PSN contracts need to be long-term for most benefit, says Surrey Council IT manager

By Danny Palmer
05 Nov 2012 View Comments
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PSN contracts need to be long-term in order for public sector bodies to actually benefit from the joined-up network.

That's according to Nick Roberts, IT group manager of Surrey County Council, speaking at a roundtable event discussing the Public Services Network.

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"The thing taught to me through the last two years is the amount of effort it takes to bring everyone together, you don't want to be doing it every three or four years," he told the audience at BT Centre, arguing long-term contracts are better for achieving goals.

"You want to develop that trust and faith, so we've got a seven to 12 year contract and I very much hope that is very much sustainable over that period and we do keep people on board.

"If you're looking to bring everyone on within a region, you need a long-term PSN contract in order to bring people in over the life of the contract and everybody to get benefits as soon as they're able," Roberts added.

He cited schools as an example of how he believes long-term contracts are preferential to short-term deals, which he described as a struggle.

"The last time we put a schools broadband contract in place three or four years ago, it was an uphill struggle to bring all the schools committed to working together and not going off and finding the cheap-as-chips deal round the corner, but capitalising on the greater benefits," said Roberts.

He argued that short-term contracts are risky as they allow public sector organisations to break away before the task is complete.

"We're going through a journey to keep 100-plus schools on in Surrey. The thought of doing that every two, three or four years, every time you get to that point there's a huge risk factor that people break away and do something different, and you lose the benefit of collaborative work.

"So, putting in place a seven to 12 year contract is a risk reduction strategy as much as anything," Roberts continued.

He admitted there are risks with long-term deals, but added that renegotiating contracts on a regular basis is a waste of resources.

"There are certain risks with working with a single supplier for long term, I think we've mitigated that through the competitive nature of it. But the risk of having to go through that pain regularly, which is a huge resource overhead and huge waste of money, frankly, I would rather avoid that."

PSN is based around the idea of creating a more open and competitive ICT marketplace in the public sector. The network launched in March this year.

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