In early 2002, the UK Inland Revenue announced the launch of a tender competition, Aspire, to provide technology services to the department when its contracts with current suppliers EDS and Accenture expire in 2004.
From the start, this announcement was greeted with scepticism. Critics claim that there is little chance of the two other shortlisted bidders – BT and Cap Gemini Ernst &Young – unseating the incumbents, which have put in a joint bid.
The reason? The Inland Revenue contract is massive and complex. Indeed, it was the sheer scale of the new outsourcing deal – which will cover 73,000 desktops, 200 systems, 20 ICL mainframes and 177 IBM and Hewlett Packard Unix servers – that prompted the Revenue to open the bidding competition a full two years before the contract expires. There is another dimension: to fulfil its part of the current contract, EDS currently subcontracts elements of the work to a sprawling network of some 120 subcontractors.
Migrating the service from one supplier to another, say detractors, constitutes a near-impossible business re-engineering project that the UK government is simply not equipped to perform. The current incumbents, they say, are simply too deeply entrenched. Nothing – not excessive cost overrun or a chronic decline in service levels – could shift them out of anything but of few niche areas of the Revenue’s infrastructure.
But at other organisations, technology decision-makers are increasingly reassessing the benefits and costs of their outsourcing deals and, in some cases, deciding to bring outsourced services back in house and the factors that led them to it.
Elsewhere in Information Age, there is a focus on previous technology investments, and how IT decision-makers can get the most out of them, or even expand their use.
Companies that have spent millions of pounds and hundreds of man-years installed an end-to-end, tightly integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, for example, may be feeling bemused or annoyed by the exhortations of industry gurus to move to a more distributed network of loosely coupled software components that interact using standard web services technology. In the feature The disjointed backbone, Jessica Twentyman asks how organisations can make use of web services in their existing software architectures, and to what extent the ERP software suppliers – who have much to lose from this shift in models – will assist them to do so.
Echoing that theme of enhancing existing assets, Jo Faragher’s feature, Intelligent interaction, argues that the key to gaining value from CRM investments (a feat many companies have tried and failed to achieve) is through better analysis of the data that those systems generate.
Rounding that out, Saving IT by James Thompson examines how some organisations lack any formal way of tracking their IT assets. Not only do unused resources represent a waste of money, but also when they are unlicensed software products they can potentially earn the IT director a lengthy jail sentence.
As that focus on optimising existing systems suggests, the IT industry mantra of ‘do more with less’ will resound well into future years.