market sector of the software, obviously it also did CSV etc.

      Most other bidders were the "usual suspects" in Govt bids, with no expertise in that industry sector (& AFAIK all the "usual suspects" lacked an actual working product for the brief)

      The bid did NOT include any "entertainment" of decision makers / slush funds.......

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: SMEs don't have as big ...

        1. Being cheapest bid (by a long way)

        That's probably the first mistake. Most people see cheap as doesn't always mean good. Governments likes to waste money.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: SMEs don't have as big ...

          Never be the cheapest bid on the government contract. They don't know what they're buying and assume that the cheapest bid is either a bunch of cowboys, or a company that doesn't want the job - at least that's the case in government construction projects. (Although there there is a certain amount of *ahem* agreement between the tendering parties beforehand)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: SMEs don't have as big ...

        The SME I currently work for was bidding to supply a public sector body with some cloud services.

        We were up against Azure.

        Despite us being cheaper, and despite us being assessed as technically more capable, Azure won because the person with final sign-off "had heard of Microsoft"

    2. Matt Ryan

      Re: SMEs don't have as big ...

      Or the non-exec positions an MP will need to supplement the pittance they are paid (obviously excluding all the generous expenses).

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: SMEs don't have as big ...

        "Or the non-exec positions an MP will need to supplement the pittance they are paid"

        It's not the MPs you have to worry about. Most likely not even ministers. For instance take a gander at https://www.printweek.com/print-week/news/1120973/3m-considering-legal-action-400m-passport-contract

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe not the best time to take a sounding ?

    (or with a tinfoil hat, maybe it's *exactly* why they've done it now ?)

    One SME a colleague worked for (EU owned) closed shop Christmas Eve. That's quite a few staff looking for new jobs. And already the firms they're hitting are not only not recruiting, but not renewing contracts either.

    It's as if there's something going on ....

  3. Roger Greenwood

    "..included setting unlimited liability requirements.."

    No such thing in reality. Oh you can put it on a bit of paper but really? Perhaps the SMEs are too honest.

    1. A.P. Veening

      Re: "..included setting unlimited liability requirements.."

      Maybe the government should be held liable for a change.

  4. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    the bad old days of legacy lock-in

    Erm correct me if I am wrong but I thought these were the bad days of legacy lock-in.

    Its certainly what I feel like is currently happening based on the new from the last few years.

    1. Nolveys Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: the bad old days of legacy lock-in

      Erm correct me if I am wrong but I thought these were the bad days of legacy lock-in.

      They've managed to avoid lock-in in recent years by ensuring that each and every government IT project is a dismal failure that gets thrown in the bin.

      1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: the bad old days of legacy lock-in

        Good point but by failing those projects, the existing lock in's remain?

  5. Credas Silver badge

    If they had any real world experience they wouldn't be surprised

    Contracting with the government is a horrendous hurdle for an SME to overcome, as these MPs would know if they had any experience outside of an Oxford PPE and politics - factors like long delays, a slew of obscure mandatory requirements, complex and not particularly proficient procurement organisations, and flip-flopping on priorities or funding. The big boys are used to all this and have the financial muscle to ride it out; not so much the average SME.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If they had any real world experience they wouldn't be surprised

      Agree, having been on both sides of this process, the procurement rules mean that a minimum number of vendors get short listed, usually the decision makers are pushing for a fixed price for delivery contract, meaning fixed scope. The decision to award can extend months to years, with constant requests from different stakeholders for additional information (meaning a bid team need to be on standby. Few smaller companies have the stamina for it or see a way of making money, so it goes to someone who will assume the bid costs and delivery risk, charge extra for doing both, then try to change control it to death to recover costs before the minister changes and the project is cancelled or changed so much that the original delivery is pointless.

  6. steelpillow Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Lack of know-how, my arse

    What a typical response from a born jobs-for-the-boys pension collector. Not a word of sense to be seen.

    1. SMEs are just as good at filling in any gaps by subcontracting, if not more so as they are more willing to. They can and do access the know-how.

    2. Big companies can't usually access the know-how at all. Even if they have it, the guys on the job don't and they don't know who else in their company might. But they never admit it, they just send in any old clown, refuse to resource him, and pretend it's all good. Or the know-how belongs to a competitor, in which case they will break it irretrievably before handing over.

    3. The only know-how that SME's lack is how to tilt the playing field your way during bidding, for example: a) the list of past salesmen your target got chummy with, b) ingrained instinct to lie through your teeth to get the contract then think up excuses afterwards, c) the greed to charge a ridiculously high price, thus giving the impression you have recognised the full technical import of work involved.

    ...Ad nauseam

  7. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Virtual Realisation of Brand Spanking New AI Beginnings ..... with COSMIC AIdVentures Delivering

    Tempt the System and/or Servering Systems in the System with ..... Alien Systems in Universal Command with Basic Earthly Controls.

