CTS director Iain Patterson says service offers ‘one voice’ to help department exit IT contracts

The government’s Common Technology Services team is pitching itself as a central support and advice service for departments exiting both large and small IT contracts.

Iain Patterson said that, by talking to departments ‘with one voice’, the CTS was well placed to help teams exit IT contracts – Photo credit: DVLA

The team, which sits within the Government Digital Service, is working to create a common process for exiting IT contracts to help departments bring their IT back in-house more effectively, and encourage them to adopt common technology solutions.

According to figures from the government’s Complex Transaction Team, the value of IT contracts due to end over the course of this parliament is £3.8bn, with £1.5bn of these expiring in the next two years.

The government has committed to encouraging departments to make a clean break from single supplier contracts, and move to common technology solutions that are built or purchased once by the government and then used by a number of departments.

The idea is to save money through using shared and cloud services, as well as stopping departments from getting locked in to contracts that limit innovation and leaves them with legacy technology.

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However, the process of switching off large contracts is challenging – the difficulties HMRC has had exiting its £8bn Aspire contract, which began in 2012 and have yet to complete, have been widely reported – and so the CTS is offering itself as a resource for departments faced with exiting their contracts.

In a blogpost, CTS director Iain Patterson said that CTS had been “leading an approach involving expertise from across Cabinet Office which includes the Infrastructure and Projects Authority and the Complex Transaction Team”.

Patterson said that, “by talking to departments with one voice” CTS was well placed to offer support during the process and reduce the risks involved in exiting contracts.

As part of this work, the CTS has been working with the Department for Transport team working on HS2, to help bring its IT estate back in-house – a collaboration that started in June 2016.

Although Patterson said that the HS2 team had already been doing a “great job” in migrating to the cloud, he said CTS had run workshops with them to help “accelerate the programme delivery”.

These include support on service requirements, service levels and security requirements, as well as offering procurement capability from the Cabinet Office.

In addition, CTS will offer guidance related to the disaggregation of larger contracts, which involves setting criteria for managing future exits, collaboration between suppliers after disaggregation and processes for working in a disaggregated model.

Patterson added that the work was carried out closely with the Cabinet Office team in charge of spend controls – which limit IT project and programme spending – to make sure all conditional approvals were achievable and in-line with the Technology Code of Practice.

‘Big learning curve’

The work with the HS2 team was one of the first collaborations between CTS and a department, and Patterson described it as a “big learning curve” that would be built upon in future exit frameworks.

He also emphasised that the team doesn’t just provide support for major exit programmes, saying that it was “building up a knowledge base of documents and tools which will be useful to programmes of any size”.

“With this constantly evolving knowledge base we can provide smaller programmes with the advice and capability they need to help themselves,” he said.

“It will continue to grow as we work with more exit programmes, learn lessons and identify the best practice that is already happening out there.”

Earlier this month, the government published its transformation strategy that aimed to stress its commitment to “exiting large single supplier and multi-year IT contracts”, which it said was a precondition for carrying out the plans set out in the document.

However, it also argued that this alone would not “solve the problem of legacy technology”, and that the “right commercial models” were needed to deliver shared platforms, components and business capabilities. 


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