Feeds

UK gov's ‘save on MS software’ deal slip-sliding away?

NAO report contains signs it's not entirely happening

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Is the Office of Government Commerce pushing water uphill when it comes to saving money on UK government software licences? A report published by the National Audit Office this week, Purchasing and Managing Software Licences, contains not a few hints that this might be the case.

The OGC has, variously, negotiated memorandums of Understanding with software suppliers (the most significant of these being Microsoft), and published a guide on open source software implementation. It continues to make cautiously optimistic noises about the use of open source. Yet its savings target of £100 million over three years (one of which is already up) is largely dependent on the continued purchasing of Microsoft software by government departments, and although Corel, IBM and Sun have all struck similar deals to the Microsoft one with the OGC, they have found the response "disappointing" - only Sun, on the strength of StarOffice, remains optimistic.

The NAO surveyed 66 departments and agencies, received more detailed responses from ten, and conducted case studies on four. 31 departments have used the Microsoft memorandum so far, and the ten departments "were able to estimate likely savings... of around £5.4 million." The report comments hopefully that the remaining departments "had largely purchased their software and licences [before the memorandum and] may be waiting until their existing agreements expire before taking advantage of the new arrangements." The NAO itself doesn't have a procedure whereby departments can report savings to it, and therefore uses data from suppliers. From this, it calculates "savings of £31 million from direct price reductions" (which we presume is not exclusively memorandum savings) across the public sector up to January 2003.

95 per cent of departments have Microsoft licences, which total 775,000, 70 per cent of all licences held. National Audit Office head Sir John Bourn pats the OGC on the head for securing the memorandums, but says it has to publicise the benefits more widely. Quantities of them, it appears, profess to have never heard of them.

Essentially, the memorandum deals (specifically, the Microsoft one) can be seen as an attempt to short-circuit the 'divide, confuse, conquer' approach that software vendors can employ when dealing with governments department by department, or possibly in even smaller units, because it seems clear that numerous UK government departments do not even use their own mass to secure unified, advantageous deals. It may well be however that, so long as purchasing under the memorandums remains voluntary, so long as reporting is inadequate, and so long as ignorance is an excuse, a major balkanisation component will remain. (Last par entirely Regcomment, incidentally - as far as we know Bourn didn't say a dicky bird to this effect.)

Of the four departments subject to case studies, the Department for Education and Skills (70 per cent Microsoft by volume) is using MS' academic discount schemes, and is "working on identifying where all its software is held and how it is licensed." Much-audited (by both the DES and MS) UK teachers will take some grim satisfaction in learning that the report feels the Department's licensing database is only 75-80 per cent accurate, and that it needs to learn to count better.

The Ministry of Defence, with 130,000 Microsoft desktop licences, negotiated a four year deal prior to the engagement of the memorandum, and claims it could save £17 million on a total expenditure of £69 million. But one should consider the possibility that this is like those supermarket 'spend to save' offers. The more you spend, the more you save, and the more departments spend on MS Software, the more likely the OGC is to achieve its £100 million 'saving.'

It's worth noting that tracking licences, and controlling the unauthorised purchase and introduction of software, is a major issue returned to repeatedly in the report. This is of course a perfectly rational concern in the world of government software as it currently exists, and as it will persist through the Microsoft memorandum, but it's clearly an area where the government could also apply itself to identify savings - via, perhaps, alternative apporaches to licensing? ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
'Stop dissing Google or quit': OK, I quit, says Code Club co-founder
And now a message from our sponsors: 'STFU or else'
Why has the web gone to hell? Market chaos and HUMAN NATURE
Tim Berners-Lee isn't happy, but we should be
Microsoft boots 1,500 dodgy apps from the Windows Store
DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS! Naughty, misleading developers!
Mozilla's 'Tiles' ads debut in new Firefox nightlies
You can try turning them off and on again
Apple promises to lift Curse of the Drained iPhone 5 Battery
Have you tried turning it off and...? Never mind, here's a replacement
Uber, Lyft and cutting corners: The true face of the Sharing Economy
Casual labour and tired ideas = not really web-tastic
Linux turns 23 and Linus Torvalds celebrates as only he can
No, not with swearing, but by controlling the release cycle
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.