Even traditional British stoicism has a breaking point, and for more than half a million British citizens, that breaking point was sorely tested last summer by the introduction of a £120 million ($180 million) computer system at the country's Passport Agency. Processing times for passport applications stretched to eight weeks instead of the normal 10 days. As telephone calls went unanswered, over a million in May 1999 alone, people began turning up outside the agency's six regional offices to request their passports in person.
Then there's the social security "upgrade" debacle. The UK automated social security system by Andersen Consulting crashed within days of its debut in 1999, leaving 17 million pension contributions unprocessed. Bigger still, during the post office employee benefit automation project that started in 1996, £1 billion ($1.5 billion) was spent before its cancellation in 1999. Fast on the heels of that monumental catastrophe, the vendor, ICL, a subsidiary of Fujitsu, was promptly awarded another government contract.
However, the British aren't the only ones losing money. According to a 1997 report from Meta Group, Inc. analyst Shawn Bohner, "more than half of all new software projects throughout the U.S. are at least 180% over budget, which has resulted in $59 billion in losses to corporations".
There is also an intangible downside to all the money lost in these IT business debacles. To regain credibility and trust once lost is a hard-won battle. In the wake of these business disasters, managers and CEOs have an extremely difficult time urging their beleaguered employees to work smart, adopt best practices, and continuously improve.
12. King, Julia, Project Management Ills Cost Businesses Plenty,
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