Defence fires missile at IT industry

Tech vendors cop a verbal hammering from the Australian Defence Force.
Written by Steven Deare, Contributor

Technology vendors have taken a verbal hammering from the Australian Defence Force (ADF) after one of its top procurement chiefs blamed the industry for most of its IT project failures.

Kim Gillis, deputy chief executive officer of the ADF's procurement arm, the Defence Materiel Organisation, said vendors set unrealistic expectations in tenders -- which was usually the cause of those government IT projects failing.

Government tenders were often surrounded by "a conspiracy of optimism," said Gillis.

"Say I'm going to put in an IT system in 2000-and-whatever, and go out to industry and say 'I want you to give me this type of capability'," he told delegates at the Gartner Symposium conference in Sydney.

"And miraculously everybody who tenders comes in and says 'I can deliver that capability exactly how you specified on that day'.

"And everybody starts believing that it's a reality," he said.

DMO project managers were given a simple instruction for dealing with such companies, according to Gillis: "Don't believe it".

"Especially in the IT world, because I haven't seen in my experience in the last five years, an IT project delivered on schedule," he said.

"They do happen, but I haven't seen them."

False promises have often led to government IT project failures, according to Gillis. However, it was usually the government that wore the blame.

"The reality is the people who actually got it wrong are the industry participants who are actually providing the services," he said. "Most of the time the fault lies not with what I've actually procured but what they've actually told they're contracted for.

"At the end of the day what happens is, they've underperformed, [but] I take the hit," he said.

The DMO recently took steps to improve its procurement process by instigating the Procurement Improvement Program (PIP). It includes a series of consultations with industry and changes the tendering and contracting process.

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