back to article Transport Dept wastes millions on shared services deal

Shared services - where several government departments share resources in order to save money - might seem like an easy way to reduce costs within the government. But the Department of Transport's complete failure to link human resources, payroll and finance functions for six departments might sound the death knell for the …


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  1. Moss Icely Spaceport
    Thumb Down

    Shared Services

    One of the biggest con tricks on the 20th century.

    The only successful thing about them is the enormous bucket loads of loot paid to the numerous consultants and vendors.

  2. Neil Greatorex

    In other news

    Night follows day.

    Rain falls.

    Italians cheat at football.

    Government IT project is late, over budget and doesn't work as intended, if at all.

    Someone has to stop these Civil Service/Government numpties wasting our money. Hey! I've got an idea; let's make the buggers accountable.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Bring in has beens from outside the Civil Service to run the Department who come up with a wonderful idea without thinking it through. Refuse to ask the people who actually do the work what they require to do the work then blame the rank and file Civil Servants for an expensive cock up. Welcome to the Thatcherite / NuLabour style of a public service.

    Posted anonymously for obvious reasons

  4. Seán

    Open Source it

    Why not do all this shambolic nonsense using open source, then at least it won't cost so much.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Shared Services...

    is a bit like communism.. It looks good on paper.

    Unfortunately it doesn't work very well unless you have a dictator on top that is willing to shoot people if they don't do as they're told.

    If you have that, then you can turn a country of serfs with plows to a superpower with nuclear weapons.

    Ok, so the comparison is horrendously flawed, but the problem with Shared Services is that most implementations allow the 'participants' to get 'step-outs' from the shared process, meaning that in stead of a dictat.. sorry, director, telling them that they can all just shut up and that all their services will be delivered _THIS_ way, they all decide that the Shared Services organisation will continue to deliver the services they need in the same old format as they've always had.

    And that is when you get 1 Shared Service Organisation, with X different departments delivering those services in X different ways. And because those departments are now split from the 'mother' organisation that they service, they become less efficient, and because their office space and resources need to be separated form the 'mother' organisation the whole bloody mess ends up costing a lot more than simply doing nothing in the first place.

    The Solution: Shoot the first bloody manager that utters the word 'Shared Services', OR, shoot the first bloody arse that says the word 'step out'.

    Either way, it's surprising how well things go when you start to consider this fast tracked method of terminating employees.

  6. Vince
    IT Angle

    @Seán / Open Source

    "Why not do all this shambolic nonsense using open source, then at least it won't cost so much."

    You think that the software has anything significant to do with the cost? Haha. There's nothing remotely "I.T." related about these insane costs.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Arse and elbow comes to mind...

    or the lack of being able to notice the differance between the two.

    As Moss said above, the problem with all Governmental things is they haven't a clue, and just listen to a bunch of Consultants who then pass the work on to others who charge way to much for the job, take to long, utterly screw it up, then result in it needing to be done all over again...usually atleast twice. And ta maybe kinda possibly works...sort of :P

    Seen from experience how these idiots work..."ohh we have an office of four laptops, we need a backup solution" they trot and call Mr need this this and this. £25k later they get a insane some wierdass HP Unix Risc box, set up as a NAS with a tape drive on it. I may not be a consultant but sheesh, £25k!!! when anyone in the private sector would get it done for well under a tenth of that.

    But thats government thinking for you *sigh*. After all, they don't need to actually justify the spending to anyone, as it just all magically appears doesn't it?

  8. Dave


    'cause then it won't do what we want nor will it be supported!

  9. Slaine

    Shared Services

    Silly me, I thought all these government departments already shared everything with everyone (except the person about whom the data is based... who in turn must make a formal application before being given an abridged version) via CD.

  10. Bronek Kozicki

    "goverment" and "efficiency"

    ... what a charming self-contradiction it is.

