back to article Hundreds of millions 'wasted' on UK court digitisation scheme

Hundreds of millions of pounds have been wasted on plans to digitise the criminal justice system due to the mismanagement of a key programme that has so far delivered little value to the taxpayer, according to multiple insiders. The Common Platform Programme (CPP) was supposed to be complete by March 2019. However, a …

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  1. Locky

    Agile Experts

    Also known in these parts as "Make-it-up-as-they-go-along shysters"

    1. getHandle

      Re: Agile Experts

      Coming soon to a workshop near you!

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: Agile Experts

        Snake Oil Salesmen promoting something that is clearly FRAGILE

        Then they come to the "Roundabout"

        where they debate about "Five Percent of Nothing"

        before going on a "Long distance Runaround"

        And there is all ends with nothing delivered as all those involved get burned in the "Heart of the Sunrise"

        You have to be of a certain age to get that.

        Mines the one with a set of well thumbed "Yes" lyrics in the pocket.

        1. unwarranted triumphalism

          Re: Agile Experts

          Maybe they're "Close To The Edge" of being fired.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Agile Experts

      The problem is that if you have no idea what you're actually buying (due to this damn political fetish for "new" and "hip" technology instead of something that has a solid and robust track record), you are likely to end up with Agile Excuses instead - all, of course, at the taxpayer's expense, because that is the one cert in all of this: someone is raking it in regardless, without a worry in the world about any consequences.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Agile Experts

      Agile Experts ....like "Loveday Ryder"?

      FFS, what did they expect? That has to be a madeup name - and I believe there's a convention for that. So, should I be searching IMDB?

  2. alain williams Silver badge

    Agile is OK for ...

    * small projects that are easy enough for people to fit all the components into their heads at once.

    * prototyping/mock-ups.

    Anything seriously big needs proper design, otherwise the obvious things are done and the corner cases forgotten and the various pieces don't quite fit well with remote components.

    The other thing about this project is that it will result in UK government outsourcing a lot of work to call centers, etc, India at a loss of UK jobs and skills - it might save MoJ some money but will end up costing the treasury many times more: less tax receipts and more dole money.

    1. MarmiteToast

      Re: Agile is OK for ...

      This is a common misconception - agile doesn't mean "no design" or "no planning", you should be doing that regardless of the size of your project.

      1. Vic

        Re: Agile is OK for ...

        This is a common misconception - agile doesn't mean "no design" or "no planning", you should be doing that regardless of the size of your project.

        This. A thousand times, this.

        The trouble, I reckon, is that people fail to read sufficiently accurately; the Agile Manifesto says:

        we have come to value ... Working software over comprehensive documentation

        That's an entirely reasonable position, IMO - it is better to ship something that works and is not fully documented than to ship something with plenty of documentation that doesn't work. But countless groups have decided to interpret the above as "we don't need no steenking documentation", and have included all facets of project planning in the above.

        Vic.

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          Re: "we have come to value ... Working software over comprehensive documentation"

          Seems that, at this point in time, the UK Courts have neither.

          Personally I think Agile or Waterfall make no difference if the project is not clearly defined and the steps to realizing said project not perfectly understood by everyone, from top managers to the underpaid code monkeys that hammer their keyboards.

          It's time to stop thinking that we can implement country-wide IT projects without a year or two of high-level, expert study and preparation, followed by ruthless implementation of said project.

          I'll always remember the best project manager I ever met - it was in an industrial tire-making plant. When we went to progress meetings, there was an agenda he had sent to the participants. Anything outside the agenda was mercilessly swatted aside with an imperious remark to the effect that that was not on the agenda. Any suggestion for additional functionality or unplanned functionality improvement was automatically put on the list for v1.1. And nobody dared complain.

          End result ? Project delivered on spec, on cost and on time, with discussions for that famous v1.1 to happen later.

          Greatest project I ever worked on.

          1. Allonymous Coward

            Re: "we have come to value ... Working software over comprehensive documentation"

            This, 1000x this.

            I work in public sector "digital" and it's a constant source of dismay how many projects try to disguise a lack of getting the fundamentals right (be that understanding requirements, senior-level buy-in, having a PM who understands what they're doing, whatever) behind the veneer of "Agile".

            The reason these projects fail often has little to do with the methodology they employ, and a lot more to do with the people involved.

            It's nothing new - ten years ago everyone in the public sector blindly applied PRINCE2 and hoped for good outcomes as well.

            1. tedleaf

              Re: "we have come to value ... Working software over comprehensive documentation"

              Is it coincidence that "loveday Ryder" has on its linkedin page reference to Prince2 ?

