back to article New Capita system has left British Army recruits unable to register online

Capita's infamous Recruitment Partnership Project (RPP) for the Ministry of Defence has finally gone live, five years after the first deal was signed – and, surprise, surprise, it is riddled with bugs and missing critical functionality. Sources with past and present involvement in the £1.3bn RPP deal told The Register the full …

  1. ArrZarr Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    How do you screw this up so badly?

    No, seriously, how?

    Did the armed forces forget to hand Capita the spec sheet? Did the spec sheet get lost?

    This is the kind of thing where the base functionality could be handed to the intern for a summer project if you wanted to just about get by or given to a team of proper devs for a month or two and they'd make it work properly.

    I just don't understand, that's all...

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      "I just don't understand, that's all"

      Are you a politician or senior civil servant who hopes to get a directorship or two from an outsourcing company when you lose your seat or retire?

      If not, that's why you don't understand.

      Government has been about jobs for the boys for an immensely long time, since in fact before Caligula made his horse Consul for the year.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Did Capita take some North Korean funding?

      Did C(r)apita take some Nork, Taleban or ISIS funding lately. If not, they probably can justify a funding round - they are doing a good job for that.

    3. Ledswinger Silver badge

      This is the kind of thing where the base functionality could be handed to the intern for a summer project if you wanted to just about get by or given to a team of proper devs for a month or two and they'd make it work properly.

      And don't forget, they had a system that (sort of) worked before. It isn't even as though this is some new form of devilry that nobody understood. My guess as to HOW this fuck-up happened is that MoD previously outsourced their recruitment IT (or the entire process) to HPE or some predecessor ITinosaur, and to make extra shekels, the outsourcer sacked all the relatively expensive people who knew the system and the process as soon as they could under TUPE rules. Operationally HPE manned-down to a shed load of oppressed and over-worked minimum wage slaves, and as they didn't expect to retain the contract longer term, this slash and burn approach didn't matter. Then, when the Moronistry of Defence came to review the contract, yet again they went for the lowest tender, this time it was Crapita who were the most mendacious. Crapita waltzed in, planning to rinse-and-repeat the HPE effort after using the know-how people to build a new system (as you say, shouldn't take long) before sacking them, but this time it was a Mother Hubbard situation: When they got there, the cupboard was bare of people who understood either systems or processes.

      1. Lysenko

        Then, when the Moronistry of Defence came to review the contract, yet again they went for the lowest tender, this time it was Crapita who were the most mendacious. Crapita waltzed in, planning to rinse-and-repeat the HPE effort after using the know-how people to build a new system (as you say, shouldn't take long) before sacking them...

        I know nothing of this fiasco but I do know that 16 years ago Crapita won the outsourcing bid for the Department of Employment system that ran part of the Youth Training Scheme. The existing system worked and was built in house, so Crapita assumed they could just TUPE over the staff who wrote it, leech the domain-specific expertise and then offshore the system maintenance. Nope.

        Many essential staff refused to work for Crapita, even on secondment and resigned in the face of ultimatums. As a result, the system was rendered unsupportable[1] and procedures crashed back to paperwork for a couple of years (at great expense to the taxpayer, not Crapita).

        [1] Governments meddle with the rules affecting systems like this with every budget so just keeping the system going in a fossilised state is never an option. Budget announcements are confidential and frequently immediately active so front-line systems have to be capable of implementing major changes at the drop of a hat while still supporting X levels of old rules that govern all the prior contracts. That means (or meant then) that you need people who hold most of the logic and codebase in their head. There was enough redundancy in the workforce to cope with flu, car accidents and alcoholism, but not enough to survive a pandemic like the "Crap Death".

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          <em.a pandemic like the "Crap Death".</em>

          Enough on its own for an upvote! But an we just rearrange that a little to "The Crap of Death" and it will be just right for the el Reg lexicon?

    4. Hans 1 Silver badge

      @AzzZarr

      upvoted!

      This is the kind of thing where the base functionality could be handed to the intern for a summer project

      I think you over-estimate the capacity of interns these days, ten years ago, yes, these days with young fellows of late, nope!

