5 January 2012

Optimistic in the extreme

the original www logo

Barnet Council is updating its horrible websites. Here is a Delegated Powers Report from January 2011

DPR 1235 Barnet Council Web content management system purchase

So this DPR records the decision to spend up to £130,000 on a content management system. Mr Mustard will forgive you if you wander off to this link for a read-up on the subject of CMS and then come back. OK, now you are an expert on CMS. Note that the web manager named on the cover sheet has moved on to pastures new - that cannot have helped with development.

Para 5.1 contains possibly the most hideously optimistic sentence ever seen. Not the sentence which says that this new contract, which most people will probably & wrongly equate to the cost of a new website, is expected to cost £130,000. No, the one that goes "The work is expected to be completed by April 2011".

Now what has been spent on the new website? ( it had better be awesome after this spend ). Mr Mustard will set out for you the major and/or interesting items. Amounts are not yet all spent; some are budgeted figures but as Mr Mustard only wanted you to get a feel for the cost, that isn't a problem.

Supplier Amount £ Item Note
JADU 48,420 Hosting & Support
JADU 39,999 Licences
JADU 1,200 Implementation
JADU 1,200 Implementation
JADU 1,800 Training 1
JADU 11,200 ePay

Google 6,200 mini search apps 2

LBB 123,600 staff costs 3

Agilisys 78,700 Requirements gathering 4
Technical Specification
Agilisys 117,675 CMS config & development 5
Agilisys 50,450 Website design 6
Agilisys 48,350 Form review, design 7
& implementation
Agilisys 127,750 Project management 8
testing support

CDT 15,000 Graphic designs

Total 671,544

1. The training was paid for in October 11 so 6 months after the supposed go live date.

2. You can read about these here. This should offer a vast improvement over the current search facility at the price of google knowing what you did today.

3. That is just the staff who are dedicated to the project. It must be taking up the time of loads of other staff.

4. Barnet Council needed a consultant to tell them what they needed.

5. If you read about CMS earlier it is meant to be a piece of cake. Why all the time spent on configuration?

6. Design. It had better be pretty & easy to use.

7. We don't want to be straitjacketed by webforms. They are wretched. Here is an example from Camden Council. You cannot simply send them an email so that you have a copy yourself that you can file in your own email system and so you can use a pre-prepared signature to save your own time.

Webforms are about convenience for the council. Councils work for us, not the other way around. Mr Mustard is in correspondence with the Assistant Chief Executive Julie Taylor about this. If you also sent her an email ( link above ) saying that there must always be an email alternative to a webform that would help the cause. Mr Mustard will not use webforms. He will go back to letters if the council start to hide email addresses. 

Has there been any consultation on webforms? None seen by Mr Mustard.

8. Charging to project manage at the same time as doing most of the work. Crafty.
Bloggers would have tested for free, as would other regular users.

9. That seems like a lot especially as over 60% of it has been given to consultants.

Barnet Council are going for the big bang approach to the new website, on 30 March 2012 ( a Friday which is a quiet day and gives them the weekend to troubleshoot ). The alternative would have been to move one department at a time from the old site to the new one. Time will tell if the correct approach has been taken.

All the time that this website is under development and the invitation to quote kicked off in August 2010 ( It doesn't look like Agilisys had to quote specifically for this work ) and JADU got the job, the old website has still had to be hosted with Keltec and that has meant that 2 website hosting contracts are in place at once which means double bills.

DPR1476 - Barnet Council Keltec Contract Variation

So that is an extra £31,000 to Keltec due to the one year delay in implementing the new website.

Mr Mustard is off to put 30 March 2012 in his diary.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


  1. I hate web forms.

    It also often means that you do not get a copy of your query, for you to keep. That, of course, is very convenient for the people you are making the query to.

  2. Absolutely bang on the money as usual baarnett. I take it that an email from you is winging its way to Julie Taylor as I type this.

  3. No, I'll use a web form.

    I notice the BBC web site is issuing a snippet of Charles Dickens, every day this year. Given the similarity between the practices of the Barnet councillors and senior officers/consultants, and Victorian practices, this could prove entertaining.

    Today's is:
    "The man of whom I speak was a low pantomime actor; and, like many people of his class, an habitual drunkard."

    (A dismal stranger relates The Stroller's Tale to the Pickwickians, newly set off on their adventures.)


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