Tag Archives: IT project

Australian state of Victoria scraps A$500m e-health IT project

By David Bicknell

The Australian state of Victoria has scrapped a A$500m e-health IT project intended to create electronic patient records and prescriptions and will replace it with a ‘patchwork approach.’

According to a report in Victoria’s Herald Sun, Health Minister David Davis confirmed that the government had made a decision to scrap any further rollout of HealthSMART, a project to modernise the health system’s IT which began in 2003.

Davis said the Government would now work on a hospital-by-hospital basis, setting up individual  systems.

The HealthSMART rollout began under the previous state Labour government and is now fully operational at just four health services across Victoria.

In a telling quote, Mr Davis said the Government was determined not to “throw more good money after bad” and would now set up an expert panel to advise it on the best way to upgrade the hospital ICT system.

HealthSMART website

Where to next for Victorian HealthSMART

The story behind India’s struggling Aakash IT project

By David Bicknell

The New York Times has carried a couple of excellent blog posts reporting on India’s struggling “Aakash” IT project.

The India Ink posts detail the story behind a plan to introduce a cheap computer built for Indian students. As the blog explains, last October, the Indian Ministry of Human Resources Development unveiled the new, $35 computer.

Now, more than six months later, with thousands of university students still waiting for the laptop, “the tale of the Aakash looks a bit like an Indian soap opera, complete with a convoluted storyline, multiple characters, and massive personality clashes.”

As India Ink says, the Aakash project, if successfully completed, could enable millions of students to connect with the larger digital world, and is being closely watched outside India as the national government tries to attract foreign investment in public-private partnerships for everything from infrastructure to vocational training.

“The original idea behind the Aakash seemed pleasantly simple. A cheap computer would benefit Indian university students by enabling them to watch lectures or get lecture notes and other class information online. In 2009, a team of government researchers developed the basic design for the low cost device.

“The job of putting the project out to bid fell to I.I.T. Rajasthan, which by spring of 2011 had received 477 million rupees — about $9.2 million — in government funds to pay for procuring and testing 100,000 low-cost tablets. In writing the tender, I.I.T. Rajasthan detailed the technical specifications for the tablet but did not specify the criteria for testing and approving the devices, according to a government source involved in the project. That omission was to prove disastrous.

Here is Part One of the tangled tale of the project, which involves issues with procurement, outsourcing, testing and governance.

And here is Part Two.

India’s $35 Aakash tablet comes apart
Aakash Tablet Problems: India’s $35 slate slammed by testers

Australia bars China’s Huawei from competing for broadband project

By David Bicknell

There is an intriguing row Down Under about the Australian Government’s decision to bar the Chinese telecomms company Huawei Technologies from competing for work on its national broadband network (NBN) project.

Australia told Huawei, one of the world’s largest telecomms equipment providers,  that it could not tender for NBN contracts because of security concerns about cyber attacks emanating from China.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she regarded the NBN as a crucial national infrastructure project.

”You would expect, as a government, we would make all of the prudent decisions to make sure that infrastructure project does what we want it to do, and we’ve taken one of those decisions,” she said, when asked about the Huawei decision at the ongoing nuclear security talks in Seoul.

The Australian Opposition said it regarded the government’s decision to ban Huawei from taking part in tenders as ”clumsy, offensive and unprofessional”.

Huawei’s spokesman Jeremy Mitchell said Australia was still getting used to privately owned Chinese companies, but Huawei would not give up on tendering for NBN projects, which are being managed by the Australian government-owned NBN Co Ltd.

”We’re not used to companies coming from China that are leading in technology and also global – 70 per cent of our work is outside of China,” Mr Mitchell said. “We see this as a setback. We’re obviously disappointed. But through looking at what we’ve done overseas, looking at what we’ve done in the United Kingdom, we can put in place measures that help the Australian government consider us as a partner in the NBN.”

Other Links

Australian Financial Review: China’s Huawei banned from NBN

BBC Business News: China’s Huawei barred from Australia broadband deal

M&A-led IT change project creates integration challenge for United Airlines

By David Bicknell

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) frequently create IT project and change management headaches when companies’ systems have to be integrated.

The latest example of a system migration creating a change headache appears to be United Airlines’ adoption of Continental Airlines’ reservations platform, as the New York Times recently reported.

The New York Times said that United Airlines suffered service problems including flight delays, faulty kiosks and jammed phone lines as it tried to work through technical problems in its efforts to combine the United and Continental reservation systems. The two companies first announced their merger in May 2010.

The United and Continental problems appear to mirror the problems that US Airways Group experienced when it tried to  combine the reservations systems of America West Airlines and US Airways following a merger in 2005.

Related Links

A Mergers & Acquisitions Playbook for CIOs, Part 1

A Mergers & Acquisitions Playbook for CIOs, Part 2

Fliers’ Alert: United, Continental merger comes Saturday

‘Penny wise and pound foolish’ to postpone IT project

By David Bicknell

Sometimes you make decisions over the future of IT systems in the public sector with the best intentions – but still you can’t win. Someone, somewhere, will be unhappy.

