I mentioned in an earlier post the fact that the Queensland (QLD) government has decided to blacklist IBM due to its poor performance with the implementation of the Health Payroll System.
In today’s post I would like to focus on some of the findings of the Commission of Inquiry, established by the QLD government to investigate the circumstances leading up to this failed project (see the full report HERE).
The common thread shining throughout the report is that of prolonged incompetency and greed. IBM is accused of serious ethical transgressions and the QLD government for giving up a number of important opportunities to restore the project to a stable footing.
Some of the report’s observations are highlighted below:
The problems with the Project come down, in large part, to multiple failures by multiple people to discharge their responsibilities properly.
In particular, the problems might be summarised as follows:
a. the scoping of the system (ie its definition) was seriously deficient and remained highly unstable for the duration of the Project. That being so, and although the problem was firmly known to each party, no effective measures were taken to rectify the problem or to reset the Project;
b. the State, who would ultimately bear the risk of a dysfunctional payroll system, gave up several important opportunities to restore the Project to a stable footing and to ensure that the system of which it would ultimately take delivery was functional…
c. the decision to Go Live miscarried, both because it ought to have been obvious to those with responsibility for making that decision that the system would not be functional and because the decision to Go Live involved no proper and measured assessment of the true risks involved in doing so;
d. the system, when it went live, failed to function in a way in which any payroll system, even one which was interim and to have minimal functionality only, ought to have done.
The story of the Project’s conception through to its implementation is one of bad decisions:
- a failure of State employees in particular properly and diligently to discharge their responsibilities;
- IBM as a commercially motivated vendor doing little to rectify or make up for the State’s shortcomings;
- the State lacking in discipline in expending very large amounts of taxpayers’ funds; and, i
- n general, an almost total reluctance by both parties to face what had become obvious at a relatively early stage of the Project, that the system which the State had commissioned and which IBM was to deliver would be seriously deficient and not operate as any payroll system ought, namely to pay staff on time and to do so accurately.
That, for both parties, ought to have caused them to take measures to avoid the inevitability of a seriously flawed system. The implementation of it brings discredit to them both: the State for its imprudent and uncontrolled expenditure of taxpayer funds and its failure to ensure public servants were paid and paid accurately; and IBM because it is in part responsible for a system which, on any measure (whether it be cost, customer management or simply its having implemented a system for a large customer which did not operate as it ought), was a failure….
The system was inadequately scoped and neither party took any effective measures to stabilise it. Both parties ignored all the warning signs of a project in serious distress. Rather than reset the Project or take decisive steps to put it on a stable course, they altered or lowered the thresholds which had been put in place to protect against the very thing which eventuated: a system of poor quality which was not ready to Go Live. Doing so meant that the system, when it went live, would not be functional and constituted a clear breach of the most fundamental principles of project management.
If not for the impact that this project has had on people, who’s salaries and livelihood were affected, the report could have been a fascinating reading material. As you make your way through the many junction points where bad decisions were made and inappropriate behavior was exhibited you cannot but wonder how the scenario has unfolded to the point where Queenslanders will now have to fork out $1.2B over the next 8 years just to keep the system going.
Certainly something to think about!