End this CSA debacle

Last week we learnt that a £200m IT system being developed by services giant EDS for the Child Support Agency (CSA) is £50m over...

Last week we learnt that a £200m IT system being developed by services giant EDS for the Child Support Agency (CSA) is £50m over budget and looks set to come in a year overdue.

The CSA project displays several classic hallmarks of a public sector IT debacle. The "small is beautiful" rule, whereby large-scale projects should be broken down into manageable chunks, seems to have been ignored. Moreover, EDS has complained that the CSA's requirements have shifted during the course of the project's life.

On the other hand, there must be a suspicion that EDS could have built more flexibility into this monolithic project. Of all companies, it should by now appreciate the propensity of public sector IT projects to shift direction with the wind.

Meanwhile, there is little to suggest that the two bodies are moving towards rapprochement. The CSA has greeted EDS' finger-pointing statement of earlier this week with a stony silence.

While EDS and the CSA remain at loggerheads, and until this blighted project lurches to its conclusion, the much-needed reforms to the child support system will remain a pipe dream.
This was last published in August 2002

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