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BBC hones IT project management, but still room for improvement

National Audit Office report finds the BBC’s management of critical projects has improved since the failure of its Digital Media Initiative, but further action is needed

The National Audit Office (NAO) has found the BBC’s management of business-critical projects, including the Aurora Programme, End-To-End Digital project and MyBBC, has improved.

Nick Prettejohn, chair of the BBC Trust’s Value for Money Committee, claimed the BBC “welcomed” the NAO audit, and that the firm had learnt from the experience it gained as a result of its failed Digital Media Initiative (DMI) project.

Prettejohn said: “Learning from experience is important in any organisation, and the BBC has done a lot to speed up project reporting and introduce stronger oversight. As the report notes, these key changes will help the BBC to deliver expected benefits worth £1.9bn to licence fee payers.

“We will continue to press the BBC Executive to make sure these benefits are delivered on time and on budget, as well as monitor the implementation of the NAO’s recommendations.”

The BBC’s DMI was originally intended to link digital production tools with a central, digital archive, making content easy for BBC staff to access throughout the production process.

But after bringing the project in-house due to a failed contract, the DMI was suspended following delays, increased spending and poor management.

Tower model for IT procurement

As a result of the failure of the DMI, the BBC launched eight further projects. One of these was the Aurora Programme, which will see suppliers invited to bid for seven contracts to form a “tower model”, whereby similar IT functions are grouped together into individual service deals.

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After launching an investigation into the broadcaster’s delivery of its most critical projects, the NAO found the BBC was aiming for its delayed IT procurement Aurora Programme outsourcing project to be completed by April 2017.

The likelihood of projects being delivered on time and to specification was rated by the BBC using the categories “probable”, “highly likely”, “feasible” and “in doubt”.

The Aurora Programme – one of the BBC’s eight most important projects – was labelled as “feasible”, having been delayed by at least 22 months since it began in July 2012.

Contracts for the BBC Aurora Programme have already been issued, and BT was awarded a seven-year £100m deal to supply a broadcast network as part of the new “tower model” proposed by the Aurora Programme.

As the broadcaster’s outsourcing deal with Atos nears an end, it will be posting a contract worth £560m for IT provisioning, cloud management and hosting services as part of its move away from a single-supplier deal in favour of multi-sourced technology procurement.

Digitisation efforts

The BBC also launched an End-To-End Digital project, which will see videotape moved to digital to enable digital production, archiving and playback of BBC content, and the MyBBC project, which aims to develop nine new capabilities for use with BBC online services.

As of February 2016, the MyBBC Project, which launched in June 2013, had cost £75.2m and had been pegged for a completion date of March 2017.

With a start date of May 2013, the BBC’s End-To-End Digital project began digitising tape-based files when it was part of the failed DMI project. The initiative is now working on the playback of digitised content.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: “The BBC has learnt from our report on the failure of DMI and taken a number of steps to strengthen its oversight of critical projects. But further concerted action is needed. The BBC needs to do more to manage its critical projects as a coherent portfolio if it is to achieve value for money from its assurance arrangements.”

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