9 April 2008

AFP IT Project Failure - IT Contractors Culled

| Jamie Wheeler
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The Canberra Times today ran a story about major IT contractor sackings at AFP. The debacle was attributed to “funding cuts ” and “unexpected delays”. A mate who was sacked from there recently told me a very different story. He recons AFP management rather than techos are to blame for the fiasco. Bad management, lack of planning and chronic indecisiveness brought down the project. The sacked IT contractors were just fall guys. Anybody else have any similar experience with AFP IT? I image when they hire in future they’ll have trouble locating people willing to be fall guys.


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Holy crap. At el and Jamie. What the hell is going on there? No wonder we don’t have a viable police force. Let’s get rid of the AFP all together, let AG’s have “the Feds”, and outsource ACT policing to Queanbeyan.

Jamie Wheeler11:01 am 12 Apr 08

el – from what I heard the HQ debacle was nothing compared to AFP’s IT failure. At least the HQ was started and something got produced. It didn’t meet requirements but somebody else could rent the building. AFP never got their IT project out of the starting gate. People were hired to start the project but given no work to do…. then sacked as the budget blew. Rudd government cutbacks just make a convenient cover story. Failure doesn’t come much bigger. Now the place is a train wreck and EVERYBODY wants out. Never to return.

No Ant, even better.

It was started, refurbished, extended and completed.

Then they realised it wasn’t big enough.

Speaking of AFP HQ, wasn’t there a huge stuffup regarding the building of their grand new quarters? Started, and then aborted? At great cost?

Chaser team working on some new material ?

It seems ths AFP HQ had a big failure today with a suspicious package taken away for testing.

2 men in bio-hazard suits went down to the delivery dock and came back out with a sealed up container and then walked out got hosed off and dropped the container in a big bucket and air sealed it. It then got put into the back of an AFP car and spead off probably to the lab in weston or some other AFP site.

It was pretty cool seeing the operation unfold with the hazmat truck all set up, breathing aparatas technician and controlers. They had the Fire commander there as well as the ambulance commander.

The police quardoned off the area and held 2 people in what looked to be delivery uniforms.

AFP media as well as win news was on the scene so hopefully they got the full story and there will be something on television tonight!!!

DawnDrifter has a point – I’ve seen so many instances of people just being in the same department for 20 years finding their way into the IT section its not funny.

On the one hand, they’re there on the merits of knowing intimately every aspect of the organisation because they’ve been there for so long (serves you reasonably well until your past the business rules phase but then their inconsistencies will surface), but on the other hand they’re also there so they don’t phuck up on any projects – then ironically they get given the most serious project the Department can ever do.

All the more fool their managers.

On the contracting angle, if they were offered a 1year contract, there must be a buyout clause in it which would be worth a lot of dollah, if that fails your contracting company has lost wages insurance anyway. I’d not be too bitter at those prospects, especially on an IT contractor wage.

Even more fool their managers, because not only will they have to shell out breaking contract fees, they are still in square one on the IT front, with all the problems they decided to upgrade in the first place with, and have to start again from scratch.

Big IT Projects, managed by mostly rubbish inexperienced public servants(PM and senior IT managers) whos only purpose in life is to grab their 10am coffee and make sure their tips are in before friday night footy starts… they then wonder why things dont work then fire contractors as a result…

I will admit tho, have worked with some absolutely brilliant IT managers(ex Navy and Army) but the rest have been far from impressive(usually promoted just for being in the same Dept for 20 years)

Happens everywhere…
contractors move along, get paid more to do the same(start projects, get caught up in bureaucracy, move along, rinse-repeat) deal with the same road blocks and not much gets achieved on time on budget… Defence, ATO, Immigration, AFP,

good town to work in if you are a IT geek

Jamie, there has been a lot of cuts since the new government commenced, some reported, others not. This will inevitably include projects (amongst other things) within government agencies – could it simply be to do with this?

Yes Ant, but that doesn’t actually matter. It still costs the department that much.

Perhaps everyone could stop getting so defensive for a moment? You’re all reacting as if I’ve said that they’re overpaid f-füc’ksake.

AFP cut loose a senior IT manager about three years ago. She threatened them, and instead of NOT providing a reference for her next job as an IT guru, they in fact went quiet that she’d been an alleged failure, and she got hired as an SES officer in an even larger (than ther AFP) department. She lasted in that organisation in IT (it has a huge program worth hundreds of millions underway) for all of 18 months, and was yanked out. She was put in charge of ‘special projects’. She was recently resurrected, but NOT in an IT role, and has been as much a failure in her latest reincarnation as anywhere else. Long story, short moral: if the AFP had been honest in the first instance with this person, she’d be serving coffees, where she probably fits best.

People think contractors get the big bucks, because they see the bills from the agencies and assume most of it goes to the worker. Nope! Or the bloke on call to come in and fix something charges $100 an hour. But he might not get many of those hours in a week.

