Can Anyone Spare £100m?

Recently I’ve been pondering the question, ‘how do you spend £100 million on an IT project and achieve nothing?’

This is the story of the BBC’s abandonment of their £100 million Digital Media Initiative (DMI), a hefty cost for a project that never actually got off the ground in the first place.

The project was supposed to transform the way BBC staff developed and shared video and audio content but has now been totally scrapped, resulting in the suspension of the BBC’s CTO and the beginnings of an investigation to find out ‘what went wrong’.

I’m pretty sure that, being SMEs, such a mind-boggling amount of wastage is way beyond the understanding of most of our customers.

So should we feel any degree of sympathy?

To a degree the BBC have been outpaced by technology itself.  When the project started in 2008, a bespoke solution would have been the option.  Yet now, as director general Lord Hall has pointed out, there are far cheaper off-the-shelf products that are likely to offer the majority of the functionality they required.

We’re seeing a similar evolution in products such as Microsoft’s Dynamic NAV 2013 and MS SharePoint 2013 with significant developments in out-of-the-box functionality.

But the pace of change in technology isn’t the only contributing factor to the downfall of DMI.

It seems that the biggest concerns lie around project management, control and governance.  The BBC Trust has appointed PwC to investigate – so let’s hope they’re working to a finite budget, especially considering the project was supposed to deliver efficiency savings of £95.4m.

A few years ago at TSG we recognised that we needed a better system for monitoring and reporting and set about finding the technology to make that work.  Our resulting project management system, Guru, led by our Group Services Director Gary Smith, has really paid dividends.

Internally, it’s had a big impact on efficiency (we give away far fewer days FOC!) and for our customers, the number of post-install issues has fallen by a massive 95%.

(As you’d expect, we’ve got technology in place to provide the business information we need to keep control – but you’d be right to be worried if that wasn’t the case.)

I think what the whole episode really highlights is the challenge many businesses face around their IT legacy.

Knowing when to jump is never going to be an easy decision but hopefully the consequence for most won’t be quite so far-reaching – even when you are in a position to be able to bury the news.

The hype around cloud – or rather hosted solutions – may tempt many to adopt new technologies but our view is that any changes should always be driven by a sound business case and the advantages or efficiencies that technology can bring.