back to article Auditors blast Blighty cops over binned multi-million pound IT project

A new report has been highly critical of a failed £15m IT project for Surrey Police that was eventually binned by the cops. Auditors Grant Thornton published the report today on behalf of the government's Audit Commission, which said the Surrey Integrated Reporting Enterprise Network (SIREN) project had been “poorly managed …

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  1. The Commenter formally known as Matt
    Facepalm

    Agile approach?

    If they spent 8+ years and £15m and got nothing out of it then it clearly wasn't an agile project!

    1. boltar Silver badge

      Re: Agile approach?

      Yeah , but only £15m. In the Wasting Public Money awards they wouldn't even be up for a nomination. Now the BBC or the NHS on the other hand...

    2. Anonymous Coward 101

      Re: Agile approach?

      I suggest an old scoping document that nobody but the auditor looked at since it was typed up said 'this project will use the Agile methodology', because that was the terminology in vogue at the time.

    3. breakfast

      Re: Agile approach?

      Agile is a fairly poor way of designing very large scale projects. See also the big IDS benefits thing. It's great if you are a start-up or if you are a software company, but when the project gets very big you start to run into architectural concerns that you need to know about from the start and situations where refactoring the code to integrate a new requirement is a non-trivial task.

      That doesn't stop the practical day-to-day process stuff from being useful- standups, iterations, sprints, kanban boards and the rest- but as regards the big picture, being able to act on architectural requirements from the start can make a big difference to your development time and the reliability of your software but the concept of doing anything ahead of time doesn't seem to fit into the pure Agile approach.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Agile approach?

        From my experience with public authorities and their associates Agile means" we don't know what we're doing and we're making it as we go along". The methodology is then used during the project as a blame management tool and nothing ever gets done except lots of money wasted on consultant to tell the customer the bleeding obvious things that anyone vaguely competent would already know.

        1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: Agile approach?

          I bet the contractors were pretty agile salting away the dosh

  2. unhombresw19

    I remember, around 25 years ago, working on a project called CRIS for the Met which suffered bad overruns.

    Plus ca change

  3. frank ly Silver badge

    The real problem is at a higher level

    "Surrey Police then ended up replacing its crime information system with one from Niche RMS, a less expensive option that was already in use by a number of different forces."

  4. Vimes

    The chief constable that was around at the time this project was approved now works for the met, and his responsibilities include 'digital technology'.

    And the police wonder why people have so little faith in them...

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      "The chief constable that was around at the time this project was approved " probably also lives in a very confortable house and drives a nice Range Rover thanks to the that project. (Whether it went AWOL or not)

    2. 's water music Silver badge

      The chief constable that was around at the time this project was approved now works for the met, and his responsibilities include 'digital technology'.

      PULL YOUR FINGER OUT MARK!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Twas ever thus...

    I had the joy of working on a couple of NSPIS projects back in the noughties. Crap management on both sides of the contract lead to huge cost and time overruns. They had plenty of talented people who COULD have produced a great system. Sadly that wasn't allowed to happen.

  6. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    On the plus side

    That's 15 million pounds they didn't waste chasing pot smokers.

    1. boltar Silver badge

      Re: On the plus side

      Pot smokers can run? Thats a new one on me - I thought they just crashed out on sofas after raiding the fridge then talked bollocks for 3 hours.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: On the plus side

        A few that I know can drive home afterwards - they always manage to get home before the police actually respond to my calls.

      2. Don Jefe

        Re: On the plus side

        I designed and built my first submersible ROV over a two month period when I was so stoned I lost weight from lack of appetite. It took the better part of a year before I got caught using it to dredge up coins from the fountain at the university baseball park*, which was what I had created it for to begin with.

        So I've got no sympathy for anyone who never got anything useful done while stoned. They were obviously half-assing their attempts.

        *This was long before such money was donated to good causes. This money was just dumped into the ball teams general fund, which was bringing in more than $17m annually. So I felt no remorse when the amperage on the power supply on my bench in the lab was adjusted with a pencil I had whittled down to fit the broken shaft on the pot. I replaced that power supply, before I was busted, and I donated the ROV to the school after, but I did list it as a tax deductible donation.

