January 2014 | Peter Curtis

Digital tide shows the fast way forward

Infotech has been the key for Tata Consultancy Services in its effort to help transform the delivery of public services in the United Kingdom

When Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) won a multimillion pound contract from the United Kingdom’s Home Office in October 2012, to provide technology and operations support for the newly formed Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), it was a landmark moment for the company’s British public sector business.

Under the deal, which will last for an initial period of five years, TCS will implement a programme to transform DBS, a core and highly sensitive British government service that processes requests for criminal record checks on people seeking new jobs or voluntary positions. To do so, it will replace the current paper-based system with a new online application.

According to Damien Venkatasamy, director of public sector for UK and Ireland at TCS, it was the company’s ability to meet the demands of the British government’s ‘digital by default’ agenda that helped it beat incumbent supplier Capita to the contract. The government’s aim is to achieve cost savings of up to £1.2 billion by 2015 and £1.7 billion a year after that (according to www.gov.uk) by making everyday government transactions digital.

“We are digitising the service, bringing the lessons we’ve learned from working in sectors such as financial services and retail to develop that new online application,” says Mr Venkatasamy. “It will authenticate that people are who they say they are via the credit-checking agency, Experian.”

To fulfil the contract, TCS has set up a new secure delivery centre in Liverpool. When the system goes live in summer 2014, information will be routed directly into the DBS customer management relationship system and workflow, meaning that checks can be processed far more quickly than with the current system, which involves a significant amount of manual processing.

“Our belief is that it will reduce the current average time of six weeks for a standard criminal record check to two days,” Mr Venkatasamy says. “It will also remove the need for people to go via a registered body or employer: they can apply online and then give the relevant organisation access to a digital certificate.” He adds that “removing the paper from the process” should also improve the audit trail and flow of information around the DBS, enabling more efficient use of resources.

The British government handles more than a billion different transactions each year through 650 different services. But even though the public increasingly expects to be able to perform such transactions online, many still lack digital options. As a result, there are significant opportunities for infotech services companies to help improve service delivery, as well as provide cost savings and greater value for money.

Mr Venkatasamy believes that TCS is well equipped to deliver such benefits. “I think that’s at the core of our value proposition to the government: we understand how you can deploy technology to radically transform the service, both from an efficiency and end-user perspective,” he says.

Packing in plenty
One example is TCS’s work with Nest Corporation, the trustee body that runs the National Employment Savings Trust pension scheme, introduced as part of the government’s auto-enrolment legislation. Under a 10-year contract, TCS is providing the infotech infrastructure, business applications and customer-facing online channel for Nest. And it is also running a customer services centre.

A lack of interest in pensions is one of the major reasons that people fail to make adequate provision for their retirement. To tackle the issue, Mr Venkatasamy says that TCS has created “a really compelling digital journey”, one which allows people to interact with their pension schemes. “We made sure it was backed up by processing capability that allows people to get information about how their pensions are performing and move money around in real time, just as if they were switching money between online bank accounts.”

Mr Venkatasamy adds that using a digital channel has enabled Nest’s costs to be driven to “an industry-leading low”, a key priority given that the scheme targets low- and middle-income earners. “I think the average price of policy administration is something like 1.5 percent of the policy value in any given year; Nest is currently at 0.3 percent,” he explains.

TCS is using expertise developed in other industry verticals and global markets to serve its public sector clients in Britain. For example, its own banking platform forms the core of the Nest solution, as well as a new business application for the Child Maintenance Group, a British government agency that processes child maintenance payments.

From India to Britain
It is also deploying the ‘DigiGov’ platform — originally developed for the Indian government market — as part of a 15-year contract signed in 2009 to act as strategic infotech partner to Cardiff City Council. Initially this focused on back-office improvements to human resources processes in areas such as recruitment, expenses and appraisals, and the provision of better management information, which has enabled the council to plan resources more effectively.

TCS has recently signed a new contract with the Security Industry Authority to develop an online licensing application for the private security industry. Mr Venkatasamy is optimistic about the future. “The scope for further digitisation of services is enormous,” he says. “There’s no shortage of potential, but we have to be judicious and pursue opportunities where we can use technology to achieve something transformational.”

France ambitions get a fillip
Tata Consultancy Services’ acquisition of French IT services firm Alti in July 2013 has helped accelerate the company’s growth momentum in France, and is a significant boost to its plans to become one of the country’s top 10 information technology enterprises. Kumar Narayanan, country manager for TCS France (extreme left in the picture), believes that the acquisition of privately held Alti, which had revenues of €126 million and 1,200 employees in 2012, offers significant benefits, given TCS’s global capabilities, innovation and investment strength and Alti’s local expertise, talent pool and customer base.

Alti is the fourth-largest integrator of SAP software in France and specialises in business intelligence, testing, and general applications development and maintenance. These are all business lines that TCS is keen to expand in France, a long-term strategic market for the company.

The deal has increased TCS’s headcount in France by 500 percent and seen it enter the ranks of the country’s top 30 infotech services companies, according to Pierre Audoin Consultants. Among its clients are banks like BNP and Société Générale, as well as leading companies in the energy, transport and pharmaceutical sectors. Mr Narayanan believes that the public sector market will also offer opportunities in the longer term.

TCS France has recently won several significant projects, including a multi-year contract to help a utility realise efficiency gains through the use of SAP modules. “We are also winning projects on the digital side, where Alti had a strong local team specialising in user experience,” adds Mr Narayanan. “Combine that with our digital labs in India and Santa Clara in the United States and we can bring in a lot more solutions.”