Waterfall approach 'contributed' to failure of £46m project to build Scottish police IT system

Written by Rebecca Hill on 10 March 2017 in News
News

Accenture “underestimated the complexity” of the project to build a national IT system for Police Scotland, with the decision to use a waterfall approach being a major reason for its failure, a report has said.

Audit Scotland said that the failure of the project had held back urgent reforms to police ICT systems in Scotland - Photo credit: Flickr, Ninian Read, CC BY 2.0

The £46.11m contract, was awarded to Accenture in 2010 and was meant to run for 10 years, but was terminated in July 2016 after a series of errors saw it running four years behind schedule.

In a report on the project, Audit Scotland said that the programme, called i6, was a crucial part of police reform in the nation and that the failure had held back urgently needed police ICT reforms.

The report said that there was no single reason for the failure, identifying as contributing factors Accenture’s decision to take a waterfall approach, a fundamental loss of trust between the partners, and an underestimation of the complexities of the project.


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Audit Scotland said that, despite there being 18 months of pre-award discussion about the contract, Police Scotland and Accenture disagreed “within weeks” about whether the proposed system would deliver the contract’s requirements.

“This led to a rapid loss of trust which never fully recovered, and recurring disputes about the project's scope,” Audit Scotland said.

Meanwhile, Accenture decided to take a waterfall approach to delivery, which Audit Scotland meant that “fundamental flaws and serious errors” in the system were only discovered when it was too late.

“The waterfall approach contributed to the fact that the Police Scotland only discovered the true extent of problems with the system when it was delivered for testing,” the report said.

Accenture began testing the product in January 2015, four months behind schedule, and found various technical problems, but said they would be resolved, and in February said its overall confidence in delivering the programme was 90%.

However, when the system was released to Police Scotland in June 2015, they raised a number of concerns, including “critical errors in the technical coding” and “serious concerns” that the criminal justice module did not comply with data standards.

Despite this, Accenture said it was 91% confident it would be able to meet the go-live date of December 2015 – however when the time came, the supplier said it would need another 30 months to complete the project.

At that time, Police Scotland estimated that the level of effort Accenture needed to complete i6 was “around eight times greater” than its original estimate.

It concluded that Accenture had overstated its ability to deliver the programme and underestimated the complexity of the system, believing – incorrectly – that it could base much of its work on a system it had provided to Spain’s Guardia Civil.

The organisations mutually agreed to terminate the contract, and Accenture had to pay the Scottish Police Authority £24.65m for the failure: £11.09m to cover payments that had already been made and £13.56m for staff and capital costs.

The report said that the failure of the project has delayed urgently-needed reforms to the police ICT systems in Scotland and hindered the way Police Scotland interacts and share information with other parts of the justice system.

“There is an urgent need to determine what the next steps should be, and to carry out an honest assessment of how to procure, develop and deliver the much-needed police IT system,” it said.

Audit Scotland’s report comes a week after Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary issued a review of police efficiency that that it was “concerned that police forces are not keeping pace” with technology or making proper use of digital investigative opportunities.

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