    Mine is the one with plenty of pockets, none big enough to fit a wallet or phone.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Arse and Elbow

    @AC: Many of the evil ITards in government departments and other organisations which have chosen outsourcing are actually TUPE'd in. So one day they are hard working, cheerful, efficient, technical geniuses in the civil service, and the next they are lazy, ignorant fools who know nothing of technology or the customers they are serving, seeking to rip them off.

    Oh and plus the requirements keep changing. And they insist on 24x7 support. And every piece of hardware and software always 100% supported (for GSi compliance) rather than a sensible pragmatic approach. Ooooh and some professional level of documentation with reviews and plans, rather than nerds playing about, run a pilot and push it into production and hope it works like quite a few steaming piles of legacy home built nonence in the public sector.

    The high prices come from the exposure of actual costs, end-to-end of employing these dolts and getting them to perform work every day, as opposed to the opaque nature of a bunch of workers who might have to book time but for whom the rates are internal cross-charges instead of real taxpayer dollars. Ah yes, and some profit for the bubbly at the shareholders' meeting. Cheers!

  12. Anonymous Coward

    You should try it at District Council level

    There you have the employees dragging their heels still wanting to do it their old way and not moving to a single system. So you end up with a whole series of exceptions. Plus at councillor level you have the paranoia of a council of one political party not trusting the council of another persuasion and both of them not trusting the County Council etc. etc.

    So after 2 years of work the cost benefits argument has been replaced by "capacity" and "resilience" benefits and there are still no shared services.

    Makes you want to go postal.

    Mine's the one with the rosette thanks.

  13. Jon Press

    When you log on, it tells you in German that your password has expired...

    So, that would be SAP then??

    At another London-based large transport-related organisation, I was unable to enter a timesheet for the entire duration of my employment nor reliably have the system pay attention to weekends and bank holidays when calculating leave.

    Not, I hasten to add, that there's anything wrong with SAP per se - you can do almost anything with it. The trouble is finding the expertise to configure it to work with your existing business processes (or, alternatively, adapting your business processes to make the configuration more manageable since no-one really understands how the processes in any business actually work) - this is the unseen elephant lurking in the room when the sales people and the directors sign the contract. And it can be a very hungry elephant.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Re government & efficiency

    Look to the Ministers, EDS got the DWP contract because they worked closely with M$, they installed all the desktop PCs, uninstalled XP and installed Office 2000 because they did not support XP. Brings a new definition to working closely, EDS then got paid megabucks to install XP at a later date, yep that's a good saving of public funds, add to that the excess amounts paid in M$ licence fees because we have to be seen to be above board and won't ask for discounts and wonder how Ministers can claim to have made efficiencies, I shudder at the money wasted.

    Guess why I'm posting anonymously.

  15. Chris Cooper


    "...before being given an abridged version) via CD"

    Either that or the full version of not just your data but everybody else's as well - because using a SELECT statement requires an expensive contractor/a six day wait/an outbreak of common sense (choose 3 options from 3)...

  16. Steven Hewittt

    @Seán / Open Source

    Um, I think you'll find that HMG require consultations and of course 24x7 support. Linux and OpenOffice or Windows and Office makes no difference regarding cost once you compare open source ENTERPRISE licensing and support / training costs compares to Microsoft ENTERPRISE licensing and support / training costs.

    RHEL with 24x7 support and maintenance is about the same as Win2k8 with 24x7 support and maintenance.

    Thanks for the trolling anyway.


    The biggest problem is this insane want of outsourcing. No outsourcing company has ever done a good job ever. I used to work for Accenture at a Shared Service Centre for a very large travel agent.

    Accenture did the IT Infrastructure, Finance and HR. Syntel (Indian dev company) did the software and "Pink Roccade" (i'm serious!) did the helldesk and desktops.

    It's the biggest shambles I've ever seen. Nothing worked, we were using Windows 95 desktops on 10 year old hardware, there was no cross training, everyone was passing the buck....

    It's just a joke....

  17. Spleen

    Why the subtitle change?

    "Ich nichten lichten" was a great reference. If it's too obscure then that's the fault of the readers and they should immediately run out and buy the DVD of The Day Today.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Shared Services

    "The only successful thing about them is the enormous bucket loads of loot paid to the numerous consultants and vendors."

