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21 major government IT projects flagged with problems

Annual report from the government's Major Projects Authority reveals latest assessments

Twenty-one major IT-based government projects have been rated as red or red/amber status to indicate urgent action or reassessment is needed, according to the Cabinet Office Major Projects Authority (MPA).

The latest annual report from the MPA, which monitors large government projects of any type, not just IT, found four technology projects deserved a red rating, the highest warning it can give.

The four red projects were the NHS’s service to share patient records; the NHS Choices website; the NHS Health and Social Care Network; and the National Offender Management Service (Noms) ICTS Service at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

The MPA report showed little improvement on 2014 in IT, when 23 IT-based projects were flagged as red or red/amber, and several projects highlighted in 2014 have since seen improvements. 

Red status is defined as: “Successful delivery of the project appears to be unachievable… The project may need re-scoping and/or its overall viability reassessed”. Red/amber means: “Successful delivery of the project is in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas. Urgent action is needed to ensure these are addressed, and whether resolution is feasible”.

MPA interim CEO Tony Meggs said that much progress has been made in recent years to improve the government’s overall management of major projects.

“For most of those projects that have been tracked over the three years since reporting began, the data in this [annual] report shows a steady improvement in delivery,” he said.

“The success or failure of projects is most often determined at their earliest and most formative stage. Projects that have crystal-clear objectives, well-defined benefits, appropriately detailed plans, the right level of financial resource, the right people with the ability to understand and manage key stakeholders, and the right leaders – these are the projects most likely to succeed. The more we can do to set all of our projects off on the right course, the fewer that will sail into stormy waters.”

At the time the MPA report was compiled, in September 2014, the controversial NHS England programme to create a central database of patient records had been delayed for a second time. The project attracted widespread criticism that the NHS had failed to educate the public about the scheme, leading to fears over how personal medical data would be used, as well as an outcry that the scheme should be opt-in, rather than opt-out.

Earlier this month, Computer Weekly reported that was about to restart, with pilot schemes ready to begin.

NHS Choices is a website intended to become the main source of information about NHS services in England. But the MPA said it has issues over future direction and funding.

The Health and Social Care Network – formerly known as Public Services Network Health – aims to replace the existing N3 NHS network contract, which ends in March 2017. The MPA noted that the “strategic direction” of the project has changed, and a new plan needs to be developed.

The Noms ICTS Service is meant to replace existing MoJ technology that was provided under a contract that ended in March 2012. The MPA said the red rating “reflects the main roll-out phase of the programme being paused in August 2014, due to performance issues with the live service. It was subsequently re-started, but further operational service issues in March 2015 led to an independent review by Deloitte. While awaiting the outcome of that review, significant work has been completed to ensure the live service has been kept in a stable and usable state”. NOMS is expected to restart roll-out this month.

Across all areas of government, the MPA oversees 188 projects worth £489bn.

The IT-based projects that received a red/amber rating were:

  • SLC Transformation Programme at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
  • Next Generation Shared Services, at the Cabinet Office
  • Mobile Infrastructure Project, at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport
  • Shared Services Implementation Programme, at the Department for Transport
  • Three NHS local service partners delivery programmes involving BT and CSC
  • Department of Health Secondary Uses Service Transition
  • IT Transformation Programme, Personal Independence Payment Programme and Universal Credit at the Department for Work and Pensions
  • ICT Re-procurement at the Foreign Office
  • Home Office Technology Reset Programme
  • Defence Core Network Services and Defence Information Infrastructure, at the Ministry of Defence
  • The Ministry of Justice Common Platform
  • The National Crime Agency IT Modernisation Programme

Read more about the Major Projects Authority

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