back to article BBC: Hey, Atos, old buddy. Here's a cheque for £285m, fill your boots

The BBC has tossed £285m of licence fee payers' cash at a beefy tech services deal with integrator Atos after the planned rollout of a brand new tower framework to house multiple suppliers hit the buffers. The existing Technology Framework Contract (TFC), also with Atos, is set to expire March next year. It covers telephony, …


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  1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    The crazy thing...

    The thing that has never adequately been explained to me, even when it was happening to me, is just *how* the BBC (or indeed any other major company) expects to save money, using

    - the same people

    - sat at the same desks

    - doing the same jobs

    - at the same salaries and benefits

    - with T&Cs that mean any change has to be paid for

    - and with a third party collecting its profit.

    Perhaps it's because I'm an engineer, not an MBA, but I'm pretty sure I can see that this is going to be more expensive than just keeping the staff you've already got and letting then continue to do the job they already know how to do.

    And then the TFC runs out, and you have to negotiate it all again, and somehow, it doesn't turn out any cheaper the second time around...

    It strikes me that outsourcing is perhaps the worst idea ever in the field of employee management; it costs more and removes any remaining vestige of good will; the staff have no interest in the success or ethos or values of the company their desks have been placed in.

    Trebles all round!

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: The crazy thing...

      It is sort of outsourcing:

      It was signed in 2004 with Siemens, valued at £2bn, but transferred to Atos when it acquired the Solutions and Services unit in 2010.

      Siemens Solutions and Services is/was BBC Technology, the unit that Tony Blair forced to be privatised in his attempt to gain control of the BBC. In effect, they keep just giving the contracts to "BBC Technology", whoever owns it at the time.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The crazy thing...

        "Siemens Solutions and Services is/was BBC Technology, the unit that Tony Blair forced to be privatised in his attempt to gain control of the BBC"

        You have to wonder if there was anything in the country Tony B. Liar and his mates didn't screw up. Embarrassingly I voted for this jumped up used car salesman in 97 - however I didn't make the same mistake twice. Sadly a lot of people did and look where it got us.

    2. dogged

      Re: The crazy thing...

      It's not cheaper, but....

      Well. If you're a profit making organization, it all comes from different budgets so you have the opportunity for creative tax-fiddling. And of course, those wages and perks (and more pertinently the Employers National Insurance Contributions) are no longer your problem and the firm you've outsourced to is probably based overseas and dodging all tax from all involved nations.

      Trebles and snatched disability payments all round!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The crazy thing...

      The BBC (and every other branch of the government) have a great deal of difficulty in getting rid of staff. The BBC also have a rather large pension hole that needs to be filled (its going to get topped up with tax payers money). By outsourcing they achieve a couple of things. Their official headcount decreases since they no longer employ those people. The pension obligations decrease since not all of those outsourced will take their pensions with them. At a future date they can downsize or abandon the contract and it is then up to outsourced company to deal with it.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The crazy thing...

      Your last paragraph says what I and many of my colleagues have been saying an ex-BBC employees outsourced to a company whose raison-d'etre is to be a business. When we were directly employed by the beeb we felt we were working for a Broadcaster - something we believed in and had some pride in (yes pride for the BBC with all its shortcomings)

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: The crazy thing...

        You may have said it to me: I was in BBC Technology and then Siemens after it was sold.

        I often asked myself the rhetorical question: who would I rather have on the security desk? Someone who has worked for the company, who has a pension with them, and history, and something to protect? Or some poor devil on minimal salary zero-hours contract, with no connection to the company at all? Or in the canteen, or cleaning the floors, or designing and installing a TV studio half way around the world in the middle of a revolution?

        It is as you say a question of pride, and for whom one has that pride.

    5. JimmyPage
      Thumb Up

      Re: The crazy thing...

      In some ways I agree. However, you have to bear in mind the accumulated "wisdom" since Adam Smith, about "division of labour", which inevitably leads to businesses using terms like "core business".

      On paper, and in (expensive) management seminars it sounds brilliant. However, it ignores the interconnectedness of things.

