MOD Spending on Consultants

Discussion in 'Current Affairs' started by Nutty, Sep 9, 2007.

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  1. Todays Sunday Telegraph is scathing on the £2.3 Billion pounds the MOD has spent on Private Consultants and in particular EDS who having fecked up at least two major Goverment IT contracts is now about to Feck up MOD and get £2 Billion odd for doing it.

    MOD


    Nutty
     
  2. Nutty, while I worked for MOD at least three different computer systems were introduced. Each one was worse than the one before. The cost? Bloody millions!! When I suggested that all three services should use a common system, for ordering stores, I was given short shrift. What did an armament specialist know about bean counting? When I put in an order for Brown paint, I was told that there was no money in the budget for at least six weeks!! So I went to B&Q and bought it with petty cash!

    Semper Strenuissima
     
  3. Whoever in MoD signed any of the contracts with EDS needs to be put on a charge.

    The systems (including the main Secret IT systems onboard and deployed at army units in Theatre) aren't bog standard PC Servers there are a complicated mis-mash of different systems; making them unreliable (especially for the Army) and a nightmare to support. EDS provide only very limited support 24/7 but fair support Uk 9-5 (which is marvellous for all out chaps overseas).

    I heard they charge around £250 for a keyboard for some of these systems and the contract allows them to get away with it. Locally buying IT kit although quite feasible in reality is barred by contract, the tax-payer gets ripped off and Jack and Pongo go without their systems for longer.

    Of course nowadays no-one can be held accountable for these kind of ****-ups and so service will continue to degrade whilst costing more.

    h-o-o
     
  4. This bloody country`s turning into an episode of Yes Minister.


    Sooner the MOD disappears the better for all servicemen and all taxpayers. Cant see it happening though,too many snouts...
     
  5. You're right, but you're also wrong. The servers are industry standard, and usually HP/Compaq kit. The majority of PCs are Dell. Some systems are run by the Army with UK-based support if required, but the usual theatre-based systems are run by EDS/Fujitsu under contract to the MoD.

    The limited support comment is correct, as they only send permanent staff out there these days instead of contractors as they did up to about two years ago. The problem with this is that their permie staff have very poor technical skills which means that most of what they do has to be referred back to the UK. However, the UK does provide support from 0700-1500 UK-time each day, as with the offset, this means that the normal working days in-theatre are covered. This happens seven days a week, and the UK-based staff are far more technically-minded that those in theatre.

    The cost of an item may sound extreme to you, especially as you can buy a monitor from PC World for £150, whereas the MoD is being charged up to £500 for the same item. But what you have to realise is that the cost of the item also covers the cost of providing support to it for the next three years. If you work it out as having someone available/on-call 24-7, then it's not a bad deal. If you were to take the monitor back to PC World, you would have to disconnect it yourself, drive down to the store, and they may have it back to you within five working days.. then you collect it, drive home and plug it all back in again. EDS/Fujitsu do all that for you, and on a far shorter timescale, hence the extra cost.
     
  6. janner

    janner War Hero Book Reviewer

    Of course the other option would be to throw the broken one away and buy new, on the amounts given you could, allowing for buying in bulk, buy about 12 keyboards from PC World for the same price. Or instead of throwing the broken kit away, having plenty of replacements, under my scheme, fly the broken ones back to PCW for repair.

    How long have you worked for EDS ICF?
     
  7. Hmm, pretty shoddy piece of reporting from the Telegraph there, they're comparing apples with oranges.

    McKinsey and PA are different beasts and both are poles apart from EDS. EDS don't provide management consulting services, their consulting arm, AT Kearney, went through a management buy out a couple of years ago.

    Much of the money being talked about is for delivery of IT, not consulting advice.

    McKinsey provide very high level strategic advice, personally I don't rate their advice and in the industry they have a reputation for selling lots of people in then delivering a report with a lot of inaccuracy, buggering off to let you implement the recommendations yourself. A good example is Smart Procurement, which was fine in principle, although it had a few issues, but was very badly implemented by MOD.

    PA are middle tier and do deliver, they're not bad, but quite expensive and their people tend to be run ragged; high utilisation and sales targets.

    With respect ot the DII contract, which went to Atlas rather than EDS, you've got a very limited range of options. the only vendors who could have supported the requirement were Fujitsu, EDS, IBM, Cap Gemini, Accenture, HP or CSC. At least the first three of those are shareholders in Atlas, and I think Cap is involved as well. Clients of all of those vendors have issues with their systems; some operational, some contractual, some solutions/ requirement based. In that respect I agree with ICFs post above about disaggregation of costs and incremental funding of materiel.