      1. ArrZarr Silver badge
        Happy

        @Hans1

        Speaking as somebody who did something similar as in intern 3 years ago, I'll respectfully disagree with that assessment.

    5. Jason Hindle

      "Did the spec sheet get lost?"

      The dog ate it!

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        The dog ate it!

        More likely it was the regimental goat. Those things will eat (almost) anything..

    6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Did the armed forces forget to hand Capita the spec sheet? Did the spec sheet get lost?"

      A few more questions. Did whoever drew up the spec sheet actually go to the potential users and ask what they wanted? Did Capita hand the spec sheet to the developers? Was the developers' native language that in which the spec was written (and that includes any military jargon used in it)? Did anyone actually think to let the developers show potential users early prototypes and get feedback? If anyone drew up a list of potential users as per above were they actual potential users or PHBs further up the food chain who'd never go near the actual S/W?

      There are lots of ways for something like this to fail, to get it right you have to avoid them all.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Did anyone actually think to let the developers show potential users early prototypes and get feedback?

        If things there are like here in the States, the answer is "no". Only the procurement and brass are involved before tossing something that's "finished" to the troops. Usually, massive reworks are needed once the troops show up and start pointing out the problems that the Idiots In Charge (IIC) have built into the system. Applies to both software and hardware. Procurement types are muppets without a clue.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Things here are definitely the same by the sound of it. I've worked on a number of projects, often purchased "off-the-shelf" from some mega corps at enormous cost, either to try to use them or make them fit for purpose - where possible. In each case they came from <above> with the promise that they'd meet all our needs and will forthwith replace our existing system ( which was already meeting all our needs very successfully). Almost without fail they were non-standard/non-intuitive, complicated to use, requiring 5 or six different pathways to accomplish what we used to do at a press of a couple of buttons and could only be induced to provide the information we needed by a mixture of bodging and mystical incantations. I can not think of a single incidence of users being consulted before the stuff was selected, or asked to try it before it was purchased.

    7. Captain DaFt

      Did the armed forces forget to hand Capita the spec sheet?

      <snark>To save costs, Capita only had one member of the crew with the proper security clearance to read the spec.

      Since he couldn't legally tell the others what the specs were, they just threw code together, then kept revising it based on whether he approved it or sent it back.

      To further exacerbate the problem, he was let go halfway through, since the project was going over budget.

      (The developer's budget from Capita, not Capita's budget from the military.)</snark>

    8. macjules Silver badge

      Drupal 6, and not been updated since .. was it 2010?

      Say no more.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    MoD as always

    The Army will have given them a list of requirements, the MoD will have added a ton of changes, then changed their mind, then complained about it not being delivered on time. Then, even though there are serious issues, will laud it as a complete success. Meanwhile, the Army lose a ton of recruits, and the recruiting staff lose their will to live and also sign off.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: MoD as always

      Having seen another IT contract go through the process what happens is:

      1. Find out that due to some legislation, that I think may be based in EU law, you can't keep giving the contract to the company who've been providing a working service because you have to compete it at regular intervals or get sued.

      2. Have a meeting where you discuss what you'd like the product to do, i.e. what the system you already have does plus a few extras that you were going to get if you stuck with it. Realise that the contract for the existing system ends before you can sensibly have a new one in place and task someone to find out how long you can reasonably extend the current contract without getting sued. Slip the project in service date right 18 months. This all happened at the first meeting, so in the space of two hours the programme had been delayed 18 months.

      3. Put a hold on any improvements to the current system because that would give the incumbent an unfair advantage in the tendering process and could get the MoD sued.

      4. All those nice extras you'd thought of? Start cutting them to stay within the budget. A budget that could extend the existing system about 18 years, or over three times the length of the contract you're tendering for.

      5. Slip things right another six months because the invitation to tender hasn't been released yet. Get legal advice on if that could get MoD sued and get a firm 'maybe'.

      6. Circulate list of three courses of action, one of which gets you the same capability you currently have, just, one of which gets you nothing, which would be illegal, and one of which gets MoD sued. Grudgingly accept COA 1.

