Government assessment shows 17 major ICT programmes at risk of failure

Written by Rebecca Hill on 8 July 2016 in News

Successful completion of 17 of the government’s major ICT programmes is unachievable or highly unlikely, according to the Infrastructure and Projects Authority’s annual report.

A number of Whitehall ICT programmes are facing failure - Photo credit: PA

The report looks at the government’s largest, most innovative and high-risk projects and programmes, ranking them based on how likely it is that they will be successful.

Of the total 143 projects, 44 are red or amber/red, where red indicates they “appear to be unachievable”, and amber/red means successful delivery is in doubt, with major risks in a number of key areas. The IPA says that such projects require urgent attention or possibly wholesale re-scoping.

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The IPA defines 53 as being related to major government transformation projects – of which 19 are flagged red or amber-red – and 36 as ICT focused.

The ICT projects have a total combined life cost of £15.8 billion, and just two of these gain the best rating, green, while five are rated amber-green and 11 amber.

Some of the ICT projects flagged as red include the Department for Transport’s £222-million shift to shared services and the upgrade of the Home Office’s £185m Adelphi programme, which will see the Home Office migrate from its Oracle Enterprise Resource Planning system to a shared services system.

The Home Office said the red rating is because of delays in the ‘go live’ date in the cross-government programme and the costs of running on existing systems for longer than planned.

HMRC’s Columbus programme, which is managing the exit of the department’s long-term Aspire IT contract is rated as amber-red, although HMRC’s own notes said that the project had made “significant progress” since the IPA’s assessment.

The IPA acknowledges the challenges associated with the number of IT contracts that are scheduled to expire over the course of the parliament, and says it is working with the Government Digital Service and individual departments to offer more support to help exit these contracts.

In addition, it is working to design and implement a new project performance framework to help it assess the success of major projects. This will ask all major projects to set a baseline cost, schedule and benefits data, against which future progress will be measured.

Meanwhile, the Home Office also has a number of technology projects ranked amber-red, including its £208m immigration platform technologies programme – which includes single-sign on for visas – and its £369m programme for replacing its IT systems, known as technology platforms for tomorrow.

The Ministry of Justice’s £1.7bn Future Information technology Sourcing programme, which aims to deliver £95m of annual savings in operating costs through the implementation of a new ICT operating model, is also flagged as amber-red. It is described as complex, and the full business case is under review.

A number of services at the Department of Health rank poorly, with projects to update the NHS staff record procurement system, replace the existing NHSmail system and turn NHS Choices into multi-channel platform for the whole healthcare system receiving an amber-red ranking.

Meanwhile, more successful projects include the Cabinet Office’s GOV.UK Verify system and DH’s programme to develop clinical IT systems in GP practices, which both received an amber-green ranking. 

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