back to article Yes, Emergency Service Network will be late and cost more - UK perm sec

The UK Home Office’s Emergency Services Network that is intended to replace the country's national radio infrastructure with a 4G network is running overtime and budget, politicians were told today. Amber Rudd, Home Office chief was questioned alongside Permanent secretary Philip Rutnam, on the progress of department's largest …

  1. Tom 38 Silver badge

    Agile for everything!

    Except, in this case, agile means "I don't know what we want and we're making it up as we go along".

    Actually that's just like almost every other agile project...

    1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Agile for everything!

      Indeed.

      I was running a stakeholder and Programme board call only this morning and had to remind the whole business and product ownership team that just because we are running an Agile programme, it doesn't mean that you can simply change your mind every 5 minutes about what you want and when you want it.

    2. SVV

      Re: Agile for everything!

      ""He added: "[This approach] probably takes longer to deliver the benefits - which inherently I’m afraid costs a bit more"

      Funny, I don't remember that being trumpeted in the agile manifesto. My impression was that it claimed almost the exact opposite. But what he said is also actually like almost every other agile project, so he seems to have stumbled upon the truth through his misunderstanding.

  2. Red Bren

    Bodes well for NI border

    So a government IT project that has already been in progress for years, is flagging up a warning that it won't deliver on time, 21 months before the deadline. At the same time, the government is saying it can invent, develop and deliver a technological solution to the NI border issue, in 21 months, even though it hasn't started yet?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Bodes well for NI border

      Personally I think replacing all the signs near the border with Welsh and hoping everybody in NI is too confused to find it - is an innovative and agile solution.

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: Bodes well for NI border

        This sign in Welsh? http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7702913.stm

        1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

          Re: Bodes well for NI border

          @Robert Carnegie

          Definitely a classic

          Twll tîn, pob Sais

          1. handleoclast

            Re: Bodes well for NI border

            Twll tîn, pob Sais

            Google translate tells me that means "Tank hole, all slices." Has google got it very wrong or is this a subtle reference to some other translation error?

      2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: Bodes well for NI border

        @YAAC

        A good idea, but take it a bit further and it may solve the whole argument over bi-lingual signs in the North. Start off by making the ones in Unionist areas English + Welsh. They'd be happy with that as it emphasises their llinks with their compatriots across the water, rather than the ones down Souith.

        Then, once they're used to them, start swapping them for Irish + English and see if anyone notices.

        1. handleoclast

          Re: Bodes well for NI border

          Then, once they're used to them, start swapping them for Irish + English and see if anyone notices.

          Of course they would notice. Back when Welsh and Irish diverged from a common Gallic root, they decided upon their respective orthographies by alternately picking letters from a Scrabble box. One got a preponderance of consonants, the other a preponderance of vowels. So Welsh has words like Eglwyswrw and Irish has words like Taoiseach.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bodes well for NI border

      Even if they somehow did manage to cobble together some sort of system, it's not going to cope with the businesses such as some farms that straddle the border.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bodes well for NI border

        @Yet Another Anonymous coward

        I see you have fallen into the trap of over complication, the simple solution would be to swap the signs round so when entering Ireland you are entering Northern Ireland and vice versa. That way you don't need a border as it no longer exists and you haven't moved between countries.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Bodes well for NI border

          What if NI was renamed "Ireland" and Eire was renamed "Great Ireland" then everybody would be happy

  3. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
    Flame

    I can't remember

    the last time I read of a government project coming in on time and on budget.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: I can't remember

      Happens all the time.

      Oh, you mean in the UK? Yeah, no, forget it.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: I can't remember

      Yeah, the real scoop would be a list of UK Gov IT projects that are on time and on budget.

      I guess we could have one - on April 1st.

    3. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

      Re: I can't remember

      Used to happen regularly when they had their own in-house expert consultancy organisation, CCTA.

      Alas, under lobbying from the computer industry they closed that down around 2000. Ever since then, government has been a soft touch for computer cowboys....

  4. tom dial Silver badge

    Dog bites man; details at 6

    The genuine news story in this category would be an IT project of more than a dozen or so man-weeks that completes on its original schedule and within its original budget. I cannot recall one in roughly 40 years in the craft, although I have heard tell of a very few.

    1. Julz Silver badge

      Re: Dog bites man; details at 6

      The 2012 back end IT infrastructure systems. They were horrendously over engineered though.

    2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Dog bites man; details at 6

      The depressing thing is that other industries manage it. I've been involved with a new community building project that opened six months ago. Half a million quid, 9 month build phase, on time, on budget.

      But I admit to estimation failings. My habit has been to start with something fairly realistic/optimistic, based on things going smoothly. Then start to add in contingencies ("user confusion" as it's often known) and you end up with a figure that's so high the customer won't bite. But it would guarantee on time and on budget!

  5. Alister

    we're all going to die!

    probably...

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: we're all going to die!

      eventually ...

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: we're all going to die!

        ...but medical science is making great strides...

    2. workhouse

      Re: we're all going to die!

      The UK Government have upgraded this to “Highly Likely” At least our survivors will have comfort in knowing the Russians did it! ;)

    3. Red Bren
      Coat

      Re: we're all going to die!

      I've never died, so based on all the evidence available, I'm immortal!

