Saturday, 17 January 2009

War is Dell: another EDS/MoD success story

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has just reported that the Armed Forces' Defence Information Infrastructure (DII) programme is so far behind schedule that not only is it costing £millions more to implement but also that it is putting the country at risk as national security is having to rely on obsolete systems.

The Basics
  • The MoD needs high quality, fully integrated information technology to achieve its goals, both on operations and in the UK.
  • It is currently replacing hundreds of existing computer systems with a single new system, called the Defence Information Infrastructure (DII). This is being developed by the ATLAS consortium led by the infamous, many would say disastrous, US IT company EDS.
  • The MoD intends to have some 150,000 terminals supporting 300,000 users at more than 2,000 sites, with additional capability on deployed operations and Royal Navy ships.
  • DII must be able to handle material classified as Restricted, Secret and Top Secret.
  • The DII programme began in March 2005 and will cost an estimated £7.1 billion by 2015, if fully implemented.

What's gone wrong

  • The implementation of DII has suffered from major delays.The Committee questioned the choice of the Atlas consortium - especially EDS which was been responsible for other troubled Government IT projects including the notorious Child Support Agency system - to deliver the programme. Committee chairman Edward Leigh described EDS as "a company whose track record of delivering Government IT projects has not been exemplary" and said that the consortium had "underestimated" the complexity of the software it was creating.
  • Whereas 62,800 terminals should have been installed by the end of July 2007, only 45,600 were in place at the end of September 2008!
  • The main causes of delay were the programme’s over-optimistic assumptions about the condition of the buildings into which DII would be fitted and the consequent selection of an inappropriate and unresponsive methodology for installing terminals.
  • DII also provides a range of core software such as word processing, email, internet access and security to run on the new system. This should all have been available in June 2006, but less than half of the requirement had been delivered two years later in June 2008!
  • The slow pace of software design has been caused primarily by the ATLAS consortium’s inability to meet the MoD's requirements.

The result

  • The MoD’s existing computer systems have had to be used for longer than intended, with the increased risk that one or more of them will fail.
  • The forecast cost of the DII Programme has also increased by an estimated £182 million.
    Although the MoD has been able to protect benefits of the programme, some benefits will materialise later than planned.
  • The programme is 18 months behind schedule. Currently implementing 3,400 units per month, the rate need to increase to 4,300 if the MoD's latest deadlines are to be met.

So there you have it.

HofC Public Accounts Committee: Defence Information Infrastructure
The Sun: £1billion MoD PC blunders
The Register: MPs bitchslap MoD mega-IT architecture project