back to article Olympic Security cock-up was down to that DARN software

The CEO of beleaguered security company G4S blamed his "scheduling system" as he explained his company's failure to adequately secure the Olympics. Facing MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee yesterday, Nick Buckles said that the company took 100 per cent of the responsibility for the cock-up that has led to 3400 squaddies …

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Anonymous Coward

Blame the scheduling system

What? The games are this year?

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JMB

Has there been any hints about what the software was?

I know we had some scheduling software at my work and it was the biggest load of rubbish I have ever seen. It seems to be common for these systems to be manually driven so the senior management think their expensive software is wonderful but the people who always did the scheduling continue doing it themselves and just load their decisions into the computer system. Of course the senior management never actually get involved in day to day work like that so are oblivious to this.

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Anonymous Coward

Is it...

Excel?

Nah, it's probably a really good scheduling app. However, rubbish in, rubbish out. Plus nothing beats real people doing a real job. The software is just a tool at the end of the day.

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Re: Is it...

"The software is just a tool at the end of the day.

Sometimes, managed by tools!

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Silver badge

Powerpoint is my guess. you can do transitions and shit and make words spin real fast. pretty pretty good.

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Anonymous Coward

My experience with scheduling software is that it actually works very well, but that people don't trust it largely because they don't understand it or feel threatened by it, so start to interfere manually to try to do it the way they always have. That's the point where it all goes pear shaped.

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FAIL

Re: Is it...

"rubbish in, rubbish out"?

Rubbish in, sensible error mesasage out (or you can show yourself out).

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Facepalm

Re: Is it...

I think the name of the application you are looking for is "Notepad".

"Scheduling" is most likely done by people emailing in their availability to a hotmail account. Given the failure to produce the numbers required this would seem the most plausible explanation since hotmail is notorious for putting the spam in the "In" folder and anything important into the Spam folder.

10 highly trained chimps (they tried to recruit 1000 but only 10 could read the advert ... just like the advert for Olympic security staff) then sift through the results in the In box and allocate resources out from there.

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FAIL

Doesn't add up

Needed to recruit 10,400. Have recruited 5,500. Blame scheduling software for not being able to put one person in two places at the same time

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Doesn't add up

It does add up in the G4S universe - AKA Alarm Luddite Land.

It is the same universe where copper alarm monitoring using modems is cheaper than a mobile based system.

It is the same universe where the alarm kills your broadband connection (if you have DSL) taking away the CCTV feed with it.

It is the same universe where the security of the alarm communication with the control center is guaranteed by the "secrecy" of the documents describing it.

It is the same universe where... So the fact that their scheduling, personnel and HR systems were not working is _NOT_ surprising. It fits the rest of the picture very nicely.

Unfortunately, all of that luddite universe shall remain in place regardless of the game clusterf*** screwing up the UK M2M and Broadband infrastructure for years to come and putting it 10 years behind the rest of the world. Granted, G4S is not the only culprit and there is a whole oligopoly and lots of willing accomplices amidst service providers. It is however the biggest of all "vigilance" luddites by size and turnover.

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Thumb Down

software that orders itself does it?

Sounds more like id10t error to me..

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This post has been deleted by its author

Facepalm

...and LOGOC putting all their eggs in one basket

Why rely on one company to do it all when it would of made sense to contract two companies to split the responsibility over different sites outside olympic park and then share a 50/50 split on the olympic park?

For one, that would of halved the risk for both private firms. Two, halved the chance of cocking up by only needing half the staff. Three, both companies would of had a reputation to keep against each other rather than letting one company run the show and forget they're actually providing security for one of the biggest events in the world.

Even Paris has more common sense than the common LOGOC idiot.

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Headmaster

That would be LOCOG

London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games

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Thumb Up

Re: That would be LOCOG

Thanks Chris. My brain has been fried since 5:30am this morning. Anyway, maybe they should be the LOGOC as in;

The 'Lazy, 'Oopless and Greasy' Olympic Committee.

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Headmaster

Re: ...and LOGOC putting all their eggs in one basket

also, would have, not would of

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Re: ...and LOGOC putting all their eggs in one basket

4) Having two companies competing for the same pool of stewards might have meant they'd actually have ended up offering a decent wage....

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JMB

Re: ...and LOGOC putting all their eggs in one basket

"Why rely on one company to do it all when it would of made sense to contract two companies to split the responsibility over different sites outside olympic park and then share a 50/50 split on the olympic park?"

Not just reliance on one company one, many of the venues being used already had their own security staff who are familiar with the venue and having big events there. They could easily have continued and just recruited a few extra people themselves.

The dreaded "Just In Time", so loved by beancounters, also seems to be a major factor.

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Dedication

I was phoned up on holiday...

