Domainz report slams $850,000 DRS debacle

A long-awaited report on Domainz's implementation of its domain registry system has been released and it pulls no punches.

A long-awaited report on Domainz's implementation of its domain registry system has been released and it pulls no punches.

The report, commissioned by Domainz, the InternetNZ company wich manages the .nz domain space, outlines what went wrong with the implementation and includes a damning list of errors. They included ineffective consultation, lack of business process, lack of user requirement definition, deficiencies in the system design and development, inadequate acceptance testing, inadequate project management, lack of a full-time project manager, inadequate sign-off processes and a major cost blow-out. The project ended up costing $841,253, close to double the budgeted $475,000.

"In our opinion, the system should not have been placed in production in May 2000," says the report, compiled by the Hunter Group and presented to the Domainz board in October last year.

Domainz introduced the system to replace a domain name database that the University of Waikato had built but which was becoming "increasingly unstable" and difficult to support. The system was touted as world-class by the then head of Domainz, Patrick O'Brien, and would be sold around the world to other registry companies.

However, by July 2001 problems with the new system and a change in philosophy at Domainz led to a decision to scrap the new system. Domainz is now working on development of a new shared registry system that will be built this year.

The contract for the system which is the subject of the report was won by Glazier Systems, which was subsequently bought by Advantage Group. The report identifies a number of "deliverables" that were to be completed as part of the initial contract but can find "no evidence that these schedules were formally completed".

Domainz itself is blamed for a lack of project management, among other things.

"The contract clearly specifies that Domainz was responsible for the development of the Acceptance Test Plan," says the report, which goes on to say "Domainz did not provide adequate resource to co-ordinate and execute testing." Individual Domainz staff members involved in the testing process for the new system found the testing process "extremely frustrating", the report says, as they were not provided with any formal framework to use.

The problems weren't confined to the pre-launch system, either. The live rollout was littered with problems, the report states. There was no register of bugs or faults for users to check their experience against. ISPs were listed as the first port of call for end users; however, the ISPs were not told of that ahead of time, leading to confusion and "a lot of customer support work for the ISPs". The report also says there was no back up plan should the system fail.

The then head of Domainz, Patrick O'Brien, is listed as the "key Domainz representative" who would liaise between Advantage and Domainz on the project. Although a project manager was appointed, the position was "only part-time and did not have a formalised role, carry the authority or fulfil the role typical of a project manager". The report is critical of the decision to allow O'Brien to fill the role of project manager while at the same time being the project's sponsor or owner.

"Lack of adequate project management by both Domainz and [Advantage Enterprise Solutions] has been one of the most significant factors that contributed to the poor delivery of this project."

Domainz chief Derek Locke says the company views the report as a useful springboard for its current project, building a replacement system.

"The new rollout is following the recommendations of the report almost to the letter."

Locke says the report outlines several standard practices which Domainz has adopted.

"They're all good, common-sense, well-known project management disciplines." Locke says Domainz has a "proper" quality assurance programme as well as project management in place.

"We feel very confident about the project."

O'Brien was not immediately available for comment. Advantage Group's Tony Bradley was also not immediately available.

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