Screwing the pooch: How IBM’s Qld Health disaster will change IT project governance



blog Wow. It’s been a huge week in Australian enterprise IT circles. The delivery of the Queensland Commission of Inquiry’s report into the payroll systems disaster at Queensland Health, and Queensland Premier Campbell Newman’s subsequent move to ban the project’s prime contractor IBM from future contracts with the state until it cleans up its act, represents one of the most remarkable stories in Australian enterprise IT since the 2005 Integrated Cargo System debacle at Customs. As I write in Delimiter 2.0 this morning (paywalled), the situation will have a dramatic effect on how governments deal with vendors in terms of the governance of future projects:

“The disastrous, billion-dollar failure of Queensland Health’s project to replace its payroll systems delivers a stark warning to technology giants such as IBM that they must start to take a much stronger role in ensuring government IT projects they are involved with do not go disastrously off the rails. The alternative, as Big Blue found this week, is that vendors will increasingly find themselves locked out of government contracts entirely by vengeful politicians looking for scapegoats.”

The remarkable thing about the Commission of Inquiry report is that it stays lays out IBM’s culpability in a way which previous audits conducted by the Queensland Auditor-General and consulting firm KPMG did not. Previously, it was believed that almost all of the blame in the Queensland Health debacle rested square at the feet of the Government. But we now know that IBM was cognisant all along that the project was in trouble, but didn’t take substantive enough action to address the situation. The import of that lack of action will continue to be felt in Australia’s IT industry for some time.

Image credit: Patrick H, Creative Commons