Home Office encourages SMEs to help with IT overhaul

The Home Office announces plans to abandon its old outsourcing mega-deals and procure future IT services through G-Cloud

The Home Office has become the latest Whitehall department to announce plans to move away from its old outsourcing mega-deals and procure future IT services through G-Cloud.

In a pre-recorded webcast released today, Home Office chief technology officer Denise McDonagh invited SME IT suppliers to get involved in the Reset4 project. The purpose of the scheme is to overhaul the department’s technology.

The Home Office has two major systems integrator deals in place - with Fujitsu and Atos - that expire in 2016. Neither contract will be renewed, in favour of smaller deals with a number of specialist suppliers, bought through the G-Cloud framework

The Home Office spends about £350m a year on IT, but that excludes external agencies such as the police and other emergency services. 

“By 2020 the Home Office will look different to the way it looks today,” said McDonagh in the webcast.

“Reset4 was established to change the way we build, procure and manage our IT to ensure we can deliver the high-quality responsive service the Home Office needs.

"Between now and 2016, we will move away from being locked into massive end-to-end contracts, or tied to particular technologies, to a model in which we have far greater flexibility to change our IT in response to changing needs.”

The programme will cover four main technology requirements: end-user computing, networks, hosting, and systems and services integration.

Within each of those streams, the Home Office will award a number of contracts to specialist suppliers. For example, under networks the department will procure services for WAN, LAN, unified communications, gateways, mobile and security.

In the user computing stream, the Home Office will also look at Citrix thin-client technology, said Simon Bond, head of technology strategy at the department.

He said the aim is to complete most of the necessary systems integration in-house, instead of the big outsourcing deals of the past.

“But we will bring in specialist services and toolsets to bolster Home Office capability,” he added.

McDonagh – formerly director of the G-Cloud programme – emphasised that much of the new requirements will be acquired through G-Cloud and she encouraged SMEs to get involved.

“The Home Office is intending to go down the route of procuring through G-Cloud and other government procurement frameworks. Only when necessary will we procure through a full Office Journal of the European Union (OJEU) route,” she said.

“I am very keen to exploit the benefits that procuring through G-Cloud gives in terms of the range of suppliers and how we can buy more innovative and cost-effective services through that route. This presents a huge opportunity for the SME market that hasn’t been there before.”

The department is already conducting selected proof of concept trials with SMEs sourced through G-Cloud, she added.

The first Whitehall departments to abandon their old single-supplier outsourcing deals were Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), which moved away from a joint Fujitsu contract in April.

The two departments have opted for the route preferred by the Government Digital Services (GDS) of a series of service “towers” managed under an over-arching service integration contract – similar to the Home Office’s Reset4 plan.

The move recently attracted controversy, after newspaper reports suggested teething troubles in the contract transition had led business secretary Vince Cable to complain to prime minister David Cameron about the new model.

BIS subsequently described the problems with email and network connectivity as “intermittent” and said “progress has been made.”

“BIS and DECC were the first government departments to implement the Cabinet Office’s new IT strategy and lessons learned will help other departments when they renew their IT in the future,” said a BIS spokesman at the time.

DECC CIO Jeremy Boss told Computer Weekly earlier this year that the new purchasing arrangements “give us an ability to ensure the suppliers keep focused on providing great services”.

Several major Whitehall outsourcing deals reach a conclusion in the next two years, including the £850m per year Aspire contract at HM Revenue & Customs, led by Capgemini. Government CTO Liam Maxwell has promised that none of those deals will be renewed in their existing form.

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