      I'll get my shroud...

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Re: we're all going to die!

        Obligatory xkcd

  6. Commswonk Silver badge
    FAIL

    He admitted it was a “very complicated project” and said the current radio system Airwave will initially operate in parallel. “Progress is being made, some very good progress in a number of areas. Is there more that needs to be done? Yes there is.”

    He said: “We are looking at how we can roll out features of the new system while we continue to operate Airwave for longer.”

    When TETRA / Airwave rolled out well over a decade ago police forces gained a significant increase in communications capability. (I hate the word "functionality" with a passion, even if I do use it occasionally) I really do not see how that overall capability can be retained if two different systems are trying to operate in parallel, unless that is someone is going to design and build a monstrous interface that can sit between the two systems and translate between them.

    On top of that control room systems have integrated command control and communications systems and I would expect trying to integrate two types of communications system into one ICCCS would be more or less impossible; certainly costly. I sincerely hope that control rooms aren't going to be nearly duplicated to get around this. If that isn't bad enough then trying to shoe - horn a separate communications system into most types of emergency service vehicle will be a real nightmare. (Let's just say I'm not guessing here...)

    Given that a "big bang" approach for any nationwide transition from one system to another is impossible then it is equally impossible to escape the fact that during what looks as though it will be a protracted transition emergency service communications will be downgraded with an associated downgrading of operational effectiveness being unavoidable.

    Thank <deity> I am retired...

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      IIRC from a previous el'reg story - one of the 'features' that was was currently unsolved was 'use with a vehicle' which seems like a pretty major feature fro a police/fire/ambulance system

      1. Commswonk Silver badge

        Indeed you do remember correctly. Not good.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "unless that is someone is going to design and build a monstrous interface that can sit between the two systems and translate between them."

      I know there was some work going on to have a 4G/Tetra gateway, but I wasn't involved in that...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And everyone conveniently forgets that 4G doesn't have universal coverage in the UK so what do they do for comms where it isn't?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I would suggest a boat load of walkie-talkies from the local electronics shop then I remembered that Maplin had gone bust.....

    4. Lotaresco

      "When TETRA / Airwave rolled out well over a decade ago police forces gained a significant increase in communications capability."

      It was indeed a long way over a decade ago - I worked on the next phase of roll out supplying Airwave for Fire and HA use, ending up with control rooms being commissioned in 2006. the police had been using it for some time before that.

      The two problems that I recall were that few of the users liked it, mostly because end user training was dreadful. I once showed someone how to use a handset, including the emergency button and how to change to a different talk group. He said the five minute chat taught him more than the approved training course. The second problem being cost, to the extent that instead of being used as designed at as combination TETRA terminal and GSM phone the users ended up festooned with multiple mobiles and the Airwave terminal. This was because a separate phone cost a lot less than putting a SIM in an Airwave terminal.

      However having got to the point where users can (just about) use it and the control rooms have more or less got around to integrating it with GIS and C2 systems throwing it out seems the worst option.

  7. }{amis}{
    Joke

    Business as usual then...

    By the dubious standards of a government IT contract aka cluster @#%& this is running ahead of time and under budget!

  8. macjules Silver badge

    Green light?

    I was hoping for Amber Rudd to say that she was giving the project the green light to go ahead.

    Rutnam claimed the department is taking a more “incremental” approach” to delivery and is using the "philosophy of agile delivery of programmes which is founded in IT".

    Meaning: "Capita told me what to say before I came here today".

    1. Commswonk Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: Green light?

      Meaning: "Capita told me what to say before I came here today".

      Wrong contractor. I don't think Crapita has any involvement in this (not yet anyway) unless politicians have outsourced their speech writing, in which there is really is no hope.

  9. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    But, but, but...

    I naively assume that one of the main points of a comms system for emergency services is that it can be used anywhere. I'm guessing that the old crackly radios managed that. Tetra presumably has fairly good geographical coverage as well.

    So, errrmmm, 4G? There are large areas around here without it. What does the ambulance do? Drive on until they find a phone box?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But, but, but...

      It's all part of brexit. Taking the UK back to the 1920's!

  10. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "When asked again if she was concerned about the programme, Rudd deferred to Rutnam."

    So she doesn't even know whether she's concerned.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Coat

      Can she be arsed? Or should that be elbowed?

  11. Jim Whitaker

    Surprise!

    Well that's a surprise - not.

  12. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    How is this news?

    This is exactly what I'd expect.

  13. David Beeston

    As someone who loves agile working, this frustrates me.

    "[This approach] probably takes longer to deliver the benefits" is exactly the opposite of what agile is meant to do. The whole point of agile is that it delivers benefit sooner, rather than waiting for the whole solution to be defined and ready. And as such the overall benefit is both sooner and greater.

    What they really mean is they didn't understand what their MVP looked like.

    And agile normally means that the scope is the negotiable bit. Time is often locked to regular releases etc. Resource is normally fixed too. Therefore scope within each interval is negotiable. Only, in this project I bet it isn't. Scope will be fixed, resources will be relatively fixed, which means budget needs to be flexible.

    If the scope is fixed, and can't be delivered iteratively, then is agile really the right approach? Or do they mean they are now going to try and do something just so they don't look like a complete and utter screw-up. Looks like an agile scapegoat to me.

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