The Cabinet Office has pledged that long-standing problems affecting the performance of its IBM Emptoris sourcing system will come to an end this month.
Emptoris won the contract to supply the Government Procurement Service (GPS) with its sourcing platform in November 2011 and the technology was rolled out in April last year. Supplier sources have indicated their incredulity that the system seemingly went live without any beta testing and have reported that it has malfunctioned frequently since the outset. Meanwhile, many public sector bodies have reportedly "lost faith in the system" and used their own portals instead.
The Emptoris platform's most notable problems occurred on the deadline day for submissions for the ill-fated £1bn Applications Development, Delivery and Support Services (ADDSS) framework.
Overwhelmed by the number of submissions, the platform collapsed, and the procurement process was postponed. Government procurement chiefs subsequently had a rethink on the need for the framework and it was canned entirely.
In light of the framework's cancellation, the government is reportedly leaning more heavily on the software elements of the £6bn CITHS framework. The Software Application Solutions framework that ADDSS has reportedly been earmarked to replace has also been extended for the second of two optional 12-month terms, taking the agreement to 16 December 2013.
Following the ADDSS submission farrago, more computing power was added to support the Emptoris platform. But suppliers claim that it still experienced a large amount of performance problems through to the end of 2012, including the disruption of the bidding process for a multimillion-pound tender for Microsoft products conducted by HMRC.
In a statement sent to ChannelWeb, a Cabinet Office representative admitted that "unforeseen capacity issues" had "impacted particularly on ADDSS".
"However, we have successfully managed a number of large-scale procurements prior to and since ADDSS, and the vast majority of procurements run through the system have not been affected," added the spokesman. "The IBM Emptoris sourcing system is widely used across both public and private sector organisations."
The Cabinet Office added that a staged upgrade of the system is continuing, and predicted that any lingering problems will be eradicated once the rollout is completed this month.
"We are committed to making the process as easy as possible to use and are working closely with our service provider to improve the usability, capacity and overall performance of the system," said the spokesman. "The infrastructure is currently being upgraded on a phased basis and we expect any remaining capacity issues to be resolved once the upgrade is completed in February."
But one industry source raised their eyebrows at the characterisation of the problems encountered by the platform as "unforeseen".
"The Cabinet Office's claims of 'unforeseen capacity issues' are laughable, given the persistent system issues that have plagued the portal since day one, and the loud complaints from both suppliers and customers," said the source.
"The consensus across the community is that the Buying Solutions portal that the Emptoris system replaced was vastly more reliable, more intuitive and took much less time and effort to administer."
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