Thanks for that Daily Mail response
I've worked on quite a few large projects inside and outside of government and I'd say it was fairly rare to find a large one that comes in on time and budget.
There are a number of perennial problems that crop up time and time again.
- If the project runs long enough there may be a technology shift that makes the original solution obsolete, so you need to decide to either put the obsolete solution in or re-engineer. Obsolete solutions often need specially written and expensive support contracts, re-engineering can mean starting the project almost from scratch. For example, if you'd spent six years working on a solution based around using a Palm Pilot in the field would you go live with it in say three months time?
- Inside government owned projects there is often a lot of politics leading to whole departments not talking to each other. I remember a chap who didn't get on with the head of Data Processing (what would now be the IT dept) and so developed an entire service without once asking about supportability or existing standards. The entire project was scrapped within 8 months of going live.
- Customers often don't know what they really want until the project is well underway. Some changes can be swept under the carpet, but many cost money to implement; if you picked the wrong colour for a new car you could probably get it changed at no cost as long as you catch them early enough, but if you order a Mondeo and then ask for a Bentley just before you take delivery then you might find a change in both budget and timescales.
There are no simple solutions, there's too much politics in government circles and too much profiteering in private ones.
In addition to all of that, we have no concrete figures for non-government IT projects. I can't see someone like Starbucks releasing a report that says "We put in a new system, but it was 6 months late, cost twice as much as planned and still doesn't work", so there is nothing to measure against.
Looking at NAO press releases, they say that the NIRS2 contract provides good value for money and that the original contract failed to provide sufficient flexibility to allow for 1998 legislation changes and so had to be re-negotiated at additional cost.
For the CSA their conclusion was that the system was poorly specified, designed and implemented, but that the legislation was also unduly complex. So, I don't think all of the blame can be placed at EDS' door.