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BBC: Hey, Atos, old buddy. Here's a cheque for £285m, fill your boots

Auntie extends Tech Framework Contract after 'tower' successor bungled

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The BBC has tossed £285m of licence fee payers' cash at a beefy tech services deal with integrator Atos after the planned rollout of a brand new tower framework to house multiple suppliers hit the buffers.

The existing Technology Framework Contract (TFC), also with Atos, is set to expire March next year. It covers telephony, computers, applications, services desk, connectivity as well as broadcast services.

It was signed in 2004 with Siemens, valued at £2bn, but transferred to Atos when it acquired the Solutions and Services unit in 2010.

To replace this, the Beeb had planned to shift from a single supplier procurement vehicle to one that opens up "market opportunities for a wider range of suppliers including SMEs", code named the Aurora Programme.

But during this preparatory phase, "several unforeseen circumstances arose. Consequently, for technical and economic reasons the BBC proposes to reconfigure its procurement and change programme", the corp said in the Atos contract award notice.

Auntie added that "market soundings" with 35 suppliers suggested it needed to establish a Service Integration and Management (SIAM) team first "rather than concurrently with procurements, to make this [tower] model and transition work effectively".

The rather more sensitive subject of the suspension of Beeb CTO John Linwood over the defunct £100m tapeless digital content management system (aka Digital Media Initiative), also disrupted planning, the BBC confirmed.

The contract notice cited, "changes within the senior leadership team during the key planning phase…This included changes to the project sponsor and an acting chief technology officer".

The Beeb decided that it was "not possible" to procure the tech services from an alternative source "without major inconvenience" before the expiry date.

Why it would take the broadcaster 13 months to get the tower-based TFC off the ground is unexplained in the contract award notice, and the corporation did not answer this question when we posed it.

It has, however, flung another mega framework at Atos, which is one of the big four outsourcers that hoovered up £4bn worth of government contracts last year, according to the National Audit Office.

The speed of the award was such that the contract was not published on the Official Journal of the European Union - where all public sector works needs to be publicly tendered - owing to "extreme urgency", the corporation said.

A BBC spokesman told us it is making arrangements for the "key services" that fall under the scope of the tower-based TFC. "We are moving from one monolithic contract covering everything to multiple contracts with a number of specialist companies."

There are seven towers including end user compute, connectivity services, hosting platforms and services, business systems, production and broadcast services and distribution services.

The Beeb said: "The most responsible way to handle this complex organisational change and associated procurements is to establish the in-house SIAM team first before we transition to new services.

"To make this possible, we are proposing a transition window with Atos up to 2017 with the first procurements commencing in Q3 2014. There will be further staggered processes throughout 2015, allowing for a gradual transition of services up until March 2017," he added.

Early termination provisions are in place should the TFC tower model be ready before that end date, but the contracts extended deal with Atos runs for a maximum of 24 months and so cannot be pushed out further. In theory, anyway. ®

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