IT Project Failures

Catalog of major I.T. projects which have failed to deliver.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Ford Motor Co.

System: Purchasing system

Cost: $400 million

Status: Abandoned

Source: Spectrum IEEE Bob Charette 2005

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Avis Europe ERP

System: ERP

Status: Project cancelled

Cost: $54.5 million

Source: Spectrum IEEE Bob Charette 2005

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UK Inland Revenue

Client: UK Inland Revenue

Problem: Software errors

Cost: $3.45 Billion tax-credit overpayment

Source: Spectrum IEEE Bob Charette 2005

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Hudson Bay Co. [Canada]

System: Inventory System
Loss: $33.3 million

Source: Spectrum IEEE Bob Charette 2005

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

CPF Singapore

Vendor: IBM
Customer: Central Provident Fund (CPF) Singapore

Source: Business Times

CPF and IBM in legal spat over IT project 05/07/06. SINGAPORE's Central Provident Fund Board and computing giant IBM are embroiled in one of the biggest IT project failures...

Unfortunately, I don't have further access to the webpage.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

FBI Virtual Case File

Source: IEEE

Implementors: SAIC (Science Applications International Corp)
LOC: 700 000
Cost: $170 million project
Problems: bug-ridden and functionally off target
Decision: Scrap

Contributing factors:
poorly defined and slowly evolving design requirements;
overly ambitious schedules; and the
lack of a plan to guide hardware purchases, network deployments, and software development for the bureau

"What is a record and what is available under discovery? In a paper world, you do your job, you do your notes, and if you don't like it, it goes somewhere," Azmi said. "In an electronic world, nothing really is destroyed; it's always somewhere."

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Denver Airport Automated Baggage System

Source: John Swartz, Dr Dobbs Journal (Registration required)

Denver International Airport

The Denver International Airport Automated Baggage System (DIA ABS)

Deployment date

Cause of failure
Report of computer simulation was late, and was not considered

Technical cause of failure
Planes Deadlocked due to limited number of carts. (1 baggage per cart)

Estimated Cost
$195 million

Actual Project Costs
$250 million,
Project was eventually shelfed, and returned to using baggage handlers, saving $1 m per day

John Swartz reran the simulation using Amiga and a free Lisp, arriving at the same results.

R. deNeufville Baggage System at Denver: Prospects and Lessons" (Journal of Air Transport Management, December 1994

Monday, November 28, 2005

Cargo Management Reengineering

Australian Customs


Websphere, DB2, ZOS Mainframe


Design detail in the 19,000 pages of analysis for ICS includes 800 screens, 16,000 business rules, 70 complex business messages, 850 database tables, 3700 executable load modules, 1800 CICS transaction types, 55 batch jobs, 90 reports and 35 system interfaces. (Source: ACS)

Technology Infrastructure prescribed by Legislation

Legislation passed in 2001 created a legal framework for electronic cargo management secured by Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) using the GateKeeper accredited certification authority to deliver registration or certification services to meet Commonwealth standards.


Not performant.
Cost blowout from $33m to $240m.
Blames users.
Usability problems.

Big bang approach with new rule sets introduced

"The problems experienced in part, flow from inaccurate and incomplete information being submitted by some users, which the new system is designed not to accept for security reasons," the spokesperson said.

Type of failure
Estimation error

Not phased in. Not running old and new system in parallel.
The system that it replaced was 4 years old.

Follow up
The Federal Government has introduced the UK Gateway methodology to manage IT project risk.

Personnel Management Key Solution

Department of Defense


organisational structures, personnel administration and leave, career management, workforce planning as well as recruitment and payroll.

Cost blowout
Originally estimated to cost $25 million, in 2002 Defence admitted that the project was going to end up costing in the order of $70 million.

“It is the nature of the military salary and allowance processes and systems that is substantially more complex than in the civilian world.”

Source: Defence's payroll system explodes

House of Representatives Payroll System

House of Representatives

  • temporarily canceled some employees' jobs,
  • mishandled paycheck withholdings
  • added extra money

Payroll systems have been implemented badly by many sites. In many ways, payroll systems should be one least likely to be wrong, because it is possible to run parallel systems and cross check results. If one system computes one pay, and another computes a different result, you know you have a bug.

Unfortunately, the number of bugs can overwhelm the developers when a system is rolled out. This means additional money must be invested to run the systems in parallel, perhaps some form of integration between the old system and the new system.

Source: ERHMS

Council Payroll System

Brisbane City Council


  • Staff reclassified from permanent to casual

  • 1400 complaints from staff who either received no pay, were underpaid or overpaid

  • gave staff two days' pay for each sick day

Reasons for failure
Payroll system's implementation on June 27 was not supported by the council's payroll team

Source: The Courier Mail

Personnel, Payroll and Related Systems

Source: ComputerWorld

Project Name
Personnel, Payroll and Related Systems

Project Vendor
Deloitte & Touche LLP


Irish Health Service


After being launched around 1995, the project was budgeted at $10.7 million and was expected to take three years. After 10 years, the expected price tag has rocketed to $180 million.

Made widespread payroll errors


Complexity of the system it was replacing was cited as a factor. There were over 2,500 variations in payment arrangements across the entire health system.


Major rewrites of Personnel and Payroll systems, especially where consolidation is the main aim, is fraught with risks, as the business rules that apply in the legacy system can be fairly arbitrary.