Culture clash soured Incis deal

Revelations from the Justice and Law Reform Committee inquiry into Incis and Card are an indictment on senior police management and the culture of the organisation.

Revelations from the Justice and Law Reform Committee inquiry into Incis and Card are an indictment on senior police management and the culture of the organisation.

That tension between two senior and pivotal staff - IT director Greg Batchelor and project director Tony Crewdson - who had been at such disparate odds with each other for so long, to the point that Crewdson described the relationship as toxic, speaks volumes about the inability of police management to resolve such damaging conflicts.

There's a broader issue relating to the culture. Police are trained to be suspicious - they are right and the other party inevitably wrong. In hindsight, could police ever have partnered successfully with IBM? Crewdson indicated in his evidence to the committee that police may have been in breach of the Incis contract from the outset and, later, that technology substitutions were being implemented outside the agreed contractual change control process and outside the budget.

It doesn't say much for the National government, either, that it sat on this evidence while it negotiated its way out of the contract with IBM.

IBM may not have been simon-pure in the whole fiasco - some pretty nasty allegations were made to Computerworld by senior IBM people at various times - but it's now apparent that it has received more than its fair share of the blame over Incis.

Police seem increasingly to have become bound up in policy rather than serving the community as is its role. When frontline cops are regarded by the call centre as "clients", it is little wonder they don't have much trust in the new technology.

They want help when they need it, not to go through a convoluted series of processes.

They are not clients; there is no transaction taking place.

It's about time someone senior in police - preferably the next commissioner - stands up to government and tells it as it is rather than falling meekly into line in some political process.

Police at the coalface talk of empire building. Computerworld has been told that PeopleSoft offered its financials for $100,000, after winning the payroll contract, but the financial group within police wanted its own system and chose to spend $5 million on SAP.

Mind you, the payroll system was not properly configured and had no back-up for two years. That would have made headline copy if it had fallen over and staff couldn't have been paid.

Randal Jackson is Computerworld's Wellington reporter. Email him at Randal Jackson.

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