The Student Loans Company has signed a £178 million deal with Tata Consultancy Services to become SLC’s third Strategic Partner working to overhaul its “complex and outdated” IT systems.
The SLC Tata deal adds to agreements with Atos and Capgemini, signed in 2020 and 2021 respectively. SLC’s Strategic Partner Programme aims to simplify the company’s IT operations by cutting its former roster of 92 technology partners to just a handful, according to SLC’s “Corporate Plan” published in December 2020.
“SLC currently engages over 400 third-party software developers and other related contractors on site costing some £60m per annum; in the current situation SLC owns all the cost, overhead and risk,” said the plan.
The SLC Tata contract started in March, and will run for seven years.
“A key focus for this Strategic Partner will be on enabling the journey to the cloud through the delivery and support of SLC’s new Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) technologies and expanding its enterprise integration platform. It will also support a variety of programmes and projects which will involve the uplift or decommissioning of legacy services,” said the government’s announcement of the SLC Tata deal.
As for the other Strategic Partners, Atos is working on SLC’s customer interface and technology infrastructure, on a £216 million deal. Capgemini’s £150 million contract has it working on “a wide range of services across our Platform Delivery and Technology Services area” according to the contract notice.
SLC Tata deal aims to vanquish IT troubles
The Student Loans Company has a long and ignominious history of IT disasters. In 2010 the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee was highly critical of “completely unacceptable” IT problems.
A 2019 Tailored Review into SLC, commissioned by the government and run by an independent panel, laid bare the company’s IT challenges, noting: “SLC’s technology is not fit for a sustainable future.
“Previous operational reviews noted that the SLC already has the comparable size and complexity of a small retail bank and that its ‘change’ costs had risen 10 times faster than [business as usual] costs since FY 2014-15,” the review added.
Along with the IT systems themselves – “created in the 1990s for a much simpler, lower volume service” – the review called out SLC’s decision-making process as well: “If the policy commissioning cycle is not reformed, it may be the case that the efficiency gains of new technological capacity become gradually eroded with an ever complex product landscape and unrealistic development windows.
“[T]here has been historic underdevelopment of the SLC’s core IT infrastructure. The Company has frequently needed to prioritise the delivery of each year’s new policy priorities ahead of upgrading core systems, which in turn has led to the evolution of functions with multiple independencies that complicate the process of developing new products and services.”
Following this report, and some changes of management at SLC, the company put in place the current Strategic Partner Programme. Following the appointments of Atos, Capgemini and now Tata, SLC may sign a final Strategic Partner deal for its remaining IT requirements.
“This new partnership with TCS is a significant part of our technology strategy and builds on the success of our previous Strategic Partner appointments,” said the company’s CIO Stephen Campbell in the SLC Tata deal announcement.
“Its expertise will be invaluable in the successful delivery of SLC’s SaaS roadmap, as well helping to develop capabilities and resilience to in-house technical skills that will drive our strategic technology agenda.”