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BSF Thread, Are BSF ICT Contracts Profitable for the ICT Companies? in United Kingdom (UK) Specific Forums; Labour wants to be seen giving people great looking schools <snip> but can't afford it, business can, so business fronts ...
  1. #16

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    Labour wants to be seen giving people great looking schools <snip> but can't afford it, business can, so business fronts up the money
    Noooooooooooo!! Here's the 277th Private Eye take on PFI from a couple of weeks ago.

    Never has there been a better time to revert to the cheaper and quicker alternative of public borrowing for public investment. Even the politically flattering off-balance-sheet treatment of PFI no longer holds any appeal. Yet so wedded to PFI has the government been for 12 years that it would be too big an admission of failure to scrap it.

    So urgently needed investment will still have to go through PFI under such labyrinthe processes such as 'building schools for the future', despite causing delays the economy can ill afford. The only way to raise private money, though, will be for the government i.e. the taxpayers - to guarantee the bankers money.

    The theory behind PFI was that the private sector shouldered the risk.. this was always nonsense, but it was the pretence that allowed the government to fiddle cost calculations to make PFI look cheaper. Now deals will still cost PFI rates but, through the guarantee, the taxpayer will explicitly take the risk.

    Meanwhile state acquisition of banks that own PFI contracts means the taxpayer has effectively bought back shares in a number of deals..
    PFI/BSF is a crock. If one thing sinks in make sure it's the first line.

  2. #17

    SYNACK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    Management response to that would be that since the paperwork would only need to be set up once, and only adapted occasionally then there is a cost saving.

    School response is the question whether that adaption would be bespoke enough to suit their school.
    You cannot speak for all managment, I have been is situations where they refuesd to allow for appropriate levels of documentation on anything siting it as a waste of the schools money. I quit that school shortly after.

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    My question to members is do we already have the paperwork out there and experience to go with it, but just not sharing?

    As a country we are media driven to blame someone whenever something isn't right. Audit trails are time consuming to set up, but there are good reasons for having them (including legal reasons). The same paperwork that is used to comply with information security guidance can be adapted for other areas ... how many people here actually have a real plan about what to do under FoI or DPA requests? I'm talking about why members should not abdicate their responsibilty, or shrug their shoulders and say "it wasn't my job, someone in manglement should have done it". We all know that really works well in tribunals or in the Courts.
    A feasible question which I do agree with but in the situations where this does not exist do you recommend that they stop work or delay it untill they have made this documentation or simply give up their own time to the cause? Also Who should they turn to for help if they need it?

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    And I have been reading too many vision documents recently to worry about MBA qualified and justified answers personally, but you have a point ... it could be beneficial for such a response to be made and then translated. It might help members who need to go through the same process with their manglement to get them to understand what they are doing and why.
    A vision document sounds a little fluffy to me but I agree that a manglement translation could be usefull to convey the need to school managment staff so that this documentation can be compiled.

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    Common Sense is part of the ideas thing that starts companies up ... there is little to show that it keeps them profitable to it gets shown the door. In fact, only common sense actually says that we should keep Common Sense.
    This is asymptomatic of a broken society, one where money means more than anything else even stability of the company making it or the people involved. It is this type of thinking that allowed for things to get so out of hand with multiple economies and why workers can be treated so badly by their companies. I notice that you sidestepped my question of morality from the earlier post and am frankly concerned by your views.

    I deleted my previous message because I had thought it was perhaps a little harsh but my impressions of your viewpoint may 'worryingly' have been correct.
    Last edited by SYNACK; 8th February 2009 at 04:55 AM.

  3. #18
    torledo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PiqueABoo View Post
    Noooooooooooo!! Here's the 277th Private Eye take on PFI from a couple of weeks ago.



    PFI/BSF is a crock. If one thing sinks in make sure it's the first line.
    that's exactly the point i was making.....the banks front up the money for the private sector BSF bidders, they effectively finance the deals.....and who owns large chunks of the banking sector ? and the govt. are planning to expose the taxpayers again to underwrite toxic assets of the banks.

    As a said......privatise the profits, socialise the losses.

    PFI for labour was a way to pay for all they're pet projects while giving the illusion of being prudent, namely keeping within the 40% rule. The creator of PFI, norman lamont, never intented for it to be misused to pay for large projects such as BSF or for it to be used wholesale within the nhs. It was designed for select projects like building bridges or toll roads. Apparently the govt. will have to change they're accounting practices this year to include some of this PFI crap on the balance sheets.......but what difference does it make if debt soars to 100% of gdp because of all the bailouts they're planning ? And i'm not just talking bank bailouts, every other industry that's being shafted by the recession will ask for a bailout. Then think of all the borrowing the govt. needs to do.

