Feeds

back to article BBC suspends CTO after £100m is WASTED on doomed IT system

The BBC has suspended its chief technology officer on full pay - after it spunked almost £100m on a "tapeless" digital content management system that didn't deliver. The £98.4m figure attributed to the failed Digital Media Initiative (DMI) may be a conservative estimate: the BBC Trust has commissioned an external technical …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Silver badge

Make no mistake

Deputy heads will roll.

35
0
Silver badge

Re: Make no mistake

You know it.

1
0
FAIL

I suspect it's a diversionary tactic

The BBC worried about wasting the License Fee? Pull the other one.

The BBC doesn't give a flying fuck about value for money. Like most socialists they have no idea about how hard it is to earn a £ and their only experience with raising revenue is through taxation. My God, if they were allowed to, the BBC would have borrowed itself up to the eyeballs just like the last Labour Government.

No, the BBC is full of peado-protectors and labour-voting lefties (there's a reason why their colour scheme is predominantly red).

I see this a nothing but an attempt to bury some other bad news they've released.

17
56

@ShagBag

You've omitted any reference to immigrants and climate change. How can we take you seriously?

38
6

Re: I suspect it's a diversionary tactic

(there's a reason why their colour scheme is predominantly red).

...and BBC 3's colour scheme is predominantly pink *innocent face*.

3
3
Bronze badge
Thumb Down

Re: I suspect it's a diversionary tactic

there's a reason why their colour scheme is predominantly red

You forgot the troll icon.

And if we follow your logic NBC's logo is a Peacock. So should we assume they're pushing a liberal Burmese agenda?

2
1

Re: I suspect it's a diversionary tactic

Going off the negative reps given you I'd say a lot of these Socialist parasites from the BBC have paid the site a visit

2
3
Angel

Re: I suspect it's a diversionary tactic

"(there's a reason why their colour scheme is predominantly red).

...and BBC 3's colour scheme is predominantly pink *innocent face*."

Some wag recently said they ought to be named the 'PBC'.

0
0
g e
Silver badge
Facepalm

Ooops

Siemens. Hmmm......

Atos... Hmmmmmmmm (aren't they the rail/public transport timetable people? I seen some of that output...)

Seems to me they shoulda phoned Amazon or Google, I think that'd have been my first idea. Actually it just was... hohum.. £280k/year... I think I could possibly handle that - you don't have to deal with any dumb BBC politics, for that, right?

2
1
Ru

Re: Ooops

Seems to me they shoulda phoned Amazon or Google

Or perhaps not fired their own eminently capable techies in the first place.

27
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Ooops

With the number of failed projects happening over the decades many organizations are only tendering contracts on a Private Finance Initiative like contract.

That is you get paid on successful delivery. The money you receive is dependent/proportional to the amount of money it saves.

2
2
Anonymous Coward

Re: @km123

The most charitable explanation for your post is that you know nothing about PFIs.

What you should have said is "The money you receive is a commercial secret. You will be guaranteed an inflated rate of return and face zero commercial risk. The beauty of the arrangement is that even though the taxpayers will have paid many times over the odds for your 'services', eg: £300 to change a light bulb, they will not end up owning any of the assets they have paid for."

4
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: @km123

You forgot the bit about "as long as you employ the correct ex-civil-servants".

0
0
Silver badge
Devil

Re: their own eminently capable techies in the first place.

But wouldn't that route cost an even larger fortune? I mean, first you have to fly them in from the other side of the world, and then you have to put them up in a hotel for a couple of months. And then you have fly them all back home again.

0
0
Devil

All hail to the commissioning process.

I often wonder at the largesse involved in public sector IT contracts. Doing stuff on the cheap never quite turns out to be cheaper over the course of a badly written contract for an amorphous, badly planned system. Oversight only seems to kick in once the press get wind of the huge volumes of cash being flushed down the khazi. I'm fairly certain that none of the contractors minded being paid a fortune to deliver fool's gold.

Very few of the people who sanction these massive ballsups appear to have a clue about the speed of evolution across the entire sector ("just show me the headline figures, Carruthers"). Better to spend half a million quid talking to tech companies and software developers, to see where their R&D is likely to be leading them, than build an obsolete, unworkable proprietary dustbin.

2
1
Silver badge

Speaking as someone who is often forced by politics and funding to do things on the cheap there are 3 ways to proceed:

1: Don't do it.

2: Do it badly (often a result of mobile goalposts)

3: Do what you can, assume the targets given are bollocks and try to pick your technology so when they finally realise there isn't enough cash for the job and stump up enough readies, you don't have to chuck out everything so far and start over.

