Expert guide to multi-sourcing IT in government

Last week this blog featured a guest post about Service Integration and Management (SIAM). A colleague also wrote a story about the challenges facing HMRC when it splits up its Aspire contract with Futjitsu.

Aspire is one of the biggest IT outsourcing deals ever signed by the UK government, costing on average £813m per year over the past 10 years, according to the National Audit Office (NAO). By the time the deal ends in June 2017, prime contractor Capgemini will have received £10.4bn of taxpayers’ money.

Here is a Q&A with a SIAM consultant.

What can HMRC do to mitigate the risks of breaking up the Aspire contract?

There is significant analogy between this change and many other similar programmes across Government and more broadly in the private sector. Breaking up Aspire, or indeed any of the big early generation outsource deals, is a programmatic challenge – with a lot of detail needed in the definition of new services and how these contracts and the suppliers interact with each other (hard and soft aspects). There is a lot of existing collateral and experience around that they can re-use. Using a proven framework will de-risk delivery, but needs to be done in the context of the specific requirements within HMRC. HMRC should also recognise this change is a cultural and people challenge both for themselves and their suppliers and accordingly pay as much attention to these aspects as the technical /contractual aspects. To minimise risk HMRC leadership should ensure they start by considering what the revised in-house team needs to look like in terms of skills, mind-set, accountability, and how they are going to sponsor, build and motivate this team. The establishment of this new team should be early, and then allowed to drive the change. They should use external support to help accelerate the delivery by helping mature process, governance and tooling designs. This team will need to think hard about information flow and how tooling (across the service management disciplines, including Service Desk) will work in the new operating model.

Is getting the right talent enough?

The new disaggregated delivery models rely on four pillars of capability within the IT delivery model. The need for strong “Service Integration” is key.

-Cultural understanding of the business,
-Well defined, processes that have very clear bounds of responsibility,
-Strong governance against strategic ambitions, the organisations standards and policies and the operational standards,
-Tooling that will enforce the processes and governance structures.
Together with strong leadership, and the right talent to build these pillars, significant benefit will be realised.

There is a large focus on digital hires at the moment, does government need a lot of technical skills for something of this scale?

Government needs very strong Service skills to make these models work. Although, quite rightly there is a move for the retained IT organisation to “re-own” the Service Strategy and Service Design roles (and all the related knowledge/information) within Government, much of the technical design should be left to those that will be eventually delivering the services. It may be noted that in some organisations, this fine balance between “service” and “technical” design has shifted too far. This is likely to result in suppliers being constrained in their delivery, impacting both value for money and service quality/performance. Unlike in true digital/application delivery activities (where the System Design/Integration can retained), Government should continue a focus on service outcomes rather than the detailed design decisions.

What does government need to do?

Government needs to continue to be clear on direction/strategy for these new models. They do need to, however, develop better/clearer service structures in their new procurement frameworks, and then allow departments to have greater autonomy on the decisions that they make in delivery of that direction/strategy alignment. There has been a tendency over recent years for “the centre” to reject departments cases because they don’t fit with the “centres” very latest thinking of the centre. This can often cause significant delay, rework and additional cost.

What do departments need to do?

Many departments have the opportunity of delivering significant savings, improving their performance and become more agile through the acceptance of the new disaggregated operating models with more visability and control held by the retained team. However, to realise these benefits, they must:

·Define, to an appropriate level of detail, their future vision and delivery strategy and get this agreed by GDS
· Communicate these models broadly with a clear plan of how it will be achieved.
· Setup a programme of change that accepts that it will impact the; retained organisation, delivery processes, governance structures, tooling and the supplier landscape
· Define a set of KPIs that will be used to continually measure the delivery of those benefits
· Appoint accountable owners from the new retained organisation to drive the change
· Utilise proven frameworks where possible to accelerate delivery and reduce risk”