1 Learning lessons from C-NOMIS |
1. The Comptroller and Auditor General's Report
on the National Offender Management Information System (NOMIS)
makes depressing reading. We have taken evidence on cases of poor
decision taking and weak project management on many occasions.
The same lessons have still not been learnt,
making the management by the National Offender Management Service
(NOMS) of C-NOMIS a prime example of how not to develop a project.
2. At its inception in 2004, C-NOMIS was designed
to deliver a single database to implement end-to-end offender
management across the Prison Service and the National Probation
Service. The scale of the delays shown in Figure 1. The
original target for full implementation of C-NOMIS was January
2008. The current implementation date for the final part of the
NOMIS programme is early 2011.
1: Timeline for the NOMIS project
|June 2004 ||National Offender Management Service (NOMS) created, bringing together HM Prison Service and the National Probation Service within a single organisational structure, but still formally part of the Home Office
||Start of the C-NOMIS project pilot phase
|June 2005 ||
||C-NOMIS project full business case approved
|December 2006 ||
||Prototype C-NOMIS application tested in HMP Albany
|May 2007 ||Responsibility for NOMS transferred from Home Office to new Ministry of Justice
||NOMS Board made aware of cost overruns for first time
|August 2007 ||
||Minister informed and imposes moratorium
|Sept-Nov 2007 ||
||Options for reducing scope of project assessed
|December 2007 ||
||Revised NOMIS programme approved
|January 2008 ||
||Original target for full implementation of C-NOMIS
|April 2008 ||NOMS established as an Executive Agency with its own Accounting Officer
|May 2010 ||
||Current planned date for full implementation of Prison NOMIS
|February 2011 ||
||Current planned date for full implementation of Delius probation case management system
Source: C&AG's Report
3. The original cost estimate rose from £234
million in 2005 to £690 million in July 2007 (Figure 2).
NOMS agreed that, with hindsight, there had been a gross underestimate
of costs and that the original cost estimates were badly prepared.
Overall, the financial impact of the C-NOMIS failures, from the
delays and re-scoping of the programme, is at least £41 million.
NOMS did not seek to excuse the unnecessary expense and considers
that despite the setbacks it had derived a lot of benefit from
2: The estimated cost of the project almost trebled between June
2005 and July 2006
| ||ESTIMATED COST JUNE 2005 |
|ESTIMATED COST |
|Application development (software licences, system build and testing)
|System maintenance and support (to 2020)
|Infrastructure (hardware including refreshes)
|Implementation (data migration and staff training)
|Other (sunk costs, Management Information Systems, Contracted-Out Prisons)
Source: C&AG's Report
4. The current NOMS Accounting Officer tried,
without much success, to account to us for the lack of progress
on C-NOMIS and the project delays. It is worth noting that he
was not personally responsible for the problems.
The first Senior Responsible Owner and other senior people involved
with C-NOMIS demonstrated a remarkable lack of insight and rigour,
coupled with naivety and over-optimism. These individuals had
retired or moved on before the scale of the problems with C-NOMIS
3: The NAO's assessment of C-NOMIS against the eight common causes
of project failure
|COMMON CAUSES OF PROJECT FAILURE
||CAUSE OF FAILURE EVIDENT IN
|COMMENTARY ON C-NOMIS PROJECT PERFORMANCE
|Lack of clear link between the project and the organisation's key strategic priorities, including agreed measures of success
||We found a clear link between the objectives of the CNOMIS Project and the strategic priorities of the NOMS Change Programme. Assumptions were tested during a pilot that also provided valuable lessons learned. However, project planning lacked both detail and robustness, and there was a failure to produce a single integrated plan representing all the planned tasks from across the individual work streams.
|Lack of clear senior management and Ministerial ownership and leadership.
||The Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) from project inception to April 2007 had little experience of major IT project delivery and insufficient time to undertake SRO responsibilities despite some reduction in her other responsibilities from September 2006. Until the moratorium, we found no evidence of Ministers involvement beyond them receiving standard summarised briefings.