What in a couple of weeks before the event? That's kind of dedication that gives people faith in a company SecuriCare... Guess that's no Christmas bonus for Mr Buckles then? Not unless he manages to screw over his under minimum wage employees even more.

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Re: Dedication

Oh shit, just noticed that there is a real company and not just a Day Today parody... Life following art?

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Joke

Re: Dedication

"I was phoned up on holiday..."

...but I couldn't help as they want to speak to Mr. Wolf.

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"They have promised to meet all costs faced by the police and armed forces."

Well if they don't, I hope they'll be paid significantly less.

...or not at all.

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Re: "They have promised to meet all costs faced by the police and armed forces."

...although that'll probably fold the company, which will only hurt the people at the bottom.

Those at the top are probably syphoning off everything they can right now, just in case.

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Re: "They have promised to meet all costs faced by the police and armed forces."

In this case I think the people at the bottom might be okay - the security work they do will still need doing and they seem to get nothing in the way of job security / perks from G4S as it is.

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Re: "They have promised to meet all costs faced by the police and armed forces."

G4S can take the monetary hit quite easily.

From the G4S website: "G4S has announced a seventh consecutive year of underlying revenue, PBITA and dividend growth in its preliminary results for the full year January to December 2011"

Last year their revenue was £7,522m, operating margin of 7.1%

The reputational hit is rather harder to quantify of course.

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Vic
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Re: "They have promised to meet all costs faced by the police and armed forces."

> The reputational hit is rather harder to quantify of course.

It's fuck all. They're as useless as we all knew them to be.

Vic.

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Re: "They have promised to meet all costs faced by the police and armed forces."

@Richard81

Yes, and let's hope it includes inconvenience payments as well as refunds for lost deposits or even the full holiday cost for those members of the armed forces and police who have had leave cancelled at very, very short notice. Especially those soldiers just back from middle eastern war zones expecting to go off on a family holiday.

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Anonymous Coward

> Nick Buckles said that the company took 100 per cent of the responsibility for the cock-up that has led to 3400 squaddies and an as yet unspecified number of police being pulled in to provide basic security cover for the Olympic Games.

I bet Mr. Buckles still claims 100 per cent of the contract price though.

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Anonymous Coward

If the figures in this article are correct, they landed a contract where they get £27,000 per person they recruit. These are bonkers figures!

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Anonymous Coward

Yep, and barely a quarter of that (probably) for the actual employee doing the work.

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WTF?

Bonkers indeed

Getting the back of the fag packet out:

- We know they wanted £284 million for the contract;

- To supply 10,000 security staff;

- Let's suppose they had to supply all 10,000 of them for a total of 90 days (covering the Olympic/Paralympic events plus the pre and post event stuff like arrivals, site security, etc.)

- Working an 8 hour shift per day

So that is £284,000,000 / (10,000 x 90 x 8) = £39.44 per person hour of security provided.

Security guards get paid an average of £7.04 per hour

(http://www.payscale.com/research/UK/Job=Security_Guard/Hourly_Rate)

So that leaves £32.40 per hour of security to cover overheads and profit.

We know they wanted to take £10M profit + £57M management fee (sounds like another name for profit to me).

That makes for £67,000,000 / (10,000 x 90 x 8) = £9.31 profit/management fee per hour of security provided.

Ultimately we are then left with £23.09 per hour to recruit, train, certify and schedule the staff, plus any overheads such as uniforms, transportation, food, accommodation, etc. In other words a total of £166 million in overheads on the contract. Okay this is a large scale and one-off exercise, but I really have to wonder how many pizzas you would have to order for late night project meetings in order to fritter away that amount of dosh and end up delivering less than half of the requirements.

For comparison the cost of the Iraq war for the US to mobilise their entire war machine was reputedly £461 million per day. Are you seriously telling me that a large and highly trained armed force and billions of dollars worth of kit can be sent halfway round the world to wreak organised havoc a hostile environment for that kind of money, but it is impossible to sort out 10,000 unqualified goons in ill-fitting polyester suits to stand around outside a few sports stadia for a few weeks in order frisk grannies and kids for contraband bottles of water for 284 million quid?

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Re: Bonkers indeed

"Ultimately we are then left with £23.09 per hour to recruit, train, certify and schedule the staff, plus any overheads such as uniforms, transportation, food, accommodation, etc"

Erm actually no, from what I've been told - you can take training and uniforms out of that equation as these have to be reimbursed by the employees

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Software my arse, they just don't want to take staff on their books for the term of the games, they just want to pay day rates and ask people to turn up a few days here, a few days there. £10M for 10,000 people over the month of the games, as bad as bankers!!!!

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that is the *real* issue: not really employing people

i think that's the real issue here. forget about the software. it's the business model that's flawed here: minimising costs to the extreme, maximising "shareholder value" (and, thus, manager's bonuses) — they could have avoided this situation by taking folks on their books for the term of the games (and a bit before), as you rightly pointed out.

some business requirements are not compatible with ad-hoc hiring and firing.

