back to article Gulp! Irish Water outsources contact centres to Capita for up to €27m over 7 years

Irish Water has placed the "transformation" and management of its customer contact centres in the hands of everyone's favourite outsourcing badass, Capita. The London Stock Exchange-listed business told the City today that it has bagged a five-year contract valued at €10m, though if the Irish utility provider decides to extend …

  1. macjules Silver badge
    Alert

    "new software and digital capabilities"

    Seem to recall them saying the same vis the (failed) British Army recruitment contract. If I was in Eire now I would be starting to stock up on water.

    1. Ken 16 Silver badge

      Re: "new software and digital capabilities"

      Just a reminder, the name of the country (in English) is Ireland. Even the British government came to accept that after the first 60 years being reminded.

      1. Ken 16 Silver badge

        Re: "new software and digital capabilities"

        OK, I'll bite - whoever downvoted this, explain why the name of the country is whatever you want it to be?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "new software and digital capabilities"

        What's the country's name in Irish?

        1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

          Re: "new software and digital capabilities"

          The post was in English not Gaelic.

        2. Cynical Observer
          Headmaster

          Re: "new software and digital capabilities"

          OK - as you asked. The name in Irish (which indicentally is Gaeilge - not Gaelic) is Éire

          That accent on top of the E is called a síneadh fada (or more commonly just a fada) It changes the sound of the vowel, lengthening in.

          Eire - that's a completely different word. It means Burden. (And yes, one would have to be a smartarse to reply to this with a post about Ireland being a burden so save it - they're old)

          Just in the same way that you would not drop España into sentence written in English, it's poor form to drop Éire into a sentence written in English.

          And the Republic of Ireland - That's the football team.

          The country is called, in the English language, Ireland. (Section 4 of the Irish Constitution refers.)

      3. deadlockvictim Silver badge

        Re: "new software and digital capabilities"

        One of the official names of the Republic of Ireland is Éire. It is written in the Irish Constitution. using it to refer to the Republic of Ireland is perfectly fine. Let us all remember the goddess Ériu.

        However, back to the point at hand, how often do we use official names?

        Most people in the U.K., when referring to the state within which they live, say 'England' (ahem) and not, 'The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland' [1].

        And to the original poster, would you not feel it strange and perhaps a tad pedantic whenever others kept referring to 'The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland' rather than the U.K.?

        [1] I know, I know, England is a country and the U.K. is a state, although what exactly the difference between a country and a state is here is anyway moot. Is Catalonia a country? My point is that in everyday discourse in England, this distinction is not made.

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: I know, I know, England is a country and the U.K. is a state,

          Don't you mean...

          England is a country and the U.K. is IN a state,

        2. Citizen of Nowhere

          Re: "new software and digital capabilities"

          >Is Catalonia a country?

          Not according to the constitution of Spain.

          The UK, on the other hand, according to its constitutional arrangements, is composed of 4 countries. That many of the residents of its largest constituent part believe their country to be its only constituent part (and certainly the only one which counts) is something which is becoming increasingly obvious to the residents of the other three. So, they may get their wish and reality will end up matching their current misconception.

          1. deadlockvictim Silver badge

            constitutional arrangements

            CoN» according to its constitutional arrangements...

            The U.K. has several bodies of law that is its constitution (for want of a better word).

            Wales was conquered by the English king Edward I in the 1280s. Wikipedia informs me that it was legally incorporated into England with the Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542.

            The kingdoms of Scotland & England (along with Wales) formed the United Kingdom Of Great Britain in 1707 with the Acts of Union (they had one each), although England had been ruled by a Scottish family for much of the time since 1606.

            The union of kingdom of Ireland with the kingdom of Great Britain came in 1800 and a good deal of money changed hands (as is often the case). The new kingdom was the kingdom of Great Britain & Ireland and was legally brought about by the Acts of Union 1800 (one per parliament). The old parliament building in Dublin is now a bank branch.

            The next significant pieces of legislation is the Home Rule Act of 1914 which turned into the Goverment of ireland Act 1920, which created Northern Ireland and the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. This treaty created the kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland.

            I still don't know the difference between a country and a state. A state is a legal entity, sovereign within itself and recognised by other states around the world. And a country: a part of a state that is allowed to call itself a country?

            1. Citizen of Nowhere

              Re: constitutional arrangements

              >I still don't know the difference between a country and a state.

              A state is a largely legal construction based on international law and recognition of one state by another. A country or even more so, a nation, may or may not also be a state and of course there are all sorts of disputed situations. The Kurds see themselves as a people, a "stateless" nation if you will. Tibet is a country, but China considers it a Chinese territory (in the legal sense of territory) whereas its government in exile consider it an occupied sovereign state. There are many, many examples of peoples who consider they are a country or a nation but which have no state which expresses that at the level of sovereignty under international law.

