The Home Office must improve its internal capability to fix the “inadequate” siloed IT systems behind the soon-to-be-scrapped UK Border Agency, according to sources.
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The most likely solution will be to develop new systems in parallel with operational systems. But according to senior Whitehall sources there is insufficient capability in the Home Office to set up a development stream in parallel with existing systems.
The Home Office announced that the UK Border Agency (UKBA) would be scrapped and its work brought in-house. The move followed the publication of a report from the Home Affairs select committee on Monday, warning the UKBA's backlog would take 24 years to clear.
Home Secretary Theresa May singled out the agency’s inadequate IT systems as one of its key problems.
The IT systems were developed as self-contained silos for specific functions and let as separate long-term contracts to a number of suppliers. Joining across the silos is difficult, not helped by contractual issues and lack of standards, as well as the age of some systems, a source told Computer Weekly.
Improvements have been made, but progress has been slow and painful. The business processes need to be updated as well as the associated IT, for which some work has been done but more is needed, he said.
Georgina O’Toole, analyst at TechMarketView, said the complexity of the Home Office’s IT procurement arrangements has been exacerbated by repeated restructuring.
“The problem around IT systems would need to be looked into once the new structure has bedded in. Relationships in the department will be changing so that will be the first concern,” O'Toole said.
“I doubt the restructuring over years has helped. And the government is trying to get away from long-term contracts, so this will probably be used as another example of why they don’t work. But then they are running to 2016, so I expect some negotiations will take place as to how the systems can be improved.”