Passport Office seeks £7.5m IT partner for final stages of troubled transformation scheme

Programme is getting closer to completion – but years behind schedule and at nearly treble originally slated cost

Credit: Crown Copyright/Open Government Licence v3.0

HM Passport Office is seeking to appoint a commercial IT partner to a multimillion-pound contract to support the final stages of its long-term transformation programme.

The chosen firm will provide a range of “enterprise and solution architecture” services in support of the long-term scheme to modernise the Home Office-based agency. The services covered by the deal will include the design and management of key software and hardware infrastructure underpinning frontline digital services. 

The supplier will be further tasked will helping the agency in “setting policies, standards, patterns… [and] enterprise roadmaps”. The IT provider will also help deliver “transition architectures” to enable a smooth switch from legacy infrastructure to new systems.

These architecture services are currently delivered by Harrow-based IT consultancy A&A Digital Tech in a contract awarded in 2020 that is now nearing its conclusion. HMPO is seeking to replace this engagement with a new two-year deal worth an estimated £7.5m.

Bids are open until 15 November, after which the Passport Office expects to evaluate three suppliers – one of which will be appointed to a contract early next year. The winning bidder will provide the agency with about 13 staff at any given team, who will support the work of an internal technical design authority (TDA) unit.

The contract notice said: “HMPO needs an enterprise architecture and solution architecture service to support the in-house TDA team in: setting overall technical direction; promoting and assuring alignment and convergence to the Home Office technology strategy; defining high-level and, where required, detailed solution architectures for new digital products and architecturally significant enhancements to existing digital products; assuring consistency, reliability, security and interoperability of HMPO’s end-to-end solutions.”

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The HMPO Transformation Programme was embarked upon in 2016 with the intention of modernising the agency via the implementation of fully digital services and automated processes. A cornerstone of the scheme is the digital application processing service – which was due to have entirely replaced the incumbent legacy system by 2019.

Three years past that date, about 30% of passport applications are still processed by the outgoing platform

The overall estimated cost of delivering the transformation programme – which was initially estimated at £107m – now stands at £289m, according to the most recent update from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, which oversees delivery of major projects across government. 

In the coming months, the scheme needs to “safely decommission” legacy digital services currently delivered by long-term supplier DXC under a contract that runs until March 2024. 

The US-based IT services giant is to set remain a key partner for HMPO, having been retained in late 2021 to support the delivery of the next generation of digital passport services, in a deal worth up £37m over five years.

The IPA gave the passport transformation scheme a rating of red in its latest annual assessment – which indicates that “successful delivery of the project appears to be unachievable, [and] there are major issues with project definition, schedule, budget, quality and/or benefits delivery, which at this stage do not appear to be manageable or resolvable”.

In an update provided in September, the project’s named accounting officer – Tricia Hayes, second permanent secretary at the Home Office – acknowledged the scheme’s historical difficulties, but provided a more upbeat assessment of the outlook for its delivery, which she said is “now entering its final phase”. Once concluded, the programme is projected deliver a total of £343m in savings over the next decade.

“While the programme is late, the remaining scope is well understood with increasing confidence in the cadence of delivery and the scale of the work required to deliver the remaining scope points,” Hayes said. “Transforming the organisation while also supporting a live public service has caused challenges and delays. These risks are now better understood and an allowance for that is being built into the latest programme plan. The programme is being delivered via agile delivery techniques, which allows HMPO to realise benefits as the programme progresses in a way that wouldn’t normally be possible under more traditional waterfall delivery approaches.”

She added: “Subject to an action plan to address the issues raised by the IPA review and the completion of the ongoing replanning exercise being ratified by FIC (Home Office Finance and Investment Committee) in November, I am satisfied that the programme meets the feasibility test. This opinion is supported by the progress made by the programme to date, and the understanding the programme has of the remaining scope and the experience accrued in delivery in this context.”


Sam Trendall

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