EXCL: Cabinet Office works on plan to ‘centralise and standardise’ provision of laptops and phones for all civil servants

Currently about 600 individual agencies spend billions of pounds across hundreds of separate computing deals, but Whitehall’s central department is exploring models to set standards and deliver approved devices centrally

The Cabinet Office is working on a plan to “centralise and standardise” the provision of laptops and mobile phones to civil servants across all departments, PublicTechnology can reveal.

The proposals will be explored and developed over the course of a research exercise currently delivered by professional services firm PA Consulting – with which the Cabinet Office signed a near-£250,000 five-week contract on 8 February. Work will be overseen by officials from two units based in the department: the Central Digital and Data Office; and the Crown Commercial Service.

Plans for the centralised model have already been shared with the CTO Council led by CDDO and featuring technology leaders from various departments. Throughout the research process – and a potential future rollout – commercial and digital professionals will be consulted, PublicTechnology understands.

In the meantime, PA Consulting has been tasked with conducting a “baseline analysis” of current devices in use across government, including spending levels, products, costs, and delivery models. This research should involve “looking across different types and sizes of government organisations, and potential delivery models, including international comparison”, according to specifications set out in commercial documents.

The Cabinet Office also requires the consultancy to examine the capabilities and functions required of devices used by civil servants, and then to draw up “a set of suggested standard technical design builds for government laptop and mobile phones, based on user research and technical input”.

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This should be supported by the provision of “a comprehensive set of costed delivery options” for how the procurement and provision of such standardised models could be centralised and delivered throughout government. Each option should include details for “projected benefits, possible risk”, as well as a full “implementation roadmap for the recommended option” of the supplier – and its assessment of the risks and benefits of maintaining current decentralised buying and delivery models.

The proposals “should be developed enough that CDDO can take forward their preferred option into delivery” swiftly and easily, if and when government decides to implement the proposal.

The research also set out expectations for the “day-to-day operational practices” that would be needed to support the rollout of the centralised model in the long term. This will cover details such as “how would the recommended option be resourced and operationalised, including potential suppliers, phasing, maintenance, technology upgrades and other key factors”.

Commercial documents indicate that the PA Consulting was picked to deliver to the discovery exercise after the Cabinet Office assessed “separate quotes from a number of different suppliers”. Before the conclusion of the engagement – which is scheduled to run until 15 March – the firm will be expected “to facilitate knowledge transfer from PA Consulting to CDDO, and allow the delivery of the common solution across organisations within HMG”.

According to GOV.UK, there are 601 separate and discrete departments, agencies and public bodies that collectively comprise central government. Most of these will be responsible for their own procurement of phones and laptops, and their provision to staff.

A search of online procurement records indicates that, in the space of the last month alone, at least 15 separate contracts have been awarded for the provision of laptops to central government entities. These range from short-term £20,000 engagements to a near-£200m deal awarded by the Ministry of Defence, and also include multimillion-pound contracts signed by the Department for Work and Pensions, Ministry of Justice, and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

Sam Trendall

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