    The gravy train has too much inertia and it's impossible to do the right thing. If you try and say this is poor value or a waste you're branded a trouble maker.

    Very briefly I saw this project. The project plan had something like "week 46 test the system". Even before I left home I could sense it would be a waste of time. But my boss wanted his turn at the trough. When I got there only half the kit had been delivered. None of it configured. I said this is a waste of time. I had to spend a week testing systems that didn't exist and write a report. And the boss sent an invoice. The project manager was happy. He could confirm that the testing had been done on schedule and therefore no penalty. The fact that the real test had to be done a month later - and a second invoice sent - was irrelevant. The plan said conduct a test. The test was conducted on schedule. The fact that the results thrown away didn' t matter.

    Anonymous for obvious reasons.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    We've got to be seen to be fair...

    The problem is that we local government-ites have to play by the big boys rules and have to be seen to be fair. We are actually bound to go through a tendering process and, after all the hoo ha and reporting and all the rest of it ... then award it to the cheapest tender ... which is usually the one that mucks it up.

    Only very recently have we been allowed to take quality and apropriateness of the finished product/company that provides the solution - in to account. Watch this space.

    Also ... shared serices ... don't talk to me about shared services ... it makes me angry ... and you wouldn't like me when I'm angry.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surely the most import thing to specify to consultants is....


    I've yet to work on a project where code coming from India (for example) has been anything other than, well, disastrous....

    I've yet to have this proved, but Im starting to believe that projects are much more likely to succeed if you keep everything in a place where everyone has a common language, has a common set of basic knowledge (ie understanding what a postcode is...) and is only a few hours up the motorway from a manager with a big stick.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Shared services

    The reality is that the bean counters that set up the shared services don't understand the needs of the pen pushers who are going to be in the services, The pen pushers are then made into non-specialists who can't understand the needs of the front-line staff who are doing the actual work that the public thinks it is paying for.

    So, for example, the council's shared HR team will understand the contracts for fellow bureaucrats, but not realise or understand that social workers have to work different hours, or that School Inspectors and teachers are both on a different kind of contract. The IT team will be great at fixing the Town Hall computers, but have no idea how the Social Services network functions. The Health and Safety people haven't realised that the Parks Dept. staff aren't too interested training about how to adjust the chair heights, but do need to do manual handling properly. The salaries people..... but you get the idea.

    Anonymous: Same reason as a number of the above.

    Paris: Because it's all so silly

  22. Anonymous Coward


    "RHEL with 24x7 support and maintenance is about the same as Win2k8 with 24x7 support and maintenance.

    Thanks for the trolling anyway."

    I call BS.

    You could hire a legion of supporting people (working 24/7) at the price you pay for same level of support for Windows. If you buy those from RHEL, they know what they are doing, too. Try to buy that kind of service from Microsoft.

    If you succeed, it doesn't matter, as you won't get it, anyway. MS works 9 to 5 and they won't give a damn if you have a problem, so there's nothing your "support" can do, no matter how much do they charge from you.

    Unless you have The Source, you (nor your "supporter") can't fix anything. That's a hard fact.

    Now, who's trolling? And who's the fool buying 24/7 support for system which is patched once a month? No more, no less.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Re: 'other people's money'

    Am huffing and puffing in enraged sympathy with co-posters. I work in local govt and have suffered intense ostracism for trying to alert our Assistant Director of Finance that our new (SAP bolt-on) automated payments system has, amidst its millions in double- and overpayments, wrongly double-paid £500k to third parties, which we were ostensibly not asking anyone for back, as 'nobody was that fussed about it'.

    Yes, I know.

    Even my shrink loathes me and thinks I'm a trouble-making git!!!

    It'll be interesting to see how Tim 'Prince of Darkness' Parker (he of private equity / TheAA cost-cutting fame) will fare as he takes on London's deputy mayoralty (and TFL and GLA) under Boris.

    Paris because I need some of her couldn't-care-less brand of contentedness.

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