Incis inquiry makes mOOT point

The report of the ministerial inquiry into Incis, published on yesterday, cites reliance on object-oriented technology (OOT) as one of the significant technical risks leading to failure of the project.

The report of the ministerial inquiry into Incis, published yesterday, cites reliance on object-oriented technology (OOT) as one of the significant technical risks leading to failure of the project.

This validates suggestions last year from Saturn information chief Jenny Mortimer, who had some early involvement with the project, and from OOT specialist David Ewing.

They both said trying to represent people and vehicles, for example, as objects, as done in Incis, was an inappropriate and, Ewing said, a discredited use of the technology.

“The decision to use OOT made the implementation of the Incis application high risk because it was very new technology and standards were immature,” says the report, written by a panel headed by former Tranz Rail chief Francis Small.

“At the date of contract, there were … few commercial applications of the size and complexity of the planned Incis application using an OOT, especially in a distributed client/server environment.

“The methodologies and support tools for designing and developing business systems using an OOT were not readily available nor was there a pool of experienced developers.”

Also criticised as unproven technology in Incis are:

  • The commitment to decision support technologies including data mining for data analysis.
  • The requirement for portability of the Incis software across a number of operating system platforms.

“Specific methodologies should be used to determine how the new technologies are to be used and what is required to ensure their effectiveness,” the inquiry team says.

Technology, however, was only one factor in the project’s failure, the team says. “Appropriate governance and management structures should [have been] in place”, as should “sound quality and risk management processes” and “an appropriate structure … for effective approval or monitoring of the project by the government.”

The report recommends such improved approval and monitoring procedures be instituted in future for major public sector IT projects.

The inquiry also fingers interpersonal problems among senior staff on the Incis project, a point made by former project director Tony Crewdson to a parliamentary select committee earlier this year.

Justice Minister Phil Goff says a working group on technology projects, headed by the State Services Commission, has been appointed to consider the inquiry’s recommendations.

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