The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has come in for yet more scathing criticism from its parliamentary oversight committee. The committee's report into the MoD annual accounts says that the introduction of a new personnel database system, run on the MoD intranet, has been a fiasco. The Joint Personnel Administration (JPA) system …
As a JPA user
I can attest that it is complete rubbish. We're doing a lot of admin - expense claims and personnel reviews are the ones that I've done - that used to be handled by unit clerks.
I'm in the TA, and my day job is IT full-time, so I know what a real HR/admin system should be like. JPA is awful. Typically I'll enter uid/password and then find some other paperwork to handle for the ten minutes or so it takes to start up.
I'll start the ball rolling...
Every Dysfunctional System
Eternally Disastrous Software
Employ Dodgy Subcontractors
Oh come on El Reg
This is not news, the day you can post a headline along the lines of:
MPs PRAISE [Department's] new [Whatever] database
you know it will be a story worth reporting, we already know that any government IT programme is doomed to be a piss poor pile of shite that looks like it has been knocked together by three 4th form GCSE ICT students but cost
£100,000,000,000,0000 to impliment and will cost
£100,000,000,000,000,000,000 to put right followed by
£100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 to make it secure
£100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 per year to administer
Government commitee judging databases
Pot , Kettle!
What strikes me, hearing that it's EDS again
There's a strong parallel between the modern business practice of hiring able-to-manage-anything MBAs as senior managers and that of outsourcing software development. In both cases, the idea that you need to understand the business, not just have a bunch of paper credentials, has been thrown out the window. With obvious, predictable, and in many cases disastrous consequences.
The world would be a better place if all the schools of business administration were shut down. Ditto for the EDSes of the world.
.... they probably gave the rozzers access to the database, since soldiers know how to use firearms and represent a danger to society....
Wouldn't surprise me given their 'presumption of guilt' attitude. Perhaps Jacqui can confirm or not if the Rozzers can run queries against it and if they need a warrant to do so, or just a RIPA letter?
Could have written it for 100K in two months.
Unfortunately I have no security clearance, because I was said what everyone else was thinking.
(Or at least I assume everyone else was thinking it. If anyone doesn't want Cherie Blair dead, can they please speak up and I'll change the sentence to "what almost everyone else was thinking.")
I know the system is crap though, because on my last contract I worked with a very clever guy who left, because the management were out to make money, not deliver anything.
Not quite accurate
Slight correction. The system was rolled out to the RAF first, presumably so we could iron out any problems before it was thrust upon the other two services. Have to say, it was certainly a "steaming pile of phoo" for the brief time i had to use it before leaving. Just yet another straw in my case...
Black helicopters? Watch out for them 'cos' the crews will be extra pissed off when they try and submit claims (or in fact do anything on JPA).
*But we do is sooooo specialised
It can *only* be met by a bespoke one-of-a-kind system.
Probably true in 1969.
Doubtful in 1989.
Almost certainly rubbish in 2009.
Please note. This is not some exotic line of business app. Its an HR system. Its got to migrate a lot of legacy data from (at least) 3 existing systems. Which happens when large companies take over smaller companies with a view to folding them into a group. Like most real systems it has *some* specialised features ("cleared for removal operations up to head of state level" flag perhaps) but 80-90% of the stuff is what any modern HR package should do already.
I'll bet the MoD ignored the usual advice of "Select the package, then choose the hardware" and they thought the package prices were a bit steep. I'll further guess they had some specific hardware requirements which grossly limited the possible package range. Must run on z series hardware (IBM Mainframe)?
IIRC something rather similar happened when the MoD went looking for an all-services logistics management system. Bespoke COBOL and unlimited overtime IIRC. EDS had their sticky fingers on that one as well. Not sure if it even deployed. I'd be interested to find out if any ElReg readers know it as some here seem to know JPA.
Embedded systems for Eurofighter/Ballistic submarines/Tanks are specialised and complex with (relatively) limited markets. HR systems are not.
*As some senior civil servants and junior ministers whine when they go looking for funding on one of these.
Re: *But we do is sooooo specialised
I'm getting into personally-identifiable details here, but I had a short lesson on the MOD logistics systems at the Defence Logistics School last year. All I remember is that there are several bespoke systems which are all linked by another bespoke system. Using those is not in my job description, but it looked ridiculously over-complicated.
I got the impression that the EDS idea was another, all-services unified system. This sounds like they reverted back to what was already in place when the over runs got too big.
Leaving EDS to collect their cancellation fee. Still there's always V 2.0.
The 64$ question. Were its functions *that* specialised that it really needed to be a bespoke solution?
Even a bespoke solution would be relatively easy to implement
Because it's a kinda final year undergraduate project (at least a simple prototype). None of this is new or hard.
It *might* just be that HMG are almost impossible to do business with and that's why it's so expensive. Mostly because EDS (or whoever) have to factor in a factor of about 30 and the Minster and civil servants change their minds every 20 minutes. This is where the old $200 ash tray for NASA comes from, NASA were just really hard to do business with and it meant it cost a lot because of the way they did things.
Even the logistics stuff, erm, instead of lots of different shaped boxes it's the stuff an army needs. Not hard, bound to be some SAP or Oracle thang that would do it.
Even a bespoke solution would be relatively easy to implement
"Because it's a kinda final year undergraduate project "
Conceptually perhaps. I'd be weary of letting any new grad (or team of new grads) loose on a project of this size.
However there should be no need for such a new build.. The business software market is I think mature enough that several large packages could meet the 80-90% of the requirement. Peoplesoft (IIRC now part of Oracle) built their company focussing on the HR aspects of business and extended out from there.
"NASA were just really hard to do business with"
That sounds like personal experience. Note that like NASA the MoD is a mature bureaucracy. I sense lots of hands get to stir this pudding. Given their love of all things American I'm surprised they did not take a look at how the DoD handles these tasks, which if anything should be larger.
A contributing aspect may be that the British government does not have in house contract lawyers. Unlike the US HMG does not reserve the right to cancel instantly without compensation. It follows normal UK contract law. I suspect that that this makes "negotiations" with them like shooting fish in a barrel for someone like EDS. They only have to deal with procurement civil servants, who have no idea what the system actually has to do. But I could be wrong.
"Could have written it for 100K in two months. "
The correct question was, why write it in the first place.
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