#1 gets you fired, #2 gets you vilified in the final reports and #3 atracts a lot of heat to start with but is often the best long-term strategy.

HOWEVER: For the amount of money involvedin this report, there was more than enough to do it right first time, several times over. It looks to me like the usual heads were in the feeding trough again.

18
0

Let's be clear. This ain't a BBC specific problem. This is an IT failure. As ever, IT people blind non techies with their dreams and somehow they get organisations in private and public sector to pay for their follies, Millennium Bug anyone? NHS? Ford Motors purchasing software?

It's easy to avoid this. Try a small experiment on a local scale, Perhaps in an island site where their may be local chaos, but not systemic failure. But for the love of God, stop believing the shit that IT people talk, that you have to spend a fortune on game changing technology.

6
15
Silver badge

@theflashyblade

I, and many others, find IT easy. I would imagine half the people who read this online-rag would be able to have achieved something workable on this in a year by dragging and dropping a few existing programs together.

What we cant do is to knock any sense into management - that group of people who will tell you that management is an art that requires no real knowledge of the thing managed. It might work in accountancy but in every other field its a complete fuck up.

Every IT failure I've had the pleasure to work on has been a management failure. I've even had the code I wrote in a meeting that did 90% of a management requirement be taken off me, given to outside contractors and then returned two years later performing 70% of the original requirement ... occasionally.

Its not the shit IT people speak - its calling shit 'managers' that's the problem.

33
0
Anonymous Coward

The old adage often fails with the (mainly) the public sector.

You can have it:

Cheaply

Quickly

Properly.

Choose 2 out of the 3.

9
0

Re: @theflashyblade

Of course, ultimately in any major project, it's a management problem. The grunts just do the programming or buying/testing of software/hardware.

But I have so many experiences of IT contractors promising the world and massively under delivering. So the non techie managers must take some blame for being gullible. But IT managers should learn to under promise and over deliver. But consistently they know they can blind people with their shiny solutions. And often these projects take so long that it's those left behind who get it in the neck.

The BBC project was Ashley Highfield's baby. He left early enough to leave with glowing words in his ears, and get a big job at a long standing regional newspaper group which he's currently ruining. He's management as you would say. He's IT management as I would say.

2
3
Anonymous Coward

Re: @theflashyblade

Bad management is only half the story. Its the skills of the people hired also to blame.

You will find the companies are basically just going through the motions to deliver the project instead of fully understanding what they are doing. The design is done for the sole purpose of delivering design documentation.

Software design is required to ensure the system captures in full the users requirements and the software developed has a good architecture so that it is able to scale accommodating lots of requirements code before turning into spaghetti code. Modules with good interfaces and object abstraction ensures the work is comprehensible as the work grows in size.

Because the people employed lack basic software engineering skills you end up with a million line plus piece of code that only delivers 60% of the functionality. Adding more functionality breaks existing functionality as its all a mess of spaghetti code. A good engineered product would achieve such functionality in under a few hundred thousand lines of code. Module interfaces and abstraction would ensure parts of the software don't break at the slight modification of the program.

Its about time future software projects are delivered by experienced software designers.

1
0

This post has been deleted by its author

Silver badge

@theflashyblade

You realize what site you're on don't you? The Victorian School of Luddite Project Management is located elsewhere.

3
0
Anonymous Coward

Define 'IT people'

Do you mean actual proper techies who are usually only heard once fuckwit middle management have made a total shambles of everything and are looking for a way to bung their arseholes and take all the glory? Or do you mean fuckwit middle management types who think they know IT because they once configured a Wi-Fi router at home (badly)?

If it is the latter, then you are right. Otherwise, I can only guess you haven't done much public sector work. Real techies are way down the food chain - they would never get in front of a board with spending power.

4
0
Bronze badge

@Alan Brown

I like your analysis. And 3 would be my pick if I ever worked with any public body. In my big Yank company the salesmen are taken outside and shot if they mention they are working with anything Public. And righlty so.

We were scarred 16 years ago - and the collective memory remains

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: @theflashyblade

"The Victorian School of Luddite Project Management is located elsewhere."

Explain.

You may have a point to make.

On the other hand, from the industry that brings us techniques of the week like 'agile' and even 'LEAN agile' while almost without exception ignoring the wisdom of things like The Mythical Man Month, I'm frequently not sure what the point is.

It's almost certainly nothing to do with engineering best practice.

