Leathersellers' Federation of Schools
The Leathersellers' Federation of Schools is made up of two all-through schools, a secondary school and a Federation-wide sixth form, all based in the London Borough of Lewisham. Each of the Federation's schools has a unique character, faces individual challenges - the ICT service must therefore meet a broad spectrum of needs. At one end of the scale ICT is to be delivered as a utility, with standard functionality that just works, every time. At the other end of the scale ICT is used to enrich the experience of learners, providing ultimate flexibility to enable teachers and students to explore and innovate.
Formerly part of the BSF programme, the Federation wished to continue outsourcing its ICT service, but was looking to improve performance and identify a partner that could support the evolution of their ICT Strategy over time – and keep within a tight budget.
Novatia was appointed as ICT advisors to the Federation to review the current ICT Managed Service, to develop a new specification to address performance issues, and to support the procurement of a new long-term ICT Managed Service partner.
Reviewing the Incumbent ICT Managed Service
During our investigation we observed that communication between the incumbent provider and the Federation had broken down. Senior members of staff were micro-managing resolution of ICT performance issues and delayed project delivery. We identified that there was no demarcation between business-as-usual services and new projects which negatively impacted on the service as a whole. Projects were not being clearly scoped and had not been adequately resourced, both in terms of man hours and lack of appropriate technical skills. Lessons learnt were not translating into service improvements - regular service activities, such as the annual transition for incoming students, were encountering recurring issues causing significant disruption to start of year operations. Staff confidence in the ICT service was very low.
Developing the ICT Service Specification
The information gathered in the review of the existing service was essential to shaping the new service specification. With this clear understanding, Novatia was able to support the Federation through the evaluation of options to ensure that the service would meet all the needs of Federation users. Through the specification we were able to make explicit the Federation’s expectations with regards to business-as-usual, regularly scheduled service activities and project work. The resultant Service Levels and KPIs ensured that the Federation would receive a managed service designed to meet their specific requirements.
ICT Services Cost Modelling
Once the service requirements were articulated, we reviewed affordability. Novatia developed a 3-5 year cost model to provide the Federation with a clear view on the total cost of running the specified service. Within this process we clearly demarcated ICT responsibilities, and associated costs, between the Federation staff and the Managed Service Provider to ensure all expectations were understood and budgets planned accordingly.
Procurement of a new ICT Managed Service Partner
Novatia is highly active in the education ICT market, regularly running tenders for our clients. We leveraged our exposure to orient the Federation to market leaders and to promote the opportunity to the market through soft market testing. We supported the Federation in hosting a very well-attended Bidders’ Day where the team provided context and background to shape the Bidders’ understanding of the Federation’s culture and needs. This early engagement resulted in higher quality responses from the market from relevant potential partners.
Novatia advised the Federation to consider a longer-term contract to stimulate market interest. A balanced approach using a 3+2+1+1+1+1+1 year term enabled us to allow for a maximum term of 10 years without constraining the Federation, should they wish to exit the service at the 6 available break points. The result was excellent, with 6 compliant tender returns.
The level of competition helped to drive down the costs resulting in excellent value for money. Interestingly, we noted a split between organisations that had evolved their services to address the post-BSF funding world, and those who continued to propose a BSF style delivery (which proved cost prohibitive in most cases).
We supported the Federation in performing a detailed evaluation of the tender returns to ensure that the proposals met all requirements and added significant value. The transparent process ensured that the Federation met all OJEU rules and ensured that all bidders were treated equally. Our evaluation approach is always thorough and fair, and enables school leaders to focus on the areas of greatest impact on their organisation.
A Preferred Bidder was selected and Novatia supported the Federation through contract negotiation, which included advising on complex TUPE requirements.
In preparation for the transition, Novatia advised the Federation to review its own governance of ICT decisions, and to ensure that the service and contract management roles within the new structure were clear and adequately resourced from within. The Federation has since established an ICT Strategy Group for this purpose, and is regularly reviewing the ICT service to ensure that it evolves in tandem with their ICT Strategy.
The new ICT Managed Service went live in August 2015.