IN DEPTH: Sooraj Shah investigates whether there is any logic in 2016 for the Met to sign long-term deals with traditional vendors
For several years, the government has spoken of its desire to limit the number of multi-million pound, long-term outsourcing deals with huge IT suppliers.
And while public sector bodies, including the Met Police do not have to listen to these guidelines, they are there for a reason; specifically to drive down government spend as a result of innovative, nimble technologies provided by smaller, more agile suppliers.
Under the Met Police’s current service integration and management (SIAM) model, however, the organisation has continued to sign huge deals.
Met Police outsourcing
It has spent £250 million on hosting and end user services with CSC, and £80 million on application management with Accenture, for instance (Although Accenture disputes the figure, which was reported back in March, was as high as this). Outside of the SIAM model, the organisation signed a £216 million ten-year deal with Shared Services Connected Limited (SSCL), to outsource three of the Met’s back-office departments.
These kinds of large outsourcing deals are not a recipe for transformation but for stagnation, according to former Camden Council CIO John Jackson.
“Its old style IT that’s ill-suited to digital age expectation. It means more time arguing about change control rather than breakthrough innovation. It means potentially being tied to commercial platforms that don’t fit with business needs,” he says, emphasising that he wouldn’t recommend these types of deals.
But it is the type of deals that are being made, rather than the length of them that is worrying for some IT leaders.
“If they haven’t got triggers and obligations in these contracts for innovation, the use of disruptive cloud technology built in to the contract then they’re hamstringing themselves,” suggests Camden Council interim CIO Omid Shiraji.
Stagnation, not transformation
David Wilde, CIO of Essex County Council, agrees.
“Whether the contract is two years or ten years isn’t the issue for me; it is the nature of the relationship and the construct of the contract,” he says, pointing to how John Lewis’ CIO Paul Coby uses both short-term and long-term contracts without any issues because of mature relationships maintained between the supplier and the customer.
The Met Police is therefore required to have flexibility built in to all of its outsourcing contracts, in order to not be in the same position as many other public sector bodies have in the past, where they end up having to pay enormous sums to adapt or exit the contract, or get left behind.
Jos Creese, former CIO of Hampshire County Council states that he would be “distinctly nervous” about the Met Police’s contracts, but says that if they had anticipated the need for flexibility within these contracts, then there shouldn’t be a cause for concern.
He says that there are examples of long-term contracts in the public sector which are reviewable every two years and that are benchmarked on a regular basis.
“You identify that you’re not getting value for money in a particular area and the supplier gets the opportunity to adjust and adapt,” he says.
Problems with SIAM
The SIAM model that the Met Police has chosen was thought of as ‘best practice’ within the public sector, until Government Digital Service (GDS) deputy director Alex Holmes claimed that it “was no longer condoned” back in February 2015.
But by then it was too late for the Met Police to change its approach – and indeed many other organisations such as Transport for London (TfL) have continued to use the model.