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Top 10 enterprise IT disasters

Top 10 enterprise IT disasters

Some notable tech disasters in recent times

3. Queensland Health’s payroll system

Support for Queensland Health’s LATTICE system expired in September 2008 and the agency – which is responsible for paying around 78,000 staff and $210 million in salaries every two weeks – was in dire need of a replacement system.

The complex system replacement covered 206 individual allowances across 13 awards and five industrial agreements.

The project was in trouble from the start. Between early 2008 and March 2010, IBM Australia, the prime contractor, submitted 47 change requests to the government’s shared services provider CorpTech.

These requests were apparently a result of poorly defined business requirements created at the start of the project. But CorpTech approved the requests.

The Queensland auditor-general’s report stated: ‘During October 2008, detailed planning revealed that the program had been severely underestimated, with the consequence that its revised implementation cost estimates significantly exceeded the original tender proposal.”

This train wreck of a project, which went live in 2010, left thousands of workers unpaid and underpaid for weeks. A total of $120 million was overpaid to more than 61,000 staff. In January, Queensland Health staff said they were committed to handing back overpayments worth $3.5 million

This debacle will eventually cost the state of Queensland $1.2 billion over eight years.

However, the Newman government last year released a new IT strategy to shift wasteful methods of accessing and delivering technology services to more efficient ICT-as-a-service agreements. The government also unveiled an ICT action plan for better managing ICT rollouts.

Other Queensland government IT projects are also currently lagging.

2. Office of Personnel Management

Now for something a little different. For the past 37 years, around 600 staff employed by the Office of Personnel Management in the United States have been processing the retirement papers of US government employees.

Since 1977, US government administrators have reportedly shelled out more than $100 million in an attempt to automate and digitise this paper-based process by introducing technology. They have failed.

Around $25 million was spent between 1987 and 1996 before the plug was pulled because a new system didn't work. The government tried again in 1997, initially attempting to revamp the system using internal resources before hiring contractors for a system that would be ready by 2008.

But by 2007, the Retirement Systems Modernization Program was not working with a quoted 18 per cent success rate during "stress tests."

In a fascinating article published last month in the The Washington Post Robert Danbeck, who was overseeing this project at the time, said the system "had trouble synthesising information from so many sources and calculations based on so many laws."

The system eventually went live in early 2008 before breaking and being scrapped. More than $106 million was spent and the paper-based filing system remains.

1. U.K. National Health Service system

Our number one project disaster is the massive £12 billion plan to create the world’s largest civilian database linking all parts of the UK’s National Health Service, initially launched in 2002. The project was in disarray from the beginning, missing initial deadlines in 2007, and eventually being scrapped by the UK government in September 2011.

The nine-year debacle, under the National Programme for IT, was way over cost and years behind schedule due to technical issues, issues with vendors and constantly changing system specifications.

In early 2012, one of the primary suppliers, CSC made a $1.49 billion write-off against the botched project. A report last year claimed the failed project had cost UK taxpayers £10bn to date with the final bill expected to be "several hundreds of millions of pounds higher."

Follow Byron Connolly on Twitter: @ByronConnolly

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