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Brexit Britain looks to French company to save crumbling borders and immigration tech

Building a wall... of code

The UK's Home Office has awarded a £37 million ($46.6 million) tech contract to Capgemini for its borders and immigration management as the services strive to recover from past failings.

The French outsourcing and IT services biz has won the deal "to build, run and monitor applications" on the DevOps platform for the UK Border Agency.

The applications will be "used to transact with the Home Office." Capgemini is expected to offer "strong architecture; engineering leadership capability; infrastructure integration; driving ongoing tooling/ process innovation, continuously exploring industry improvements; making operational efficiencies and reduce costs; secure network boundary controls; integration with third parties," according to a procurement notice published recently.

The Home Office will be hoping the service can come back from its past failures. In 2020, the National Audit Office (NAO) said that between 2014 and 2019, the department did not achieve value for money against its plans to deliver the Digital Services at the Border program.

"As a result of both internal and external factors, the Department did not deliver the programme by its original timetable of March 2019, with only one of the programme's planned three systems (Border Crossing) in live operation at that point. These difficulties meant that the Department had to continue using legacy systems which are increasingly expensive and difficult to maintain and delayed its objective of giving UK Border Force officers better information with which to make decisions about people crossing the border," the UK public spending watchdog said.

However, the Home Office's decision to reset the program in 2019 gave it "a clearer focus… and offers a more realistic delivery plan." Governance, leadership and delivery capability had been strengthened, the NAO said, even if the three-year program extension cost the taxpayer £173 million ($218 million).

With its new deal, France's Capgemini is set to work on the UK's borders and immigration IT platform, dubbed the Environment Build Support Administration (EBSA). For what it's worth, Britain voted to ditch the European Union in 2016, and eventually left in 2020. In September of that year, the Home Office lauded the DevOps approach taken in this borders and immigration IT system.

Using the platform, "our technical staff can rapidly start work and improve their productivity without having to develop bespoke environments," said Home Office head of software engineering Will McGeehin.

"The platforms are forming a key component in our DevOps future. They also provide a focal point for the domains of Dev and Ops to collaborate."

DevOps may have been the big thing in software development for more than 10 years, but perhaps its moment is beginning to pass.

As an Amazon case study from Prime Video showed, its team saved money by moving from a microservices architecture to a monolith, avoiding costly services such as AWS Step Functions and Lambda serverless functions. ®

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