IT Consultancy rip off put troops in battle zones at risk


The Big Consultancy
rip off now hits our troops in the field. The MOD were sold a system, or rather
the concept of a system that would ‘revolutionise battlefield communications’,
only its worse than the system it replaces, and is less effective on the ground
than a cheap walkie talkie system. 

Contracts
totalling £2.4bn were awarded to
General Dynamics UK in 2001 for Bowman and in 2002 for CIP.

The Public
Accounts Committee accused officials of “wringing their hands” as
delays and costs mounted. As reported here
and here

It also says the
digital Bowman equipment weighs too much and does not allow communication
with allies.

“Our armed
forces have had to put up with an insecure, analogue military radio system for
far too long,” said committee chair Edward Leigh on
8
March 2007
.
“This can have disastrous consequences on the battlefield where good
communications are quite literally a matter of life and death.
 
“But Bowman, the planned new digital replacement system, has been a very
long time in arriving and it won't do all we were led to believe.”
 

The committee's
report found that no one individual within the MoD had been given responsibility
for ensuring Bowman was a success.

There was
inadequate preparation for installing the kit on the military fleet of 15,700
land vehicles, 141 naval vessels, and 60 helicopters.  

Contracts
totalling £2.4bn were awarded to General Dynamics UK in 2001 for Bowman and in
2002 for CIP.


How did this happen? Its very simple, as I have
explained in previous blogs. Here
and here

The
Big Consultancies come to government with a new idea, they put all their
marketing skills and expertise into the presentations to Ministers, MOD
officials and OGC.

OGC
then put out a tender, based upon the specification provided by the Consultancy
that came to them with the idea. The specification is never based upon what is
available now, but what will be available at some time in the future, and this
project will assist ‘that development’, but Ministers and OGC are rarely told
the truth about that. 

In
the commercial market we call this ‘vapourware’.  It sits somewhere between hardware and
software and is based upon what might be possible in future releases, but that
only becomes apparent after the deal has been signed, because the sales pitch includes
it all in the deal.

The
Consultancy then bids low, to win the deal. It knows that it can make its money
up on change requests, that is to say the bits that are not actually available
they need funds for research and development, but because the project cannot go
ahead without it, they have the MOD by the balls. That is why every project has
its costs escalate as the project progresses. 

They
then bring in an army of graduates, who have been trained by the consultancy
group to run projects using the paint by numbers method (Prince 2).  At no stage are they capable of looking over
a project plan and thinking ‘there’s a bit missing’, because they don’t have
the experience. The prime criteria for a Consultancy project manager is a
degree and the ability to write documents, lots of documents, big long
documents. At no time is the ability to do the job of a project manager
seemingly relevant.

The
Consultancy groups do this as part of their own internal business plan for each
client, doing a risk assessment based upon possible penalties for not
delivering weighed up against income generated by change requests. (It is interesting to note that Accenture pulled out after a short time of the NPfIT programme because it was tied down to fixed pricing on that project.)

OGC
and most of the government departments that deal with these consultancies don’t
have a clue on how to deal with them because a. they don’t have the relevant
commercial experience, b. they don’t have the requisite technical skills to
know when they are being baffled with technical bullshit, and c. don’t have a
clue on how to manage 3rd party suppliers.

This
is one of the primary reasons that OCG don’t want the public to see the Gateway
reviews, why they are fighting the Information Commissioners in order to stop
them being published.

It
would show once and for all the incompetence of OGC and their abilities to
technically assess and run projects, and would show up the shady business practices
of the Big Consultancies who are ripping off the Government (and us, the
taxpayer) for billions. 

This
is not hypothesis, this is fact, I know because I have worked with
EDS and KPMG, and I have spent
much of my working life undoing what these big consultancies do, and making
projects work.

Unless
the Government gets its act together, and starts being hard nosed in the
business negotiations, and employs good technical and project management
personnel to oversee these projects, with the teeth to penalise these
Consultancies, its not just our tax money, but its our troops on the battle
field who suffer most. 

We
have to wonder whether anyone in OGC or these Consultancy groups really gives a
damn about the way in which their inability to run projects properly puts the
lives of our troops at such risk. (perhaps we should insist that they spend a
tour of duty with them in
Helmand to show them the realities).
 

Comments about the Bowman system on an
unofficial army website describe poor radio facilities. One soldier in
Afghanistan's Helmand Province said: “Comms in
afghan are about as good as using
Argos action man walkie
talkies underwater.

I used my mobile to ring home yesterday. That fits into my
pocket and weighs a couple of grams. It cost me £100 and if i drop it in a
puddle it still works!

Another commented
“Apparently Bowman works well in the
UK. That'll be fine if we ever have another
civil war.” 

Prophetic
words perhaps.

 


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About IanPJ

Ian Parker-Joseph, former Leader of the Libertarian Party UK, who currently heads PDPS Internet Hosting and the Personal Deed Poll Services company, has been an IT industry professional for over 20 years, providing Business Consulting, Programme and Project Management, specialising in the recovery of Projects that have failed in a process driven world. Ian’s experience is not limited to the UK, and he has successfully delivered projects in the Middle East, Africa, US, Russia, Poland, France and Germany. Working within different cultures, Ian has occupied high profile roles within multi-nationals such as Nortel and Cable & Wireless. These experiences have given Ian an excellent insight into world events, and the way that they can shape our own national future. His extensive overseas experiences have made him all too aware of how the UK interacts with its near neighbours, its place in the Commonwealth, and how our nation fits into the wider world. He is determined to rebuild many of the friendships and commercial relationships with other nations that have been sadly neglected over the years, and would like to see greater energy and food security in these countries, for the benefit of all. Ian is a vocal advocate of small government, individual freedom, low taxation and a minimum of regulation. Ian believes deeply and passionately in freedom and independence in all areas of life, and is now bringing his professional experiences to bear in the world of politics.
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