What systemic issues would you change in the MOD or in the single Services?

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
But in some ways, that’s just an excuse. The fact is that the public sector just doesn’t understand or trust industry let alone know how to harness synergies with it. The relationship is always about the contract, not the outcome.
We're managing some smaller-scale stuff with the Analysis Support Construct, but a key issue for success there is having some stability, and having independent Technical Leads (working for ASC, not the suppliers or the customer) whose official job is assuring the work's fit for purpose but unofficially can be referees and relationship counsellors.

But it's not straightforward, and it does need communication. One reason it's worked fairly well (ASC is winding down, ASTRID is spooling up to replace it) is that the Technical Leads are (a) experienced enough to know what's possible, what's reasonable and what's taking the mick, (b) the TLs are able to push back against both industry and customer if necessary.

And I'm not sure how well it scales up, either...
 
We're managing some smaller-scale stuff with the Analysis Support Construct, but a key issue for success there is having some stability, and having independent Technical Leads (working for ASC, not the suppliers or the customer) whose official job is assuring the work's fit for purpose but unofficially can be referees and relationship counsellors.

But it's not straightforward, and it does need communication. One reason it's worked fairly well (ASC is winding down, ASTRID is spooling up to replace it) is that the Technical Leads are (a) experienced enough to know what's possible, what's reasonable and what's taking the mick, (b) the TLs are able to push back against both industry and customer if necessary.

And I'm not sure how well it scales up, either...
The people are always the key to success. Partnering relationships take time and investment. They also require the A-team.

The Army (and Capita) should have learned a massive amount from the recruiting contract, which is been turned around from collective failure into success. I suspect it hasn’t; I’m not in a position to comment.
 

Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Is the MOD seriously going to Big 4s for bums-on-seats individual consultants. I doubt it; it’s not what the companies are about.

When you contract with a Big 4 (and many others) you are not hiring an individual. You are contracting for the company’s corporate knowledge and systems. The fee quote should clearly should the breakdown of hours, including the hours that partners, managers and administrative etc will commit to your contract.

I think you’d struggle to hire a consultant to fill an individual seat these days. You’d be in breach of The Off Payroll Regulations and IR35.
Don't entirely agree. First, I don't think the public sector even remotely has a handle on how it uses consultants. They've become a stopgap which is, as far as public accounting goes, if not exactly off the books, at least much less of a pain to manage than the formal recruitment and procurement processes.

Second, re: the Big 4, but it also applies to the contracting industry as a whole and I've seen it with much smaller examples. Hiring the company's 'corporate knowledge' is always the blurb, but anyone who works with the individuals they supply knows that is not true. You are hiring individuals who, in most cases, could easily be you or your SO3, and in the case of the MOD, often were. The vast majority don't have substantially more experience, education or talent than those in equivalent Defence or CS roles. There might be a handwave of someone more experienced, but like with legal partners in large firms, these are mostly present for the hiring and presenting to VSO, and not for the actual work they are hired for (who, in any case, the VSO or hirers aren't doing either so doesn't notice). Some companies might differ from this model, but eventually it absorbs them too: McKinsey is a great example that trades on a brand that explicitly frames itself as being more exclusive than this model, and perhaps at some stage it was, but has become large enough that it is effectively just the same as the others except with a slightly higher graduate GPA. What you pay for is the contracting companies ability to monopolise the sector, because their size allows them to fund aggressive client and business development departments and soak up all the business that might otherwise go to smaller contractors, and this becomes a self-reinforcing cycle.

In other words, the public sector inability to understand about commercial relationships you describe means that they don't understand (or care, for the usual reasons of divorced accountability and responsibility) that they are being had. Of course, they could always hire a consulting company to tell them that...

Third, IR35 isn't the problem, even with the recent changes and judgements it should still protect small or individual contractors more than hinder them. The problem is it's largely unenforced, because of an industry model which has become accustomed to being fundamentally explotitative of both ends (client and worker) because it never gets challenged. I've seen contracts or clauses fall apart rapidly when they do get challenged, but they don't seem to change the way the companies operate, I presume because so few people challenge them. It's like the Fight Club version of automobile recall decisions. If the cost of changing policy is more than the cost doing the wrong thing, they'll continue to do the wrong thing until it costs more than changing policy. Contracting, in a lot of ways, is basically the white-collar version of Uber or Deliveroo.

