Major IT firms added to cross-government strategic supplier list

Computacenter and AWS have, in the last 12 months, both been added to the list of the government’s foremost suppliers

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Major IT provider Computacenter – which has been the Department for Education’s primary partner on its programme to roll out more than half a million laptops to disadvantaged children – has been added to the government’s list of strategic suppliers.

The list encompasses Whitehall’s biggest or most important suppliers, with whom relationships are managed on a government-wide basis by a named ‘Crown representative’. 

An updated list was published this week by the Cabinet Office, with Computacenter – alongside engineering firm Laing O’Rourke – becoming the 35th and 36th companies to be added to the roster. 

The Hertfordshire-based IT reseller briefly appeared on the list of strategic suppliers that was published in October – but this document was swiftly replaced with an updated version that no longer included the company. PublicTechnology contacted the Crown Commercial Service at the time seeking clarification as to whether the company had been added to the roster or not. The newest publication, released on Monday, appears to confirm its inclusion.

The addition of Computacenter follows that of another IT firm, Amazon Web Services, which appeared for the first time just under a year ago.

The sector expert charged with managing Computacenter’s work with government is Lan O’Connor – who also oversees the strategic-supplier relationships with two other tech companies: vendor IBM; and consultancy Sopra Steria. O’Connor, an independent digital consultant, previously spent nearly two decades working for Capgemini. She has worked with the Cabinet Office as a Crown representative since 2018.

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AWS, meanwhile, will work with Jay Chinnadorai – a former Sony executive who has also founded or worked with several tech start-ups. In addition to the public-cloud provider, he also manages government’s customer relationship with mobile network operator Vodafone. Chinnadoria has been a Crown representative for three years.

Computacenter is one of the UK’s foremost tech companies and is among the 40 most valuable firms listed on the London Stock Exchange. Its most recent annual results showed revenue of more than £5bn for the 2019 calendar year – almost a third of which was generated in the UK.

The public sector is one of the firm’s major markets and the importance of its position as a government tech supplier has grown in the last year as a result of the key role it has played in the delivery of the Department for Education’s Get Help With Technology programme, which has provided hundreds of thousands of laptops to support remote learning for hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged children. Contracts worth in excess of £110m have been awarded to Computacenter to support delivery of the scheme.

The firm was appointed, via a £60m deal, to provide the initial tranche of 220,000 devices that were, in the early months of last summer, distributed to disadvantaged pupils – primarily those in year or preparing for exams. The firm was also tasked with providing security software for the machines.

Since students returned to school in the autumn term, government has delivered a further 350,000 laptops for pupils – across all age groups – who have been forced to remain at home. About half of these devices have also been provided by Computacenter – although reseller rivals SCC and XMA have also been brought in as suppliers by the DfE.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson this week revealed that, since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, government has bought a cumulative total of a million devices to support remote learning. By the end of next week, three quarters of these will have been delivered to children he said.

Announcing its appointment as a strategic supplier, construction and engineering outfit Laing O’Rourke said that its addition to the list of leading Whitehall providers of goods and services “comes as the government finalises plans to transform investment in vital infrastructure, including the School Rebuilding Programme, the delivery of 40 new hospitals by 2030, new nuclear facilities and rail projects”.

The firm’s relationship with government will be managed by Phil Brookes, who also serves as crown representative for another construction company: Interserve

Crown representatives were first introduced by the Cabinet Office in 2011 to “help the government to act as a single customer”.

“They work across departments to: ensure a single and strategic view of the government’s needs is communicated to the market; identify areas for cost savings; act as a point of focus for cross-cutting supplier-related issues,” according to GOV.UK.

Other technology companies featured on the list include BT, CGI, Microsoft, Motorola and Virgin Media.

The addition of AWS is little surprise, given the scale of its engagement with government and the wider public sector. The firm is one of six public cloud firms – alongside HPE, IBM, Microsoft, Google and UKCloud – to have signed a memorandum of understanding with government in which the public sector is treated as a single customer, with preferential terms and conditions.

The Home Office was quick to replace its existing £100m contract with Amazon with a new deal under the updated terms. The engagement will see £120m spent with the company over the course of three years.

The department is just one of numerous AWS customers across Whitehall and beyond, with the Government Digital Service – whose most recent one-year deal doubled its annual spend to £6.6m – among its other clients.


Sam Trendall

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