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United Kingdom The Almighty Buck IT

UK Benefits System In Deeper Trouble? 266

judgecorp writes "Two media reports suggest that the Universal Credit scheme to overhaul Britain's welfare programme is in trouble. The IT project to support Universal Credit was launched by the Cabinet Office, and it will be completed and run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) — but the Guardian says the Cabinet Office has pulled out its elite experts too soon, while a different leak told Computer Weekly that the four original suppliers — HP, IBM, Accenture and BT — have been effectively frozen out in an internal change. It's the biggest change to Britain's benefits system for many years, and all the evidence says it's not going well."
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UK Benefits System In Deeper Trouble?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 09, 2014 @06:15AM (#45905205)

    Sounds like it's going well then...

  • Let's hope the government didn't piss away another £12b on a failed IT system. []
    • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @06:32AM (#45905251) Homepage

      To be fair a single NHS IT system is a very good idea. Its just a shame the contractors smelt money and decided to milk it for all it was worth rather than bother to deliver a working system. I actually worked for a small company that was subcontracted by a certain large telecoms company back in 2007 to work on a subsection of the DB side and we did our best , but unfortunately the powers that be at said telecom company just didn't give a sh*t. We'd send them new binaries which would then never get tested or if they did it would be months before we'd get an in the field report back. Utterly shameful.

      • by Spad ( 470073 )

        No, it was a terrible idea.

        Rather than defining a common data standard for patient records and having a centralised lookup system that facilitated record transfer between locations, they instead created a dreadfully designed, poorly tested, feature-poor, monolithic system intended to replace the hundreds of clinical applications that everyone was already used to using.

        "Here, now you have to use this application with a totally unintuitive interface that's totally different to your current system. It won't wo

        • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @08:23AM (#45905557) Homepage

          "We won't import half the existing records and the ones we do can't include any mental or sexual health information because we didn't bother with fine-grained access controls"

          I hate to ruin your rant but - and I know because I worked on this - that the database records had various levels of encryption (by which I mean if you just did a SELECT from the DB on certain patient fields all you would see is garbage so even DB admins couldn't see it) which meant that - in theory - only the correct people could access certain parts.

          • The next column in the database was probably the key for the RC4 cypher. Which was probably an MD5 hash of the original data, no less.
            • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

              Blowfish IIRC. And what was in the Oracle DB was just a key pointing to an encrypted hash DB elsewhere.

          • by Spad ( 470073 )

            That may well be true, but I know that none of the 3 NHS Trusts in which I worked were able to import mental or sexual health records into the national system because they weren't able to stop people who had access to a patient's general medical record from also being able to see the mental & sexual health portions of the record if they were on the system.

        • The entire point of the buzzword "SOA" is that you aren't supposed to do that.

      • I wonder who wrote a contract that lacked close oversight of the program with verifiable test results at various delivery milestones?
        • Suppliers are understandably wary of signing such contracts, when ministers regularly get 'good ideas' and start imposing new design requirements regularly during projects.
          Is this the fault of 'fat cat contractors' - perhaps to a degree.
          Does government have its own share - oh yes.

      • Its just a shame the contractors smelt money

        Smelting money is always a bad idea. The base metals are worth much less than the original coins and they're not even good metals for making tools, etc. (which could be sold for profit).

      • Just don't understand why they didn't publish the requirements and offer a fraction of the money to the best entry voted on by end users and security experts. Could have saved a fortune and had system that actually worked!
  • by ciderbrew ( 1860166 ) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @06:29AM (#45905247)
    but they seem to be able to get a system together to monitor our global communications and do things the rich want to protect their failing business model.
    • by Xest ( 935314 )

      That's because it wasn't outsourced to Accenture along with a contract that lets them get paid even if they fail to deliver.

  • Alternative Summary: (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    4 major fortune 500 hundred companies who are major contributors to /. and the status quo have been marginalized by a government ministry's own in house IT staff, and therefore the major corporations are goings to demand that this disaster by put on the front page of /. /. will comply. We are in compliance with our corporate overlords.

  • Launched by DWP (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Christianson ( 1036710 ) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @06:40AM (#45905277)
    The article summary is a bit misleading. Universal Credit has from beginning to end been the child of the Department of Work and Pensions. The Government Digital Service, the in-house IT design expert office, is technically part of the Cabinet Office, but that's only because it's a centralised IT design service meant to serve all branches of the government. Also, the summary skips over the critical part of the article: the GDS is pulling out because the project is being run in direct contradiction with their own recommendations. Looking at the situation, it's difficult to apportion any part of the blame for the project troubles to the Cabinet Office; it seems to lie entirely on the shoulders of the DWP.
    • by sa1lnr ( 669048 )

      So it would be Iain Duncan Smith, for as far as I'm aware he has overall responsibility for the DWP.

  • Switching from large commercial providers using a disciplined time-tested development methodology, to a few (probably less-experienced) internal developers, using an ad-hoc "Agile" (probably undisciplined) software development methodology (that management probably just thought was cool). What could possibly go wrong?

    To extend the current IT solution we will be using a standard waterfall delivery approach largely using existing suppliers and commercial frameworks, in order to de-risk delivery and ensure

    • Agile is hardly 'undisciplined'. There's also a lot to be said for 'fail early' when dealing with a project like this. That said, I would have thought they would have had a fairly defined and static set of requirements for a project like this, making waterfall a possibility.

      • by Rande ( 255599 ) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @08:05AM (#45905507) Homepage

        Defined and Static? You've not worked for a govt project then?

      • by Xest ( 935314 )

        Don't even try, most Agile detractors on Slashdot don't know the first thing about it, they just had a bad manager come in one day and tell them they were doing some Agile when they weren't, they were just doing some half-arsed hearsay version in a poorly implemented manner that they thought could just be shoe-horned in and somehow achieve results. They're completely oblivious that the likes of scrum is as well defined and disciplined as anything like waterfall.

        Not to mention that waterfall has been behind

    • They said from the start there was no hope of reaching the goals with anything but "agile". Sure, there was no hope of reaching them with agile either, but then you could at least blame agile.

    • So they are gong to employ people directly rather than pay through the nose for capita,IBM,Oracle "consultants" sounds like they are moving in the right direction
  • by ThatsNotPudding ( 1045640 ) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @08:40AM (#45905639)
    It is meant to be an abject failure so the Torries can dump it entirely and replace it with the issuing of bootstraps.

    The Rand / Koch movement is not just for domestic US implementation.
  • by rabtech ( 223758 ) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @09:01AM (#45905741) Homepage

    I may be misunderstanding, but it appears that the existing contractors are using old-school waterfall. Gee, government contractors using a heavily-specs-oriented approach, when has that gone wrong?

    The new idea seems to be having a team of smaller players use an agile approach to deliver the real system.

    Any time you can get a group of smaller developers doing rapid iterations with the government it's a miracle... It is also vastly more likely to deliver something decent and on-budget.

    Anytime I see HP, IBM, Agilent, et al winning a contract for some government system I automatically assume it will be an epic fail.

  • by Virtucon ( 127420 ) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @09:29AM (#45905841)

    When the politicians in the same government start bailing on a project and start to point fingers at each other, it's only a short amount of time thereafter that you'll see resignations and folks trying to distance themselves from the coming disaster. It's that rat instinct we all have and this project sounds like it'll completely blow up here shortly.

Bell Labs Unix -- Reach out and grep someone.