back to article Capita's bespoke British Army recruiting IT cost military 25k applicants after switch-on

Capita's 2017 decision to implement bespoke IT systems on a £1.3bn British Army recruiting contract led to nearly 25,000 fewer applications to join the military in the following year, new figures have revealed. The switching-on of bespoke Defence Recruiting System (DRS) IT systems contributed to the lowest number of wannabe …

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  1. Cederic Silver badge

    Why haven't we banned Capita

    The continual expensive failure of Capita to provide reasonable service, let alone good and efficient service, really should have led to a multi-year ban across all public bodies from signing new services from them.

    I'm not going to pretend that £130m/year all goes on the IT system - it'll include recruitment teams, marketing, assessment, career guidance and other things - but fundamentally this is a basic HR function. Companies with under £130m/year revenue, let alone HR spend, manage this just fine and it's trivial to scale.

    Start giving smaller organisations some of these tasks. Boost the economy, not Capita shareholder dividends. Or if you really are going to be stupid enough to sign Capita, make sure the contract includes performance penalties. Lots of them. Shit, you'll make money on it.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Why haven't we banned Capita

      I don't think the shareholder dividends can be up to much, every time I read about Crapita their margins are somewhere between one and two percent.

      I have no idea what the C suite bonuses are like however.

      1. General Purpose

        Re: Why haven't we banned Capita

        No dividends paid since 2017.

        1. General Purpose

          Re: Why haven't we banned Capita

          At that point, the share price had fallen about 60% in two years. Since then, it's fallen to about 5% of what it was 5 years ago.

      2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        Re: Why haven't we banned Capita

        It's easy to get low margins. Just increase the salaries of the executives to an obscene amount.

    2. Binraider

      Re: Why haven't we banned Capita

      Rather stupidly, procurement law concerning using past performance to judge a current bid is frowned upon if not illegal. One must therefore get your tender scoring process absolutely bang on to ensure you aren't delivered a turd. MOD has a long history of getting this wrong; Boeing and the Chinooks come to mind. Capita deliver what's asked for - garbage in, garbage out. If it weren't garbage in, Capita wouldn't get the job. What do I know, 20 years experience of writing tenders...

      1. osakajin Bronze badge

        Re: Why haven't we banned Capita

        Fodder in Shirley?

      2. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: Why haven't we banned Capita

        CANCELLATION CLAUSES and PRESCRIBED METRIC TARGETS (e.g. number of job applications handled by the system, percentage of applications experience technical problems, etc.).

        Why does nobody put them in?

        You didn't deliver, contract is null and void, you get nothing. Want to get paid? Make it do what you promised.

      3. HildyJ Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Why haven't we banned Capita

        As one who has written tenders in the states (a.k.a. RFPs - Request for Proposal), we have similar constraints. Past performance involves the bidder selecting a project and giving you a contact and you can't do any additional research. The best bet might be to try for an Ongoing Concern based on company size and profit margin but it's hard to get that approved.

        The crap companies shall be with us always.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why haven't we banned Capita

        But Capita don't even seem to polish their turds. Amazing given the amount of money that seems to get spent...

        1. Taciturn

          Re: Why haven't we banned Capita

          Capita gave up turd-polishing years ago. Now they just roll the turds in glitter and present them to incredulous procurement departments - who for reasons that pass understanding continue to let contracts to them. Definition of madness is repeating the same thing expecting a different outcome...

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why haven't we banned Capita

        "Boeing and the Chinooks come to mind."

        I wouldn't normally defend Boeing but in this case, as in the case of BAe and the Nimrod MR4 mentioned in another post over the last few days, the blame should be laid at the hands and keyboards of the procurement "experts" in Whitehall who do not have a clucking fue about aircraft but think that, if they write a Requirement and someone sells them a solution, they can simply change the requirement as many times as they like without consequence. Never mind little details like aircraft having limited space available, or maximum all-up weights that have to include such minor inconsequentialities as the crew, fuel and a useful payload.

        But that's no excuse for not banning Crapita. They should have gone the way of the dodo years ago!

        1. EnviableOne Silver badge

          Re: Why haven't we banned Capita

          the Nimrod platform has been a continuing issue for the MoD procurement teams

          They bankrupt GEC Marconi on the AWACS project

          put severe dents in BAe Systems on the MR4

    3. oiseau Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Why haven't we banned Capita

      Why?

      Because someone once decided to bash into people's heads that public sector was bad and that private was good much better, very efficient and that unlike the public sector, clearly understood the concept of value for money.

      This, of course, (like Greta Fowler would say), is absolute rubbish.

      Because value for money is a very narrow metric and depends heavily on who is evaluating, what they are evaluating but more than anything if they are actually valuating the right things.

      In the case that occupies us now, the right things are never evaluated.

      Not everything can be translated into money/dividends. eg: The benefit of having a decent public transport system in crowded cities even if they do not turn a profit or if it is neccesary to subsidize them is absolutely huge.

      Profit in and for a society/nation is not about money whereas for the private sector, it is only about money and shareholder dividends.

