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Same Old Story — Why Now?
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Same Old Story

CNN reports on the latest failure: Report sharply critical of delays, costs of FBI case management system

Washington (CNN) — The FBI’s troubled new system designed to help agents and analysts electronically handle evidence, reports and documents is now about $100 million over budget and two years behind schedule, according to a report by the Justice Department’s internal watchdog.

The stinging report by investigators for Inspector General Glenn Fine is sharply critical of the lack of progress on the automated case management system known as Sentinel. The project was intended to move the FBI from an outmoded paper-based system to an electronic system for handling and sharing information about criminal cases.

Sentinel was launched with fanfare in 2006 after a previous effort collapsed, costing taxpayers more than $100 million. Sentinel was supposed to be completed at a cost of $451 million in 2009. Lockheed Martin was hired to develop the system.

Serious problems developed last year during the development of the second phase of the four-phase project. The intended user-friendly system had “serious performance and usability issues and had received overwhelmingly negative user feedback during testing with FBI agents and analysts” the report said.

The FBI has been attempting to move to a computer-assisted system for decades, and the cost has to be approaching a billion dollars. What they want to do is now a standard content management system, like blogging software, although it was relatively rare when they started the project. The underlying problem is that the FBI has never hired its own IT professionals to, at least, design the system and accurately describe the requirements, everything has been handled by contractors who would have no reason to understand exactly what the FBI does, and what the personnel need to do their job.

This is another example of the hidden cost of outsourcing basic functions.


1 paintedjaguar { 10.22.10 at 11:18 am }

Yeah, I was just thinking about this kind of thing a couple of days ago while reading an article about the growing use of call centers for almost all customer interactions. Interacting with customers is basic and affects all other operations in important ways, yet outsourcing and automation have become almost ubiquitous. To me that seems sick in a very fundamental way. It’s all about reducing both workers and customers to commodities of course, but also seems non-functional in terms of quality and real efficiency. That’s corporatism in a nutshell, I suppose.

2 Bryan { 10.22.10 at 2:03 pm }

Out-sourcing customer support is a killer for a manufacturer because you lose the feedback necessary for product development, i.e. what do customers love and what do they hate about a product. You also lose the information needed to correct problems with documentation which would reduce unnecessary service calls.

When upper management is controlled by people who know nothing about manufacturing, they view customer relations as an overhead cost, just like the light bill, not the necessary link in product development.