    Purely with respect to IT contracts having been on both the inside looking out, and the outside but not catering for MOD, one of the big issues that MOD and the single services have is p!ss poor contract management. People, and I include uniformed people here, aren't prepared to hold the vendors to account and they're allowed to breach their contractual obligations. This isn't restricted to MOD, it happens across government.
     
  8. The whole proccess does not provide an easy route to success. As the old saying goes there is many a slip between cup and lip. The time between project conception, and finally being approved is often too long and often the initial budget is anrealistic. The objective is often not reviewd during this period and as a result when approved no longer truly reflects the needs. So before it goes in the contracts buletin the project is set up for failure. The actual contract requirement is often poorly written leaving too many loopholes for the contractor. As the project progresses the requiremnts have to change to meet the current need and this gives the contractor the opportunity to get the timescales onto a more realistic footing that originally specified (most contracts start late with unrealistic timescales) and restore margins to a more profitable scale.

    One thing the septics are good at is running contracts, the DoD works hard to get the contactual requirements right before the contract is signed and equally tends to set realistic timescales. Also their cost plus incentive fee system shares the pain or gain between the customer and supplier, and they have good mechanisms to encourage contractors to inovate to save money which don't exist in the UK, hence the final contracted production price for JDAM was arounf 50% below the original budget. If that had been contracted in the UK the end price would have been 50% more.

    Of course in IT the costs of poor requirements are dramatic as are the costs n time
     
  9. Dell are used to provide the Workstations (thats got to be an Oxymoron when used to describe the ones at the MoD) used at the MoD, why?

    And you know that things have to be bad when someone posts that using PCW would be cheaper and more effective!

    Why has the government found it so difficult to implement IT Systems across all government departments? Do they listen to the needs of the department?
     
  10. Dell used to provided very attractive pricing for corporate customers, and decent back up and many IT service companies did use them, though Dell are now focussing on the retail trade as the margins are better so you will find others taking the corporate business now.

    The margin the IT service provider makes on the machines is part of his payment for the service, remove the machine sales part and the headline price for his service will rise, swinga and roundabouts. There is also the question of network compatibility and software packages. IT service providers usually do the software load up on the machne to ensure comaptibility.

    See my above comments on procurement. The tendency is to take a snapshot of the requirement early on and then it is not changed till they discover that the system procured does not meet the current requirement, then oops.
     
  11. Because that's what Dell do, are you suggesting that we have some government owend factory somewhere churning out hardware for use in government?

    Actually it's not that simple, DII workstations are Fujitsu Siemens, JOCS used to be HP as far as I can remember, OBIS/ IBIS used to be IBMs etc.

    Ah, the usual bleat of the uninitiated, it's rarely cheaper in the grand scheme of things, as ICF has indicated. Maybe you just didn't read his response though.

    Essentially when you buy something through a managed service there is a portion of each item which funds the support overhead; people, expertise, supporting infrastructure. That cost is applied to everything in the service catalogue, sometimes proportional, sometimes a fixed element. It balances out the pain, but it means that a terminal in London costs the same as a terminal in Kabul.

    A like for like cost would require one to consider the cost of the funds used, and the various aspects of getting it to the end user etc.

    Maxi has indicated some of the reasons above, and I'd agree with him.

    It's really not that simple, any IT investment should be undertaken as part of a business change programme. In government they rarely are.
     
  12. Of course I'm not suggesting that there is a government owned factory! I'm merely asking why Dell are used, when they are one of the worst brands of computer manufacturers from recommendations of their customers. I was asking why such an unrealiable and poor brand is used.

    I now understand about the costs equal to London as in Kabul, how that works out I still don't understand. Is it beneficial or detrimental to the overall cost.

    That tendency of IT Procurement clearly is not working, is there no way that the those doing the procurement can see what the department is going to need, afterall what are five year plans etc. for if not for forward planning?
     
  13. Don't mention consultants..... they do all those things management used to take responsibility for but now delegate out... Perhaps the remuneration of those same managers should be reduced commensurately?
     
  14. If Dell are so good we'd be using them as we need very reliable PCs. As with printers, we found that paying for quality saved money in the medium-long term. We buy Compaq's and HP printers for that reason.
     
