back to article Olympics security cockup down to software errors - report

A computer software failure caused the security fiasco at the Olympics, the Independent on Sunday has said, after talking to insider sources at security contractor G4S. G4S defaulted on their Olympic security contract two weeks before the start of the games, meaning that 3500 members of the armed forces have been drafted in to …

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Please God let their 'internal software' have been built by CSC or someone, that'd be too perfect.

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Flame

Sorry but I call bollocks, it's all too easy to just blame "IT" for the problems, did no one at G4S managment actually look at the figures? We need "X" employees for the olympics, we currently have "Y" leaving us a shortfall of "Z". How the hell can a rostering programme lead them to a shortfall of that many staff? It's really not that difficult.

G4S management and by extension the government of the day who awarded them the contract are to blame for the fiasco, G4S for being snakeoil salesmen and the gov't of the day for not even pondering "I wonder why they're 25% cheaper than the nearest competitor?"

A pox on all of them.

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Anonymous Coward

Yes it's bollocks. Yes they've known for a lot longer. The troops have been preparing to cover the short fall for a while.

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Flame

correct...bollocks!

They don't have a "rostering system" at all. They use a mishmash of very old software all virtualised under citrix and crappy old computers which should have been updated 5 years ago.

The wife was made redundant from being a scheduler for them 2 years ago (that will be 6 months after they got the contract) and I regularly had to help her with the burden of dealing with blowouts and overcosts because their systems are so poor. Blaming them now just seems like a rather pathetic attempt to save face.

My missus lost her job because the contract manager in charge of one of the biggest contracts just did not do enough to satisfy their needs, and lots of non-related workers paid the price (not that contract manager though!)

If I ever met the CEO, it would be from arms length (with a fist at the end of that arm)

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Anonymous Coward

"Sorry but I call bollocks"

Yup. Stubby Pencil Back of Fag Packet could have done the job of rostering, if required. This was not a task dependant on IT, but ultimately one done by people.

And '25% less than the nearest competitor' is weasel-talk. Their bid might have already been 24% less!

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FAIL

Best Value 25%?

Lets see that 25% less to be 35% short on the staff they where to supply.

For some reason if I see a tender that is massively out from that of all their competitors, I spend a lot of time digging to find out if it is becasuse they are really brilliant (very rare), or have missed lots of basic stuff (v.common)

Personally I would go with sack the people who ran the ITT, and sue G4S for breach of contract.

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Windows

Any FE College MIS manager...

...could have sorted that lot. They mostly track 10k+ enrolments for the skills funding agency isr three times a year. Auditors crawl all over the figures prior to OFSTED inspections, they have data mining software. Unit-E to the rescue.

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What does 25% remind you of?

That broken icon icon for the Olympics, right?

They must have been using the same computer software when they came up with that.

Were G4S the same people who had the Marathon stewards contract?

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The private sector at its finest.

Yet again the much maligned public sector is there to clean up the mess.

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Pint

If by the public sector you mean our poor overworked squaddies and police officers from all over the country. Given the choice between being shot at in a desert hellhole and trying to keep order in London during one of the biggest knees-up in recent history, I'd have to have a good long think before answering.

Beer for the poor buggers who have to work while everyone else is enjoying themselves.

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Anonymous Coward

To be honest I don't like the private sector does services too well, they're fine at making things though.

But you can't really hold up Group 4 as an example as there's plenty of public sector examples of failure too, Haringey social services for instance.

Group 4 have been a joke for years.

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"If by the public sector you mean our poor overworked squaddies and police officers from all over the country"

That's exactly what he does mean. They are certainly public sector workers. Neocons inexplicably fail to point this up whenever they're bashing the public sector, though.

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Coffee/keyboard

Yeah right!

when you run out of people to blame the IT chaps always get a mention.

If anyone truly believes that it was an IT system then please leave this forum!

This was (sub)Human error, plain and simple.

