Nearly £500m up in smoke: Four failures that wrecked another gov't IT project

Summary:Why did FiReControl spiral out of control? The Public Accounts Committee gives its verdict...

...DCLG failed to apply basic project approval checks and balances to ensure it stayed on track, demonstrating "poor judgement" and leading to inflated expectations about what could be delivered.

Decisions were taken on FiReControl before a business case, project plan or procurement strategy had been developed and tested among fire services, the PAC notes. This led to "hugely unrealistic forecast costs and savings", along with "naïve over-optimism" on the deliverability of the IT component of the project. Project risks were also underappreciated and underestimated.

Failure 3: Bad management, lack of leadership and weak oversight
After such a rushed and poorly thought-through beginning, the management failures continued to stack up. DCLG lacked the necessary expertise and experience to deliver the project itself so consultants made up more than half of the management team but were not managed effectively, according to the PAC. There was also generally a lack of clarity over roles and responsibilities - and the project had a high turnover of senior managers leading to weak project oversight.

The report also notes that DCLG failed to approach FiReControl as a business transformation project, instead treating each element in isolation. This led to significant delays between different project components, with the PAC noting considerable delays between the construction and completion of the fire control centres, and the awarding of the IT contract and development of the IT infrastructure.

Failure 4: Lack of contract management fundamentals
DCLG awarded FiReControl's IT contract to a company with no direct experience of supplying the emergency services, the PAC notes. This company also mostly relied on sub-contractors, over whom the department had no visibility or control.

While that was bad enough, the IT contract itself was poorly designed - failing to follow the most basic fundamentals of good contract management, such as early milestones, which would have enabled DCLG to hold the contractor to account for project delays.

Payments within the contract were also scheduled too late, creating tension in an already strained relationship. And DCLG allowed the contractor to deviate from the agreed approach - yet when problems emerged it did not take timely corrective action, said the PAC.

Want more advice on IT projects? Check out Five ways to stop your IT projects spiralling out of control and overbudget.

Topics: Tech Industry

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