back to article Key pillar in the UK's border control upgrade programme 'lacks a systems integrator'

The UK government's ePassport airport gate upgrade programme has no system integrator, a hardware supplier has said, while the Home Office and two of its IT units seem confused about who should be fulfilling the critical role. Various agencies were also at loggerheads over whether to include management reporting in the Windows …

  1. Chris G Silver badge

    "which has built a Windows 10-based gates management platform"

    Notwithstanding the kick about with the SI ball, I can't wait to see what happens when W11 has to kick off.

  2. Eclectic Man Silver badge
    Facepalm

    What?

    Frankly it beggars belief that no one knows who the systems integrator is for a service that is designed (I hope) to help protect the UK from some very nasty people: drug smugglers, people traffickers, international criminals of all sorts etc. as well as providing essential information on who is entering and leaving the UK.

    Who on Earth (or in the Civil Service) did not think that there should be a 'management reporting facility'?

    I do not have any detailed knowledge of the procurement process, but I wonder whether it was 'managed' buy some contractors rather than the civil servants who would have to use the thing and acted specifically within their remit, rather than getting useful and complete requirements analysis done first.

    Signed 'Gobsmacked of Reading'.

    1. cantankerous swineherd

      Re: What?

      re who is entering and leaving the UK - knowing who's entering and leaving the UK is no more important than knowing who's entering and leaving Yorkshire.

      this "requirement" is just something dreamt up by busy bodies in the civil service.

    2. Philip Stott

      Re: What?

      It doesn't really "beggar belief" - this is a UK IT system rollout remember!

      It would be more of a surprise if it went successfully.

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: What?

        I appreciate the sentiment, but I have been involved in several successful HMG IT system procurements. What they had in common was that they were properly specified, the main contractor knew what they were doing, and they had a specific, specialist purpose (rather than a 'lets automate everything we can think of' approach). Sadly they are all secure systems so I am unable to name them or go into details.

        I expect those Register readers who have worked in government IT on specialist projects will have had similar experiences. The ones that fail are those which suffer mission creep, are not managed by the senior users, and where the main contractor(s) are more interested in making money from change 'management' than getting a working system established.

        One of my techniques for getting the client representatives to behave and prepare properly for meetings was to remind them that I was costing them £1000 per day, but that they were the ones who had to live with the system after delivery. If they don't know the answers, I'd help them find out, but, don't waste meetings with waffle. My minutes were accurate records of what actually happened - 'Mr X, suggested ...' 'Mr L entered at this point', '... after much discussion it was decided that ...'. You'd be surprised how well prepared and attended the meetings were after the first set of my minutes went round for review. (Yes, I am a smug git sometimes, but it worked.)

  3. chivo243 Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Windows based in a Security Scenario

    I'm really having a difficult time with this one. There has to be something better, much better! Did no one think to ask? Oh, right, this was a contract, lowest bidder and that kind of thing.

  4. Clausewitz 4.0
    Devil

    BID Redactng

    Whoever redacted the BID requirements either didn't had the capabilities or was not properly advised in the technological aspects.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So how is it going to integrate

    That's the problem when you work with Civil Servants, they are so silo'd and can't see the bigger picture. Possibly due to them not being the right calibre, and scared of saying anything to cause reduced career promotions.

    I would be taking money of these peoples bonuses or even pension funds, as they don't have an understanding of how project costs work. If you invite 20 to a meeting when you only need 3 is poor resource management. In addition, not being able to make a decision, without a committee, is not really managing anything it's just covering your 4rse.

    This is why these Outsourcing Company's fleece the UK Government every time, with change request and late delivery.

    I worked on a Gov contract and I had to present every month the Project update to Senior's (for want of a better word). So I took over this project, and it was in the red and late, so I had to wait until last to present my project as I was Red and Late. 2 Months later I was first to present as I had kicked some buts and stopped the double expenses claims and had the contract reviewed, so VAT could be removed as no VAT on research programs. So I was now first in the Present to the Senior's meeting as in the black and on time.

    I also got the boot as I had made the whole system look stupid, hence handing over a Project that was on track to a permy to cork it up again.

