COUNCIL FOR THE CENTRAL LABORATORY OF
THE RESEARCH COUNCILS: ACCOUNTS 1997-98
PROJECT MANAGEMENT PROCEDURES
21. The current Chief Executive took up post on 1
April 1998, one year after the FAMIS system was scheduled for
implementation. He sought promptly to initiate a project management
approach. This included using the technical resources available
from the Council's Department for Computation and Information,
and commissioning an external review to identify the lessons learned.
The Review Panel was heavily critical of the project management
structure, which was based on methodology recommended by the contractor.
The Chief Executive accepted the Panel's findings. Amongst other
things, he has instituted a FAMIS Project Management Board to
ensure that appropriate and sufficient technical and management
resources both from the suppliers and the Council are brought
swiftly to bear on problems or issues as they arise. The Council
are now following a standard operating framework for Project Management
based on Government and Industry best practices. The Council accept
project management responsibility for the implementation of all
processes critical to their operational efficiency.
22. The Council told us that they had regarded FAMIS
as an 'off-the-shelf' purchase rather than a project.
However, they now realised that the installation of any business-critical
system should be treated as a project and run according to good
project management practice.
The Council had also misjudged the scope and complexity of the
project and these failings had led to time pressures that contributed
significantly to the subsequent problems encountered. 
The Review Panel had concluded, amongst other things, that the
project management structure had failed to comply with best practice,
particularly in terms of ensuring clarity of roles, responsibilities
In response to our questions the Council accepted that they had
made a mistake in relying entirely on the contractor to run the
installation and to recommend the project management structure.
23. We asked the Council why they had not introduced
a proper management approach until a year after FAMIS had been
due to be operational. They told us that management at the time
had remained convinced that the problems should be sorted out
by the prime contractor. Another factor had been that the nature
of their organisation was that of a 'can do attitude' and this
had resulted in them solving symptoms rather than causes.
24. Whilst recognising the remedial actions introduced
by the Chief Executive following his appointment on 1 April 1998,
we find it unacceptable that the Council did not effectively grip
the management of this project until over a year after the project
implementation date and that they relied to such an extent on
the contractor to manage the project. Also, we are surprised at
the view taken by the Council at the outset that FAMIS could be
treated as an off-the-shelf purchase rather than as a project.
We consider that such a bespoke financial and management accounting
system, being implemented to a demanding timescale, should have
been regarded as a business-critical operation requiring good
project management and we are astonished by the Council's failure
to recognise this. However, we acknowledge the Council's undertaking
to follow accepted project management procedures in future and
to draw, where appropriate, on the expertise of the Central Computer
and Telecommunications Agency.
25 C&AG's report, paras 37-41 Back
26 Q8 Back
2, 81-85 Back
report, para 38, 1st bullet and Q5 Back
paras 37-38 Back
4, 8, 81-85 Back
31 Q9 Back