Tag Archives: TCS

Unfinished Business

When I retired at the end of March 2016, there were a few things that I had hoped would be finished but weren’t. I’m glad to say that none of those were under my control. The ones that did I had completed on time, like the conversion of all VB to .NET applications (necessary for the future proofing in Windows 8.1), the hand-over of the Occupational Health and internal audit systems to Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), and the documentation of various systems in the Strip UK wiki.

However, there were a number of projects specific to Strip Products UK that should have been finished by the time I left and weren’t, thereby making it impossible for me to make sure that my applications and systems were futureproofed for them. In increasing order of importance they are :

  • The replacement of the CADS complaints recording system with the new Focus CRM;
  • The replacement of Windows XP machines with Windows 8.1 laptops and desktops; and
  • The completion of the Supply Chain Transformation project.

I had a whole suite of applications extracting complaints information from the mainframe tables CADSDETS, COMPMIS and CREDMIS, which formed the basis of an all-encompassing complaints reporting system. The new Focus CRM had already been introduced for certain aspects of the complaints handling system, but had not yet come to the point of superseding the old mainframe recording systems. If it had, then I would have been able to turn off about 10 applications, since the new systems would no longer require my input.

Tata Steel in South Wales and before it Corus had been using Windows XP for quite some time (although I remember using Windows NT during my first years in Llanwern, and after that Windows 2000 on some machines for a number of years), but the time had come and gone when XP was no longer supported, and Tata Steel had already used up the first year buying support while we were getting ready to convert to Windows 8.1. I had already acquired a laptop to test out various portions of coding and installation of certain types of software in the new operation system, and when Theo joined to take over, that became his de facto workstation.

Still, the introduction of new machines happened quite late and started with the lower end of the requirements scale. Since I was a high-end developer and would be one of the 5% who would receive a desktop rather than a laptop or a thin client, I knew I was going to be at the back of the queue, and that part of the queue hadn’t been reached by the time I left the company.

As for Supply Chain Transformation (SCT), it’s beginnings are so shrouded in the mists of time that I can’t quite remember whether it was launched in 2010 or 2011, but it was a long time ago. SCT was a new way of placing orders and performing order tracking through the manufacturing process, but the problem started with the fact that our mainframe-based Manufacturing Execution System (MES) had to interface with this new system of handling order and customer details.

A further problem with our MES was that its data were set up for running orders on individual production units, but were not really that good at performing through-process tasks. On top of which, the data quality in the MES systems was not always as watertight as it should have been for through-process tracking.

The result ? Every half year or so the implementation was put back another six months, and when I left the company the date was set for June 2016. Whether this really was going to go ahead is another matter, and one I don’t have the answer to. All I know is that Stuart Wilkie said he was not going to give the go ahead if it might bring the company on its knees.

In fact, there’s so much more to say about SCT that I probably will keep it for a later blog. The consequence of these three bits of unfinished business is that I was not in a position to do a clean handover, and although it pains me, I had no option but to leave people to their own devices when it came to these three topics. Although maybe I’m being too harsh on myself, because no one has sent me a cry for help in the intervening months.



Last night I went to see Mamma Mia in the Cardiff Millennium Centre, and happened to meet Paul Barnett in passing. The (very short) conversation centred around retirement and people leaving Tata Steel. In his case, he no longer works for Tata Steel, but has been outsourced. This means that he’s now a deferred pensioner, and can feel free to leave the sinking ship and look for other jobs, since there’s no longer a pension to protect.

The strange thing is that the outsourcing on this occasion has been given the rather different name of “rightsourcing” – not totally sure why, but presumably it means that specific parts of the IT package are looked after by different outside companies. If I remember correctly, IBM was going to look after the hardware and the provision of desktops, laptops as well as holding our mainframe systems on servers in Brussels.

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) had been around since the time that Tata Steel bought Corus, but their role as developers and maintainers of software solutions has since been expanded and in the rightsourcing scheme consolidated. As far as I’m aware they now have the lion share for anything to do with software – e.g. they took on the systems I developed for our audit team and our Occupational Health team and presumably now look after them and develop them further according to specifically set contractual terms.

The last in the rightsourcing trio was Capgemini, and I must admit that I can’t quite remember what their role in the whole set-up would be. Capgemini used to be involved when British Steel did its first outsourcing exercise in 1996-97, when a lot of our IT people went to work for them. At the time they looked after the mainframe and Data Warehouse, and many times I had to contact them when I wanted to find out what data sources were lying behind certain mainframe pages. This time, however, it looks that Cap Gemini’s involvement lies with the development and governing of our SAP systems if I understand this document correctly.

It’s hard for someone who has hardly any inside information to gauge how the rightsourcing process is progressing and how successful it is in achieving its objectives, but I can already see the movement of people out of Tata Steel into IBM and TCS, even though for the time being they still appear to work in the same offices as they did when they were part of Tata Steel.

In the case of the first outsourcing exercise involving Capgemini, the feeling was always that British Steel lost quite a bit of knowledge and understanding of their own mainframe systems, and that British Steel spent so little on the IT support that in the end the number of people looking after the British Steel, and subsequently the Corus, portfolio could be counted in single figures. I remember bumping into Mike Wheeler, who was our IT guy in Welsh Labs, on his retirement, and thinking “there goes another bit of knowledge of how our mainframe fits together”.

Let’s hope that the latest outsourcing exercise fares better.