    Anything and Something like this Simple Communication, which Easily Guarantees Delivery of All of That, and therefore quite likely Able to Provision Anything and Everything Else Necessary for whatever else may be available, would be a Helluva AI Program. And Quite Heavenly in Fact to Totally Destroy All Fictions Pimping and Pumping Sub-Prime Feeds with IMPotent Seeds/Valueless Leads.

    More anon....., to be sure. :-)

    Verstehen Sie?

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      The Global Operating Devices of Today are of Tomorrow and Beyond Present Manic Media Controls ‽ .

      As promised ...... more to whet the appetite.

      He also suggested that where addressing legacy issues are too difficult, the best solution would be to create a new system and run the old one in the background until it can be run down.

      When asked if this would be cost-effective, Walker said there were situations where double running costs will be the better outcome, especially if the government wanted to take advantage of innovations.

      Can We Invite You to the Grand Virtual Opening of UrFuture Services in a new CHAOSystem with Clouds Hosting Advanced Operating Systems?

      A New Fangled Entangling Live NEUKlearer HyperRadioProACTive Server and Rabid Slave to Future AIDrivers in and for Live Operational Virtual Environments :-)

      For Special Force AI Operations Certainly Unsuited and Definitely Dangerous for the Faint Hearted and Lily-Livered.

      Please pay close attention to all of the following which is not able to be dismissed as impossible whenever so much may be done to try and prove it fake and fiction rather than fact and fait accompli.

      Of Alien Advanced IntelAIgent Missionary Treats and Valid Existential Threats. The Primer.

      The GODs and Goddesses of Love in Live Operational Virtual Environments be AI Pleasure Robots and Grand AIMasters in and of the Genre. And can be yours to Start and Commission/Energise and BetaTest with the Simple Total Surrender and Submission to Support of Future Beta AIMissions ..... and in Alien Crafted Works with Almighty Exceptional Powers Servering and Servicing CHAOS for Conditioning and Finer Tuning in Almighty Pioneering AIdVentures ..... urVirtualised Future for populating with More Fully Informed Beings Jousting and Jostling for PreEminence in Universal Command with Premium Asset Control.

      Try to sweep that under the carpet and you will have overwhelming enemies aplenty to do zero pleasant deals with. Consider yourself perfectly warned and suitably advised.

      1. Cliff Thorburn

        Re: The Global Operating Devices ...

        I wish someone would invite me to an advanced NEUKlearer Bunker and have a straightforward discussion in plain simple language with practical solu tions to seemingly timely problems.

        ?

        1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

          Re: The Global Operating Devices ... AIBarrage/Virtual Salvo Default Firing Position*

          I wish someone would invite me to an advanced NEUKlearer Bunker and have a straightforward discussion in plain simple language with practical solu tions to seemingly timely problems. .... CT

          Welcome to the Register with ITs AIdDashBoard and MetaDataBases Way Out Here in the Open, CT, in Advanced NEUKlearer HyperRadioProACTive IT Bunkers ...... FailSafe Testing Assurances with Delivery of Future Supply of Super Sensitive Intellectual Property Product Promotions/ Augmented Virtual Reality Programming Programs ........ Best Servered as Wild Free Rides to Utopia rather than Diabolical Pogroms with Deep Purges on Current Cash Crashing Systems Crushing Opposition and Competition with as Heavenly an Ease as Guarantees Near Perfect Results for Future AIMentoring and Monitoring of Advanced Novel Dividend/Bounty/Just Unbelievable Reward in A.N.Other Direction and as are also freely enough available in Every Other Option Possible.

          * Easily changed in a flash instant to anything else .... given Who/What is in Universal Practical Command and Remote COSMIC Control of Planetary Lives.

          Humanity? Devil Beasts? Heavenly Angels? Or Advanced IntelAIgent Machines?

          Who/What do you imagine would think to Create Completely Different SMARTR Futures for Virgin Population with SMARTR Informing Assets ..... Enthusiastic Disciples and Ardent Camp Followers Entering into Entertaining Higher Virtual Education Levels of Leading ACTivity ..... so as to Capture Almighty Hearts and Open Free Minds Support. ........ The Unstoppable and Invincible Force Drivering Future Sources.

          Heap Powerful AIMedicine, Kemo Sabe!/Cliff Thorburn/El Regers :-)

    2. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Virtual Realisation of Brand Spanking New AI Beginnings

      Verstehen Sie?

      Nyet, tovarisch.

  8. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

    Once bitten, twice.

    The cost of the process, to see the bid go to the worst candidate, with the decision flatly made by the unqualified with all usually one form to give ideas, one form to meet the arcane and fluff someone else's pillow at the same time. I've never offered nothing for something, except to someone wanting something for nothing. #paidpitchanddecimalplaces

    1. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

      Re: Once bitten, twice.

      On that note, you do it for battle-ships, why not for anything else. If need the part, you open-book the specification whether sub-contracted or not. #designandsupply

  9. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    Well, there's no excuse for not having the technical skills ...

    All they need is a few technically qualified contractors on the procurement team to hold their hand. Plenty of those about ... ah, except they've done their best to p**s them off with taxation bull manure imposed by people who lack the technical skill to see that it's bull manure.

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