Blame the scheduling system
What? The games are this year?
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 …
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
G4S can take the monetary hit quite easily.
Last year their revenue was £7,522m, operating margin of 7.1%
The reputational hit is rather harder to quantify of course.
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.
> 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.
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
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?
"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
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.
"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.
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 :-)
"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
>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.
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.
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."
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.
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).
I remember when scheduling software was introduced by Woolies many years ago. With much trumpeting from the district managers on how this was going to "save a fortune in wage costs" and "you absolutely positivly under no circumstances use you own judgment, only what the scheduling software says on pain of being sacked. The software is right and knows better than you".
So, did the training, entered the staffing profiles pressed the button and out spat the bit of paper saying we needed to recruit more staff to run the store.
Remember that "The software is right and knows better than you" bit? Well, as it happens, I agreed with the software. Shame the district manager didn't and then told us to ignore the software and use his judgment instead.
Luckily I left a couple of weeks later.
Yes, crappy software IS just another unpredictable, uncontrollable natural hazard. Like earthquakes, tsunamis, wildfires, hurricanes, and banking system collapses. Everyone is doing their best to combat these environmental disasters - and of course no human being could possibly have done anything to prevent them.
I like to imagine that Buckles is basically a simpleton who refers to himself in the third person at all times. I picture him receiving the news thus:
Buckles is skipping through a field, a freshly picked dandylion in each hand.
"Buckles is happy!" he announces to no-one in particular.
A serious looking man in a suit approaches.
"Chief Executive, we have a serious problem with staffing levels for the Olympics. This could be a very high profile failure for the company- we need to find another 6000 staff and we only have a week to do it; what do you suggest?"
Buckles' face falls and his plump bottom lip begins to wobble slightly. A dandylion falls from a pudgy hand.
"Now Buckles is sad."
A butterfly flutters past and Buckles face returns to it's previous seraphic grin as he runs after it, arms outstretched.
"Chief Executive?" The suit implores, but he is gone.
It's because the Zero Hours Employment farce allows them to report employment figures which include people on their books who have worked errrmm.... Zero hours
Security staff peddle their name to any 'agency' that cares, end up enlisted with umpteen companies as employees, and get work with whoever can get to them first..
Does this count as an employment numbers fiddle, nationally?
Who came up this Zero Hours employment rubbish anyway?!?
The most revolting thing was politicians lining up to abuse the guy for their five minutes of TV/Radio retribution sound bites. Why go on about it like some naughty step diatribe, it's not like he is a lying banker expenses-friendly politician or someone who can't stand up and say "yes we cocked up" To me the politicians are all too bloody keen to stone the guy so nobody mentions "giving away many millions of our taxes while absolving themselves of all responsibility"
Originally "2000 staff required" then "Better make that 10000" bet he is not the first person to be caught out by failing to properly address the impact of a change of contract.
Probably someone got nice little bonuses for putting the contract G4S's way and now the ordure is reaching the air moving device only Mr "Buckles" refuses to do as his name.
I'm not apologising for the guy but lets get some adult heads on here, mistake made, no 3 year inquest required, deal with it make sure it is very hard for it to happen again, name calling and finger pointing is not the way to learn from this. I kind of hope he doesn't go simply because he brought a mote of honesty into a room full of people who really don't get it.
Government 'outsources' to a multi-national consultancy, then change requirements and take their eyes off the ball. Heard that one before? When will these f****rs learn?
Sir Humphrey and the ministerial spinmeisters will pleased all the media flung mud is sticking to Buckles.
06 December 2011
The Department of Culture, Media and Sport's Olympic progress report reveals that, following further consultation, the costs for security are likely to be £553m and the amount of security personnel required, 23,700. The report identifies "a significant recruitment challenge".
As a result, the Home Office begins discussions with the Ministry of Defence about the provision of military personnel "to act in security roles". The MoD is already seeking to cut its budget by 8 per cent as a result of the defence spending review.
so they actually need 23,700? and yet are way off the original 10,000 requirement, and actually only have 5500 available. Am I also correct in saying that the 70% quoted is of 5500? so they're actually only able to provide around 4000?????
Time to pack up all those 20,000 troops sat around in Germany - they're needed back home ASAP!