      In any case, the private sector has (long ago and all over the western world) clearly shown at every chance it's had what their concept of "value for money" is:

      The most money for them with the least value for the rest of us.

      As such, said sector is absolutely at odds with the aim of ensuring common good, general welfare and security and the well-being of everyone in the nation.

      Which is clearly a task for the state to undertake.

      The private sector does not give a Flying Flamingo® for the common good, general welfare and security and the well-being of everyone but themselves, it's just what they are, how they are built.

      You cannot put public matters in private hands, it's a recipe for ruin.

      O.

      1. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

        Re: Why haven't we banned Capita

        And where it stops, not using private suppliers?

        Feeding soldiers only with food grown on State farms?

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Re: Why haven't we banned Capita

          When it means that defence of the country becomes dependent on who the for-profit supplier is, and who certainly has different loyalties than the country, then yes. The same goes for other critical national infrastructure, including the NHS.*

          *Yes, I'm very aware of the problem of cutting-edge medications/medical instruments.

    4. You aint sin me, roit Silver badge

      Re: Why haven't we banned Capita

      The idea behind ignoring smaller, but more competent companies, is that when it all goes tits up (and the MoD have enough experience to know that it will), there will still be a company around to sue...

      Or pay to make it good... throwing good money after bad.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why haven't we banned Capita

      I am going to bet that most people commenting here have never actually worked with public sector clients...or indeed they work for them. It takes two to tango...

    6. Potemkine!

      Oligopoly

      An oligopoly (ολιγοπώλιο) (Greek: ὀλίγοι πωλητές "few sellers") is a market form wherein a market or industry is dominated by a small group of large sellers (oligopolists). Oligopolies can result from various forms of collusion that reduce market competition which then typically leads to higher prices for consumers.

      Small businesses are de facto excluded because they don't have the ears of the political deciders. The big ones do. No, no, it isn't corruption, it's called lobbyism.

      If you think it will change some day, I've got several bridges to sell for you.

    7. VulcanV5
      Unhappy

      Re: Why haven't we banned Capita

      "We" haven't banned Capita because Capita is hooked in as deeply to the UK's political structure as all the other big name parasites out there.

      There isn't a Tory party or Labour party or even, LibDem party conference that isn't blessed, one way or another, by the presence of free drinkies and buffets served up by friendly, gushing employees of the world's largest accountancy companies to conference attendees too stupid to appreciate they're being manipulated.

      As with the accountancy firms, so too with outsourcing businesses like Crapita: lobby, lobby, lobby for work but in addition to that, get the buggers at their party conferences, because that halfwit bloke standing next to the drinks table in the corridor is going to get a safe seat at the next general election and will be forever grateful for the respect and attention you pay him now when he's still obscure and not yet the Government Minister he was born to be.

    8. gobaskof

      Re: Why haven't we banned Capita

      Banning Craptia would be a good idea.

      I have never dealt with UK government procurement, but I experienced the US government version when I was over there. I once wanted to spend $70k on some custom fabricated parts, but the time the bid had passed through procurement I hardly recognised it was my bid as they dress it up in so much legal speak. In the end after a many month delay it was awarded to someone who made us something that was sub standard, after a further long argument we got a slight discount. Woot $60k for something worthless, but I suppose their money goes on the team that can understand the bid documents and tick all the boxes in the response.

      Companies like Crapita specialise in hoop jumping for procurement bids. Nothing much else matters.

  2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    A normal SNAFU?

    I'm always seeing stories like this, has Capita ever done anything that works? By "works" I mean something that benefits the customers, not the corporate management bonuses.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A normal SNAFU?

      They are dire. As the main part of my job (not the army related stuff in the article), I use a piece of their software and it is terrible - frequent crashes, a horrendously high number of mouse clicks to do basic tasks, inability to perform the same task on multiple objects (makes what would be a 5min job using a competitor's software take an afternoon), and it grinds to a slow crawl if someone is stupid enough to run a report on a few thousand items.

      Apparently the licences are about £10,000 cheaper for us compared to the competitor mentioned above, but we've had to hire about two more FTE in my role since we switched...

      1. NeilPost Bronze badge

        Re: A normal SNAFU?

        ... yet your organisation was complicit in specification, design, implementation, UAT, training, sign-off and payment for the aforementioned piece of shite.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A normal SNAFU?

          Ah, an optimist!

          For this particular software package, the first four were done (or should I say "attempted"?) before our organisation existed - if we had been involved in those processes to any extent, it is news to me.

          "Training" consisted of one colleague (acquired through a merger, who had used a previous version) being told to sit with us for a couple of afternoons, and then answer phone calls when needed. Mostly, it was a case of "I wonder what this button does...".

          Yes, our outfit is terrible in many ways, but that doesn't absolve Capita of anything. Selecting their product is one item in a long list of our mistakes.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A normal SNAFU?

      Oh yes...because when a company does a good job that's newsworthy...especially at the Register.

      "Capita implements functioning back office system for happy client". I can definitely see that scoop coming to a tabloid headline near you.

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: A normal SNAFU?