    Good lesson learned Gov Outsourcer will try it on if you left them, Add usual names here that are constantly listed on this site

  6. tip pc Silver badge

    a rethink

    I get that border control is important but a huge re evaluation of what is needed and how to do it with hopefully a regular re appraisal of processes.

    as a for example on an International flight with luggage,

    I buy a plane ticket

    I tell the airline to link my passport with the ticket

    I go to the airport,

    they check I fulfil the cv deptaure requirements (don't get me started on verify piece of junk),

    match my passport pic,

    they take my baggage

    issue a boarding pass

    I go to security & they want to see my boarding pass then check me and my carry on has no banned stuff.

    I go to the gate & they may check I match my passport pic & I have a boarding pass

    I board the plane and they check my boarding pass likely so they can direct me to my seat.

    I get to the destination after being in a tin can for a period of time and they then want to check my passport and any declarations

    where ever the destination is, I've typically booked the ticket more than a few hors before departure & I've been in a sealed tin can for many hours and no one gets off till I reach the destination. if there is an issue they already know the passports and have the pre departure security footage so why don't they escort the people off the flight or wait till they are walking along the corridor before picking asking them to accompany them to answer some questions? why do we need to queue for ages to go through a gate when they already know who we are & if we should be there or not?

    once through passport control we are still not out as we have to go through customs!!!

    I don't think anyone stamps passports anymore, its all electronically logged so why go through the theatre when it could be done electronically or during flight etc.

    The intelligence & info doesn't change.

  7. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Where does it come from?

    How as the project initiated? Who made the decisions to start, to define the project and to identify the need and scope/?. IOW - who decided what they needed, why they needed it and how to achieve it?

    This is fundamental to any project, from changing a door handle to building a new school or hospital. You could probably flow chart it.

    The door handle is failing.

    We need to replace it. Is the current handle's design adequate for current usage? Or is a higher specification needed. What is that spec?

    Are there likely to be any new developments in door security and threats within the expected life time of a new handle and would a new kind of handle meet these needs? What handle do we need to meet these future needs?

    Where can we get said handle?

    What should said handle cost? What is the total budget?

    Who will obtain/install......etc.

    It's not rocket science.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where does it come from?

      It's easy right? Except you've already fallen into a trap.

      Step 1. Establish why the customer thinks they need the door handle, and what they're really trying to do.

      What is it attached to? You might think a door, but maybe it's been retrofitted into a cabinet by the last company who did what was asked rather than what was needed. What is it being used for, why does it matter, what's the overall objective and what are their constraints. Are you competing for the bid? Can you ask clarifying questions without compromising your business's USPs (likely domain knowledge and experience)?

      What they think they want is often rather different to what they actually need. The door handle is just the start of the conversation. It's also why so much time and money needs to go into the consulting part of the delivery, before you gain the benefits of hindsight and customer interaction

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Where does it come from?

        I was starting from the ground here- the initiation of a project by the using organisation. Maybe one performed in-house even; I'm old enough to remember when that happened.

  8. PeterM42
    Coffee/keyboard

    Plus ca change.

    As an "Office Automation" consultant back in the 1980s, I remember attending an MOD presentation on their requirements for CHOTS (Corporate Headquarters Office Technology System). A theatre the size of a cinema was full with interested vendors.

    Their requirements were totally ridiculous, so I was left with the problem of how to stop our company getting into such a cesspit without actually saying they were nuts.

    Answer: Suggest it would cost around £2 - 3m to become involved. Sorted!

    Poor old ICL got the bulk of the business which is why, I suspect, they fell into Fujitsu's arms.

    1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Plus ca change.

      I remember CHOTS. One of the requirements, and no I am NOT joking, was that each terminal power socket (power to two terminals) would be locked with a unique key, so that people could only turn their own computers on. I pointed out that with 30,000 (thirty thousand) users that would mean 15,000 unique keys and locks. The building services people would need a trolly to help someone who had left their keys at home by accident and wanted to log on. Let alone the costs associated with managing those locks. (How much would Assa or Chubb charge for ensuring uniqueness?)

      I believe that requirement was dropped quite quickly.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Plus ca change.

        The definition of a camel is, I remind us all, a horse designed by a committee.

        Each of those big failed projects in IT, school design, whatever, was probably initiated by someone who'd imagined an efficient, effective thoroughbred. Then someone insisted they should add a hump........

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