back to article Atos and Nest part company two years into 18-year £1.5bn contract

The UK's National Employment Savings Trust (Nest), an occupational pensions scheme, has ended its £1.5 billion ($1.8 billion) deal with French IT services supplier Atos just two years into its potential 18-year term. The Register understands the collapse of the contract may lead as many as 1,000 Atos job losses in the UK and …

  1. Colin Bull 1


    I had savings with NS&I but withdrew the lot because the web site was so dire. The feeling was they do less testing than MS and more time was spent clicking the fuck awful repetitive consent screens than anything useful.

    A 15 year old work placement student could have done better.

    1. Quando

      Re: awful

      I agree that NS&I website is a horror, but this is about NEST the pension scheme. Different lumps of govt.

  2. john-d

    Another waste of UK tax payers money?

    I can't help thinking when I read these types of articles about what they and the organisations are not saying!

    The bland prepared statements put out by the organisations decry the huge waste of UK tax payers' money and hide the shambles of yet another poorly run and executed goverrment programme. Not to mention the £millions that such terminations cost.

    Am I the only one who thinks DWP needs to ask itself how this waste is permissable at a time when the rest of the UK is facing such hardships?

    1. Donk

      Re: Another waste of UK tax payers money?

      Waste of tax payers money, or preventing it by not accepting the nickle and diming that the big outsourcing outfits are infamous for?

      1. Dave@Home

        Re: Another waste of UK tax payers money?

        Or the Government/Civil Service repeatedly issue scope of works that require multiple change requests, and then complain that there are costs and complexity, instead of taking the time to properly work out their requirements?

        It's both sides from what I've seen

        1. ColinPa

          Re: Another waste of UK tax payers money?

          A friend worked with a company doing business with the UK government, and felt that the high level requirement of a new project were not clear. He called a meeting with the stake holders to go over the requirements he had received. He started Monday morning, saying "I presume you all know each other", and found none of them had ever met. The rest of the day was spent by people explaining what their department did, and what they wanted out of the project.

          He also explored what reports were needed. "So if this number goes up - is that good or bad?" They did not know. Then there were discussions like you want this number as a percentage of the total number of people involved, and do not know the total number of people involved;, and so it went on.

          Finally they agreed a set of requirements which they could all sign up to, but then it got cancelled.

          1. DJV Silver badge

            Re: "but then it got cancelled"

            Hah, that end tag made me laugh out loud!

            Still, if it had gone ahead, it sounds like it would have been a total shambles as, no doubt, the bods from the UK gov would have kept being replaced and, with all of them having as much clue as three-week-dead roadkill, the incoming ones would have attempted to change the specs willy-nilly resulting in something even more unworkable.

          2. Chris Coles

            Re: Another waste of UK tax payers money?

            What such reports do is open a can of worms that should have been opened many decades ago with regard to who we, (those outside of so called Government, i.e. civil service), are actually dealing with? It is my belief, in large part from family knowledge, that the most senior levels of the civil service are staffed with what are described as "Exclusives". Plymouth Brethren Exclusives are a group of religious extremists who are as extreme, if not more so, than the most severe Muslim clerics. They, and particularly their wives and children, are not permitted to read newspapers, watch TV or listen to radio broadcasts, so from the outset, they have no knowledge of much of modern technology. Their wives and children are held never to talk to "heathens", for fear of dreadful consequences. A cousin, who left, had to leave his wife and children behind, never to see them again. So everyone is dealing with people who have no real interest in anything not already set out in the Holy Bible; who live in a completely closed society, and believe that the majority of the population of the nation are "Heathens" who pose an extreme danger to themselves and their families. If you ever, as I did once, try to speak to one of their womenfolk in a supermarket, you will observe a face emanating extreme fear, they will not talk to you. My eldest brother once told me that if I tried to knock on the door of my "Exclusive" uncle, he would slam the door in my face while shouting . . . Heathen!

            As such these exclusives are a totally enclosed extreme religious sect, none of which should have ever been promoted to the levels they now hold within the administration of the nation. Bear that in mind when we keep reading reports of the inflow of people in boats crossing the English Channel, with the Home Office doing nothing to stop that flow.

            1. Intractable Potsherd

              Re: Another waste of UK tax payers money?

              I'm not saying you are wrong, but is there any evidence of this other than anecdote?

          3. sketharaman

            Re: Another waste of UK tax payers money?

            I wonder how said government agency was able to prepare the RFP / Tender, which generally have fairly detailed high level requirements. (I'm assuming it was a fixed price contract not T&M MSA).

          4. localzuk Silver badge

            Re: Another waste of UK tax payers money?

            I can't help feeling that the government needs a department specifically to scope projects out. Someone who sits in between departments and suppliers.

            So, when, say HMRC says they want a new tax system, they first engage the scoping department. That department then does all the work figuring out exactly what HMRC want, and when its all written down, and signed off by HMRC and Scoping, it can then go out to tender.

            The potential for moving targets can be built into the scoping, and therefore suppliers would be aware of it and include those potential costs.

            But... I suspect this wouldn't work, as departments don't like being told what to do.

            1. NeilPost

              Re: Another waste of UK tax payers money?


              Perhaps ???

              Perhaps not …. Currently part of the Cabinet Office just interested in Procurement Framework’s.

      2. john-d

        Re: Another waste of UK tax payers money?

