The National Offender Management Information System - Public Accounts Committee Contents

 
 

 
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,[3] making the management by the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) of C-NOMIS a prime example of how not to develop a project.[4]

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.[5]

Figure 1: Timeline for the NOMIS project
DATE  ORGANISATIONAL RESPONSIBILITY  KEY EVENTS  
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.[6] Overall, the financial impact of the C-NOMIS failures, from the delays and re-scoping of the programme, is at least £41 million.[7] NOMS did not seek to excuse the unnecessary expense and considers that despite the setbacks it had derived a lot of benefit from the programme.[8]

Figure 2: The estimated cost of the project almost trebled between June 2005 and July 2006
 
ESTIMATED COST JUNE 2005
£M
 
ESTIMATED COST
JULY 2007
£M
 
COST INCREASES

£M
 
Application development (software licences, system build and testing)  
51
 
206
 
155
 
System maintenance and support (to 2020)  
128
 
243
 
115
 
Infrastructure (hardware including refreshes)  
14
 
38
 
24
 
Implementation (data migration and staff training)  
12
 
22
 
10
 
Project management 
13
 
34
 
21
 
VAT 
0
 
99
 
99
 
Contingency 
0
 
32
 
32
 
Other (sunk costs, Management Information Systems, Contracted-Out Prisons)  
16
 
16
 
0
 
TOTAL  
234
 
690
 
456
 

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.[9] 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 emerged.[10]

Figure 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
C-NOMIS?
 
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  
In part
 
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.  
Yes
 
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  
In part
 
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  
Yes
 
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  
No
 
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)  
In part
 
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  
Yes
 
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.  
Yes
 
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).[11]

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.[12]

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.[13] The estimated cost of developing the C-NOMIS application rose from £99 million in 2005 to £254 million by July 2007 due to customisation.[14]


3   Qq 1-2 Back

4   Q 81 Back

5   Q 99 Back

6   Qq 84-85 Back

7   C&AG's Report, para 18 Back

8   Q 94 Back

9   Q 13 Back

10   Qq 77-80, 92 Back

11   C&AG's Report, para 22 Back

12   Qq 87-89 Back

13   Qq 82-83 Back

14   C&AG's Report, para 11 Back


 

 
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Prepared 3 November 2009