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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Website blues

It is a well-known fact that the production of high volume, professional websites can cost a bit of money to design, set up and run, however the Welsh Assembly Government are surely taking the biscuit if this news is correct.

This morning's Western Mail reports that they are spending £3.5m to set up two new websites. The paper tells us that details of the £3.5m contract can be seen on the Assembly Government’s existing business website, http://www.sell2wales.co.uk/:

A notice on the website says: “The Welsh Assembly Government is rationalising its business websites. There will be two primary websites: a single super site which will provide business information and will be the entry point for Assembly Government services for business; and the National Procurement Website (www.buy4wales.co.uk / www.sell2wales.co.uk) which provides businesses with access to procurement opportunities from across the public sector in Wales.

“Additional suppliers will be contracted to provide additional internet, online, software development and consultancy services as required and as need arises over the period to 2012.”
Cardiff-based digital company Sequence has won the major elements of the contract. A statement issued by Sequence said: “Sequence has been awarded the contract for the ongoing design, development, management and hosting of Flexible Support for Business (FS4B), the Assembly Government’s central Government-to-Business application. The contract is designed to allow the Assembly Government to consolidate their business support websites to work alongside the citizen focused www.wales.gov.uk and expand their provision of e-Government services.

“The deal is worth upwards of £750,000 for three years and for this the Assembly Government will have a dedicated on- demand team at Sequence providing consultancy, design and development services to ensure the Assembly Government remain in the best possible position to meet their online communications and business delivery strategy.

“As a public procurement tender, Sequence faced significant competition from across Europe, yet the Welsh agency achieved the highest scores. The successful bid draws on the extensive experience that Sequence have had in successfully delivering business services on behalf of the devolved government in Wales.”

Other elements of the contract have been won by web companies Reading Room, Fusion Workshop, Serco, Valtech, Precedent, Silverbear and Box UK.

The Assembly Government has form on this sort of thing of course. Their own website reportedly cost £2.7 million to develop and I understand that it is about to be revamped. Goodness knows how much that revamp will cost but you would have thought that for that price they could have got it right first time.

Who said that the financial settlement was tight? It seems that money is available for some things not for others, so whilst local government makes deep cuts in services and jobs we at least get top class websites. What a sense of priorities this One Wales Government has.
I'd set them up two new websites for £350 quid. Web designers are far too overpaid... look at that 10 Downing St debarcle.

That being said, I'm glad it's going to a Welsh company. Still too much money - it'll need to be something VERY special to justify it.
I think that some one out to be in overall charge of website - I remember when the WDA took over Business Connect they scrapped web site and management information systems, to develop their own -cost around 6-8million.
The Assembly web site is the most user unfriendly I have ever tried to use.
May be it would pay to have people who really understand web site design and utilisation to do the commissioning.
Al would do it for 350, I would do it for £349. What on earth can justify a budget of that size for websites that not many people will visit, won't understand and are not needed.
In any case, Sell2wales doesn't need redoing.
That said I too am glad a Wales based company (hardly Welsh!) got the contract although I am willing to bet it was touch and go. Now we need to keep an eye on who gets the contract for the VisitWales refurb. If it goes again to some Australian hotel software company then there should be a public outcry.
I saw to day a report that the NHS needs extra money to fund cancer drugs, the Welsh Assembly again thinks it's easy to purchase and tells the NHS it should be made available, I suggest a persons life or living a bit longer is far more important then Labour flogging a web site to sell the Labour party
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