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: "we have come to value ... Working software over comprehensive documentation"

            "Anything outside the agenda was mercilessly swatted aside with an imperious remark to the effect that that was not on the agenda."

            I take it that if the plant caught fire during a meeting the fire alarm would have been ignored because it wasn't on the agenda.

            1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
              Trollface

              I take it you work for the Government ?

      2. Duffaboy
        Trollface

        Re: Agile is OK for ...

        How many times do you see an agile user with 2 additional monitors keyboard and mouse not really agile is it..

  3. MarmiteToast

    Silly

    Agile as a paradigm doesn't work without end/business user engagement. Unfortunately most IT departments don't get this and transform themselves anyway.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Silly

      "Agile as a paradigm doesn't work without end/business user engagement."

      Neither does anything else. Without that that you'll have a failed project regardless of the methodology.

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: Silly

        True, but most things called "agile" depend more on user engagement.

        Seems to me that, instead of overselling the product, which is what normally happens with government IT projects, here what's been oversold is the methodology. Somebody heard about "agile", went and read a book about "scrum" and assumed it was the same thing. Someone else - didn't. So as well as "no agreed product plan", there's also "no meeting of minds on project plan".

  4. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Ooops?

    The Common Platform Programme (CPP) was supposed to be complete by March 2019 at a total cost of £350m. However, a spokeswoman from HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) said the programme will not be complete until 2020 at a revised cost of £270m.

    Hi, Kat Hall/El Reg,

    ??? Does that paragraph need revision and rewriting...... for it does not support the report headline ...Hundreds of millions 'wasted' on UK court digitisation scheme

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Ooops?

      I see it's been revised now - by taking out the initial figure.

      So it still doesn't support the headline, but at least it doesn't actively contradict it any more.

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: Ooops and Scoops/Stop Press News and Faked Views

        I see it's been revised now - by taking out the initial figure.

        So it still doesn't support the headline, but at least it doesn't actively contradict it any more...... veti

        Hmmm? If/When the correct initial figure is £35m (rather than a typo £350m) is the undisputed £270m a disgraceful abuse and scandalous misuse of privilege and quite PAR for the course of serially inept and conveniently exempt from punitive accountability, exclusive executive office. A sad and sorry perverse and naturally corrupting state for both national and international, and virtually internetional affairs, and then is the headline more than just accurate and supportive.

  5. Chris Miller

    When I was doing jury service in January, I noticed our local Crown Court systems (all on shiny new kit) were running XP. Just sayin'.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Windows XP is the least of their IT problems! AC.. obvs...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Windows XP is positively modern compared to some of the other systems at a Crown Court !

  6. Redstone

    They are going about this all wrong - trying to run before they can walk.

    What they need to do is start with something closer to the legal system's digital technological development:

    1. Buy an old arcade cabinet from ebay

    2. Install in court

    3. Have trial by Mortal Kombat

    1. Flakk

      I'd actually watch that court TV!

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      FINISH HIM!

  7. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Megaphone

    Please pin this article in the third row on the right for a week

    After all, it's only fair.

  8. CustardGannet
    Facepalm

    Nobody knows exactly who built Stonehenge, or why

    ... but seeing as it was built in Britain, it was almost certainly delivered 500 years late and a million sheep over budget

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Re: Nobody knows exactly who built Stonehenge, or why

      Bet it was agile though.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Nobody knows exactly who built Stonehenge, or why

        New research suggests Stonehenge was (ancient) Britain's first multi-role combat aircraft project.

        Of course as requirements changed and the technology under-delivered on promised performance

        some aspects of the aircraft role were reduced in line with expected outcomes.

  9. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Agile - Arseholes gagging in legendary excuses

    That's as a now ex-project manager, and yes, I left because I couldn't work with the so called experts and keep a straight face regarding their excuses to the clients !!

  10. BebopWeBop Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    In a boiler plate response, an HMCTS spokeswoman said: "The Common Platform Programme is a partnership between HMCTS, the Crown Prosecution Service and police and has strong support from the judiciary.

    "It provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to design and build a fully connected criminal courtroom by 2020.

    As so frequently the case, laudable aims. As frequently the case a shame no one had the nouse to plan it properly. Without any attempt to to do any sort of rapid prototyping either (with there intention of throwing away the prototypes rather than incorporating them into the end design, I would be prepared to bet that the requirements developed over 18 months(!) will be a long way from optimal, and when the have to be redeveloped will further add to cost and delay.