This can be gamed to the advantage of individual contractors too: I've this abroad where clients use contracting companies as a sort of recruiter - the contracting company tries to develop a business relationship with the client, but the client poaches willing individal contractors directly; the client cuts out 40% of unsupportable management and business development fees; the individual contractor gets paid more; and the contracting company discovers that their non-compete clauses and so on are unenforceable in the UK (in a large part due to IR35), and they don't know how or it's too difficult to pursue it abroad. But that requires both ends (client and individual contractor) to realise they are being had, which doesn't seem to happen so much in the UK.
 
The relationship
That's very perceptive, but not necessarily complete

If you're (say), Cap Gemini, the principal outcome desired is to maximise income, and it's up to the client to wise up and factor that into the framing of any contract.

That said, I couldn't agree with you more: too often in public sector work you see contracts unintentionally designed so they create parasites, not partners.

Caveat emptor.
 
That's very perceptive, but not necessarily complete

If you're (say), Cap Gemini, the principal outcome desired is to maximise income, and it's up to the client to wise up and factor that into the framing of any contract.

That said, I couldn't agree with you more: too often in public sector work you see contracts unintentionally designed so they create parasites, not partners.

Caveat emptor.
I disagree. If you operate in a partnering environment, the contractor’s principal desired outcome will be a long term revenue stream to a target profit. He won’t seek to maximise profit in the short term.

But if the contract selection is driven by price and the contract has a short duration, then the contractors principal desired outcome will always be short term profit.
 
Don't entirely agree. First, I don't think the public sector even remotely has a handle on how it uses consultants. They've become a stopgap which is, as far as public accounting goes, if not exactly off the books, at least much less of a pain to manage than the formal recruitment and procurement processes.

Second, re: the Big 4, but it also applies to the contracting industry as a whole and I've seen it with much smaller examples. Hiring the company's 'corporate knowledge' is always the blurb, but anyone who works with the individuals they supply knows that is not true. You are hiring individuals who, in most cases, could easily be you or your SO3, and in the case of the MOD, often were. The vast majority don't have substantially more experience, education or talent than those in equivalent Defence or CS roles. There might be a handwave of someone more experienced, but like with legal partners in large firms, these are mostly present for the hiring and presenting to VSO, and not for the actual work they are hired for (who, in any case, the VSO or hirers aren't doing either so doesn't notice). Some companies might differ from this model, but eventually it absorbs them too: McKinsey is a great example that trades on a brand that explicitly frames itself as being more exclusive than this model, and perhaps at some stage it was, but has become large enough that it is effectively just the same as the others except with a slightly higher graduate GPA. What you pay for is the contracting companies ability to monopolise the sector, because their size allows them to fund aggressive client and business development departments and soak up all the business that might otherwise go to smaller contractors, and this becomes a self-reinforcing cycle.

In other words, the public sector inability to understand about commercial relationships you describe means that they don't understand (or care, for the usual reasons of divorced accountability and responsibility) that they are being had. Of course, they could always hire a consulting company to tell them that...

Third, IR35 isn't the problem, even with the recent changes and judgements it should still protect small or individual contractors more than hinder them. The problem is it's largely unenforced, because of an industry model which has become accustomed to being fundamentally explotitative of both ends (client and worker) because it never gets challenged. I've seen contracts or clauses fall apart rapidly when they do get challenged, but they don't seem to change the way the companies operate, I presume because so few people challenge them. It's like the Fight Club version of automobile recall decisions. If the cost of changing policy is more than the cost doing the wrong thing, they'll continue to do the wrong thing until it costs more than changing policy. Contracting, in a lot of ways, is basically the white-collar version of Uber or Deliveroo.

This can be gamed to the advantage of individual contractors too: I've this abroad where clients use contracting companies as a sort of recruiter - the contracting company tries to develop a business relationship with the client, but the client poaches willing individal contractors directly; the client cuts out 40% of unsupportable management and business development fees; the individual contractor gets paid more; and the contracting company discovers that their non-compete clauses and so on are unenforceable in the UK (in a large part due to IR35), and they don't know how or it's too difficult to pursue it abroad. But that requires both ends (client and individual contractor) to realise they are being had, which doesn't seem to happen so much in the UK.
I don’t think we are far apart on this.