      I don't know how this ends as after three years they still haven't selected a winning bidder. But basically the problem is it's illegal not to put a government contract out for tender at regular intervals, even if what you've got is working perfectly.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: MoD as always

        I don't think EU.

        Some years ago the govt. of the day decided that "Best Value" meant that all official contracts had to go out to tender. And the binding requirement was price, not the reputation of the provider, nor their track record or the skills of existing personnel/managers and certainly not that they knew the organisation and its requirements. And this infected every contract, from tiny to enormous. To this degree; we had a local window cleaner for the building, who did a wonderful job, charge the local rate per window and he kept an eye on the building - very useful. But it had to go out to tender. We lost our local chappie. In came a contract company - but soon the natural light couldn't come in any more, because that couldn't get through the grime on the windows.

        1. SkippyBing Silver badge

          Re: MoD as always

          'I don't think EU.'

          You may well be right, it's possibly me getting confused with all the invitations to tender* having to go in the official journal of the EU.

          *May not be the exact technical term.

          1. Ledswinger Silver badge

            Re: MoD as always

            'I don't think EU.'

            The EU have had a Defence & Security Procurement Directive since 2011 (and transposed into national laws in each country), that sets out the rules requiring these contracts to go to tender. So the EU have to take full responsibility for mandating competitive procurement here.

            However, UK politicians (of all colours) have for many years believed in the magic efficacy of competitive tendering, and would probably have done this anyway. Until we have both an infallible test to establish that somebody is a shithead, and a mandatory death penalty or permanent exile as the minimum penalty, this sort of thing will continue.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: MoD as always

              "However, UK politicians (of all colours) have for many years believed in the magic efficacy of competitive tendering"

              It's a mechanism for ensuring that the companies of the other halves of politicians or senior civil servants get the contracts they so obviously deserve. When all the preparatory work has been done the said politician or civil servant recuses them-self from the final decision so it's all above board.

            2. SkippyBing Silver badge

              Re: MoD as always

              'However, UK politicians (of all colours) have for many years believed in the magic efficacy of competitive tendering, and would probably have done this anyway.

              It's not so much the having to go to competitive tendering that I object to, it's having to do it again once you've got something in place and working. It seems to result in a product just about getting to a usable standard and then getting frozen while you spend money getting a replacement that's no more capable.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: MoD as always

                But also, the tendering seems to be for a generic service, with the details mapped out later. So instead of a number of companies bidding for precisely the same job which then goes to the cheapest they each bid for what they think they can get away with doing - then find a way of getting more money for all the bits they didn't (bother to) include.

                Again, I refer to my own service. The cleaning contract was put out to tender by the big bosses and won by the cheapest bid, based on floor area. But this just didn't allow for a couple of rooms that were extremely difficult to clean because they had special surfaces, or the narrow steep staircases or the high density of desk space in certain areas, and so on. So some cleaning just didn't get done unless we paid extra. And the final cost was significantly higher than when we just employed a couple of local cleaners at the going rate, but with poorer cleaning and significant amounts of extra work for us to monitor their performance and in chasing them up get the job done properly.

  3. John G Imrie Silver badge

    This means senior recruiters cannot gain an instant overview of the numbers applying to join the armed forces. Instead they must manually count applications.

    So no one at Crapita knows how to write

    select count(*) from applicants where date_of_application >= <this years recruitment start date>

    or did someone forget to add the date of application into the table.

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      So no one at Crapita knows how to write

      Maybe not, but in this case it seems to me that the contract probably ASSUMED that adequate management information would be provided, or asked for it, but didn't define it. Crapita will (to the best of their meagre abilities) simply have stuck to the letter of the contract and spec. If nobody specifically asked for a recruitment count or other MI, then it won't have been built in.

      But in so doing Crapita show what amateurs they are. Were I running Crapita, we'd have seen this omission, built in the code for the most fan-dabby-dozy MI suite cheaply at the time of code design and build (maybe even copy the spec from our own corporate systems), test it, then disable each finite element with a single asterisk. Then when MoD complain that the system doesn't do what they need but didn't ask for, we offer that which is asked for, charge the full variation order rate against an estimated design, code, test schedule, and simply release the code modified without that asterisk. Every item of bell and whistlery would be disabled separately, and only that which was requested and paid would be released, even though the code was already written.