1
2
Silver badge

Re: @theflashyblade

You've never seen a typing pool have you? A secretarial pool? Entire floor of office buildings full of mechanical draftsmen or blue printing teams? How about an office mail boy? How about real office shorthand? IT has improved nearly every aspect of office and manufacturing operations.

You've obviously been involved in some bad projects, but to blame 'techies' alone is foolishness and will never help you successfully complete any sort of project in the future. Most bad projects are down to conflicting specs and/or the client not really knowing what they want. Besides it takes many players to scupper a project. In all my years I've never not one time been involved in a project that one group or person was solely responsible for screwing up an entire project.

As a successful mechanical engineer with my own firm and 31 great employees I'll tell you that small scale tests can always be made to work, it is when you scale that things get wonky. You'll inevitably be dealing with legacy systems (or software in the IT case) that nobody even knew existed, are poorly documented and or held up by sheer force of will. No matter how hard you study and plan things get weird as you scale and its never anyone's fault, it's just the way it is. What matters is how you respond to the reality of the situation.

1
0

Funny that's what they did and abandoned it

"It's easy to avoid this. Try a small experiment on a local scale, Perhaps in an island site where their may be local chaos."

Which is EXACTLY what they did in DMI V1. But when Siemens got cold feet (A very risk adverse company) when offered the opportunity to bail out they did in short order. The original local deployment was orphaned and a completely new solution was designed. Siemens were in fact very close to producing a working system, albeit limited. In came Mr Linwood and his cronies, eager to prove how they could do better. Any dissenting voices were silenced by a culture of bullying.

Cue a lot of people losing their jobs and consultants making millions.

That original local deployment is still in daily service, but nobody likes to talk about that.

1
0
Silver badge
Facepalm

Re: @theflashyblade

On the other hand, from the industry that brings us techniques of the week like 'agile' and even 'LEAN agile' while almost without exception ignoring the wisdom of things like The Mythical Man Month, I'm frequently not sure what the point is.

I'm sure of that because you clearly missed what the Mythical Man Month was about and how "agile" may be able to help - at least in a certain number of cases.

1
0

@theflashyblade

Any project that has not been done before is likely to be late and over budget. Almost all software projects fall into this category. Building a bridge? Done it a million times. However the first suspension bridges were enormously expensive and, early on, had a habit of falling down. Of course that's forgotten now because the cost is absorbed and the existing templates and practices are stamped out all over the world.

Likewise, any project that requires software that's been used before cost peanuts by comparison because you are installing and configuring existing software that's known to work.

If it's not been done before the costs of any project are unpredictable because users are *useless* at specifying what they do and need. Any specification is from 50,000' and, except in a small number of cases, there's no detail (from the point of view of the person implementing the intended system). Of course the implementer doesn't know that until well into the project when they, too, have become domain experts. But that's usually too late.

Think about specifying getting up and going to work. *Everything* you think about saying will be at the 50,000' level. Even though you are expert at getting up every morning (well maybe not after a skinful the night before) and going to work you'd not have a clue how to specify that seemingly simple task so that, say, a robot could also do it in any circumstance. Everyone reading this request for a specification, if they offered anything at all,would not account for any, let alone all, the things that could go wrong.

Meanwhile the budget and timescale will have been fixed. So cut the IT guys some slack and focus your ire on users who do not have a clue and managers who fail to recognize that reality.

1
0

on the side lines ...

Lets hope he is sidelined too!

But can't see being any job which counts as being 'sidelined' paying 1/4 of a million a year

On the other hand this is the BBC we are talking about

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Coles

“Technology controller” Peter Coles will take over as acting chief technology officer. Coles will report to BBC operations director Dominic Coles."

These two aren't related are they?

1
0
Silver badge

Re: Coles

Naw. Couldn't be? Could it?

0
0

Re: Coles

They'd be better off with Norris Cole. At least he makes a point of knowing what's going on all the time.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Money? it's not real money

Why would the BBC start worrying about spending money irresponsibly? It has not bothered them in the slightest up till now. How much did they (WE actually) pay J.Roth? How much is spent on the ludicrously stupid Top Gear? They spent millions moving the Birmingham studios out of a purpose built studo center at Pebble Mill which was virtually rent free, then millions more moving into a totally inadequate building in the town centre.

The latest disgraceful craziness of course is the stupendously inappropriate move to Salford....the taxpayers should not have to bear the awful costs of these irresponsible people. The BBC has been financially independent for decades now, ever since they became a commercial organisation, so to continue to drain billions of punds from the public is utterly incredible!

