the UK government, ICIFM headed an audit team in
the investigation of a series of high-profile projects that were giving rise for concern.
Auditing a Government Project
A UK government organisation reviewed its dependency on legacy systems
and immediately realised that replacement of some systems had
become urgent. As the organisation had an absolute commitment to safety
it was extremely important that loss of service should be avoided, however
such a loss of service was becoming increasingly likely as sources of
second-hand spares for their older hardware platforms were drying up.
As an example of the pressure our client was under, during a single two-hour
failure of one of the systems being replaced, losses
to downstream organisations resulted in claims against our client of just
under £100 million.
ICIFM reviewed a number of projects to replace legacy
systems that were currently under way in this organisation.
The client felt it was complying with policy by employing our services to review their approach,
but was not, prior to our report, concerned about any of these projects - indeed an attitude prevailed
that the review was a 'box-ticking exercise' and that those commissioning it had no understanding
of the difficulties involved in their undertaking. The atmosphere on our arrival could be characterised as 'chilly' at best.
clear from interviews with key figures that many of these projects had fallen
schedule and indeed failure was highly likely as replacement
systems were often not ‘fit for purpose’. Our review highlighted
weaknesses in the management structure, the monitoring and reporting
mechanisms, and the design, development and testing methodologies. We made a series
of recommendations which were immediately adopted and which have resulted in a
complete absence of system failures, and significant progress towards
their system replacement goals.
Why did it need an external consultancy to finally expose the issues discovered within this organisation?
In the investigation we did not find negligence — indeed there were
many individuals at all levels within the organisation who had displayed
tremendous commitment to their respective projects — the real faults
lay within the structure of the organisation. It would have been
difficult, even impossible, for an employee of the organisation
to have uncovered all of the real issues; it is likely the individual would
have been blinkered by their previous experience of the organisation (’we have
always done it this way’), many would have refused to be interviewed
by someone from another department of the same organisation, and it is
extremely unlikely that those interviewed would have felt secure enough
to reveal the real issues to such an individual. People needed to feel confident that they could speak with anonymity.
We were also able to provide relatively accurate costs of failure - the
organisation had previously been using ‘finger in the air’ -
which indicated that project failure was simply not an option. As a result,
we have been retained by the organisation to:
re-structure individual projects
bring a range of projects under one programme
define achievable milestones and success criteria
establish accurate progress monitoring and reporting procedures