The Charlotte Observer’s Carrie Levine describes an ugly IT situation faced by Mecklenburg County, NC.
Here’s what happened. In 2001, Mecklenburg County signed a contract with a company called PEC Solutions (subsequently bought by Nortel Government Systems) to build a criminal justice information system. The original budget isn’t stated in the article, but the federal government contributed $3 million in grants to the project. By 2004, the state pulled out of the arrangement, expressing concern about software quality and budget. At that point, the county faced a tough decision: whether to continue with the project or pull the plug. Needless to say, they decided to continue the project, hoping for the best after investing millions of county money.
From the article:
“We knew, or at least I did, that there were certain risks involved,” said county commissioner Parks Helms. “Do you throw in the towel at this point, or do you try to do something that will get a return on that investment?”
In June, 2004 the county signed an updated $9.8 million contact with PEC Solutions, calling for a significant project milestone to be achieved at the end of Sept, 2004. Within a month of signing the contract, the project started falling apart again. By August, it was getting worse. And, “In October 2004, [Mecklenburg County Manager Harry] Jones met with PEC Chief Operating Officer Alan Harbitter and asked him to promise the company would deliver an acceptable system.”
Can you guess what the county has received for its $10 million in expenses and staff time? Nothing. Well, not exactly nothing, since it can keep the hardware it bought to run the new system. Apparently, the county also keeps some “reusable software” that can be deployed elsewhere. Ummm….. I hate to be a stick in the mud, but has anyone out there ever heard of reusable custom software? Yeah, me neither.
Nortel Government Systems says they “remain committed” to finding a solution. Sure, Nortel, we believe you and we also believe in Santa Clause.