Bosses' e-mails reveal Co-op's distrust of ICL

The Co-operative Group awarded an ill-fated IT contract to ICL despite a deep-seated suspicion of the supplier among Co-op's...

The Co-operative Group awarded an ill-fated IT contract to ICL despite a deep-seated suspicion of the supplier among Co-op's senior managers and IT staff, internal e-mails disclosed in an £11m court battle between the two companies have revealed.

A series of frank and often embarrassing exchanges between IT staff at the retailer, weeks after the Co-op gave ICL the go-ahead for the contract, show that there was "complete distrust" of the supplier at the top of the organisation.

Only two months into the project, the Co-op's IT director warned his staff to keep a close eye on ICL and report any attempts to inflate prices and charge for meetings as soon as they happened.

"The debate around ICL and its ability to do anything successfully has gone right to the top of our organisation...  there is complete distrust of ICL at senior levels," he told them.

The Co-op was convinced that ICL would "try every trick in the book" to blame it for any problems, despite receiving personal assurances from ICL's chief executive that the project would be delivered on time.

Other documents raised questions about the state of ICL's software, suggesting it was "more of a concept than a product" at the time ICL sold the idea to the Co-op.

One document warned ICL's project team to be prepared for the "shit to hit the fan" after a senior manger realised that three key project staff were unavailable to finish the software two weeks before the delivery deadline.

The disclosure of the documents, which neither side thought would become public knowledge, illustrates the risks that companies face when they go to court, said Dai Davis, lawyer at legal firm Nabarro Nathanson,

"E-mails can be dangerous. People often send them without fully considering the consequences. The permanence of an e-mail should never be forgotten. If an e-mail can be used against you, it probably will," he said.

Co-op versus ICL - an IT project fiasco >>

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