Yesterday, I mentioned that a $92m overhaul of a Department of Revenue system in Oregon had been postponed to save money. Now, it seems,  the postponement is a bad idea that will hamper legislators’ ability to make well-informed decisions.  

“I think it is penny wise and pound foolish, if I could use an old saw,” said Vicki Berger, co-chair of the committee that oversees state taxing and revenue policy, according to the Statesman Journal. “We have to bite the bullet. We have to get a better system. We have to know better, more viable information on what impacts our revenue stream.”

Richard Devlin, co-chair of the legislature’s Joint Legislative Audits, Information Management and Technology Committee, has reportedly characterised the announcement as a “nine-month delay” rather than a cancellation of the project.

“I don’t see that as an end to the project, because the need is very real. They need to upgrade their systems, and they will continue to work to that end,” said Devlin. “I can understand the counter-argument, that you do have antiquated systems in the Department of Revenue, but I think citizens in Oregon would want when we invest in this fully that we do it right,” he continued. “I would not want to spend $92 million and then have a project that doesn’t really work.”


It’s a sign of the times that you can get such polarised views over the future of an IT project, but it’s perhaps not surprising when the project is going to cost $92m. I think the current climate is likely to see cost/benefits for IT projects become an issue for many organisations, both in the public and private sectors, but especially in the public sector.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that IT projects are at risk, simply that those making decisions on new systems/upgrades are going to need hard evidence of the real change benefits to justify any decision they make to proceed.

US state government and defence IT projects face uncertain future

By David Bicknell

Local newspapers in the US are offering some insight into the cloudy future of two significant IT projects.

In Salem, Oregon, a planned $92 million upgrade of the state’s Department of Revenue computer system is reportedly on hold because the state can’t afford $13 million in start-up costs.

The Register-Guard website says local officials chose to put the  project on hold rather than ask legislators to make a choice between paying for the computer system and paying for public safety and human services.

The computer system is said to be responsible for processing $7 billion a year and 94 percent of Oregon’s general fund revenue, but officials are apparently concerned about its future effectiveness.

The agency’s ability to collect taxes rests on a “myriad of disparate, aging software applications and databases,” according to a 96-page business analysis the Department of Revenue produced in 2010.

Meanwhile,  in Beavercreek, Ohio, a US Air Force computer modernisation project which has already cost $1 billion, is said to be at risk of Washington defence cuts.

US Air Force officials have acknowledged that the Expeditionary Combat Support System project, on which at least $986.5 million has been spent, won’t be completed in 2016 as had been hoped. Work began in 2007, but the local Springfield News-Sun newspaper reports that the completion date has been repeatedly postponed because of delays.

US report suggests huge FISCal IT project may be ‘running into some hurdles’

By David Bicknell

A report from the US has cast doubt on the progress of a major financial system for the state of California.

CivSource suggests that the IT project,  a business transformation project for the state government in the areas of budgeting, accounting, and procurement, is “running into some hurdles. The Financial Information System for California (FISCal), was supposed to streamline IT costs and staffing but seems to be hitting snags for exactly those reasons.”

So far, CivSource says, “…the project has cost over $60 million with final costs stretching into over a billion over the next 12 years. Supporters of the system say that the state needs to spend this money in order to upgrade legacy systems and modernise processes.

“However, long term cost-estimates of the project are still up in the air. As are claims that systems will be modernised if the proposed build out lasts over a decade. Future funding is also uncertain as the state faces unprecedented rolling budget crises.”

An LA Times article previously suggested that the system was at one point $300 million over budget and three years behind schedule.  It argues that despite its Silicon Valley technology expertise, California has a poor track record of delivering successful IT projects.

In our book on IT projects, ‘Crash’, Tony Collins and I reported on the problems with the Department of Motor Vehicles project  which was cancelled in 1994 at a cost of around $50m.  $50m would be a snip compared to the financial muscle which may be needed to finally deliver FISCal.

FISCal project site

FBI chooses Accenture for IT project to modernise its HR systems

By David Bicknell

Yesterday I mentioned the challenges that the FBI is having in bringing a case management IT project in on time.

It’s good to know then that the FBI will now be assisted in its ongoing delivery of IT by Accenture.  Not for the case management project, but for an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system  to support the FBI’s Human Resources Information System (HRIS).

The award, under a  General Services Administration IT schedule that provides technology support services to the FBI through a ‘Blanket Purchase Agreement’ (BPA) plus four task orders’ will enable Accenture Federal Services to oversee selection, installation, testing and support to the agency’s HR systems.  Accenture also will complete a fit gap analysis to determine possible future costs to replace the FBI’s current HRIS systems.

Accenture said that by modernising its Human Resources information System, the FBI ‘will be able to increase effectiveness and streamline processes. These improvements will help the FBI develop a modern, on-demand system for accessing personnel information.’

The contract, which includes one base year with four option periods, also requires Accenture to submit a report with recommendations the FBI can use to determine whether to customise software, re-engineer business processes or combine both options to support future needs.   
Accenture, as its press release puts it, will also be ‘eligible to receive additional task orders under the BPA.’