On the Big4, connect with my previous comment about partnering. They have all developed substantial public sector facing business units which reflect the customer‘s culture. Although not Big4, I remember once arguing with a senior DIO (then DE) civil servant who wanted to negotiate down the management level fees because “we don’t need them”. In so doing he ensured that the consultant provided SO3 level knowledge and the project went without the intellectual horsepower of senior leadership.

The level of distrust and lack of understanding of business across the public sector rarely ceases to amaze me. Adversarial contracting and price based purchasing has created an ecosystem of contractors who are focussed on short term profit because they have no choice.
 
IF.

Big word.

You're making my same point.

It's primarily the responsibility of the sponsor to set the conditions for Partnership (capital P) to develop.

Drop that ball, and - well, you know the rest of the song.
I don’t want to be pedantic, but a partnership and a partnering relationship are not the same thing, irrespective of capitalisation.

A partnership is a formal peer relationship between two or more suppliers to deliver a contract, such a Joint Venture or Alliance. A (capitalised) Partnership would normally only be used to describe a business in which the individual members a partners such as a Mutual or LLP.

A partnering relationship is a relationship between customer and supplier which focuses on successful delivery of outcomes rather than contract conditions. Invariably it will involved mutual sharing of both gain and pain.

I would suggest that it is virtually impossible for government to enter into partnership relationships with industry unless government is operating through an arms length corporate body. The BBC can and does enter into partnerships whilst the MOD doesn’t. The failed DE&S outsource contract involved setting up a GOVCO for that very reason.

But there is no reason why defence can’t enter into partnering relationships. In deed it does; the RPC is a good example. But it doesn’t do it well. RPC ignored the basic principles of developing a good partnering relationship. It is unusual in having been recovered; research on partnering usually show that if the start is poor, the contract descends into a spiral of broken trust and blame from which it can never recover. I take my hat off to the RPC leadership on both sides for dragging it out of failure. (And I know the P in RPC is Partnership, but it isn’t legally or doctrinally one!)

So yes, you are right. The Sponsor is a key factor in setting the conditions for a successful partnering relationship. But my view is that European public procurement rules mixed with an adversarial commercial approach and a culture of price focus make it very difficult for a Sponsor to create the culture.

It’s not helped by the fact that the Sponsor will probably be sponsoring his or her first project, won’t have a clue about partnering relationships and won’t be there long enough to set the culture. Which is what happened with RPC.
 
Don't entirely agree. First, I don't think the public sector even remotely has a handle on how it uses consultants. They've become a stopgap which is, as far as public accounting goes, if not exactly off the books, at least much less of a pain to manage than the formal recruitment and procurement processes.

Second, re: the Big 4, but it also applies to the contracting industry as a whole and I've seen it with much smaller examples. Hiring the company's 'corporate knowledge' is always the blurb, but anyone who works with the individuals they supply knows that is not true. You are hiring individuals who, in most cases, could easily be you or your SO3, and in the case of the MOD, often were. The vast majority don't have substantially more experience, education or talent than those in equivalent Defence or CS roles. There might be a handwave of someone more experienced, but like with legal partners in large firms, these are mostly present for the hiring and presenting to VSO, and not for the actual work they are hired for (who, in any case, the VSO or hirers aren't doing either so doesn't notice). Some companies might differ from this model, but eventually it absorbs them too: McKinsey is a great example that trades on a brand that explicitly frames itself as being more exclusive than this model, and perhaps at some stage it was, but has become large enough that it is effectively just the same as the others except with a slightly higher graduate GPA. What you pay for is the contracting companies ability to monopolise the sector, because their size allows them to fund aggressive client and business development departments and soak up all the business that might otherwise go to smaller contractors, and this becomes a self-reinforcing cycle.

In other words, the public sector inability to understand about commercial relationships you describe means that they don't understand (or care, for the usual reasons of divorced accountability and responsibility) that they are being had. Of course, they could always hire a consulting company to tell them that...