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Probably using Excel 97

The post is required, and must contain letters.

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kbb
Joke

Re: Probably using Excel 97

And Pentium processors - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentium_FDIV_bug

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Re: Probably using Excel 97

A floating point bug? I'd like to know how they intended to provide .25 of a person.

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Trollface

.25 of a person

Oh that's easy. They just used Microsoft Project instead of Excel.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Probably using Excel 97

Easy.

4 jobs = 1 person.

That's how it works around here.

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Facepalm

4 jobs =1 person

Around here, its 1 person to do the job, 2 managers to manage him, and one senior manager to oversee the other two, leaving guy doing the job only 1/4 of the time to complete the task before MS project complains about overspend.

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FAIL

Again?

Computers are lazy buggers, and must be watched constantly. This latest is but one more example of improperly supervised computers running amok.

Replace them all with reliable human beings, I say.

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Anonymous Coward

Yeah but...

"...the security firm offered to fulfill the contract at a price 25% less than that of competitors.."

Would be great if they weren't only providing 60% of the promised (and paid for) staff.

Doubtless cue another name change come next year to mask the stench from fiasco number 342.

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FAIL

Group 4 Fail Again

You get what you pay for. In this case a company that has clearly not heard of a KPI beyond measuring the money going into their bank accounts. Months ago they should have seen that recruitment was below what was needed, or training wasn't going fast enough, and they could have fixed it. The only performance indicator they had was the number of people getting interviewed, as they were quick to roll that figure out.

Alternatively you could interpret it that even for a simple task, 9/10 people interviewed are subpar.

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Anonymous Coward

Another Indian IT team to blame?

Because that's who G$S use - rather a good mistake use a $ instead of a 4

http://www.g4s.in/en-IN/What%20we%20do/Services/IT%20Services/

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Another Indian IT team to blame?

or not in this case, as AFAIK their recruitment software was written by a UK company.

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Yeah ... riiight

Step 1: Work out how much profit you can make and still undercut the competition by 25%

Step2: Wait until the Olympics are within several weeks of commencing, so that there is no way a competitor can come in

Step 3: Have your CEO appear before a select committee or (better still) hold urgent talks with Home Office "to resolve the situation". Issue press release on how grave the situation is and how we are working towards dealing with it.

Step 4: Grovelling apology ... blame it on IT etc

Step 5: Government steps in a provides troops freshly back from Afghanistan, at no cost to you

Step 6: Nobody asks you to refund the money.

Step 7: Trebles and peerages all round chaps.

Ain't government contracting great!

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Re: Yeah ... riiight

Except that they *are* going to have to pay for the troops, and will therefore make a loss on the contract.

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Re: Yeah ... riiight

Good, hopefully they go bankrupt. A bit harsh if you're a blameless employee admittedly, but none the less, G4S and companies like them are sucking the gevernment teat dry and giving very little in return.

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Re: Yeah ... riiight

Step 1: Work out how much profit you can make and still undercut the competition by 25%

***

Step 1: Work out how much profit you can make taking on the unemployed, giving them a minimal training, cos all they are really expected to do is stand in the doorways wearing a uniform to give the appearance of security and pay them as little as possible, workfare saps would be better for profits.

Step 2: Watch as public opinion turns against that sort of exploitation after the Jubilee rubbish to the point you can't even hire the saps anymore.

Step 3: Implement plan B, which is really there is no plan B, let the government make up the short fall.

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WTF?

Re: Yeah ... riiight

A loss?

They were originally contracted to provide 4000 staff at a cost of £83m ( £20,000 per person)

then they were asked to provide 10500 staff at a cost of £279m (£26,000 per person)

Now they say they can only provide 7000 staff, and would lose £50m (£229m overall taken, at £32,000 per person).

So, given their cost per-person (and presumably profits) went up at each stage, how are they making a loss on this?

Looks like they managed to increase their initial profit by 50%, and I imagine the directors already pocketed the cash bonuses (as the contract was booked last year), so are perfectly willing to leave.