  15. Dell corporate was in fact a good and reliable brand, we only stopped using them when they moved out of the corporate market, so to suggest the MOD is buying poor quality is perhaps wrong. Because poor performance is costly to them IT sevice providers do take quite serious care in selecting suppliers. Just as an example I am still using a 6 years old Dell lcd monitor, and it has not given one moment of problem.

    Equally the unit price includes acceptance testing software load up and delivery to your desk and disposal of the old unit. As Karma pointed out perhaps if your office was next door to PCW (whose after sales service is considered by many to be poor) you may save a bit on one machine, if it is in somewhere like Basra not quite so easy.

    One of the reasons the govt as a whole is bad at service contracts is that they are very often very poor at describing what they do and needas a service, this results in a contract that does not meet the real need and problems. To be fair many companies in the commercial world had similar problems changing to contract service in place of in house but were usually faster at identying the problems and fixing them.

    In general once the specification problems are sorted out most service contract both save money, and provide a good standard of service, but try to save too much and you will be in trouble
     
  16. Peter, the early Dell's (well the laptops at least) were VG... its the later ones that have caused problems. A friend of mine still uses his Dell laptop after 9 years or so. The larger machines however.......
     
  17. OK, we're well off topic, moving from MC expenditure to IT procurement, but a quick dit about procurement in general.

    Most contracts involve competing a number of Prime Contractors against one another and assessing each of their solution packages against one another. The choice of server infrastructure and end user device is par tof that. Once you've selected a bidder to take through to final negotiations you aren't supposed to start adjusting the solution that they have presented; fair competition, level playing field etc.

    Clearly the performance, reliability etc of the hardware is part of the equation. To ensure honest competition the assessment criteria should be finalised before the requirement specification is sent to bidders, sometimes the outcomes aren't what you'd like.

    The jury remains out on the whiole issue of outsourcing, personally I believe that it makes sense because it allows an organisation to focus on what's important to their core business. In the case of MOD that's deliveirng military effect, not running large global communication networks.

    What does undermine the cost effectiveness is an effort at a local level to minimise costs, so you end up with units doing the equivalent of a trip to PCW, or tactical business decisions from people who don't really understand the commercials. This impacts on both overall costs and on efficiency.

    I would say that government business cases are rarely well written and tend to miss large chunks of cost consideration to make an in-house solution look more attractive. There is value in bringing in independent advice to apply some rigour to the business case process.

    Ideally there would be engagement between the procurement activity and the business throughout the process. Ideally the procurement team should have a number of business representatives embedded. Requirements management needs to be a disciplined and rigorous process, it rarely is.

    In practice the business side frequently divorces itself from the process.
     
  18. We had Dells for years here, and the hardware was in general pretty reliable, my team were running 2 desktops each, one for running the simulation and one for other work and even on the machines which would run 24 hours a day for weeks we had no problems. The company only changed supplier because Dell decided to focus on retail, hence all the brochures in your papers.
     
  19. I fully concur with the comments about generalising consultants. Part of the misquotation is also the confusion of consulting fees with system procurement. So the Toryograph could help by a) splitting IT from management consultancy support, and b) divesting the figures for system procurement from fees.

    Even splitting the management consultancy figures into strategic consulting, operational consulting and implementation would help. McKinsey, BCG, Bain and PRTM would be in that league, PA, ATK and PRTM in the second, and Accenture and EDS in the third. Yes the quality of what you get depends on what you were asked them to do, but my experience on both sides of the consulting fence (buyer and seller) is that rarely do you not get what you asked for, more like you ask for the wrong thing.

    However, on the naive would reckon on not using consultancy support at all levels of an organisation such as the MoD. Otherwise, the organisation will remain in the past and never understand or do what the rest of industry is doing. And given the proximity between Defence and Industry that the Defence Industrial Strategy is calling for, facilitation between these two is of utmost importance.
     
  20. Mine gets quite a lot of use, actually, as do those belonging to most RN personnel appointed / drafted to the MOD.

    When you've done half a dog watch, perhaps then you can think about coming back and insulting those of us who are here providing support to personnel on ops.

    I certainly didn't choose to spend 2 years driving a desk up here, and would much rather be out there either on the crinkly grey or on an op. I fully agree that there are some civil servants in MOD who are not pulling their weight, but they are a minority.

    The gross generalisation that the MOD is of no use is really beginning to irritate me.

    Rant over.
     

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