    Think about the tax implications for future generations for all this financial mismanagement and largesse ? Do we really want to burden future generations with higher taxation and force them to work longer and longer, as they have to pay for it later on, at a premium.
    Last edited by torledo; 8th February 2009 at 07:43 AM.

  4. #19

    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    @synack about the documentation, surely you have answered your own question if the school won't produce it or is slow. You decided to quit. Others could do the same ... Or gather evidence that shows that they had requested it but were knocked back. To do that you have to show, where possible, who is accountable. If you are still worried then contact the unions, your governors, the LA or the papers. Or get out into a job were you are not having to worry about protecting yourself from manglement stupidity.

    Re: vision documents. You will get these (or similar) in a variety of formats and with a few different names, but they are usually full of manglement speak, lots of "possibilities" and you have to read them carefully to sort out reality from rhetoric. An easy way to start is to look at what govt targets they are trying to meet. Then look at research papers or case studies around these areas to work out how choices where made and what the results were. Then look at the success criteria to see if it measures up against the stuff you have just read up on. Of course, you have to do this with the knowledge of the school/schools involved.

    This is what manglement do each day when it comes to dogs coming from govt, the LAs, agencies, unions, interest groups, education charities. It is a speciliased language the same way that we speak 'Geek', and it is terrible to translate at times, but it is how the system works now. Combine it with 'Edulish' it opens up a world of confusion that means companies bidding for contracts under BSF, PFI or Academies get to say all sorts of things in the vision or summary document and you have to be careful when getting what it really means to the kids in the classroom.

    As for morality, I thought I was open about that already. My view if whether it isrightor wrong for BSF contracts is in paragraph 10 of my original post. I have issues with companies wanting to make profit at the cost of the education of the students. If your are talking about the morality of society then that should got to another thread as I think it wil be another scientilogy or atheism thread.

  5. #20
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    A long thread with people putting a lot of effort in to it.

    Firstly I know this sounds strange but when you trade, you need to trade with someone who makes a profit. If they fail you also fail. Trying to resolve a contract where one party fails can bring a cost that is not wanted.

    Secondly the issue of % over cost. Could it be that in the early days in order to win business, some companies lowered this. Equally some authorities may have chosen this ? We are now seeing margins.

    Thirdly if costs are so tight then that may lead to risk and innovation being driven out of the project. If everyone is being risk averse then I have difficulty in seing where innovation and ultimately transforming learning is coming from.

    So lets turn it on its head rename it transforming learning. Start from there and then look at what we need to do this. Yes it might need a new build but does it need the very expensive new build? Cannot we have a relatively standard design m,odified at the edges for each school ( should we call them schools? another story)?

    Do we need large ict companies to provide the managed service.? Why not a mixture of local and existing?

  6. #21

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    BSF reminds me of supermarkets vs local markets. The quality, the price and the customer service is always better at the local market

  7. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by NewOrder View Post
    A long thread with people putting a lot of effort in to it.

    Firstly I know this sounds strange but when you trade, you need to trade with someone who makes a profit. If they fail you also fail. Trying to resolve a contract where one party fails can bring a cost that is not wanted.

    Secondly the issue of % over cost. Could it be that in the early days in order to win business, some companies lowered this. Equally some authorities may have chosen this ? We are now seeing margins.

    Thirdly if costs are so tight then that may lead to risk and innovation being driven out of the project. If everyone is being risk averse then I have difficulty in seing where innovation and ultimately transforming learning is coming from.

    So lets turn it on its head rename it transforming learning. Start from there and then look at what we need to do this. Yes it might need a new build but does it need the very expensive new build? Cannot we have a relatively standard design m,odified at the edges for each school ( should we call them schools? another story)?

    Do we need large ict companies to provide the managed service.? Why not a mixture of local and existing?
    Isn't it a case that the whole project has or will be scaled back......so it'll be mostly refurb rather than rebuild anyway. ?

    We already have a mixture of local and existing ICT service. Many schools rely on certain managed services from the local authority which functions as a managed ICT provider of sorts. OFcourse more and more LA's are outsourcing they're own IT function,so this service will doubtless end up in the private sector now and in the future.

    But ofcourse with BSF is an entirely managed service because the school IT staff are TUPed over to the ICT service provider in most cases. I personally don't see what's wrong with the current setup except the current setup itself is divisive.

    Let those who want it get they're privately managed service with they're SLA's.....let's see whether they think it's worth the upheaval a few years from now.