    2. BongoJoe

      select count(*) from applicants where date_of_application >= <this years recruitment start date>

      or did someone forget to add the date of application into the table.

      Or the Code assumed the date to be in British Format whereas the date format internally within the database was in American Format. And some developers catered for this difference and some didn't.

      I've seen that before. Which is why on anything to do with dates I always start from the base date of 1/1/1970 (either format, of course) and then do anything with dates as Integers based on this. A pain but, oddly enough, everything that I have touched never got that wrong.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "Which is why on anything to do with dates I always start from the base date of 1/1/1970 (either format, of course) and then do anything with dates as Integers based on this. A pain but, oddly enough, everything that I have touched never got that wrong."

        Just choose an RDBMS engine that has date and date-time formats based on this principle, then it's not a pain and it still doesn't get it wrong.

  4. Paul Smith

    1.3B

    1.3 Billion on the recruitment system? Has anybody pointed out that is a years wages for over seven thousand infantrymen?

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: 1.3B

      Has anybody pointed out that is a years wages for over seven thousand infantrymen?

      I say old chap, keep it all in perspective. In MoD terms, £1.3bn is only one failed Watchkeeper programme.

      Perhaps we should add that to the El Reg units database?

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "In MoD terms, £1.3bn is only one failed Watchkeeper programme."

        Indeed.

        It's barely more than half an Eccleston*

        *Allegedly.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: "In MoD terms, £1.3bn is only one failed Watchkeeper programme."

          "It's barely more than half an Eccleston"

          That's inflation for you. It was a lot less in Noo Labour's time.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: "In MoD terms, £1.3bn is only one failed Watchkeeper programme."

          "It's barely more than half an Eccleston*"

          Which species? Bernie or Chris?

    2. EnviableOne Bronze badge

      Re: 1.3B

      or enough to Crew Big lizzie and PoW, or enough to fuel the fleet, rather than leave the expensive grey things sitting in port....

  5. James 51 Silver badge

    Seriously? I could understand spending a lot of money to secure the system but core functionality like this is something a small team in my place could knock out in a few months (assuming that the MOD/Armed Forces don't change their mind more often or are less cooperative than our internal customers). How do these firms keep getting these cushy contracts?

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      How do these firms keep getting these cushy contracts?

      You'll probably find that about 50% of the cost is management overhead (all those project managers sitting around drinking coffee are expensive and those pretty Gantt charts don't draw themselves y'know!).

      30% is hardware (got to have the latest buzzword hardware!) and the remaining 20% gets spent on developer/analyst time.

      And once that 20% is gone the product gets shipped. Regardless of the state it's in.

  6. John70

    How much? How long?

    5 years and £1.3bn to create a recruitment system? That's £260m per year for what?

    When will they learn outsourcing is not the cheaper option.

    They would have been better having internal developers creating it.

    I bet it would have been done in a fraction of the time and cost (excluding wages).

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: How much? How long?

      When will they learn outsourcing is not the cheaper option.

      Only when all the flagpoles around the front entrance of Abbey Wood South are converted to gibbets, and each day a new senior civil servant is treated to the view from the top of each one.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: How much? How long?

        Sorry Ledswinger, can't let you get away with that one. There needs to be flagpole space for corporate CEOs too. Or better still, beancounters generally.

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: How much? How long?

          Don't forget the flagpoles for the politicians who actually decided that outsourcing was the best answer to keeping the Civil Service budget down. Just remember how many Commons' debates we've seen over the last 25 years which turned into willy-waving contests over who could cut the most bureaucratic "waste".

          1. Ledswinger Silver badge

            Re: How much? How long?

            Don't forget the flagpoles for the politicians

            They won't get a flagpole. They get a spike.

            A really big one thirty feet high, and they get dropped arse first onto it, and get left to rot, like a raisin on a needle.

            They're politicians, they'd approve of theatricals like that .