Third, IR35 isn't the problem, even with the recent changes and judgements it should still protect small or individual contractors more than hinder them. The problem is it's largely unenforced, because of an industry model which has become accustomed to being fundamentally explotitative of both ends (client and worker) because it never gets challenged. I've seen contracts or clauses fall apart rapidly when they do get challenged, but they don't seem to change the way the companies operate, I presume because so few people challenge them. It's like the Fight Club version of automobile recall decisions. If the cost of changing policy is more than the cost doing the wrong thing, they'll continue to do the wrong thing until it costs more than changing policy. Contracting, in a lot of ways, is basically the white-collar version of Uber or Deliveroo.

This can be gamed to the advantage of individual contractors too: I've this abroad where clients use contracting companies as a sort of recruiter - the contracting company tries to develop a business relationship with the client, but the client poaches willing individal contractors directly; the client cuts out 40% of unsupportable management and business development fees; the individual contractor gets paid more; and the contracting company discovers that their non-compete clauses and so on are unenforceable in the UK (in a large part due to IR35), and they don't know how or it's too difficult to pursue it abroad. But that requires both ends (client and individual contractor) to realise they are being had, which doesn't seem to happen so much in the UK.
Makes you wonder why they don't make more use of the skills and knowledge in the Reserves....
 

Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Makes you wonder why they don't make more use of the skills and knowledge in the Reserves....
Mostly because of...

Most of whom have got a day job and joined the Reserves to soldier, not provide consultancy services. And few have the skill set to consult at the strategic management level.
The major problem being that relatively few reservists are willing to take longish term work as a soldier for 20% of their day rate as a civilian.

Actually, among those who do have appropriate skills and knowledge (by default about 80% of whom are based in London), the Reserves aren't terrible at using them. Places like 3MI have plenty of individuals who get posted to public sector roles as a reservist because their 'civilian' skillset is appropriate to the role, and they are in the correct location to work in a London office; or who create useful bridges from their public sector day job to the Reserves.

It's far from perfect, and the Reserves as a whole miss at least as many such posting opportunities as they catch, but it's not totally unknown. The bigger problem is that the Army fails to recognise how civilian skillsets would fit their role requirements. E.g. I saw someone not even considered for a media-related role because said individual didn't have the appropriate JPA boxtick for the 4-week Defence course in Powerpoints and Extended Coffee Breaks (Media). In the real world, they were a 10 year BBC news journalist on their flagship programme, with foreign experience as a producer.
 
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Most of whom have got a day job and joined the Reserves to soldier, not provide consultancy services. And few have the skill set to consult at the strategic management level.
It's not going to be a huge pool, but there are opportunities for defence...
 
Makes you wonder why they don't make more use of the skills and knowledge in the Reserves....
"Well, they know next to bugger-all about soldiering, what the hell they might know about business and that sort of civilian nonsense is beyond me!" would sum it up, more or less, I think ^~
 
the Army fails to recognise how civilian skillsets would fit their role requirements. E.g. I saw someone not even considered for a media-related role because said individual didn't have the appropriate JPA boxtick for the 4-week Defence course in Powerpoints and Extended Coffee Breaks (Media). In the real world, they were a 10 year BBC news journalist on their flagship programme, with foreign experience as a producer.
LMFAO . . . :-(
 
Mostly because of...



The major problem being that relatively few reservists are willing to take longish term work as a soldier for 20% of their day rate as a civilian.

Actually, among those who do have appropriate skills and knowledge (by default about 80% of whom are based in London), the Reserves aren't terrible at using them. Places like 3MI have plenty of individuals who get posted to public sector roles as a reservist because their 'civilian' skillset is appropriate to the role, and they are in the correct location to work in a London office; or who create useful bridges from their public sector day job to the Reserves.

It's far from perfect, and the Reserves as a whole miss at least as many such posting opportunities as they catch, but it's not totally unknown. The bigger problem is that the Army fails to recognise how civilian skillsets would fit their role requirements. E.g. I saw someone not even considered for a media-related role because said individual didn't have the appropriate JPA boxtick for the 4-week Defence course in Powerpoints and Extended Coffee Breaks (Media). In the real world, they were a 10 year BBC news journalist on their flagship programme, with foreign experience as a producer.
Or the one man band independent film producer/director about to be sent on a major overseas exercise as an umpire with a god gun instead of his camera kit, until the penny drops with someone that what he can actually pull together is streets ahead of what media comms can churn out and is bloody cheap on RSDs.

