Cabinet Office "reviewing big government IT deals" as expiry draws near

Project "Ocean Liner" reportedly mulls insourcing and says there is "no consistent advice" for dealing with IT challenges across government

By Civil Service World

18 Jan 2016

The Cabinet Office has reportedly launched a review of the government's strategy for IT contracts, warning that some deals currently provide "little incentive" for suppliers to improve efficiency. 

Citing an internal Cabinet Office document, IT trade title Computer Weekly says the review – referred to as "Ocean Liner" – has been prompted by the impending expiry of a series of major government tech deals in the current parliament, and warns that that a series of contracts signed in the last few decades "have not stood the test of time".

Civil Service World is awaiting confirmation from the Cabinet Office about the review's terms of reference and expected reporting date. But the review document is quoted as saying: "We have seen some successful moves to break these contracts up and put in place service delivery arrangements that better suit the client departments.

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"We have also seen challenges – insufficient skilled staff to manage these more complex landscapes either technically or commercially; transitions that have taken years rather than the promised months; service failures that are slow to be resolved and where there is little recourse to the failing supplier(s); agile projects that seem continuously to iterate and deliver late and little.

"It is also apparent that there is no consistent advice on how to deal with these challenges; each department hires its own consultants and goes its own way."

It is also reported that the "Ocean Liner" review will consider whether bringing IT expertise back in-house is a viable option for government departments, a move which is already being pursued at both HM Revenue and Customs as it moves away from its decade-long Aspire deal, and at the DVLA, where the driver agency has recently moved more than 300 IT staff in-house.

In the last parliament, the Cabinet Office established the dedicated Government Digital Service (GDS) team to support departments in improving both the user experience of online services and their ability to deal with tech suppliers. The unit received a £450m boost to its budget at November's Spending Review.

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