Pre-Envoyian, also known as CeCeTAcian … characterised by rapid activity amongst many life forms, mostly concentrated in two strata, Norfolk’s Broads and Upper Whitehall. Significant invention and development of new technologies.
Citucene … period of outlandish creativity amongst new lifeforms and the launch of entirely new streams of life along with the first exchanges of information between lifeforms across something akin to telepathy known as GSI.
Neo-Envoyian … a quieter period of calm reflection and preparation for renewed growth. Early indications of polices on digital lifeforms and how they might interact in the future digital age.
Envoyian … a lengthy period characterised by a focus on achieving targets for growth and interaction, many thousands of new website lifeforms emerged many of which would be relatively short-lived. Also a period of invention and development of new technologies and, for the first time, co-operation between the various species found across government. Much of the activity was in a previously little known part of the planet known as Victoria.
Unitiferous … an age of consolidation as the website lifeforms previously created began to decay (their fossilised remains can sometimes be seen in a special preservation area near Kew). Also saw the emergence of new attempts to control future lifeform development as the more powerful denizens of the age came together for the first time.
CIOzoic … a sustained period of little change though filled with occasional bursts of life that often escaped into the wild uncontrolled and eventually contained only after great expense. The period of decay from the earlier age continued during the CIOzoic.
Brackonian … only just beginning and appears to be similar to the Envoyian age with the rapid emergence of many new technologies that iterate quickly and take on new forms almost faster than anyone can identify. This could be an age where all user lifeforms experience great beauty … or the rapid profusion could result in difficulties sustaining life later. A new area has been colonised for this experiment, known as Holborn.
Liam Maxwell’s ICT Futures team are, as far as can be seen, getting properly stuck into IT deals. But who is going to look at the other deals going on in government?
1) Frameworks are being generated across every part of government. Central government has its PSN, G-Cloud, commodity (known, I think, as Achilles) and according to the GPS site there are more to come and, whilst these deals are set up for the entire public sector to use, there are still other frameworks being generated including regional and local PSNs, NHS frameworks and also frameworks within departments themselves. And then there’s the overlap between frameworks, such as PSN and G-Cloud both offering, for instance, e-mail. Pretty soon suppliers will have a choice of three dozen routes to market for any given deal yet will have little in the way of business to show for their hard efforts. After all, getting on to a framework isn’t free – far from it in many cases. There needs to be a charge to rationalise all of the frameworks, eliminate overlap and ensure that everyone knows where to go to buy what they need, rather than have them think that what they need is yet another framework.
2) BPO deals are shortly to become common place, I suspect, as departments move their attention away from the apparently “easy to count” (the PASC might disagree) world of IT to the more complicated world of business process. Whilst IT costs anywhere from £13bn-£25bn a year depending on who you listen to, government’s spend on its core business may soon be up for grabs – and that annual spend could easily reach £100bn-200bn (again, depending on who you listen to). Figuring out what is and isn’t a good deal for these will be a complicated process. We need a BPO futures team to look across the public sector, starting in the centre perhaps, to see how these deals are being structured and what needs to be in place to help prevent poor deals being done, ensure lessons are learned and that service improves as a result.
So John Collington is doubtless the Liam Maxwell of “Framework Futures” though he’ll want to get moving and put the “hairdryer treatment” on all those setting up their own frameworks in competition with his own.
But who is going to be the BPO Futures lead? The person who reviews business outsource deals to make sure that they make sense and are in line with the overall strategy?
“On hot sunny days please wait for your ticket to drop down. There are problems with static! Thank you for your patience”
I hold accounts with two different banks. One chose this weekend to carry out a four day upgrade of its IT – from Friday 30th through Monday 2nd. Four days turned into five as “teething troubles” meant the service didn’t actually come back on time. Today it’s working but it has my account history only since the 1st April in it – prior data will apparently “be applied over the coming weeks” until I eventually have a 6 year record.
The trouble is, it’s the end of the tax year this week. What kind of numpty would figure that the best time to carry out a major upgrade of a bank’s customer-facing IT systems is just before the financial year end when people are doubtless trying to top up ISAs, move money into pensions, pay out salaries, reclaim expenses and so on? I’m sure that there’s no good time, but year end must be the daftest.