            1. handleoclast Silver badge

              Re: Spike that

              They get a spike.

              A really big one thirty feet high, and they get dropped arse first onto it, and get left to rot, like a raisin on a needle.

              Traditionally it was conical. And smooth. So that with a lot of effort you could stop it penetrating further but not get enough purchase to extricate yourself. As you became more exhausted, it penetrated further. You could be there for a long time before it finally killed you.

              Those were the days.

  7. Terry 6 Silver badge

    All good points, above. But wasted. Only one word is needed.

    Capita

    The rest is just decoration.

    1. Hans 1 Silver badge

      @Terry 6

      No, no, no, Crapita, with the r!

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "No, no, no, Crapita, with the r"

        Shouldn't the r be plural?

  8. adam payne Silver badge

    £1.3bn for a system that doesn't work, wow.

    "Pre-delivery testing was very poor," said one, a recruiting subject matter expert who spoke on condition of anonymity, "with there being every indication that the system was not ready. What was demonstrated shows a lack of understanding of what the Armed Forces needs."

    If this is true then why was it still rolled out? why didn't someone stop the roll out?

    "It's also well known that as of [the] going-live [date], there is no reporting functionality."

    Where did the spec sheet go? did someone lose it? how can you have a system like this with any reporting functionality?

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Where did the spec sheet go? did someone lose it?

      Since the is the Armed Forces we're talking about, I expect a very senior officer left it on a train.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        RE: "Since the is the Armed Forces we're talking about, I expect a very senior officer left it on a train."

        It's easy to forget things on the train after a project review followed by a couple of drinks with the supplier at the private members club eh what?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    SNAFU

    How could it possibly be anything else?

  10. NeedBongos

    Business Bullshit

    Another example of the Business Bullshit economy that has developed.

    Andre Spicer has shown how it has grown over the recent decades. ISBN10 1138911674

  11. WolfFan Silver badge

    Sigh

    Re that pic: the three squaddies are standing way too close to each other. And the laddie on the left needs to pay attention to where he's pointing his weapon. (Assuming that you consider a SA80 to be an actual weapon. There are some who think that the last real rifle the British Army had was the SLR; others disagree, and point to the Short Magazine Lee Enfield. A few hold out for the SMLE Mk III*.) The laddie on the right really should be told that 'tis a chin strap, not a throat strap. Ah, well, at least they're not skylined, like https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Band_of_Brothers,_101st_in_Iraq.jpg

    Re the 'recruiting' software: they should just scrap the whole thing and do things the Right And Proper Way: assign the incoming Young Gentlemen to a platoon with a sergeant who's been in the Army longer than the Young Gentlemen have been alive, and have the sergeant teach 'em the Army Way. Respectfully, of course, with a 'Sir' as the first and last words in every command he gives them. ("Sir, if you stand close together at the top of a ridge you'll get everyone killed, sir. Let's stand further apart, sir. And let's do it a bit further down from the top, sir. ")

    Finally, re Ledswinger: no, don't waste that lovely view on civil servants, get some use out of them instead. Target practice would be best.

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: Sigh

      "Respectfully, of course, with a 'Sir' as the first and last words in every command he gives them."

      Respectfully indeed as in King Hussein's amused reporting of a sergeant at Sandhurst. "You are a horrible little wog, your Majesty, Sir."

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sigh

      I remember it well - not always fondly. The sergeant (much experience and common sense) did not mince his words, but was always careful to use the word 'sir' in his diatribes. More sergeants in charge of overseeing procurement might solve many problems.

    3. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: Sigh

      don't waste that lovely view on civil servants, get some use out of them instead. Target practice would be best.

      I like that idea. Maybe strap them to floats, and then send the Navy to waste them with a Kryten from about eight miles. Given the dismal accuracy of any 4.5 incher, there would be hours of entertainment before they landed a shell near enough to erase the civil servant. Then you float out the next one.

      That of course assumes that after the MoD's efforts, the RN could find a crew, a working ship, that the gun was serviceable, and they'd bought shells that would go "bang". Possibly the MoD have messed things up so badly that the only weapons the British military have that work are bayonets. In which case we might need to hand the guilty over to the Russian navy, and tell them that these people are convincing liars, but are in fact Somali pirates, and should be treated the way the Russians like to deal with all pirates.