6
11

Re: Money? it's not real money

While I aggree with much of what you say, I'm pretty sure Top Gear makes the BBC quite a bit of money with DVDs, CDs etc and selling it overseas, its when they make spend time and money to employee people to look at twitter during Question Time, thats a pointless waste

20
0
Silver badge

Re: Money? it's not real money

In other countries, if tv companies make programs with public money then manage to sell it overseas or on DVD, they're expected to pay that money back, with interest.

Of course, creative accounting can make any profit look like a staggering loss, and it can also be used to explain the inexplicable such as expensive moves to less suitable/more expensive premises. Following the money trail on those premises is often a circular affair.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Money? it's not real money

"How much is spent on the ludicrously stupid Top Gear?"

Probably a negative amount in that it makes a profit. Of course, the usual method of criticising the BBC is to complain when they make popular stuff because it's "commercial" and complain when they make unpopular/specialized stuff because its a "ratings loser".

"The latest disgraceful craziness of course is the stupendously inappropriate move to Salford....the taxpayers should not have to bear the awful costs of these irresponsible people."

The BBC did not want to move to Salford. Blair held a gun to their heads and asked if they'd like him to pull the trigger or go to Salford. They went to Salford.

"The BBC has been financially independent for decades now, ever since they became a commercial organisation, so to continue to drain billions of punds from the public is utterly incredible!"

Yeah, well, of course in the private sector no one ever has an IT scheme fail and if they did they would never, ever, recoup the loss by simply passing it onto the public.

Except, ha ha, this mess was largely made by private companies (Seimans/ Atos) who, er, passed it back onto the public in the form of the BBC who tried to rescue some value from it and failed.

13
3
Silver badge
Facepalm

Re: Money? it's not real money

Yeah, well, of course in the private sector no one ever has an IT scheme fail and if they did they would never, ever, recoup the loss by simply passing it onto the public.

You sarcasm is commendable but I'm not so sure you know what you are actually talking about.

Except, ha ha, this mess was largely made by private companies (Seimans/ Atos) who, er, passed it back onto the public in the form of the BBC who tried to rescue some value from it and failed.

So how did they manage that mysterious feat of "passing it back onto the public in the form of the BCC?"

And spell Siemens properly, please.

0
1
FAIL

A "five year in the making" public sector IT project superseded by newer technology...

Never seen THAT before.

2
1
Silver badge

Doesn't matter whether it's public or private

No 5-year technology project can possibly 'succeed'. Even if you implement it to perfection, in 5 years:

1. The technology will have changed.

2. The people (especially the sponsors at the top) will have changed.

3. The business will have changed (though I hesitate to call the BBC a business, it still changes radically over a 5 year period).

So my rule is - no projects will be undertaken that can't be completed and delivering benefits in 6 months. Inevitably the cry goes up: "Oh, but my vital megaproject can't possibly be implemented in less than 5 years." To which the answer is: break it up into 10 subprojects each with deliverable benefits, or it ain't happening on my watch.

22
0
Silver badge
Thumb Up

Re: Doesn't matter whether it's public or private

I agree with that sentiment 100%.

2
1
Bronze badge

Re: Doesn't matter whether it's public or private

@Chris Miller

Yes, oh yes! And that was my reaction when I read the story. The scope is too big and I guessed there were no checks, milestones, along the way so they could row back if what had been achieved fatally changed the plan.

This sort of thing has to be management failure, and, as always, the top management. it’s their job not to understand code or short term outcomes, but 'the big picture' and importantly to know what the 'big picture' IS.

As a big project manager - herding the cats is relatively easy, it’s getting people who will not see, to see

3
0
Pint

Re: Doesn't matter whether it's public or private

definitely this

that's the posts that make me read El Reg comment section

1
0
Facepalm

"the BBC Trust has commissioned an external technical inquiry"

How much will the inquiry cost to tell us they wasted money?

7
0

we won't know until the inquiry into the inquiry has been completed

3
0
Anonymous Coward

I might suggest that the first place to look for a reason as to why this happened would be an institutional culture that first considers it okay to pay £280,000 to a CTO and then considers it okay to suspend him on full pay when he cocks up.

They keep cocking things up because they believe themselves immune from the consequences of their actions.

17
1
Silver badge
Holmes

"They keep cocking things up because they believe themselves immune from the consequences of their actions."

But apparently they are, aren't they?

2
0
Anonymous Coward

Oh the humanity

Suspended on full pay? How TF is that a punishment?

5
0

Re: Oh the humanity

'Suspended on full pay? How TF is that a punishment?'

It's not. Whilst it might be satisfying if the BBC told him to clear his desk today, they would be paying him off for unfair dismissal tomorrow.

0
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.