Leadership was compromised by blurred accountability between the project board and Offender Information Services (OIS) which led to reactive and indecisive decision making.
|Lack of effective engagement with stakeholders
||Engagement with stakeholders was on an ad hoc basis. Early on, users were given the chance to voice their opinions of the C-NOMIS application and user groups were involved in development of the system requirements. There was little communication with stakeholders on project progress. With project plans failing to schedule engagement activities, many stakeholders were unsure how best to communicate with the project. When delays occurred, many stakeholders only found out at the last minute.
|Lack of skills and proven approach to project management and risk management
||The project suffered from a consistent shortage of skilled personnel, leading to a greater reliance on contracted-in staff. A lack of financial skills led to poor financial estimating and monitoring.
Risks identified at the outset were not managed. Under the governance structure, the Programme Manager was the only reporter to the Programme Director, which led to a 'good news' culture.
|Too little attention to breaking development and implementation into manageable steps
||The project team's decision to undertake a software trial and an initial pilot implementation provided valuable learning. Breaking the development and deployment into manageable steps was sensible for a project as large and complex as C-NOMIS.
|Evaluation of proposals driven by initial price rather than long-term value for money (especially securing delivery of business benefits)
||The original business case, on which the decision to proceed was based, had projected C-NOMIS would deliver a positive net present value, but costs were seriously underestimated. Despite recognition that the project was high risk and had a challenging delivery schedule, there was no contingency within the budget, suggesting either a desire to keep costs down to achieve the go-ahead or a high degree of optimism.
|Lack of understanding of and contact with the supply industry at senior levels of the organisation
||An existing framework contract within the Prison Service and an infrastructure renewal contract within the Probation Service constrained the level of engagement with external suppliers and restricted competitive procurement opportunities. Although the main delivery partner provided a detailed set of assumptions as part of their Best and Final Offer, there was no evidence of an assessment to determine whether requirements could be met by suppliers, given competing pressures from other sectors of the economy.
|Lack of effective project team integration between clients, the supplier team and the supply chain.
||The project selected existing suppliers as the main delivery partners, and did not seek a wider evaluation of their requirements from the market. Although suppliers were represented on technical governance boards, project delays adversely impacted working relationships and there was a lack of communication channels at a more senior level.
Source: C&AG's Report
5. In May 2005, as part of the C-NOMIS project
approval process, the Home Office's Programme and Project Management
Support Unit certified the C-NOMIS project as not suffering from
the eight common causes of project failure. Subsequent analysis
of the underlying causes of the costs increases and delay by the
National Audit Office indicated that C-NOMIS suffered from four
of the eight common causes of project failure in full and three
in part (Figure 3).
6. Prison and probation information requirements
were quite different and each of the 42 probation areas had different
ways of working. End-to-end offender management was little more
than a concept, and what it meant in practice and the IT needed
to support it had not been worked through. Rather than invest
time and resources to develop and standardise the new ways of
operating across its business areas, NOMS sought an IT system
to unify the business and achieve end-to-end offender management.
There was no sustained effort by NOMS to simplify and standardise
its business processes reflecting management's misplaced confidence
in C-NOMIS, their unrealistic expectations of what could be achieved
by an IT solution and their underestimation of the time and costs
to deliver it.
7. From the outset those responsible failed to
identify the modifications required to the software to meet NOMS'
needs. The Home Office assessed it as broadly meeting the needs
of the prison service, but as a North American product the software
needed to be adapted for UK legislation. In respect of probation,
there was a serious failure to understand the magnitude and cost
of the changes which would be needed, even though the Home Office
recognised at the start that the software met only 29% of the
needs of the Probation Service.
The estimated cost of developing the C-NOMIS application rose
from £99 million in 2005 to £254 million by July 2007
due to customisation.
3 Qq 1-2 Back
Q 81 Back
Q 99 Back
Qq 84-85 Back
C&AG's Report, para 18 Back
Q 94 Back
Q 13 Back
Qq 77-80, 92 Back
C&AG's Report, para 22 Back
Qq 87-89 Back
Qq 82-83 Back
C&AG's Report, para 11 Back