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June 20, 2014updated 22 Sep 2016 11:34am

10 reasons why Surrey Police’s £15m SIREN IT project was binned

The system was exposed to unnecessary risks and delays, finds auditors Grant Thornton’s report.

By Joe Curtis

A £15m police IT project scrapped last year was exposed to unnecessary risks and delays, according to a damning independent report.

Auditors Grant Thornton’s review into Surrey Police’s £14.86m scheme to develop SIREN, a system to store criminal records and log crimes to identify county-wide trends found that its ambition was not matched by staff expertise.

The review was published yesterday, more than a year after the project was ditched in March 2013 by Surrey PCC – and then chief constable – Kevin Hurley, following the force’s conclusion that it did not represent the "best long-term option for the force and the public".

Surrey Police’s Chief Constable, Lynne Owens, admitted it has been a "challenging episode" for the force, and it welcomed the report’s recommendations and findings.

Grant Thornton compiled a damning list of reasons for the failure, outlined below.

1 The ambition of SIREN was not supported by staff expertise

"The Force was not experienced in delivering projects of this type and complexity and the chosen supplier, Memex Technology Ltd (Memex), did not make up for this shortfall in terms of managing the risk to delivery."

2 Surrey Police didn’t use the agile work method properly

"The Force had little experience of using the Agile approach to project management, development and delivery, which was central to the way that SIREN would be delivered." This meant the scope of the project was poorly controlled for "a significant period", and meant staff identified delays and shortfalls in funding late in the process. "This was a key factor that resulted in the project taking considerably longer than planned," said the report.

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3 A failure to accept iterative project modules under the agile development process

However, even when new versions of modules were not being accepted by the police, Memex carried on delivering them. "Neither Memex nor the Force sought to resolve this issue at an early stage. In our view, this contributed to the risk of the project rising above acceptable levels and was fundamental to the project’s failure."

4 Too much staff churn

The project had five Senior Responsible Officers and five Programme Managers – that’s a lot of change.

5 The right people weren’t recruited

Maybe this is a corollary of the above point, but as the review says: "There was a failure to recruit, retain and allocate appropriately skilled and experienced resource to the programme. The Force failed to recruit for some key roles until very late in the project’s life – for example, the key roles of business change analyst and test manager, amongst others."

6 Where were the right checks and balances?

"In some instances, roles that should be delivered by separate individuals appear from the project reports to have been effectively combined and delivered by the same person. This weakened the ‘healthy tensions’ between these roles that need to exist to safeguard effective governance within the project."

7 Staff did not clarify what constituted a risk

"There was a lack of clarity over what constitutes an issue or a risk. This may have prevented issues from being identified as such and escalated into the wider organisation for resolution."

8 Reporting was "rose-tinted"

Reports on the project weren’t always representative of reality, and missed goals were underplayed. Financial reporting wasn’t granular enough, either, while there wasn’t much challenge or scrutiny of reports.

9 There were no gateway reviews

This led to less understanding of how the project was performing.

10 Cost control was "poor"

The true cost of the project wasn’t well-understood and didn’t include all the overheads. "This was partly because the Force did not maintain adequate time recording or other systems to accurately capture all attributable costs and record time spent by all individuals on the project," added the review.

Surrey Police say

Surrey Police’s Chief Constable, Lynne Owens, admitted it has been a "challenging episode" for the force, and it welcomed the report’s recommendations and findings.

She was also keen to point out that while the issue is a "matter of regret" for the police, the problems are not endemic and the force is continually improving.

She said: "Surrey Police has already made improvements since the handling of the SIREN project, as can be evidenced by the successful installation of Niche RMS which replaced SIREN as our new crime, case and custody ICT system."

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