Consultancy signed to £6.5m deal to advise on eight-department shared-services plan

The Matrix programme – which includes Treasury, Cabinet Office and DHSC – begins engaging with potential suppliers

Credit: Bethany Drouin/Pixabay

Specialist HR consultants have been retained on a multimillion-pound two-year contract to support the design and delivery of a major programme to implement shared back-office services across eight Whitehall departments.

The Matrix programme – which is being led by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – will unite eight departments and eight other arm’s-length bodies on a single tech infrastructure. From this central hub, each organisation will share “a common set of process, common cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) and ancillary systems and a single shared service centre to deliver corporate services across finance, HR and payroll”.

Recently published commercial documents indicate that, on 23 December 2022, BEIS signed a £6.5m two-year deal with Veran Performance – which describes itself as “boutique, technology agnostic consultancy, specialising in HR, finance, payroll and procurement transformation.”

The London-based firm has been brought in to work as “business design partner” for the Matrix programme, which will include helping the project team to create “a converged system and service model”.

Matrix – which is, broadly, comprised of the most policy-centric departments – is one of five “clusters” into which central government organisations have been grouped. 

Four of the departments that comprise Matrix are yet to move to cloud-based system; this includes BEIS, as well as the Department for International Trade, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the Cabinet Office. The other four core departments – HM Treasury, the Department for Education, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the Attorney General’s Office – are already using cloud technology.

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Also included from the outset of the shared-services drive are eight arm’s-length bodies: the UK Space Agency; the Insolvency Service; the Crown Commercial Service; the Civil Service Commission; the Equalities and Human Rights Commission; the Government Property Agency; Building Digital UK; and the Office of the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists.

Other ALBs may join the cluster in the future.

Alongside the design work to be supported by Veran, BEIS has also now issued a prior-information notice seeking to engage with potential suppliers of the core technology platforms.

Between them, the organisations included in the Matrix cluster employ 46,000 people in the UK, and use “15 instances of nine different software solutions” and work with “10 service providers, varying in maturity, service provision and position”.  The intention is to replace these with a single main technology contractor or consortium that deliver and support a unified software and hardware infrastructure to deliver back-office systems.

Ahead of a planned procurement process due to commence at the start of the next financial year, BEIS is inviting suppliers to participate in a market-engagement process.

“The [department] is seeking to engage the market to work with the departments and identified stakeholders to ensure the delivery of best in class, value for money, shared HR, finance services and payroll which meet the needs of service users,” said a prior information notice published this week.

Each of the five clusters across government will implement its own shared-services infrastructure. Alongside Matrix are: a Defence grouping, containing the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces; Overseas, which includes, the Foreign Office and parts of DIT; the Synergy cluster for delivery-centric entities, including Defra, DWP, Home Office and the Ministry of Justice; and the HMRC-led Unity segment, which also features the Departments for Transport and Levelling-Up.

This structure was set out in the revamped Shared Services Strategy for Government, the latest version of which was published almost two years ago. The goal is to implement shared services centres for each of the five clusters by 2028.

A progress report published in November by the National Audit Office revealed that the Matrix, Synergy and Unity clusters had submitted bids for the 2021 three-year spending review seeking cumulative funding of £759m. All three of these were rejected, but the Treasury has now “approved a funding envelope of up to £300m to support these clusters to deliver the Shared Services Strategy and to address the risk that departments could be left with unstable and unsupported systems in the interim”, according to the NAO.

With this financial support now in place, the procurement notice newly published by BEIS indicated that the programme “will deliver a high quality, and good value, system and support service to help streamline the transactions and activities that underpin the way departments are run”.

“In delivering against the objectives of the Shared Services Strategy for Government, the programme will act as a key enabler for change within the corporate service landscape, replacing end-of-life technology and overcoming challenges of existing arrangements within each department to deliver substantial cashable and non-cashable benefits for the cluster,” it added. “The new shared service will have a focus on convergence across data, policies and processes, enabled by a scalable system, paving the way for increasing interoperability across government.”


Sam Trendall

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