Audit Commission report severely criticises Surrey Police over poor project governance
A condemnatory report published this week by auditors Grant Thornton on behalf of the Audit Commission has concluded that Surrey Police’s failed £15 million IT project, the Surrey Integrated Reporting Enterprise Network (SIREN), was ‘poorly managed’ and that ‘there were clear issues with project management, project progress and the overall status of the work’.
SIREN was developed by Memex Technology Ltd (a Scottish IT firm subsequently acquired by SAS) as an integrated crime and intelligence records system, but after £14.8 million was spent on the project by Surrey Police over eight years, the force’s new Chief Constable, Lynne Owens, pulled the plug on it. SIREN was replaced by Niche, a less costly, off-the-shelf system used by 13 other police forces.
Surrey’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Kevin Hurley, has called for Mark Rowley – the Chief Constable at the time of the doomed project – to be held to account for the fiasco.
Poor project governance
The audit report concluded that cost was ‘poorly controlled’, reporting was ‘not always representative of actual progress made by the project’, benefits ‘were overstated, quickly diminished from the outset and ultimately were never delivered’, and that ‘the quality of reporting contained significant weaknesses’.
All in all, the project seems to have been a disaster from start to finish. So how could this controversial waste of public money have been prevented?
The clear conclusion is that poor project governance and a lack of skills caused the catastrophic failure of this IT project. The Agile methodology was used in the SIREN project but, as the report states, the ‘Force and its staff had very limited experience of managing projects using Agile… The Force’s corporate change and project management structures were based on the PRINCE2® methodology…There was a failure to understand what was required under the Agile project management approach and the use of the Agile methodology was not effective.’
Skills and training
With the requisite knowledge there ought, in fact, to be no obstacle to using PRINCE2® and Agile together, but the importance of adequate skills and training for any project cannot be underestimated whatever management framework you’re using for your IT project.