              If we look at the case of the United Kingdom, both England and Scotland ceased to exist as separate sovereign states as of the date at which both were incorporated into said United Kingdom. It would be hard to argue that either ceased to exist as countries or nations, however. Separate legal, educational and religious systems were maintained, and there is a [purely symbolic] border between the two. It would also be hard to argue that being either English or Scottish is not a primary part of the identity of most of the inhabitants of those two countries, even if they have shared a unitary state for 300-odd years, and leaving aside the thorny question of how much that specific identity is or is not in conflict with the shared identity of Britishness for any particular individual.

        3. not.known@this.address Silver badge

          Re: "new software and digital capabilities"

          <quote> what exactly the difference between a country and a state is here is anyway moot <end_quote>

          Coming down the UK from the North, if I come from Scotland I can proudly fly the Scottish flag and call myself a Scotsman. If I come from Ireland, I can proudly fly the Irish flag and call myself an Irishman. If I come from Wales, I can proudly fly the Welsh flag and call myself a Welshman.

          If I come from England, I cannot fly the English flag or call myself an Englishman because that would be racist.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "new software and digital capabilities"

            That's the English mainstream media though. Their counterparts in Scotland and Wales wouldn't dare link the flags to racism as they know it'd backfire spectacularly.

            English media gets away with it though. I say that as a Scotsman btw, it's a shame that the English aren't more proud of what is a fantastic country. Every country has racists, but few are as happy to beat themselves up about it as England or allow a handful of plonkers to scream about it without reason.

            For those wanting a racism debate, consider this - EVERY nation, EVERY race has or does currently practice slavery. That's a fact, an uncomfortable one going back thousands of years but we should learn from it, not hide it.

            1. Terry 6 Silver badge

              Re: "new software and digital capabilities"

              There's also the matter of the English flag having been pretty much hijacked by far right nut jobs, to the point that anyone hoisting a flag is defining themselves as a far right nut job.The union flag, however, still serves for the English. Last Night of the Proms and all that.

    2. Snorlax Silver badge

      Re: "new software and digital capabilities"

      @macjules: If you’re speaking or writing in Irish, the name of the country is Éire. Notice the fada, or long accent , on the first letter of the word.

      If you’re speaking or writing in English, the name of the country is Ireland.

      Simples.

      You don’t refer to Wales as Cymru when you’re having a conversation in English, do you?

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: "new software and digital capabilities"

        You don’t refer to Wales as Cymru when you’re having a conversation in English, do you?

        Well, actually I do, sometimes.

        The particular problem with Cymru/Wales is that 'Wales' is the name used by the Saxon invaders to refer to the original inhabitants. Welsh 'Wēalas' basically means 'foreigners', so it's pretty insulting to refer to ourselves as 'foreigners'. Our name for our country is Cymru, which derives from terms for 'fellow countrymen',

        So, yes please. When using the language of the invaders, please refer to our country as Cymru and the people as the Cymry, and the language as Cymraeg.

        Diolch!

        1. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

          Re: "new software and digital capabilities"

          I don't speak Welsh (Cymraeg, sorry), but I did happen to know this via gardening. Welsh Onions don't actually come from Wales. They are literally "foreign" onions.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "new software and digital capabilities"

      "Seem to recall them saying the same vis the (failed) British Army recruitment contract."

      I had a brief conversation with them as the contract was being transitioned from HP to Capita. It was on the lines of "There's a lot of stuff that you have overlooked." and their response was pretty much "We have the contract, so what?"

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Irish language service?

    Anonymous because I take some blame for the initial IT systems for Irish Water, though not the contact centres. I recall difficulty in meeting the Irish language requirements and in fact that had to be handled manually. I hope Capita have enough operators fluent in the language. I entered my own details through Irish and didn't get processed before the government had to back down on household charging. I'm sure Capita are good at collecting but all of nothing is still nothing.

    They will be glad of the hard currency revenue post Brexit.

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Irish language service?

      I recall difficulty in meeting the Irish language requirements

      One has to ask "Why?", or even "Cén fáth?". Developing bi-lingual and multi-lingual systems is not rocket science.

      1. Kristian Walsh

        Re: Irish language service?

        I had no involvement, but I'd make a guess and say it's to do with names.

        There's a number of people in Ireland who choose to go by an "Irish-ized" version of their name, rather than what's on their official documents. So, a "Seán Mac Giolla Phádraig" and "John Fitzpatrick" can in fact be one and the same person, all of whose proof-of-identity documents are in the original "English" name. Similarly, those who actually come from an Irish-speaking background (rather than those who would like to think they're "more Irish" than you are) will sometimes do the reverse: their official name is a traditionally Irish one, but they use an Anglicized version when speaking in English.

