Government Project Audit

Commissioned by 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 and security, 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.

It became clear from interviews with key figures that many of these projects had fallen badly behind 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

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ICIFM - Government Project Audit