Though it should be re-iterated that while RSDs in the short term can fill gaps for the self employed/contractor types, mortgages don't get agreed on them
 
Mostly because of...

The major problem being that relatively few reservists are willing to take longish term work as a soldier for 20% of their day rate as a civilian.

Actually, among those who do have appropriate skills and knowledge (by default about 80% of whom are based in London), the Reserves aren't terrible at using them. Places like 3MI have plenty of individuals who get posted to public sector roles as a reservist because their 'civilian' skillset is appropriate to the role, and they are in the correct location to work in a London office; or who create useful bridges from their public sector day job to the Reserves.

It's far from perfect, and the Reserves as a whole miss at least as many such posting opportunities as they catch, but it's not totally unknown. The bigger problem is that the Army fails to recognise how civilian skillsets would fit their role requirements. E.g. I saw someone not even considered for a media-related role because said individual didn't have the appropriate JPA boxtick for the 4-week Defence course in Powerpoints and Extended Coffee Breaks (Media). In the real world, they were a 10 year BBC news journalist on their flagship programme, with foreign experience as a producer.
But why would someone who is a ten year BBC journalist want to take a media-related Reserve role? And how would his skill set be of value at the strategic leadership level where consultants are use.

I spent a good deal of time working with Engineer specialist units. Very capable people often in well paid senior roles, but very few (ie none) had any experience at board level in a large organisation or of running complex multi-million pound projects.

The reality is that a career to a strategic level in a big, complex business or government organisation and a career in the Reserve are near mutually exclusive. Sure, there are exceptions and we can all find isolated examples like your TV producer. But their presence is good luck, not deliberate.
 
Skills in the Reserves is an oft regurgitated urban myth "yes of course in my unit the 25th Bluffers Rifles in one section alone we have two QC's. a Civil engineer, a Chartered Accountant and a Brain Surgeon, and we call them the thickies as all other sections have a better mix, don'tcha know?"

The reality is that mythical section actually has x number of Riflemen and JNCOs and that is what the army employs.

As for the consultancies they rarely have a large pool of experts and tend to hire them in per contract and the quality of these can vary from appalling to excellent, it just depends what is avaioable at the time and if they are a good fit for the contract.

It will be the role of the managing partner (other titles are available) to manage the relationship to the advantage of the Consultancy, i.e. minimise costs to maximise profit. Their 'duty' is to their employer and not the MoD.
 
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Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
But why would someone who is a ten year BBC journalist want to take a media-related Reserve role? And how would his skill set be of value at the strategic leadership level where consultants are use.

I spent a good deal of time working with Engineer specialist units. Very capable people often in well paid senior roles, but very few (ie none) had any experience at board level in a large organisation or of running complex multi-million pound projects.

The reality is that a career to a strategic level in a big, complex business or government organisation and a career in the Reserve are near mutually exclusive. Sure, there are exceptions and we can all find isolated examples like your TV producer. But their presence is good luck, not deliberate.
I'm not specifically talking about consulting here, I'm talking about the general inability of Defence to match external SEQ to Defence roles. Regardless of whether top level consultants (by which, by the way, I don't mean McKinsey types who I think are broadly schills - I mean people or companies with specific expertise in an area who hire it out) are or would be available through the Reserves, when the Defence can't even match specific, low-level external SEQ to specific low-level Defence jobs when it's of obvious benefit to them, the high level stuff is a moot point.
 
Skills in the Reserves is an oft regurgitated urban myth "yes of course in my unit the 25th Bluffers Rifles in one section alone we have two QC's. a Civil engineer, a Chartered Accountant and a Brain Surgeon, and we call them the thickies as all other sections have a better mix, don'tcha know?"

The reality is that mythical section actually has x number of Riflemen and JNCOs and that is what the army employs.

As for the consultancies they rarely have a large pool of experts and tend to hire them in per contract and the quality of these can vary from apalling to excellent, it just depends what is avaioable at the time and if they are a good fit for the contract.

It will be the role of the managing partner (other titles are available) to manage the relationship to the advantage of the Consultancy, i.e. minimise costs to maximise profit. Their 'duty' is to their employer and not the MoD.
The other issue you have is that there is a finite number of those reservists who lean in enough in their civvy job to have qualifications/skills of value AND are available for deployment.
 

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