Post Office seeks four tech suppliers for new £75m Horizon-replacement framework

The organisation is seeking bids for a new dedicated buying arrangement to enable it to work with tech providers to support ongoing work to implement the New Branch IT platform

The Post Office is inviting bids from technology suppliers to take part in a £75m framework to support the replacement of the Horizon IT system.

The organisation is in the process of implementing its New Branch IT (NBIT) electronic point-of-sale (EPOS) software which will, ultimately, replace Horizon – the 25-year-old system whose faults led to the wrongful prosecutions of hundreds of postmasters.

The first implementation of NBIT took place in October 2021 when “for the first time in over 20 years, Post Office transactions were completed outside of our existing Horizon technology in a pilot” exercise, according to the organisation’s website. The wider deployment was initially scheduled to get underway in 2023 but, with further small-scale trials currently taking place, it is now hoped to begin later this year.

NBIT has been developed by the Post Office internally, but the rollout of the new tech system – via the Strategic Platform Modernisation Programme (SPMP) – is being conducted in partnership with various suppliers.

Since May 2022, the core commercial engagement in support of SPMP is a deal with Accenture which, after a recent expansion, is expected to be worth £50m to the tech consultancy. This contract is complemented by a £18m agreement with IT services provider Coforge. Each of these two deals represents one of five sections of a wider Digital Capability Framework – and both were signed for an initial two-year term that ends in 2024.

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As the end of those contracts nears, the Post Office has this week opened bids on a dedicated SPMP Horizon Replacement framework. This focused buying agreement is slated to come into effect in August and last for four years. It is expected to feature four suppliers – with which a total of about £75m will be spent via discrete call-off contracts, according to a newly published commercial notice.

“Post Office is in the process of replacing its existing EPOS system, known as Horizon,” the notice added. “Post Office is building the new system, NBIT, in house as part of its Strategic Platform Modernisation Programme. Whilst Post Office is responsible for overall programme management, strategy and architecture, it has a requirement to engage with third parties to help create the necessary solution. The current [Digital Capability] framework for certain lots will be exhausted during 2024 and a new provision for development and programme related services needs to be established. This procurement therefore is designed to identify and appoint suitable partners to a small panel of providers of such services. Work will be let via mini-competitions within the panel on either a T&M (time and materials) or fixed price, dependent on the nature of the work packages.”

Political and public interest in the Horizon scandal has intensified in recent months, following the broadcast of a major TV dramatisation. Governments in Westminster and Holyrood have expedited programmes and legislation to exonerate and compensate those wrongfully convicted as a result of the faulty technology platform.

Sam Trendall

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