Funny thing is that every April, HMRC carry out a series of major releases around this time, in preparation for the new tax year. We rarely hear about these, partly because they’re mostly back office systems but mostly because they’re very good at it and have few failures. So major upgrades can be done at this time of year but it helps to practice.
The second bank rolled out its own major upgrade in March after some months of beta testing (I declined to participate – the idea of beta testing moving money around just didn’t grasp me as a great idea).
The result is an awful website that has gone from usable with some trouble to almost completely unusable. It’s the basics – not allowing a date format of “30/3/12” to be entered and insisting on “30/03/2012” for instance; or, here’s another, if I want to transfer £100, why make me enter £100.00 before you’ll make the transfer? Tasks that use to be one click away are now buried in dynamic menus that pop up and disappear as you move the mouse across the screen.
Two different banks, neither owned by the taxpayer, but both failing to deliver in entirely different ways. And, of course, none of them are being open and out loud about it.
We all find it easy to spot government IT failures – and ensure that they get massive coverage – but let’s remember that there are plenty of private sector failures that just drift by us without getting the same scrutiny, even now.
The IT news media carried stories this week that Capita is to lay off an expected 1,000 staff (other sources say only 400) and move their jobs to India. These are all jobs Capita’s IT Services division (the one that managed to put forward more than 200 products, out of 1700 odd total, on the G-Cloud framework).
They’re certainly late to the party as TechMarketView pointed out. They may even be too late. I worked for an organisation that moved much of its IT development to India in the early 90s, and by 1992 their team there were assessed as CMM Level 5 (which, I appreciate, doesn’t mean the output is good, just that the processes are highly repeatable – so plenty of potential for highly repeatable rubbish). In 2001 I moved some UK government work offshore – I think we were probably the first to do it then, but others have followed since – we used it mostly for burst capacity (when we didn’t have the capacity locally and needed only very short term work to be carried out) but we also did some IT development.
In 2001/2 I advised some companies that said that they were struggling to attract and retain staff what I had learned in the 90s. I suggested that competing with the local majors – Wipro, Tata, Infosys etc just as much then as now – would be challenging as people would be naturally attracted to home grown brand (one solution I proposed was to do a dual-listing on the Indian stock market and start presenting a carefully cultivated local image) – but that the bigger problem would be the inevitably high staff turnover.
In moving work offshore – not just India but any perceived low cost economy – before I’d quickly seen that if you are first, you enjoy the pick of the people and you get the lowest rates – but just as anomalies close in the stock market – everyone else discovers this same opportunity and competition for resource increases. Soon you are paying more and your staff are, anyway, leaving for just a thousand pounds or more a year – when the base salary is £10,000, moving for £11,000 can be an easy decision. Turnover rates can quickly reach 20% and even 40% or more – with the worst rates being in the relatively lower skilled jobs. Your costs go up both directly – salaries – and indirectly – replacing lost skills over and over again. Local brands have shown that they can manage this attrition better than foreign brands but not always.
I don’t know that the economies are really there in cost terms now. I’d be surprised if they are as obvious as they once were certainly – especially when you offset redundancy costs from the UK, transition costs, the need to maintain a mixed team, turnover, travel and so on. Once the cost economies are gone – and I think they finished in 2002 or maybe 2003 – the real benefit comes in being able to use your offshore capability as a kind of “service delivery cloud.” By that I mean if your work comes in irregular peaks and troughs, you use offshore resource to allow you to quickly stand up a set of trained, smart people – and then you move them on to something else when the peak moves on. But you’d probably be better off partnering in doing that, giving up the few points of margin in return for not needing to manage the whole process.
So 20 years after it became popular, have Capita latched on to a trend that has already moved on? Are they the last one buying into the idea of a January rally? I think they probably are. Chasing the low cost option means being very quick on your feet and opening new operations regularly as market anomalies open and close – it can also mean being ready to move work back to the UK because you have capacity or capability there (or, in this climate, because it turns out it is actually the lowest cost environment, either in direct labour costs or in costs measured against quality of service). Capita already operate services – particularly BPO – overseas so they will know all of this.
In a market where the UK government says that they want to use more SMEs, they want to give business to companies that pay tax in the UK, where unemployment is increasing and where quality of service is an important consideration in evaluations, I think they may not know it deeply enough.