Expectation and delay killed INCIS

Inflated expectations led to the INCIS debacle, says former Police technology boss Jeffrey Soar.

Inflated expectations led to the INCIS debacle, says former Police technology boss Jeffrey Soar.

Soar told the inside story of INCIS to an audience of IT chiefs in Auckland last week, at the CIO Conference 2000. He says studies show most IT projects fail, one way or another, for reasons ranging from running over budget to late delivery.

INCIS was a $107 million police document management scheme, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, that aimed to curb paperwork and put more police on the front line. It over-ran by $40million until hardware supplier IBM pulled out in August last year.

However, Soar says INCIS was doomed because of the long lead time from its promotion in the 1980s by former police commissioner Peter Doone, and actual work not starting until 1994.

It survived 41 audits, but INCIS also carried the can for major discontent, because it became a scapegoat for other shortcomings in the police force, such as it having many rusty cars.

INCIS provided the police with a national WAN, Internet/intranet, 3500 more PCs, 800 laser printers, an extra 400 LANs, a central server, a Microsoft suite of services, Lotus Notes, GIS, 24x7 service and a library.

But, he says, it did not provide case management studies, easy access to servers and the Wanganui computer.

INCIS succeeded through tight project management, having clear requirements, executive support, hardworking staff but its "achilles heel" was expectations.

In his "search for villians" Soar says he would "talk" to IBM, the police commissioner, police rank and file, police CIOs, ministers and politicians.

"We could not tell who our friends were as both sides were outbidding each other in slamming INCIS," he says.

And New Zealand's "tall poppy syndrome" would also see the media and public brought in for questioning.

With hindsight, Soar says the debacle could have been avoided by the "brand" being repackaged, the project done in smaller sections, the police gaining ownership of the scheme and getting the right to kill it, and allowing it extra money.

The fixed cost agreement of the scheme meant no flexibility and there was the problem of vendors under-bidding, hoping to recoup revenue elsewhere.

To succeed, IT projects need better project management, flexibility and the ability to be done in smaller sections. Companies should not skimp on project management costs and never raise false expectations.

Soar also told the audience he looked at overseas alternatives to INCIS but found nothing suitable.

He says he did not lose his job because of the furore.

"The police largely got what they paid for," he says.

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