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Re: Yeah ... riiight

The £50m loss is just that, a £50m loss on the entire contract. Not a £50m reduction in contract value.

Any money they get for the staff they do provide will be wiped out by the extra costs they have to pay for the armed services, police etc they are having to rope in.

Hence why its share price has fallen so much.

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WTF?

Re: Yeah ... riiight

£26K per person.......... for 4 weeks work!!

So thats about £1000 for the poor sap doing the stuff and £25 000 for the company 'organising' the recruitment and training

And then you find out that G4S used to be called Group4 Security... which explains everything

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yeah ... riiight

No they won't Buckles refused to repay the £57m management fee and said so in select committee.

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Shooting the wrong Person! Re: Yeah ... riiight

"hopefully they go bankrupt." ... and thousands of innocents would suffer, workers, shareholders etc (and you may be a shareholder indirectly via any pension or investment you have.) The government would also probably be left out of pocket in many ways. Senior managers heads should and will roll.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yeah ... riiight

You forgot step 2a and 4a and maybe 7a:

2a: Set up an insider trade via a Belgian number account: Buy PUT's on GFS, then short the stock to tell the mark-it of your intentions.

4a: Ka-Ching! Go right to the bank, do not pass the tax office!!

7a: Bonuses all around for "the extraordinary management effort".

Management is Made from Win!

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Anonymous Coward

What About A Bit Of Project Planning

Sorry all these lame excuses do not wash for me. A simple bit of project planning was required complete with mile stones. Calculate pool size, factor in wastage advertise, interview, offer positions to enough potential staff, vet potential staff, train enough potential staff, monitor wastage/no shows/ unsuitable recruits, continue process until the job is done. Who was setting and checking the mile stones, someone's dog?

The stories on TV and in the press suggest that there was little or no attention applied to basic process. Recruits complained that they could not obtain contact information, and that contact telephone centres did not appear to know what was happening or where they should go and so on.

TV might be having a field day but the suggestion that 12 management staff were 'in charge' of 500' temporary managers', (here today and god knows where tomorrow). It all sounds more like an edition of the apprentice featuring the also rans than a proper 10,000~13,000 security staff provisioning exercise.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What About A Bit Of Project Planning

Oh, i'm sure they managed to recruit qualified project managers,

HR will have put "Required: Prince2 certificate", but nothing about actual experience at resource management, project managment, man management, etc.

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Meh

Re: What About A Bit Of Project Planning

Just how true is that.

A friend did the Prince 2 courses and now teaches Prince 2. He has never run a Project in his entire life. He knows it and his employers know it, but as long as he has that Certificate, Companies keep paying him to teach experienced PMs how to do it 'properly'.

As he says, if those Companies are stupid enough to keep paying me to teach people who, on a real project, would be teaching me, who am I to refuse them?

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Anonymous Coward

IT? really?

So it had absolutely nothing to do with wanting to have people on their books for up to a year for only a months worth of work?

As a side note, I hear that only a fraction of those scheduled to work today actually turned up!

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Re: IT? really?

"As a side note, I hear that only a fraction of those scheduled to work today actually turned up!"

We'll, the first assumption here is that those scheduled to work today had actually been told they were rostered and/or when and where to turn up. On the basis of the accounts I've seen of the recruitment process this is by no means a safe assumption.

Another, equally likely scenario is that the lucky recruits saw how their counterparts recruited for the jubilee bun fight were treated (i.e. chucked off a bus and left shivering and hungry under a bridge in the early hours of the morning), looked at the level of organisation displayed by G4$ thus far, assessed the likelihood of getting paid on time and correctly, and came to the (almost certainly correct) conclusion that they were about to be on the receiving end of one or both of a cock-up or deliberate shafting of epic proportions.

Good call I'd say...

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Re: IT? really?