        Hi, AC! (in this case, Apologist for Capita). Have you got any examples, or are you spouting garbage?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A normal SNAFU?

          @Intractable Potsherd. I see what you did there. That's why you earn the big bucks.

    3. EnviableOne Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: A normal SNAFU?

      SNAFU = Situation Normal All F*@k3d Up

      therefore a "normal SNAFU" is similar to "an ATM Machine" or a "PIN number"

      is an expression of RAS

  3. osakajin Bronze badge

    Now we know where the top brass will be moving to after retiring.

  4. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    I get it...

    Ok, it's the regular 3 monthly "let's bash Capita" story. I'm totally all for that; but isn't there also an argument for saying that the Armed forces simply aren't an attractive career option for a lot of people, hence the lack of applicants?

    I can't speak for everyone, but it's certainly not a pathway for life that either of my children entertained.

    1. Dr Scrum Master

      Re: I get it...

      There're also the recent rounds of advertising which may not have done so well at attracting sufficient applicants...

      1. Korev Silver badge

        Re: I get it...

        Also, the current generation of recruits probably won't remember Iraq & Afghanistan very much

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I get it...

          "Also, the current generation of recruits probably won't remember Iraq & Afghanistan very much"

          You do know that there are lots of people who join the army specifically to fight and become warriors don't you? Fortunately they are not all Islington set navel gazers stuck in a sixth form political dilema pontificating about geopolitical problems way above their understanding.

          1. spacecadet66

            Re: I get it...

            "You do know that there are lots of people who join the army specifically to fight and become warriors don't you?"

            Yes. And what they actually become is security guards for the oligopoly.

    2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: I get it...

      The military is a wonderful career. Travel to exotic and exciting places. Meet new and interesting people. ... and kill them.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I get it...

      Private Eye had the story of the CO of a (Scottish?) regiment who got fed up with the number of people coming up to him saying that they'd love to join up but got nowhere with Crapita, so he started taking details and tried to pass them up the chain.

      He got slapped down of course... "Not your job", etc...

    4. phuzz Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: I get it...

      I wouldn't be surprised if over time the number of people interested in joining the armed forces has gone down, but a 20% drop in one year is pretty steep.

      Mind you, the 50% jump in applicants in 2016-17 needs some explanation as well. Particularly effective adverts? Young people suddenly becoming more bloodthirsty? Counting error?

      1. Korev Silver badge

        Re: I get it...

        Mind you, the 50% jump in applicants in 2016-17 needs some explanation as well. Particularly effective adverts? Young people suddenly becoming more bloodthirsty? Counting error?

        Maybe some people* felt more patriotic because of the Brexit vote?

        * Not me personally though

      2. EnviableOne Silver badge

        Re: I get it...

        posibly due to the large numbers of expeirneced staff let go by the Defence review and re-applying?

    5. juice Silver badge

      Re: I get it...

      > isn't there also an argument for saying that the Armed forces simply aren't an attractive career option for a lot of people, hence the lack of applicants?

      Monday: we sold 200 ice creams from our old truck

      Tuesday: we introduced our new ice cream truck. The speaker doesn't work, and there isn't a window, so we have to open the passenger-side window to give out ice cream and get money We only sold 100 ice creams..

    6. herman Silver badge

      Re: I get it...

      "lack of applicants" - TFA states large numbers of applicants quit in frustration trying to navigate the web site.

    7. spacecadet66

      Re: I get it...

      I feel like the Germans have the right idea here. Thanks to some deliberate postwar social engineering, the Bundeswehr is seen as a low-prestige employer of last resort. It certainly beats the "SuPpOrT tEh TrOoPs!" mentality prevalent in the USA.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    1.3 billion could have given each of the 110,000 recruits a 10 grand bonus. Wouldn't that have just been a bit easier? And put the money in the pockets of the people who deserve it rather than Crapita executives? What is wrong with the world?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      £350m per week extra will be going to the NHS soon I believe. That's an extra £233 per week for every NHS employee?

    2. Templogin

      Giving Money Away

      We constantly seem to be able to give loads of money away, but not to the riff raff.

  6. boltar Silver badge

    When I was young...

    ... back in the 80s they had Forces recruiting centres. Why not bring them back? Not everything works well online and when I went to one to have "the chat" I realised pretty quickly that I probably wasn't suitable for a life in the Army. If I'd done an online application god knows how much of my and their time I'd have wasted befire I'd come to the same conclusion.

    1. David Neil

      Re: When I was young...

      They still exist, there is one on Queen St, Glasgow

    2. Insert sadsack pun here

      Re: When I was young...

      They were never particularly busy, they were terrorist targets, they were expensive to rent. You don't see many recruitment agencies with High Street shopfronts any more but 20 years ago they all used to have little postcards in the window. Now you don't need them because it's all online and easy...

      ...oh.

      1. Ashto5

        Re: When I was young...

        Why not put them in Job Centers ?

        Got a crap life join the army and blow crap up you will love it

        Maybe have a few guns laid out for them to try

        The odd tank parked outside

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