Overseas shared services have already delivered £120m in benefits, minister claims

The shared software cluster, which includes the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office as well as the UK’s network of hundreds of diplomatic buildings around world, has been operational since 2022

The rollout of shared services platforms for government’s overseas operations has already delivered calculable financial benefits of £120m, according to a minister.

The ‘Overseas’ grouping is one of five clusters, each of which is to adopt standardised back-office infrastructure as part of the ongoing rollout of the government’s shared services plan.

The mainstay of the Overseas cluster is the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, but the group also houses various bits of government that are housed on foreign soil – not least the UK’s global network of about 300 embassies, consulates, and other diplomatic facilities.

Despite such geographical complexity, the cluster is one of only two that has already deployed to core software platforms, having gone live on an Oracle-based infrastructure in late 2022.

Over the next 15 years or so, government expects to generate net returns of about £1.8bn and, according to Cabinet Office minister Baroness Nevill-Rolfe, government’s overseas operations are already reaping these rewards – the MoD and Armed Forces-based defence cluster not far behind.

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“Two of the five clusters are up and running,” she said, in answer to a written parliamentary question from fellow Conservative peer Lord Kempsell. “Overseas has realised over £120m in benefits so far and is now looking to expand and go further around automation to realise further efficiencies. The Ministry of Defence is looking to move beyond the current civilian HR system to incorporate the military. The remaining three clusters all have initial approval and funding to go to the market. They are finalising procurements for technology and services and will bring business cases for approval in the coming months.”

She added: “Clusters estimate that all departments using shared services centres will reduce annual running costs by 20%. Overall, they currently estimate that the strategy will realise more than £3bn of benefits over fifteen years. Direct cost savings are only one element of these benefits. Faster, automated and standardised systems will enable significant time savings for civil servants and general efficiency gains across departments. The clustering model will also make future procurement cheaper and give more buying power than departments have on their own. During the next six months we expect clusters to submit business cases for approval, continue procurement and ultimately sign contracts.”

In December, the HMRC-led Unity cluster of three departments invited bids for £500m in contracts to provide software and system-integration services for the shared services rollout. This came six months after the DWP, Defra, Ministry of Justice, and Home Office issued a call for suppliers interested in a decade-long £1bn deal.

Sam Trendall

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