01 March 2005 | Cara Whitehouse
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is to spend £320 million on an IT project for British embassies and High Commissions across the world.
The seven-year deal, finalised on 16 February, will see Hewlett-Packard (HP) work with in-house IT provider FCO Services on the Future Firecrest project.
"The contract is the largest ever signed by the FCO and is the first time the department has formed a genuine partnership with the private sector," said Andrew Mitchell, programme director for Future Firecrest.
The original Firecrest system was developed seven years ago and is used by 16,000 staff in the UK and overseas.
Under the deal, HP and FCO Services will design, implement and operate the new IT system.
Mitchell said there was an element of "try before you buy" in the FCO's tendering process, particularly in terms of the partnering relationship.
"We set up two-way secondments between our department and the three final bidders."
Short-listed suppliers were also involved in solution building and site visits to some of the more difficult embassy posts.
"This procurement process gave us clarity in our requirements and let us see how far the competition drove price down as we progressed," said Mitchell.