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Unhappy

Re: that is the *real* issue: not really employing people

You actually "maximize shareholder value" by navigating the sweet spot providing "good enough service for a correct price".

Unless you have political connections. Then you can go for "bad service for high price".

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Oh sweet jeebus

Even an eejit could do better than this particular software solution.

(oh, apparently not)

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Anonymous Coward

Is it worth...

offering them a hand? I mean, they seem to need it.

"Some 200 security staff were apparently required to adequately monitor the event. The G4S rostering software had scheduled in 38 of whom 17 turned up."

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Anonymous Coward

Probably worse than it looks

"Horseman-Sewell said that there were currently 5500 fully qualified people are on that database and that approximately 70% of them accepted the work when offered it"

I wonder if that means 70% accepted one or more shifts (ie may have been offered 10 shifts and taken 1).

I suspect HMG will be mobilising more regiments of TA, cadets, scouts, brownies and traffic wardens before this is all over.

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FAIL

Project management

So just to clarify G4S charge £57m for project management. Isn't project management (especially when it doesn't involve technology) a glorified name for people scheduling/resource allocation?

So those £57m are in fact the fee to use their fantastic software that doesn't disturb director's holiday when they encounter a serious "Out of resource error" (Allocate(10000): Error out of resource, available resource < 5500).

At least this is probably a temporary end to the privatisation of police to G4S :-)

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"Nick Buckles said that the company took 100 per cent of the responsibility"

see right there I could have avoided this mess if only they had put me in charge of something for once. I always tell my twitter followers that you can figure a lot out just from names and this is a good example. I wouldn't hand security to someone with a name that sounds like an order to steal seat belts

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IT Angle

Buckles?

>Buckles did say that he regretted signing the contract with the Olympic Games in the first place.

Hardly surprising really. Adam and Joe should focus on getting themselves back where they belong on 6 Music on Saturday mornings instead of diversifying in to impossibly large security contracts.

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Gold badge

A bit of a Ratner moment there

So basically he has gone on record as stating that this very high profile failure is *not* a one-off, but rather reflects a systemic failure within his organisation. I bet his existing customers are pleased to hear that. I bet his shareholders aren't.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A bit of a Ratner moment there

I thought that was a given with this company anyway - remember the mess they made when they were given the prison security contract?

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Re: A bit of a Ratner moment there

That was a different company entirely, oh yes, nobody would be able to equate Group 4 Security with G4S - completely different, honestly </sarcasm>

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FAIL

Blatantly wrong operating model

Was it not obvious to G4S that the requirements of maintaining continual security for 2 months of Games are completely different from getting a few staff for a gig or a festival over 1-3 days?

With their stupid model they would need between 12k-15k of people on their books and still could not be guaranteed 100% cover.

I presume they were aiming to profit by paying day rates rather than 2 month contracts.

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Re: Blatantly wrong operating model

You are correct.

They were (and are) only offering hourly rates in the "agency model", and apparently refused to pay for any of the incidentals.

Like being paid during training, or transport to and from the Games themselves.

It now appears that the reason most of their security staff didn't know when their shifts were because they never intended to tell them until a couple of days before each shift, yet G4S still seem surprised that many of them took up other employment.

Mr Buckles, here's a hint: A contract stating "You will work X hours each day from Day Y to Day Z for money W" is going to be fulfilled by far more people than a contract that effectively says "Don't call us, we'll call you."

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Still the CEO's fault

You scheduling software is crap? Who bought/design it? CTO?

Who appointed the CTO?

Too back-ended? What, you can't forecast? Who is responsible for that? COO?

Who appointed the COO?

The contract has an unmovable start date, who allowed for such a low-level of over-sight?

And is this CEO claiming that his company has systemic problems due to inept management not knowing what they need (in terms of software), not doing their jobs (de-risking things, planning ahead) and generally being incompetent?

G4S should be forced to pay-out to the public all costs the tax-payer has to now burden.

The shareholders should demand the removal of the entire board for the reasons above.

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G4S nee Group4 Security

Isn't this the same company when they were known as Group4 security were given the contract to transport prisoners, but kept losing them? If they can't turn the locks on the doors to a van, are they capable of securing anything larger?

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Re: G4S nee Group4 Security

ISTR that they were two separate companies (Group 4 and Securicor), both of which made significant cock-ups with their particular contracts, then merged to improve their respective businesses/cover their losses/save face/protect CEO's bonuses (delete as applicable, though I think the first option is naive).

Colin

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Anonymous Coward

Re: G4S nee Group4 Security

Their wikipedia page is truely scary to read. Total incompetance, yet it doest matter because they're cheap and through significant mergers and aquisitions are now huge.

I'm surprised the nuke lab incident didnt get more worldwide press coverage!

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