Different companies, but the outfit that provided those "work experience" people to provide event stewarding were claiming they were preparing them for Olympic-site jobs.

Was G4S putting too much trust in such operations being able to provide staff with the necessary certificates?

And what sort of vetting checks were being done? Was it ever possible to get sufficient people through the security checks that were required?

I think my teddy bear could do a better job.

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Holmes

House of cards

Some wild speculation and a bit of logic.

Can't be that easy to deliver such a large body of trained people. I expect that you'll have a large lsit of potential persons - there will have been some assumptions around how many of these expressions of interest remain worthwhile. Chances are that the more able applicants will have obtained work elsewhere and no longer be available.

What will be left is the dross - from which a larger percentage will have failed training or failed the CRB checks making the whole thing fail due to some over optimistic assumptions.

We are only finding out now as G4S will only invest their time and money in people who have passed CRB check and the training - no point in having a large pool of labour stood around doing nothing except costing G4S money until they are needed - and I guess these false assumptions probably made them feel safe to bet on submitting a bid 25% under the opposition.

I'm not trying to make excuses for G4S, nor am I connected with them - but in my experience some early miscalculations can lead to a set of assumptions (most likely in Excel) that create of house of cards. I don't know how you would test these assumptions either so you only find out its too late when its too late.

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Presumably part of the problem is that you can only start recruiting people quite close to the Olympics as the individuals have to know they will be unemployed/unoccupied over the period in question which wouldn't be possible a year or two in advance.

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Anonymous Coward

One demographic that known what they'll be up to...

...students.

G4S are w@nk.

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Megaphone

Repay the money you c**ts...

They should return the money paid to them to provide the security. The money returned should be paid to each soldier individually, not to the MOD (who will waste it), or the CO of supporting Regiments because it will end up being used to refurbish the Officers' Mess (been there and seen that done before).

Also, the various MPs who have received free tickets to the more prestigeous olympic events (apparently for having done such a great job) should return them as they haven't done such a great job after all.

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Re: Repay the money you c**ts...

Yup, paying the money to the soliders would be a nice gesture. No good spending it on the Officer's Mess - the majority of the guys on the ground are not going to be officers...

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Re: Repay the money you c**ts...

Hmmm. I can see the idea, and considering bus drivers and tube drivers (who just push and pull a lever) are getting additional payouts for the Olympics would seem to make sense. But then some squaddie who's based in North England gets pulled down to London to work a few hours a day and albeit probably lives in a tent for a fortnight, will still get to go drunk on LSSA and London rates for a fortnight. And if they're really lucky get entry to the big ceremonies and big events, and women's beach volleyball. (Get G4S out on the gates and turnstiles and doing the sh1t jobs!) Giving those squaddies some cash in the face of colleagues getting battered in Helmand might not be accepted too well beyond those that directly benefit, and the politicians who would use it to build kudos...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Repay the money you c**ts...

I've heard these words "refurbished Officers' Mess", but I'm not sure what they mean.

Clearly it's a Household Cavalry or Guards thing...

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Re: Repay the money you c**ts...

Please don't class the bus and tube drivers together. Yes the tube drivers do just push & pull levers, on vehicles that can actually be remotely operated. Bus drivers however have to deal with their passengers face to face, and drive (no automated systems except maybe the gearbox) through traffic.

Tube drivers are getting a massive bonus for the Olympics, most bus drivers are getting very little.

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Bronze badge

Re: Repay the money you c**ts...

I'm not sure how useful a computer driver is when the underground train breaks down, or catches fire, or when a whole host of other issues occur. You could make the same argument for airline pilots. Those people are needed for when stuff goes wrong.

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Anonymous Coward

It doesn't need software to rota...

Nope don't get it...

3 people covering a single security point gives 24 hour security coverage. Multiply that up by the number of security points on the Olympic park (i.e. ticket gate needs 1 or 2 people) and you have your staff number requirement. Is someone is trying to make it harder than it needs to be?

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