  12. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    No no no, you all have it wrong...

    The future of application development is the delivery of containerised minimal viable product (who the hell cares if that "minimum" isn't actually viable or productive) and then agile DevOps and continuous delivery will magically take care of the rest.

    Simple. At least that's what the salesmen are saying, and surely they can't be wrong, right?

  13. Tubz

    Delayed rather than missing, about sums up the capabilities of Crap-at-that !

  14. JJKing Bronze badge
    Flame

    How bloody typical.

    So they have been left, right, left, right in the shit until march? (Sorry, that was really, really bad)

    So which sub-continent company was responsible for that coding shite? I suppose that contract will not have a clause that states if the shit don't work, you don't get paid and now the sub-continent company will get paid even more to fix up their crap mess.

    Just love the way pollies in every country on this planet squander and/or pilfer the taxpayer's money yet still sleep soundly at night and never take responsibility for their cockups. They should all lose their bloody pensions and not be allowed to claim any unemployment benefits.

    Firing squads are too good for those arseholes.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: How bloody typical.

      JJKing

      1.) We elect the politicians (where we are lucky enough to have the opportunity)- it's our fault if we elect idiots.

      2.) It's civil servants who chose these companies to do their work for them, not politicians, and they are employed to do something other than get the best product - usually the cheapest. It's our fault if we want to have services without paying taxes.

      3.) The big outsourcing companies out-gun the civil service when it comes to negotiating contracts or understanding the technicalities of the product, because the civil servants aren't employed or paid to have those skills.

      4) It is built into current political thinking that anything the private sector does must be better than an in-house team, because of "enterprise" which is seen as being better than commitment or loyalty.

      5.) Public and private organisations equally seem to think that the people who use the products are the last ones who should have any say in the design or function - think Microsoft.

      6.) The undoubted corruption of having the revolving door into lucrative posts with big companies for top civil employees is a failure both of political will and corporate ethics.

      1. Captain DaFt

        Re: How bloody typical.

        1.) We elect the politicians (where we are lucky enough to have the opportunity)- it's our fault if we elect idiots.

        Ah! But when the only choice is "Left leaning idiot" or "right leaning idiot", what then?

        Do it American style and vote for the "blithering idiot"?

        1. Ledswinger Silver badge

          Re: How bloody typical.

          Do it American style and vote for the "blithering idiot"?

          Don't you think Mrs May's track record of unbelievably poor decisions fully qualifies her as a BI ?

          Ignoring the world class stupidity of throwing away a bar working majority for no reason whatsoever in an election that neither she or her party had prepared for, FFS, she's let Smeagol Gove back into the Cabinet. EVERYBODY hates Smeagol. Every Tory, every opposition politician, every schoolteacher, every schoolkid (even if they don't know it). Anybody with an eye for style, or beauty. Anybody that can think. Hell, that bloke who cemented his head in a microwave probably hates Gove.

          In fact, why can't we have Gove's head shoved in a microwave, and then fill the cavity with expanding foam (no plastic bag or polythene tube, natch). By the time the fire brigade arrive, the deed would be done.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: How bloody typical.

        "We elect the politicians (where we are lucky enough to have the opportunity)- it's our fault if we elect idiots."

        You know what they say - whoever you vote for you always get a politician.

  15. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    FAIL

    The fail here is of course there is an *existing* system you can use as a model.

    So

    "Mr/Col/Cpt/Sgt/Pvt X what features do you like about the present system and would like to keep?

    "What jobs are particularly difficult using it?"

    "Does it have any faults you have to workaround, and what are they?"

    "Does it have any faults you cannot work around and must be avoided at all costs?"

    "What things would you like it to do better or faster?"

    "What additional things would you like it to do that it doesn't do now ?"

    Meanwhile team 2 is dumping the database schema to figure out what's stored, what else needs to be stored, what should be stored etc.

