Mismanagement of prisoner IT system exposed

The UK’s litany of failed public-sector IT projects continues, as described in this Information Age article by Peter Swabey, with the latest being the Department of Justice’s National Offender Management Information System (C-Nomis). Originally estimated to cost £234 million through 2020, C-Nomis has currently spent £115, is now two years late, and projected to cost £513 million through 2011. A recent Information Age interview with the CIO of the Department of Justice, Andrew Gay, provided some valuable insight into the cause of these failures. Gay said that:

It doesn’t matter what type of project it is, whether IT or anything else. It’s a question of not nailing down the functionality you actually need, and that has been one of the principal faults with government IT spend. If you are going to deliver an IT project vaguely near budget, it would be far better to spend a huge amount of time working out exactly what you were trying to do with that programme rather than drift into it.”

There is a subtle distinction in Andrew Gay’s comments between an IT project – that delivers a technology capability or service – and a business-change programme – that includes all the initiatives, including but certainly not limited to the IT project, required to realize the expected outcomes. A recent report by the NAO reinforces this saying that “C-Nomis was treated as an IT project and not as a business-change programme” and identifies another all too common problem in that “bad news about the project failed to go up the ladder of command to those who could have made decisions to rescue it.”

This NAO report contains valuable guidance, not just for the public sector, but for all enterprises in managing IT-enabled business change programmes.

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