Housing Corporation orders a review of £17m IT modernisation


Housing Corporation orders a review of £17m IT modernisation

Bill Goodwin

The Housing Corporation has ordered an external review of its £17m IT modernisation programme, which is running more than a year behind schedule after facing technical problems and slipping deadlines.

The seven-year contract with Elonex, signed in 2003, was intended to cut IT running costs and improve the corporation's quality of service by replacing desktop PCs with thin clients that access finance and investment software hosted by Elonex.

The application service provider (ASP) project is critical to plans by the Housing Corporation, a quango responsible for distributing £2bn of public money per year to fund housing projects, to replace obsolete IT systems, including its main financial system.

The corporation decided to order an external review of the project after technical problems forced the corporation to abandon the thin client solution and the project missed key handover milestones in June.

London-based IT and business consultancy Methods Consulting will conduct a complete review of the project following "legitimate concerns" over the "commissioning and implementation" of the project, the Housing Corporation said last month.

Housing Corporation chief executive Jon Rouse told Computer Weekly, "My priority has been to turn around this project as quickly as possible and that has been substantially achieved. Going forward, I am determined that if there are lessons to be learned we will take them on board."

The external review, which is expected to report back in the autumn, is being overseen by a steering group including the head of IT at the Housing Corporation, and other Housing Corporation executives.

Technical difficulties led to a decision to drop plans to roll out thin clients to staff and install new desktop PCs instead, at extra cost.

Rouse told staff in a letter last year that he had reached the end of his tether with the project, which he inherited from his predecessor.

"The proposed implementation approach based on a thin client solution was not working technically. I have therefore ditched a significant part of the ASP strategy. It will cost us more upfront, but now is not the time for false economies," he said.

Elonex did not respond to Computer Weekly's requests for information about the project.

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