    All i know is whatever my next ICT job is i can only hope to get as much freedom, enjoyment and flexibility as i get now......it's doubtful because more and more ICT service is about delivering a faceless, remote, box-ticking service led by manglement [nice word Tony].......it makes me all nostalgic in a way, as i've been lucky in not having worked in a large, faceless IT dept. with thousands of helpdesk tickets dutifully processed by the drones in IT support and with change mgmt and procedure part of the daily live of those at all levels of support.

    I still think there are great jobs out there, but is the small IT dept in danger of being eaten by the central managed IT service ? In a lot of cases that's exactly what is happening.

  8. #23

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    that's exactly the point i was making ... privatise the profits, socialise the losses
    Yeah, sorry I hadn't got as far down as your post, but I suppose it doesn't hurt to have that point restated.

  9. #24

    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by torledo View Post
    We already have a mixture of local and existing ICT service. Many schools rely on certain managed services from the local authority which functions as a managed ICT provider of sorts. Of course more and more LA's are outsourcing they're own IT function, so this service will doubtless end up in the private sector now and in the future.
    Yep, LAs are outsourcing lots of things ... not just IT. They buy in services when needed. This is supposed to free things up and only time will tell whether it works or not (some success stories, some horror stories ... as with all outsource / in-house things).

    But ofcourse with BSF is an entirely managed service because the school IT staff are TUPed over to the ICT service provider in most cases. I personally don't see what's wrong with the current setup except the current setup itself is divisive.
    Who are you accountable to? How are you proving you are doing a good job? Who do SLT go to for help with this? Some schools are fine, many aren't. If so many schools are doing well and have things in hand then I should be able to ask any member if they have a back-up policy and procedure and get loads of answers. Something as simple as back ups ... we already have one member with difficulties over this, which is why I have used back ups as an example of paperwork.

    Let those who want it get they're privately managed service with they're SLA's.....let's see whether they think it's worth the upheaval a few years from now.
    Out of interest ... do you have an SLA that you publish so staff know what to expect and what the limits are / flexibility of service is like?

    All i know is whatever my next ICT job is i can only hope to get as much freedom, enjoyment and flexibility as i get now......it's doubtful because more and more ICT service is about delivering a faceless, remote, box-ticking service led by manglement [nice word Tony].......it makes me all nostalgic in a way, as i've been lucky in not having worked in a large, faceless IT dept. with thousands of helpdesk tickets dutifully processed by the drones in IT support and with change mgmt and procedure part of the daily live of those at all levels of support.

    I still think there are great jobs out there, but is the small IT dept in danger of being eaten by the central managed IT service ? In a lot of cases that's exactly what is happening.
    Think about this another way then ... even when a managed service is prescribed ... where does the R&D come from? Is it driven by technology of by the learning / leadership? Is R&D built into the contract? Is it deemed to expensive and cuts into profits? Do they company see R&D as handy because it will help capturing future contracts or extending those they already have?

    Also remember .. change management is not a bad thing. Remember all those times we have been hacked off because we have not been told of things happening / changing? New software being purchased? Being asked to purchase and roll out new suites with little or no notice? Works both ways.

  10. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    Out of interest ... do you have an SLA that you publish so staff know what to expect and what the limits are / flexibility of service is like?
    we don't have formal SLA's as such, i'm beginning to see the validity of it in our environment [i've always been of the impression that they're important just that without the resources to implement them they can just as easily be used as a stick to beat people...especially if one is used to workign in a less formalised approach], i think cases of the member with the backup issue hits home the importance of documentation, procedure, and SLA's.

    But in the absence of SLA's most members can still priotitize the ICT service they provide based on an understanding of the needs of the users and the leadership team. ALthough again, all the things you mention valid exercises if only to cover of ourselves. Don't give people the stick with which they can beat you, if you like.

    Also remember .. change management is not a bad thing. Remember all those times we have been hacked off because we have not been told of things happening / changing? New software being purchased? Being asked to purchase and roll out new suites with little or no notice? Works both ways.
    Perhaps i wasn't clear on this, i ofcourse appreciate the benefits of change management, but in large depts. change management can 'take over' and while necessary in many environments it can be frustrating as it can become a beuaracratic, tear-your-hair-out chore. And it centralized, managed IT change management starts from the centre and spreads out to the edge by design that's the life it takes on.