        When you've got a CMS with just one "Name" field, accommodating this would be awkward.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Irish language service?

        And Capita having enough Irish speaking staff at their contact centre to enter data in them is also not rocket science but they're not paying rocket scientist level salaries or even civil service level.

        I could go into a deeper conversation about the default character encoding on the database install scripts for Oracle Utilities but we sorted that one before go live.

        In the UK I've seen systems that are Welsh language capable but not Welsh language enabled because getting the screens and workflows localised was just too much effort.

  3. Chris G Silver badge

    This sentence

    "A hopeful Yvonne Harris, head of customer operations at Irish Water, said she expects the financially baked "partnership" to lead to better outcomes "through enhanced digital offerings and other best-in-class technologies."

    Says nothing and that says it all!

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: This sentence

      Exactly. When a company says it intends to so something very specific, say, have its existing paper records put on a computer, you can have some hope at least that a definite computerisation programme, with a definite purpose, will have definite useful outcomes.

      But a vague "Put it all in the cloud" or such like plan is just magical thinking.

    2. Mage Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: This sentence

      Idiotic.

      The new Government should scrap this and Irish Water. They are incompetent at fixing the leaks and what are they thinking of giving work to Captia. A non-EU company with a terrible reputation. No doubt Capita put the cheapest bid.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This sentence

      Hmmm.

      I think that sentence needs a little work....

      "A naive Yvonne Harris, head of customer operations at Irish Water, said she prays the financially half-baked "partnership" to lead to better bonuses "through <random bullshit generator phrase here>."

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm sorry but "improved customer and service insight." is the strangest statement I've ever seen in regard of a company that supplies fucking water. They literally have four issues to deal with, leaks, quality, pressure and billing when it comes to customers. What insight are they going to get from this? Fix problems faster? Well duh. What is it with Craptia? They're shit, proven failures and expensive. Is there some sort of scam going on here? I really just don't get it.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: four issues to deal with, leaks, quality, pressure and billing

      Really very few people are actually billed. Their main issues is the slow progress on leaks and upgrading sewerage. I think still over 400,000 septic tanks and many treatment plants don't meet standards. They are supposed to be inspected. Maybe Captia could do it?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: four issues to deal with, leaks, quality, pressure and billing

        Yes but this is a customer service contract as per the article. Crapita won't be going anywhere near those issues. To be fair you might be onto something given the amount of shite Crapita spews out they probably know a lot about sewerage.

      2. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: four issues to deal with, leaks, quality, pressure and billing

        "Maybe Captia could do it?"

        They would make a shit job of that too!

      3. BebopWeBop Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: four issues to deal with, leaks, quality, pressure and billing

        They have too much of their own shit to deal with - no time for others.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, how long till Crapita fuck the whole thing up as usual and customer service has to be taken back in-house. As much as a year?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      As long as it takes for the incumbent senior management to collect a hefty bonus and skidaddle before the shit literally hits the fan.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe my maths is a bit weak and watery, but ...

    ... it appears they've done a deal where the first 5 years are on average €2m p.a. and then the subsequent 2 years are on average €8.5m p.a. On what planet is a 325% price increase justified in (what should be) an era of falling technology costs? What kind of crazy organisation would exercise an option like that; options are usually designed to lock-in "good" pricing?

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Maybe my maths is a bit weak and watery, but ...

      I wondered the same, unless I misunderstood and the first 5 years are €10 mn PER YEAR, which then drops to €17 mn for an extra 2 years

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Maybe my maths is a bit weak and watery, but ...

        Thanks, that makes more sense. So the €27m figure in the headline was assembled from a misreading of the announcement by El Reg.

        However, the whole deal smells even worse. What the hell does it cost €10m a year to handle water customers in a country of the Republic's size? The water infrastructure must be in a terrible way if the customers have to keep ringing up about it so much; or, this is a bad deal with poor value.

  7. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Irish Water

    Diageo would have won if they'd tendered.

    They seem to have the knack of how best to manage other essential Irish resources.

    Agree?

    Upvote = I'll drink to that.

    Downvote = I work for Capita

    (Disclaimer: I am a non-drinker)

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Re: Irish Water

      I suspect that an anonymous upvote might also be considered 'I work for Crapita'?

    2. Snorlax Silver badge

      Re: Irish Water

      The Irish drink a lot.

      Yeah, never heard that stereotype before. Very witty.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Irish Water

      And yeah, I did work at Diageo as well as Irish Water and they are no kind of efficient. They have grown by acquisition and have no plan to rationalise IT systems when a new division on-boards. They rely on being able to charge more for alcohol than anyone is willing to pay for water to keep in business.