    It reminds me about talking with some of the people tasked with speccing and delivering part of the crashed & burnt NHS system. I was flabbergasted to discover that at this point they had not even discussed them with the medical staff who were due to use the damn thing. "we wanted to get it right before we showed them". Honest not making it up.

    The management consultants responsible (I have no reason too suppose they were lying) know who they are - as do most of the readers of this piece.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Deja Vu

    So here we go again another article on government projects that have gone T***up, me thinks it's just a license to print some nice DOSH

  12. Kubla Cant Silver badge
    Megaphone

    a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to modernise the criminal justice system

    This point of view seems to embody the characteristic failure mode of these monster public-sector projects. Instead of building on what's already in place, they have a megalomaniac urge to throw everything away and start again.

    My experience (admittedly on a relatively microscopic scale) is that this attitude is common among people who lack the patience, or the ability, to examine the existing solutions properly.

    1. teebie

      ...and by extension, to know what is required of the project.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Aha

      You are talking about contract architects...

      Write it, drop it, and leg it...

      No bother on the finding out bit, and the does it work bit - you can leave that to the next contractor...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I prefer starting such projects by spending time understanding what the existing system does and talking to the people who actually use it (*), but then I don't pretend to be an expert.

    (*) this often involves negotiation with managers who think they're the ones who know

  14. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  15. MSmith

    Have any Government IT Projects in Britain worked?

    As a US reader, I am left wondering if any Government IT project in the UK has ever worked. I am continually astonished at the vast amounts of money used to build a database, since most of these projects are to build a database. With what they need, wouldn't a simple database containing the case info (names, charges, judge, attorneys) that links to a moodle course with all the information be sufficient? Moodle is open-source, free, robust, and can store and display all the types of files (and more) needed.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Yeah, but Moodle is not the solution that was pushed by the golf-buddy of the high-ranking official who awarded the contract, then waited for his new Mercedes to be delivered.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Have any Government IT Projects in Britain worked?

      "As a US reader, I am left wondering if any Government IT project in the UK has ever worked."

      There are projects that have worked. However they're not as newsworthy as those that fail so you don't hear about them. That's a pity on several levels. One advantage of publicising them would be to let it be known in the public sector that failure shouldn't be regarded as an expected outcome. Another would be to have exemplars of how to do things right.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Have any Government IT Projects in Britain worked?

        In the UK public sector, failure is the norm.

        Jobsworths.

        :(

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Have any Government IT Projects in Britain worked?

          Quality, delivery and cost.

          Just remind me which of those the UK public sector doesn't fail at? Continuously.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Have any Government IT Projects in Britain worked?

      The UK-Gov approach is one (like many other governments) of Babble and Dabble.

      The main supplier is usually mr. Rubble and the main promotions, bonusses usually go to the lawyers and managers who have been liberated of having to produce something on-time that actually works, by automating concepts like "flexibility" "agility" and replacing "specifications" and "designs" with those.

      If we compare IT to regular construction it is probably akin to making construction more agile by denying the need for separate electricians, gas-fitters, but instead divide "technicians" into small groups where they will informally receive "wishes" and immediately set about making them. Since this method is bound to be cheaper and better than working with designs, the scope can easily be up-scaled to maximize the output.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Agile was supposed to fix the problems of vast specs that didn't respond to change very well.

    The thing is, the problem wasn't really the system, it's the people on the whole.

    Divas. BOFHs. Lazy gits. Incompetent PMs. Clueless bosses. Those are the real problems.

    Moving all that crap to Agile doesn't fix it, it just makes it more self-contained.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Introduction to CJS Common Platform Programme

    'We’ve developed the video (below) that outlines how the CJS Common Platform Programme is designing and delivering a shared process to transform the way practitioners in the criminal justice system work'.

    Sucess Story HMCTS & CPS Driving Digital Transformation

    1. Vic
      Joke

      Re: Introduction to CJS Common Platform Programme

      'We’ve developed the video (below)

      I don't dare click. It's a rickroll, isn't it?

      Vic.

      1. frank ly

        Re: Introduction to CJS Common Platform Programme

        That was confusing.

  18. teebie

    "an identity access management system to allow professionals to log on and view cases remotely, has yet to be delivered despite £40m having been spent on it."

    How? Is it being delivered by someone who sent them an unsolicited email. "I would be happy to provide your idenitity management system, for just £10,000" "sadly your transfer failed" "a local tax change means I need 25,000" ... ... "gangsters" ... ... "wombats" ... ... "nearly there, I just need another 5 million, then I will be able to provide the system and marry you

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