The government has revealed that a number of major IT projects are at risk of failure and need urgent action, including both Universal Credit and the G-Cloud programme.
Data has been released by the Major Projects Authority (MPA), which is charged with assessing the performance of expensive and important projects in government. These projects are worth over £350 billion.
It gave eight out of a possible 191 major projects a red rating, which labels the projects as appearing to be unachievable. At least four of these eight red rated projects are for new IT systems.
For example, the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) Shared Services Programme, which aims to deliver a single professional MoJ Shared Services Organisation, supported by an ERP system that provides HR, payroll, finance and requisition to pay transactional services, was given a red rating.
The MPA found that the MoJ was forecasting an initial deployment in late 2012 and completion in 2013, because of issues with the progress of the application design and infrastructure design for the new ERP system, completion will now not be possible before 2014. Forecast costs for the project are set to reach £127 million.
Two projects at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) were also branded with the red rating, including the department’s £5 billion Defence Core Network Services programme, which is responsible for replacing the MoD’s major information and communication systems. Its £1 billion intelligence Watchkeeper project is also considered ‘unachievable’, according to the MPA.
Elsewhere, the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) flagship Universal Credit programme to overhaul the benefits system, which has seen a number of changes in leadership and growing speculation that the project is in trouble, was given an amber/red rating. This, according to the MPA, means that the “successful delivery of the project is in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas”.
It also means that “urgent action is needed to ensure these are addressed, and whether resolution is feasible.”
However, the report claims that the rating was given to the project from data received in September last year and since then delivery of the £12 billion project has seen “significant progress”. It cited the successful launch of the Pathfinder in the Greater Manchester and good leadership under Howard Shiplee, the man responsible for building the Olympic Park.
Furthermore, the Cabinet Office’s G-Cloud programme, an iterative framework and online catalogue for public cloud services, was also given the amber/red rating. The MPA said that although the programme has received an enthusiastic response from suppliers, particularly SMEs, it still faces a number of significant challenges.
“In particular, departments have yet to fully change their culture in terms of approach to ICT as old ways of doing things are so deeply engrained. Key to this is a reshaping of the programme to focus on the commercial aspects of the CloudStore as a retail proposition, improving the user experience and engaging the buying community more directly in the objectives of the programme,” said the MPA.
“Crucial to large scale take-up will be working with departments and the Cabinet Office spending controls team to enforce use of the CloudStore across central government.”
It added: “Scaling G-Cloud has been difficult to achieve to date due to the team’s focus on the start-up activities and the lack of appropriate funds and resources.”
The report stated that a commercial business case is being drafted to release funds and headcount to reach the ambitious cultural and financial objectives.
David Pitchford, Head of the Major Projects Authority, said: “I’ve led major projects around the world and I have to say that when I started this job in the UK standards were not great. There have been big changes and Britain is now well on the way to becoming world-class.
“The Major Projects Authority has real power to intervene in failing projects and stop taxpayers’ money being wasted.”
He added: “Of course it’s just the start, we must keep up the pressure all the time – our annual report will make sure that happens.”