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: Irish Water

        One thing is certain. The Irish are passionate about their water... (controversial I know, but one of my favourite Christy Moore songs).

        When apples still grow in September when blossoms still bloom on each tree

        When leaves are still green in November it’s then that our land will be free

        I wander her hills and her valleys and still through my sorrow I see

        A land that has never known freedom, only her rivers run free

        I drink to the death of her manhood, those men who would rather have died

        Than to live in the cold chains of bondage to bring back their rights were denied

        Where are you now when we need you, what burns where the flame used to be?

        Are you gone like the snows of last winter will only our rivers run free

        How sweet is life but we’re crying how mellow the wine that were dry

        How fragrant the rose but its dying how gentle the wind but it sighs

        What good is youth when its ageing what joy is in eyes that can see?

        There is sorrow in sunshine and flowers and only our rivers run free.

        (Att: M MacConnell)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thanks management

    I'm kinda surprised they've not hired the expertise in-house.

    Let me guess, management don't have a clue how to spec an IT system or do project management so they've engaged Crapita to do all that for them.

    If they haven't specified that they own the code they'll find that, when the contract comes to be renegotiated, things get a lot more expensive while moving away from Crapita is impossible without going through a complete systems change... again but they don't have enough time to do that before their contact ends so they'll pay through the nose for the last two years of the contract.

    They'll also find that things get updated according to the service level agreement they negotiated (ie s l o w l y and expensively) while bugs and faults with their systems are it 'working to design' ie you specced it wrong so the change is expensive.

    My organisation went through a similar thing. We ended up taking IT in-house. As a user, I saw massive improvements to system stability within a few short weeks and fixes/improvements got from request to implemented within weeks instead of the >6 months the previous supplier could manage.

    We ended up junking the old system and starting again. Partly because we didn't own the code but mostly because it was fundamentally unsuited to the job.

    Irish Water are of a scale where outsourcing doesn't really make sense. Hire the expertise in-house. This starts with a head of IT that knows what he's doing and is calling the shots.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Thanks management

      It's a bit more complicated than that.

      I don't claim any great expertise in this matter but as far as I understand it, most of Irish Water's "doers" are people who used to work for local authorities, which used to have responsibility for water infrastructure.

      I'm not sure to what degree the invention of Irish Water has affected the day to day working arrangements for those people. Do they still work in council offices? WFH? No idea, but you can imagine the HR/union issues coming with that kind of transition.

      The FG government shares the British Conservative view that the private sector are innately more productive and competent than civil servants, so the establishment of IW to date has been HUGELY expensive and complicated.

      The fact that they're now outsourcing this core function suggests that all that money has largely disappeared into the pockets of the usual suspects without producing very much.

    2. Snorlax Silver badge

      Re: Thanks management

      “ I'm kinda surprised they've not hired the expertise in-house.”

      Irish Water is a state-run utility.

      In-house expertise? The company’s staffed with civil servants so you can forget that idea.

      Infrastructure support - pipes, meters, etc - is also outsourced.

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: Thanks management

        The compromise is to hire some new staff, with the expertise to do this work.

        1. Snorlax Silver badge

          Re: Thanks management

          I personally know customer service staff in another Irish state-run utility who were earning €60k/year for answering the phones before customer service was outsourced.

          Those days are gone. To be honest, Irish companies are shite at customer service anyway. They act like you should be grateful that they’re supplying you with a service. :D

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Thanks management

          How far from this picture (in physical and/or logical terms) is Welsh Water?

          https://www.dwrcymru.com/en/Company-Information.aspx

          At first glance they might seem a more sensible choice than Crapita.

          Then again, almost anybody might seem a more sensible choice than Crapita.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Thanks management

        Actually a semi-state spun out of Bord Gaps Networks and was entirely contractor and sub-contractor based at launch. They took on the water staff from 34 local authorities but they didn't really do metering or billing. In principle it should be more efficient to share equipment and repair teams but the TUPE terms rule a lot of that out for the foreseeable.

    3. Halfmad Silver badge

      Re: Thanks management

      Sounds more like management didn't want to take on responsibility for it if it failed, that's been my experience of why Crapita is brought in.

      It's a scapegoat you pay to pin the blame on.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm a tax payer in Ireland and ...

    Where the hell are they getting the money from?

    I'm sure they've heard there's been a bit of trouble with the economy since around mid-March?

    The new government (which consists of 3 parties!) surely has better things to spend this money on?

    1. Ken 16 Silver badge

      Re: I'm a tax payer in Ireland and ...

      It doesn't just fall out of the sky you know!

  10. Tubz

    Capita will roll out "new software and digital capabilities", so in plain Irish language, it will fail to deliver anything on time, in budget or working, contract will be terminated, Capita pays off customer but walks away with a nice earner ! !

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