Police Scotland

The following entry is a record in the “Catalogue of Catastrophe” – a list of failed or troubled projects from around the world.

Organization: Scottish Police Authority – UK
Project type : Policing information management system
Project name :
Date : Mar 2017
Cost : £200m lost opportunity

Synopsis :
While I often write about the direct impacts failed projects have on an organization it is also worth remember that each failed project is an investment that failed to yield its intended benefits. The loss of those benefits (the ‘benefits shortfall’ cost) is often a far larger impact than the direct impact of the failed project itself.

Source – Wikicommons – Steven Straiton – CC BY 2.0

An example that helps illustrate the costs is the Scottish Police Authority’s (SPA) i6 system. Intended to help manage the enormous volumes of information the organization generates on a daily basis, SPA was hoping that the system would result in £200 million cost savings over a ten year period. In the end those benefits were never achieved and while the cost of the cancelled project is a bitter pill to swallow, the loss of the anticipated benefits is the impact that lingers.

On paper the plan sounded relatively simple. An existing system sourced from a large, well-known consulting company provided the start point and the system was to be customized to meet the project’s specific requirements. As regular readers will know, these ‘simple customization’ type projects are sometimes much more complex than they first appeared and the i6 system represents a classic example of the phenomena. After 4 years of effort the project was unfortunately cancelled.

Key points from the Audit Scotland auditor’s report from 2016 helps fill in the story….

  1. In June 2013, Accenture was awarded a fixed price contract worth £46.11 million. Within weeks, and despite 18-months of pre-award discussion, Police Scotland and Accenture disagreed about whether the proposed system would deliver the requirements set out in the contract.
  2. A period of negotiation followed, during which Police Scotland and Accenture disagreed over the interpretation of the contract and the requirements of the system. In April 2014, the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and Accenture signed a contract variation agreement. This early disagreement contributed to a breakdown in relationships and a loss of trust between Police Scotland and Accenture that never fully recovered.
  3. The i6 programme was complex and highly ambitious. Police Scotland and Accenture originally believed that the majority of the i6 system could be based on an existing IT system that Accenture had delivered elsewhere. This belief was incorrect. As the design and development of i6 progressed, it became apparent that Accenture would need
    to develop significantly more than had been originally anticipated. Despite delays and serious problems throughout the lifetime of the programme, Accenture provided regular assurance, in the face of strong challenge, about their confidence in delivering the i6 system. This assurance proved misplaced.
  4. The method adopted for developing the i6 system meant that the full scale of difficulties facing i6 ultimately became clear in August 2015 when the system was passed to Police Scotland for testing. There were fundamental flaws and serious errors. At this point, Accenture estimated that meeting the requirements of the contract would take an additional two and a half years, with go live being delayed until April 2018, almost four years later than originally planned. After a series of meetings, the SPA and Accenture mutually agreed to terminate the i6 contract.
  5. The contract enabled the SPA to secure a settlement agreement of £24.65 million. This meant that Accenture agreed to refund the £11.09 million that the SPA had paid, and to make an additional payment of £13.56 million. This reflects estimated staff costs and capital costs such as hardware maintenance and software licenses associated with i6.
  6. The failure of the i6 programme means that some of the benefits of police reform that should have arisen from implementing it, have been, at best, delayed. There is an urgent need for the SPA and Police Scotland 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.

While SPA did recoup some of their investment costs, the £200 million in anticipated benefits vanished into the Scottish mist.

Contributing factors as reported in the press:
Failure to prototype and maintain regular visibility into the design. Underestimation of complexity. Requirements management failures.

Related stories:

  1. Lidl Stiftung & Co. KG – A further illustration of how bending an existing system to meet client requirements can sometimes break the system.

Reference links:

  1. ‘Lost’ £200m in savings after police IT scheme collapses
  2. Auditors general report