      I refer you to the story(s) passim about RBS, where it was pointed out that their biggest strategic mistake was to consider IT as something someone else could do for them. Many posters here pointed out that in reality, a modern bank is an IT house which just happens to manage money. In the same way EDF are an IT house which happen to manage energy.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The crazy thing...

        As I recall, Adam Smith had nothing really to say about the division of labour. He did, however, have a lot to say about how businessmen, if allowed to get together, would pretend to compete while actually agreeing to raise prices through the medium of apparent regulation. Not that for one moment I would suggest that the large outsourcing companies form such a de facto cartel. It is purely coincidence that all the talk about extending contracts down to smaller companies always seems to founder on rules which assume that very large companies are too big to fail.

        However, your other point seems to me to miss the mark. The problem is that outsourcing is done for reasons which have nothing to do with real benefits to the company doing it, and everything to do with economic factors which should be irrelevant, such as the pensions system. The assumption is that these projects will never show a downside. Corporate economics, like bank economics, assumes that new and imaginative forms of financial risk taking are somehow much safer than business as usual.

    6. Irongut

      Re: The crazy thing...

      Ah Neil you're missing the fact that it won't be the same people sat at the same desks, it will be half of those people working for half the wage they were on before sat at the same desks and doing twice as much work. And yet it will still cost the BBC more than having them in house did.

      How could that not make sense?

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: The crazy thing...

        Well for a long time, it was. *I* was, for five or six years, until the BBC discovered that it cost them more to get what they could have had for free, and included Siemens out.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The crazy thing...

      But surely you realise that business as usual just involves technical staff, while constant contract renegotiation provides jobs for MBAs?

    8. ruthlessrob

      Re: The crazy thing...

      I think most of us on the ground know that outsourcing ussually results in a worse service for more money. However managers, particularly in the public sector see things rather differently.

      When carried out in-house IT managers had to actually provide a service, once it's outsourced they only have to "manage" the supplier - in other words if there's a problem they pickup the phone and call the IT provider. The IT manager is still on the same money.

      Trebles all round

    9. Gordon Pryra

      Re: The crazy thing...

      It’s nothing to do with saving money. It never has been.

      The BBC, Local Councils, the NHS, the old transport authority’s and the Police all have something in common.

      Their IT contracts are awarded to people on the basis of either personal links or straight up bribery.

      This is why they pay more money for things the private industry would laugh at. From licence costs to support contracts that mean nothing. Because when they sign those cheques, people are ALLWAYS getting kickbacks somewhere along the line.

      How else can you explain how people will pay 2-3 times the value of something even though its public money they are playing with (I understand the "it’s not my cash, I don’t care" aspect.)

    10. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The crazy thing...

      Yep. I was there and all the sale did was add a couple of layers of seat polishers called "management" who just made everything more complicated.

      So instead of just taking a phone call and fixing something, there was suddenly endless bureaucracy costing god knows how much. I escaped as soon as I could as the useless idiot managers bought in had no concept or understanding of a broadcasting enviroment.

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Be very very careful

      ATOS are incredibly litigious, and very effective at suppressing negative comments in all media.

      Incidentally I'm not one to stand up for them, but so far, all the stories about terminal patients being expected to work have actually boiled down to the paperwork not being submitted, or being submitted incomplete, because people "assumed they [ATOS] should know". The rules are crystal clear. Not returning the form, or returning it incomplete/incorrect automatically removes the claimant from the ESA process, expecting them to work. No ifs, buts, or maybes.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Be very very careful

        OK, as I assume you are delivering a warning from ATOS, I have withdrawn my post before the Reg gets an official nasty letter.

        I do hope that one day somebody denies you something valuable because you made a mistake on a form, because it would be only justice.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Can I just check

      No, that's Atos Healthcare. This is Atos IT Services.

      Comparing them to each other is like comparing Phillips Lighting Systems to Phillips Health Care.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Atos disability assessments criteria ..

        01. Enter Room ...

        02. Put hands up ...

        03. Put hands down ..

        04. Get Certified fit for work

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Atos disability assessments criteria ..

          > 02. Put hands up ...