Hehe, I bet a lot of people on the Riot ACT are public servants, damn hard working ones too 😉

Jamie Wheeler9:57 pm 09 Apr 08

Yeahright must be a public servant. Yes contracting has risks of ongoing employment. These people had their contracts canned mid term. My mate got dumped only a month into a 1 year contract. He missed out on other prime job opportunities to work at AFP. So of course he’s pissed and would never go back.

How could a government funded org hire contractors without having the money? If you can’t afford contractors then DIY and don’t hire them.

As for contractors getting big bucks… yes, some of the tops ones do. They also work damn hard and earn it. You can bet the managers responsible (with permanent APS benefits) earn much more than the average IT contractor. Why should any highly paid public service manager be licenced for incompetence? If they f*** up and waste millions of dollars they should get sacked.

They’re the most expensive staff, and the easiest to get rid of when it all goes pear-shaped. Simple as that.

Sure futto, you don’t sound angry at all. Simple fact of life is that contracting involves a certain amount of risk, that’s why contractors get the big bucks. This isn’t meant to be a troll-post but I think that there is a certain amount of uninformed commentary going on here (not from futto, obviously you know what you are talking about).

I don’t think the article mentioned any projects that failed. Less resources doesn’t mean that a project doesn’t get done, just takes longer to do. Simple fact is when you are overspent you can’t keep spending money – contractors are always the first to go. It makes me cranky to hear the “world owes me a living” attitude. That’s not an attack on people who put their hearts and souls into something – I’m sure it is disappointing to get the sack when you haven’t done anything wrong. Just don’t take it personally. Also, as for the contractors being the fall guys, where do you get that? I don’t think there were issues of blame to contractors, just a simple fact of not having the budget due to unforeseen circumstances.

VYBerlinaV8_the_one_they_all_copy said :

I wonder whether getting these ICT ‘mega-projects’ done on time and budget is even possible.

In my experience, most major project failures are a failure of planning and budgeting rather than anything else.

It was because the project funds involved were used by management to hire staff for other projects….then this was found out and the contractors were sacked, though they did nothing wrong.

I was directly involved and i did lose my job at AFP. I was very excited to be working there as well (i didn’t view it as just another contract)

Personally, I will never apply for another job there and would recommend any other contractor do the same. Totally unprofessional behaviour on pretty much any person i dealt with there.

It’s been a few months now from my point of view so i’m not angry anymore.

By the sounds at least they had TECHNICAL staff till ‘da management’ decided to go scapegoat hunting. Our blight (govt dept X) is under the yoke of acres of contractor project managers.

The 1 rower, 12 “managers” canoe team model is alive and well !

Snahons_scv6_berlina3:38 pm 09 Apr 08

Thats the same question the AFP Lead PM asked 🙂

That’s what the guys on ‘the IT crowd’ do for a job Thumper.

Informative Techno-manglement Thumper.

Yeah, the IT guys will be snapped up by eager employers. Meanwhile at the AFP, lots of paper will fly around, some middle mg’t person who wasn’t quick enough/didn’t keep sufficient diary notes/file notes/emails will find people averting their eyes in the hallways and will be stumbling on meetings which hastily break up when he appears… And the big boys will keep a low profile for the duration.


Because of the bluff and bravado of the incumbent senior management ant. They’ve already got enough teflon around them, so unless the direction comes from higher, they’ll never have to take a long inwards look at themselves.

IT contractors will get new jobs in days. I suspect the same cannot be said for any of the management where they to pursue new career options.

I wonder how much money ended up being squandered on this failed project? It’s rather incredible that in this day and age, this can still happen. APS and private enterprise have been setting up big new IT systems for decades, it’s hard to understand how this sort of mess can be allowed to happen.

VYBerlinaV8_the_one_they_all_copy1:04 pm 09 Apr 08

I wonder whether getting these ICT ‘mega-projects’ done on time and budget is even possible. That said, most project failure I see is due to senior managers having unrealistic expectations due to lack of understanding, especially in areas where requirements need to be interpreted from mandated guidance (eg government security requirements).

I’d say it might be due to fact that many people given these high risk, big budget implmentations haven’t received, nor are willing to seek the appropariate training and advice, on the fact that it would make them look a bit silly and unperpared for the job.

There never has been anything wrong with asking questions, getting skills then doing the job, right as best can be the first time.

Absent Diane11:29 am 09 Apr 08

yep and then people wonder why things don’t work. Possibly due to unrealistic time frames, expectations and tight budgets?

Indicitive of managements lack of understanding and appreciation of the scale of ICT projects throughout Government, and the importance of ICT as a whole.

Yep, it is usually the contractors that have it right, and the management putting unrealistic limitations to the scope of work. Heard about it at Immigration, but not AFP though.

An iT project failure the fault of management? Gee, that’s unusual.

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