Richard Steel, CIO of Newham London Borough Council is not scrapping a memorandum of understanding he has with Microsoft. Recent news reports have erroneously suggested that the council was “unimpressed” with Microsoft and was ending its relationship with the vendor. Newham signed a well-publicised deal with Microsoft in 2004.

Claims that Newham was scrapping its memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Microsoft, after the software supplier failed to “demonstrate value” have been denied.

Talking to Richard Steel, CIO for Newham and president of the Society of Information Technology Management (Socitm), said the MOU that he signed was not being scrapped. He did clarify that it was under review due to one of the key components – benchmarking Newham against other cities – not being achieved. “Our commitments under the original MOU have been fulfilled, bar one, the benchmarking against other cities with Microsoft accounts,” Steel said.

Microsoft is currently undertaking that benchmarking and Steel hopes to have the results in the next two to three weeks. He is confident that Newham and its Microsoft account will perform favourably.

Steel said that the relationship with Microsoft was in-fact in good health. Microsoft is currently conducting a heat map exercise to ascertain what skills areas that Newham lacks and needs to improve.

IT forums filled with anti-Microsoft chatter when the news came out, with many seeing the revelation as a shot in arm for the open source movement.

In 2004 Newham commissioned the consultancy Netproject to analyse the cost of switching its IT infrastructure to open source or to remain with Microsoft and upgrade its systems. The analysis was closely watched, especially by those who advocate open source. When the results showed that Microsoft offered the local authority a better deal Steel signed a 10 year deal which caused a great deal of media interest.

Since signing the deal Newham has stated a number of times that it has seen cost benefits from the deal and that it is saving the authority money.

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