    I have no idea how to write an armed forces recruiting system. But the fact one already exists gives me a whole bunch of users (at all levels) who can tell me what they want and need even if the PTB can't, starting with the minimal "Do what what the current system does at least as well as it does it."

    Yes I know that should be f**king obvious, but (1st rule of dealing with con-sultants) if you don't spell it out you don't get it.

    Wheather or not the PTB would fund everything the users want is another matter, which is where you have to prioritize between "Must have" "Really useful to have" and "Nice to have."

    1. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: The fail here is of course there is an *existing* system you can use as a model.

      Dump of the database schema? Why stop there? Existing source code should give a sound foundation for any new implementation. Not available, you say? Commercially sensitive? But we based our bid on using the existing code!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The fail here is of course there is an *existing* system you can use as a model.

      All they had was copy the existing system alter slightly to fit the updated recruiting process. There staff have been using it to run the recruiting since the start the contract. They originally said they would just customise a COTS product but failed and started again. Somehow got away with blaming the ATLAS not having a data center ready.

      The existing system could easily have be adjusted to incorporate updated recruiting process but is written by competitor.

      Maybe the MOD should in house the existing application?

  16. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    What's in a name?

    I wonder if, in coming up with the name "Capita", were they influenced by the word "Capital" and synonyms such as "Excellent", "Cool", "Fine", "Awsome" etc

    https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english-thesaurus/capital

    https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english-thesaurus/excellent

    Their work appears to be anything but excellent going from the tales that one reads about them in the media.

    1. Captain DaFt

      Re: What's in a name?

      I wonder if, in coming up with the name "Capita", were they influenced by the word "Capital" and synonyms such as "Excellent", "Cool", "Fine", "Awsome" etc

      Yo're on the wrong scent there. "Capital" is also a synonym for "money", the only thing important to Capita.

      (besides more money)

  17. Mark M.

    £1.3B project expenditure and no viable end product in sight

    This just means most of the budget so far has been wasted on tickboxing exercises from project manglement and other IT non-job manglement all trying to "make their mark" in the project. The term "Agile" is something that goes over the heads of these entrenched civil servant career-manglers at supersonic speed.

    The poor solution architect & lead developer have to deal with all these fingers in the pie which inevitably understeers or oversteers the end product requirements way off course with the end result that they are the ones that cop all the blame.

  18. This post has been deleted by its author

  19. Paul

    Minimum viable product

    A friend worked at crapita, there were two things he hated. One was having to commute into London. But by far the biggest was crapita's mantra of "minimum viable product". I.e. What is the least they can do to satisfy the contractual terms? This allows them to put in low bids for contracts, knowing they'll pick up lots of work fixing design flaws.

    This, coupled with basic IT illiteracy* in the government and the default choice of taking the cheapest, leads to the usual clutterfunk situation.

    * e.g. I recall the head of the home office (I think) complaining about how salaries of IT people were too high because she didn't think it was a skilled job!

  20. Paul 87

    For all the people wondering what went wrong, they've probably never implemented a core process piece of business software using an "off the shelf" product. It gets even more complicated when dealing with large organisations because often the points of contact tend to be the lighrer process users rather than the day to day people, and even if you do talk to the right people, humans tend to miss details out like Active / Reservist distinctions

  21. jms222 Bronze badge

    I suspect what is optimistically called a "spec sheet" above was a 200,000 page document written by those paid by the page that nobody understood so they simply signed it and passed it on.

    1. EnviableOne Bronze badge

      Knowing military procurement, it probably statrted the project as a one sheet and through weekley progress meetings and scope reviews becam a 500k page monalith of competing and contradicting requirements.

      But its noce to see that the civil servants wont be fired over the negligent waste of public money yet again. I think all companies under the Capita banner should be banned from recieving any government contracts for 5 years, and the same should be for all the others that spend billions of public money and achieve nothing.

      Conversley, someone needs to teach the civil service to write a contract and a soec and stick to it, and someone on the inside (preferably quite senior in the department) needs to carry the can for not taking the £50m cancelation before the spend was into the 100s of millions, or even putting a charge on it in the first place.

  22. paulc

    Use Cases?

    Didn't they do any?

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