Delayed £53m Foreign Office IT system slammed by MPs

"Unfortunately, Prism has gone wrong"
Written by Andy McCue, Contributor

"Unfortunately, Prism has gone wrong"

MPs have slammed the problematic and delayed rollout of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's (FCO) £53m Prism enterprise resource planning system, blaming the failings on poor planning, exaggerated benefits and a lack of project management skills.

The seven-year Prism IT project, which began in 2002, is intended to replace and integrate 30 existing separate finance, payroll, personnel and procurement systems in more than 200 FCO posts worldwide.

But the project was halted last year pending a report by senior diplomat Norman Ling into the problems with the Prism rollout.

The Ling report said the FCO "greatly underestimated" the requirement for business change when introducing Prism and that it "continues to do so" with too little forward planning leading to hasty and bad decisions.

Prism was also only classed as a medium-risk project when in reality it was a high-risk one. The Ling report said: "If the risks were under-stated, the benefits... were consistently exaggerated. The promised cashable savings were never likely to be realised."

Now MPs have slammed the Prism rollout in the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee's annual FCO report.

The report said: "Practically nobody who works for the FCO, including those working in its overseas posts, will be untouched by the changes embodied in the project. Unfortunately, Prism has gone wrong."

MPs said there has been "great dissatisfaction" in overseas FCO posts and added many staff in embassies and consulates are at their "wits end".

One letter of complaint from an overseas post said: "In the FCO's long history of ineptly implemented IT initiatives, Prism is the most badly-designed, ill-considered one of the lot."

The Foreign Affairs Committee also found "evidence of a disturbing aversion on the part of FCO management to proper scrutiny of its activities" and called for more openness and transparency from the FCO board in future.

Capgemini was appointed as lead IT supplier on the £53m Prism project in 2002.

Editorial standards