  11. Thanks to torledo from:

    GrumbleDook (8th February 2009)

  12. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by torledo View Post
    Perhaps i wasn't clear on this, i of course appreciate the benefits of change management, but in large depts. change management can 'take over' and while necessary in many environments it can be frustrating as it can become a bureaucratic, tear-your-hair-out chore. And it centralized, managed IT change management starts from the centre and spreads out to the edge by design that's the life it takes on.
    That almost sounds like you are sitting on the fence about change management


  13. #27
    torledo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    That almost sounds like you are sitting on the fence about change management

    you were right tony, it sure is uncomfortable perched on this here fence.


  14. #28

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    Q: Why is ICT part of BSF?
    A: Because the Govt cannot afford to invest in ICT for schools any more than it can afford to build new schools, and offering IT managed services is a nice sweetener for PFI. You don't make a lot of money selling 'tin', but you can make money selling 'services'.

    SLAs & Systems Management

    In Corporate IT, many of the Systems Management disciplines and processes such as Problem, Change, Backup & Security etc etc have evolved to become a major, necessary part of the day-to-day operations, governed by SLAs. There are armies of consultants, professionals and administrators out there making a decent living performing these roles in large Enterprise organisations. As an ex-Corporate IT person myself, I have seen good and bad examples of these disciplines in action but in general I would say they are beneficial when implemented with a degree of common sense and designed to support the business and not inhibit change.

    I think Systems Management has a place in school too, but like many things in school they have to be pitched at the right (ie affordable) level. Schools cannot afford to employ full time Systems Management staff, and expecting their IT staff to suddenly turn from poachers to gamekeepers by emulating the corporate IT model is fraught with difficulty. We should however adhere to the principles of Systems Management, and be prepared to implement at least some of the disciplines that it brings, such as problem/change management, DR/Backups etc.

    Now, roll the clock forward a few years with BSF, and what will we have?

    If we are not careful, we will have an IT environment in schools where everything is locked down, rigidly controlled with Systems Management processes implemented by the MSPs designed to minimise change and keep their costs down and their profits up. Innovation in schools will be limited because everything a school wants to do that is not part of woolly SLAs will come with a price tag that makes it too expensive.

    To avoid this nightmare scenario, there are a couple of possible approaches we could take, or we could just stick our heads in the sand and ignore it as it won't be our problem.

    We could:

    1) try to kill off BSF

    or

    2) make sure that our schools are aware of the risks and ensure they are involved early enough in the BSF process to prevent the lock-down.

    Personally, I think killing off BSF is a non-starter; the best (worst) that we could hope for is the program is reduced/delayed by lack of funding... but remember this means that children all over England will then continue to be taught in buildings well past their demolition date.... and quite frankly I am fed up with being snowed on in my office when the wind is in the wrong direction, which it is most days at the moment

    I am not in favour of the heads-in-sand approach, even though in my own case I could easily tough it out until retirement......

    I am in favour however in engaging in discussion with the LA, my school, other schools... in fact anyone who will listen; to fight for the best deal for my school while I remain an employee of the school. We need to fight fair, using reason and logic not emotion; we cannot afford to be dismissed as being motivated by self-interest and protecting our own 'empires'. Many of us will end up working for MSPs in some shape or another so we need to temper our arguments to avoid being branded as trouble-makers and ending up being side-lined or worse.

    BSF is a political juggernaut, pretty much unstoppable. All we can do is try and steer it to where we (on behalf of our schools) want it to be.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    The companies getting the contracts have a simple reality to manage. If they cock-up then it does not get continued. And other LAs will look at how those companies have done elsewhere and decide whether they want to go for it.
    It makes a change to see an "on-the-fence" post here and I praise you for it but I have to comment on the above statement. To take the contract from a company you have to prove, in a court, that they are in breach of contract. This sounds fairly simple if they haven't provided a good service but what you have to remember, and I've raised this before, is that the company will have the best business lawyers in the country whereas the LAs will have their own in-house legal team in their Tesco suits. This will make a difference because the best business lawyers in the country will put together a better case. However, if that's not bad enough you have to remember that these contracts will originally be drafted by the LA and the firms legal team. Now which legal team do you think will squeeze in most clauses to suit them?

    It's a difference between paper law and trial law and anyone who has seen an LA legal team in action will know exactly what I mean.

    The only way a big company will lose a contract like this is if they want to lose the contract. (See the exams fiasco of this summer for an example).

  16. #30
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    It's a difference between paper law and trial law and anyone who has seen an LA legal team in action will know exactly what I mean.

    The only way a big company will lose a contract like this is if they want to lose the contract. (See the exams fiasco of this summer for an example).
    Are you saying the SATS tests contracts were not profitable so they didn't mind losing the contract when it became clear they couldn't cope with the job profitably, or something more sinister?

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