  7. ForthIsNotDead Silver badge
    Stop

    Translation

    "My decision to withdraw from the SIREN project has not been taken lightly, but I believe that this course of action will ultimately be in the best interests of both Surrey Police and the Surrey public,” Hurley said at the time.

    Translation: "This is fucked. See ya!"

  8. Kerry Hoskin

    "The auditors said that the PCC was right to axe the SIREN project when he did, but pointed out that the situation never should have come to that in the first place"

    Yep they should have used the package that the other forces were using, if they had to adjust how they did things then that's what they should have done!

    And don't even get started on why we have 40 odd police forces in this country! Why just in the SW do we have Devon&Cornwall, Avon&Somerset and Dorset ,total waste of money.

    But there again the national firearms database was a total cockup and took years to do just for a database that has a few hundred thousand firearms\shotgun cert holders on it.

  9. boltar Silver badge

    Agile is just another meaningless buzzword

    It doesn't matter what methodology you use - and most are just a variation on common sense - if you don't set deadlines and milestones then the project is sunk. Simple solution to this type of mess - go to suppliers and say "We want this , this and this by this time and you'll get your money when its done. If you over run or under deliver we'll subtract X for each infraction. Now give us your quote.". Sorted. The bullshitters will head for the hills and you'll be left with the companies that can actually deliver.

    1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      Re: Agile is just another meaningless buzzword

      Sometimes it pays to go to suppliers and ask them what they've got that comes close to your requirements. You can talk to happy customers (if any) and ask them how well it works or where it doesn't. You are also leveraging the lessons learned of multiple existing users as they were incorporated into an off the shelf app.

      Not all customer requirements are carved in stone. Sometimes it's cheaper to change a business process to fit a stable software package than it is to tweak the application. And many vendors will consider adding in functions you want in a future release.

  10. Bluenose

    What no termination for convenience clause!!

    Simply amazed, no clause in the contract that says the police can cancel the contract for convenience and pay a sum for that privilege that is less than the final value of the contract (e.g. covers lost profit but not cost of staff). This is a standard in pretty much every public sector contract I have come across.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Simply amazed, no clause in the contract that says the police can cancel the contract for convenience"

    After eight years I'd guess that all the contracted costs and more were sunk, and plod would be on the hook for those. Termination for convenience only addresses costs not yet incurred.

  12. Rob

    Love the quote...

    ... about it not being endemic, bollocks I say, this is exactly the right word to use for something all public sector organisations seem to do, pour very rich gravy and see how many companies come flocking for a slurp in a non-risk way through a badly written contract.

    Nuke'em from orbit it's the only way to be sure...

  13. breakfast

    Recovering costs

    Doubtless they have paid for a lot of outsourced consultants to be driving very fancy sports cars, hopefully the police will have made a note of their numberplates so they can focus on recovering some of the money in speeding tickets.

  14. The last doughnut
    Holmes

    Sargeant! Where is that software we ordered eight years ago?

    It er - it fell down the stairs, sir.

  15. AceRimmer
    Holmes

    Blood Suckers

    "Memex Technology Ltd (Memex), did not make up for this shortfall in terms of managing the risk to delivery."

    Most vampiresconsultancies willfully neglect the risk management. Its how they make their money!

  16. Tom 35 Silver badge

    a zombi project

    external circumstances changed = not my fault.

    Agile = make it up as we go along.

    SIREN we have a cool name with a made up backronym so what could go wrong?

  17. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    "Ambitious but rubbish."

    Mandatory TG ref.

  18. Scroticus Canis Silver badge
    Holmes

    "“poorly managed”, “poorly controlled” and run by people without the necessary skills"

    Typical police force structure then.

  19. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

    Hello, hello, hello.

    Hello?

    Hello??

    Err... hello?

    Nobody's in sarge!

    Hello?

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