The Ministry of Defence programme to replace hundreds of different IT systems with a single, secure, high quality computer infrastructure is based on a sound rationale and convincing business case. According to a National Audit Office report issued today, the Defence Information Infrastructure Programme (DII) has delivered important benefits, but has run into implementation difficulties, and key elements are running significantly late.
When planning the system, the MoD did considerable work to understand and mitigate risk, by learning from other large computer projects, and devised robust commercial, governance and decision-making structures. The Programme has delivered a number of improvements to the existing IT systems within the MoD, such as improved user support and reliability.
Where DII has been introduced, it has generally been available when it should be. The Programme has also helped the Department develop and install at short notice two systems supporting frontline troops on operations in Afghanistan. But, throughout 2005 and early 2006, problems emerged with two key elements of the Programme: the rollout of hardware and the creation of software. 62,800 computer terminals were due to be in place at permanent defence sites by the end of July 2007. At the end of April 2008, only 29,000 had been delivered. The completion date for the installation of the first increment of the Programme is 18 months late.
The original method of rolling out the Programme’s infrastructure and terminals proved to be inappropriate and unresponsive to the variable state of defence sites. A new implementation method has been more successful. The MoD’s requirement for core software has remained largely unchanged since the contract was let, but the Programme has experienced difficulties in delivering elements of it, though changes have now been made to address the problems.
The MoD has, to a large extent, protected its financial position; forecast costs for the Programme approved in March 2005 have increased by £182 million (some 3 per cent). Any additional growth in costs may limit the MoD’s ability to meet its remaining requirements.
Tim Burr, head of the National Audit Office, said today:
“It was always going to be a demanding task for the Ministry of Defence to replace its diverse information technology with a single, high quality system. The MoD started with a clear vision of what it wanted to achieve and acted to address known risks. But the Programme has run into difficulties and further concerted action will be needed to increase the rate of roll out of terminals and to deliver the remaining software.”