          > 03. Put hands down ..

          You can stack shelves...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Can I just check

      No its not, that's Atos Healthcare/Origin etc...

      Here you're dealing with Atos Managed Services. They also provide services to the Welsh Government.

    4. PaulusTheGrey

      Re: Can I just check

      It is all part of the same outfit. I speak from experience.

  3. Timmay


    What an utter disaster of a company.

    That is all.

    1. TitterYeNot

      Re: ATOS

      I think you mean "What an utter disaster of a company...allegedly."

      In the same way that - allegedly - they're an inhumane, incompetent parasite of a company who, if there's any sense in this world, are about to be kicked off the fit-for-work contract by the Department for Work and Pensions.

      And the sooner the better...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re atos

    did someone say (cough) reputational damage?

  5. Tony Rogers

    The main reason most people work is for reward , not the warm cosy feeling that they are doing God's work or their own elevated reasons of the job itself..

    Nurses and teachers of old did these jobs mainly with sincerity and passion, the rewards coming from the results of their labours with a small element of fiscal reccompence. Vocational they called it.

    Well, surprise surprise....these days have gone.

    The only reason town and county councils exist is to enhance the salary and pension pots.

    Every penny spent on services is money wasted on the tax payers and lost forever to the pension pot.

    The BBC is in the same boat and expects licence fees to rise ever higher and the gravy train to advance onwards and upwards with personal management advancement for a neat pencil tray.

    Why don't the powers that be "outsource" the BBC to SKY and have done with it ?

    (Well, political control of the organ of free speach may be lost...horror !)

    This would get rid of most of the deadwood stacked in the plush offices they continue to build.

    Lord Reith will be turning in his 78rpm at a guess ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You had me up to "these days are gone"

  6. ruthlessrob

    In the alternative reality of management consultancy outsourcing does make sense, in theory a company that specialises in IT should do a better jib than in house staff. However reality torpedeos this view.

    (1) Many of the outsourcing companies conducting many different unrelated activities themselves. For example ATOS does both IT & healthcare.

    (2) Take the case of Jaguar cars. When a car company owned it, the company performed badly. A company called Tata, better known for making Tetley tea bags takes it over and makes a success of it.

    (3) Nintendo made playing cards then branched out into gaming consoles, no doubt had they listened to the consultants they'd have concentrated on "core competencies" and still be a small outfit making playing cards

    (4) Companies take years negotiating IT contracts, then it all goes to pot within months when requirements change. Guess what? outsourcer now holds all the cards and can dictate terms.

    1. Aitor 1


      Best known for making Tetley? And you work in IT?

      Not to say heavy machinery, cars, etc etc.

      1. FlatSpot

        Re: Tata

        Surely it shows he works in IT.... talking of which, time for a cuppa

        (need a Tea icon :)

    2. ToddR

      "better known for making tea"

      Your ignorance of Tata is staggering?

      Industrial conglomerate founded by Ratan Tata, in the 60/70s?

      1. ruthlessrob

        I know damn well what Tata do - it's a lot of things including making steel. IT services (yes I did know that). operating hotels, power stations. telecoms among many others. In the West, the boiler plate but expensive advice from management con$ultants would almost certainly to break up the group and spin off "non core" businesses - with yet more consultancy fees of course.

        My point about the Tata brand was that prior to the takeover of Jaguar cars. Tata's best known brand among the British public was indeed Tetleys tea bags..

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "several unforeseen circumstances arose"

    a few of which were

    we have directors on the payrole of ATOS who may have been upset

    We'd have to repay the kickbacks

    the public accounts committee may look into why the other bidders were under half the price....

  8. s. pam

    Same shite, different name

    We are MUGS as TV license rape payers who have lost any sense of the spirit that made this nation fight back against oppressive regimes. We did it in WW I and WW II and we need to do it now to all these cash sucking, ineffective, useless luvvie led outsourcing orgs.

    It has categorically cost us treble or more EVERY TIME, and we keep funding them like mugs.

    it is time to declare an end,

    1. dogged

      Re: Same shite, different name

      not sure if trolling....

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