        Whichever way you view it the wrong outsourcer was chosen for the job and that means wasted cost. This will be compounded by having to rerun the procurment, which is very expensise when following public sector processes. More waste.

        1. DJV Silver badge

          Re: Another waste of UK tax payers money?

          Unfortunately, the "right" outsourcer will always be too expensive. The whole thing is a perpetual example of the Sam Vimes "Boots" theory of socioeconomic unfairness!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Another waste of UK tax payers money?

            "Unfortunately, the "right" outsourcer will always be too expensive."

            If there is such a "right outsourcer" existing in the first place ! Outsourcers are also limited in terms of prescience capabilities !

            1. katrinab Silver badge

              Re: Another waste of UK tax payers money?

              What can an outsourcer do that the DWP couldn't do themselves by recruiting the right staff directly?

              If you are a small business (small in terms of IT requirements), then the benefit of an outsourcer is that where you need a particular skill for less than full-time hours, you can share the person with the outsourcer's other customers. I don't think that applies to the DWP.

              1. localzuk Silver badge

                Re: Another waste of UK tax payers money?

                This is something else that has always annoyed me. Why do the government need to outsource these basic functions anyway? Surely building the talent inside the govt would be better?

                But then, its all about ideology at that point - both modern Labour and the Tories think everything should be outsourced and "profit making".

                1. Toni the terrible Bronze badge

                  Re: Another waste of UK tax payers money?

                  The problem is that paracuted in experts allways want to reduce / re-organise the civil servants and outsoucing of everything is their default. This changes the system every 2 to 5 years, even ignoring the requirement to use American Management techniques that even the Americans abandonded as useless. Result over the last 30 years has been a diminishing of any expertese in the Civil Service (who are hated by the Ministers anyway) - even down to numbers. If you want a good border control system you have to have the numbers to staff it - which they don't have! You also have to pay at least average industry wages - which the cheap upper echelons never want to do.

                  basically, you get the civil servants and Civil Service you deserve, awful.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Another waste of UK tax payers money?

                The reality is many tech minded people want to work on a variety of projects and a variety of clients. Not a 5 year change project at a large govt department.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Another waste of UK tax payers money?

        Quite a bit of both, I've seen the way the DWP pisses money away

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    what a surprise ..... not !!!

    In a nutshell, scope creep !!!

    I have been involved with similar 'rolling scope creep' where the govt org kept expanding the scope based on 'newly' discovered requirements/changes from 'newly' discovered stakeholders !!!

    The usual tactic was to attempt to 'demand' that it was covered under the original quoted price and work would be 'magically' done without any impact on delivery dates.

    They hoped that the implied threat of cancellation of the project would 'persuade' the PM to absorb the new work/risk without any comment !!!

    Did not work ..... of course.


    You need to be as 'hard nosed' and 'immovable' as the govt org tries to be !!!

    No vague requirements and no vague 'scope creep' allowed !!!

    Of course, in this case the wasted money is not a problem as it is only my 'Taxes' being spent wisely !!!???


    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: what a surprise ..... not !!!

      Yep I've seen these sort of things before and they probably thought Atos would cave to their demands over fears of losing a long term contract. Their bluff was called!

    2. Insert sadsack pun here

      Re: what a surprise ..... not !!!

      I work in the private sector and the same thing happens here. It's just poor project management. Has it ever been done well, anywhere?

  4. Danny 5

    Deja vu!

    When I still worked for Atos in NL, I saw them lose a contract under similar circumstances, more than once actually. Guess they have the same issues in other countries too.

  5. Duffaboy

    The staff will be safe

    The staff will probably be ok if they work in the UK, as they will be TUPED out, so all that will change is the company name everything else will be exactly the same.

    1. David Hicklin Bronze badge

      Re: The staff will be safe

      Not always the case - you are assuming that a bunch were TUPED from Nest to ATOS but it looks like that had another provider TCS, so no one may have moved in the first place.

      Were the ATOS staff employed specifically for this contract or were they using existing staff and now there is not enough work to go around? Does a new provider need the staff ?

      It can get very complicated.

  6. a pressbutton

    nest is effectively a QUANGO


    This will not be paid by taxpayers, the costs of running NEST will be (a little) larger than they would have been.

    It surprises me that the contract has been terminated. I recognise the continual tension between vendor / client - 'new' stuff that may or may not have ought to be in the original plan / SOW always comes up.

    My reason for surprise is that

    - these things usually get passed up the chain and then negotiated as a long term contract gives a _lot_ of space to make money back

    - the job that NEST does has not changed much (as far as I understand it manages pensions - esp. auto-enroled ones - and the regs have not changed much)

    So it tells me

    - ATOS did not supply a 'good enough' product / service

    and / or

    - NEST were completely unreasonable.

    I look forward to seeing what any anons out there have to say.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: nest is effectively a QUANGO

      "So it tells me

      [a] - ATOS did not supply a 'good enough' product / service

      and / or

      [b] - NEST were completely unreasonable.

      I look forward to seeing what any anons out there have to say."

      NEST will say [a] to cover their back !!!

      ATOS will say [b] to cover theirs !!!

      Having experienced similar 'negotiations' ..... I would tend to favor [b]

      Both answers do tend to channel a certain 'Mandy Rice-Davies' famous quote !!!


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