It probably isn't an experiment that one would have chosen to put before an ethics committe, but if we end up with an Olympics sans security guards we will at least learn a little about whether we *are* under perpetual threat from t'rrr'ists who only live for the opportunity to murder us in our beds. My guess is that the vast majority of people will simply behave sensibly and cooperatively even without a minimum wage badge-holder pushing them around.
What idiot would assume that scheduling software used for allocating 2 or 3 staff to jobs from a pool of 5500, would ever cope with 100,000 applications for 10,000 roles - don't blame the software, blame the fool that sat back and watched it fail to do a task it was probably never intended to do.
Most contracts I deal with have payment on completion or penalty clauses should systems not be ready and in place by a particular date.
Where as this bunch have money and are not planning on giving any of it back.
Would be a nice contract to have with a company. You don't have to do the work but still get the cash.
Did G4S India develop the software?
From G4S India website
G4S IT offers customised Software Development services based on latest technology, by integrating our experience in the security industry and our expertise in software development. Our IT team is equipped with the required resources in terms of manpower, technology, processes & quality to deliver world class software applications.
G4S IT software applications cover:
Workforce Scheduling & Attendance Management
Was this work outsourced to G4S's IT development in India? This is beginning to look suspiciously like a re-run of RBS/NatWest software fiasco, with the typical communications problems you get when trying to develop software half way round the world.
Went for a senior position last year. They needed to retrofit the ability to supply their software for access control with different languages.
I detailed how I had carried out exactly such a project a few years ago. Database driven, it intercepted form loads and replaced all labels and text from a database. It was even self-tuning, so that common words ("Yes", "No") were cached for performance.
I had also written a tool to go through a pile of source code and automatically modify it to use the new system. The techie who interviewed me was beside himself - turns out I had described exactly what they wanted.
2 weeks later, a thanks-but-no-thanks. Even the agent I had was surprised. They liked the techie bit, but felt I wasn't "G4S material". I think I can see why now.
Say what you like, but from the outset Mr Buckles has put his hand up, admitted liability, tried to fix it & put money where his mouth was by paying the armies costs & rejecting his bonus (ok only £1m wages this year).
I watched him being humiliatef at the select committee by self rightious set of MP's & thought, those who shout the loudest often have the most to hide, so what are they not telling us again (Teresa!)
As this contract is only 3% of there buisness & he has lifted the company from relatively modest beginings, then view our successive goverments performance , Mr Buckles intregrity is intact & a refreshing example to the recent parade of arrogent, greedy, corrupt, seedy, parasitic bankers, newspaper owners,reporters, Mp's, ministers ect,ect who are called the great & the good.
Remember, we are all in it together, except some of us are in deeper than others.
Oh yes, the software was not suiable for the task with the resoures available.
Firstly he has a reputation of being straight forward, to the point of bluntness, Now whether he has chosen to remain so, in order to take the blame away from G4S by eventually resigning, is an idea, as refusing his bonus & pay for the Army/police has not pacified anyone especially the establishment & they are reliant upon their contracts. Alternatively it could just be that he hasn't the ability of a certain newspaper proprietor to not lie, but be disarmingly economic with the truth.
I am also interested in the relationship between the successive administrations and what appears to be a company that has such a well documented checkered history, yet receives a constant stream of contracts, Also with the city whose analysts have awarded it a place in the Footsie, yet can demonstrate publicly such flat footed management, poor organizational skills & judgment. Glad to see our pensions are in such capable & safe hands!
I have only limited sympathy for him based on how the MP's treated him, but sorry is not enough & he is sure, even at worst to walk away with a handsome package & solid gold pension.
In response to new intelligence on the terrorist threat, security level has been raised significantly. In order not to cause alarm and ruin the games, Mr Buckles was told to cut the number of Q4S security staff, so the army can smoothly be put in their place. The guys a hero!
Was talking to a teacher who happened to teach at a school where the building was owned by G4S (remember the Gummint's PFI?). I learned some interesting things about what happens when a commercial outfit gets to write its own ticket, and the local authority has to cough up:
1. The school building is spectacularly flimsy.
2. Fittings are the cheapest tat available.
3. Any replacement furniture or consumables may only be purchased via G4S's procurement, at massively inflated cost.
4. Any extension of school hours is charged by the hour at exorbitant rates.
5. Any modifications (e.g.) shelves must be carried out by G4S's own contractors, at exorbitant rates.
6. The contract is valid for decades - e.g. 25 years.
Nice little earner.
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