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Foreign Office IT Consolidation Project Failing (08 March 2006)

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office project to roll out an enterprise resource planning system to 13,000 staff in the UK and more than 250 locations overseas has been heavily criticised by a committee of MPs.

The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee reveals that the FCO’s latest IT project, Prism, is failing in its role of replacing 30 different IT systems. Prism was stated to be ‘substantially behind time’ and causing ‘great dissatisfaction’ to end-users at UK embassies and consulates. According to one insider: “In the Foreign Office’s long history of ineptly implemented IT initiatives, Prism is the most badly designed and ill considered of the lot.” The report said, “Anyone who has visited a post where Prism has been rolled out knows that many staff are at their wits’ end about it.”
According to a report in Computer Weekly senior diplomat Norman Ling told the FCO’s board that the project management skills needed to run Prism were absent; the project’s benefits had been exaggerated and it had been incorrectly rated as a medium-risk rather than a high-risk undertaking for purposes of the formal Office of Government Commerce (OGC) ‘Gateway’ reviews. Ling said: “Given that the programme is business critical, the board should have appointed one of its own as senior responsible owner.”