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Expensive military IT project 'Herkules' does not compute

The Local · 27 Apr 2010, 16:03

Published: 27 Apr 2010 16:03 GMT+02:00

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An internal Defence Ministry report obtained by financial daily Handelsblatt reveals that neither project leaders nor users see a good reason for the strategic public-private partnership on the so-called “Herkules” project, the paper said.

The partnership between the two companies and the Bundeswehr was created in 2006 to form the BWI IT GmbH, with the aim of providing some 300,000 new telephones, 140,000 new computers, and a speedy data network to troops by 2010.

But according to the authors of the ministry report, repeated break-downs, malfunctions, and system failures, have led experts to believe the company can’t do the job.

“No one believes that BWI IT is a good industrial partner that is fit or flexible enough to take on the specifics of the field,” the report reads.

Members of military would rather use the Bundeswehr’s ageing IT system instead of the new one, now estimated to have cost well over €7 billion, the paper said.

Story continues below…

BWI IT declined to give a statement about the situation, Handelsblatt said.

Serious delays and additional costs have already made Herkules the topic of negative headlines in the last few years. The parliamentary budgetary committee reportedly threatened to cut the contract in recent weeks following reports that BWI IT workers had received generous bonuses despite the company’s failure to deliver, the paper said.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

16:40 April 27, 2010 by William Thirteen
seems to be a confidence gap!
19:35 April 27, 2010 by michael4096
After spending 3 years on a big failed IT project, with all the personal grief that brings, I will do something I rarely do on forums. I'll make a big, broad generalization. German organizations should not build big, green-field IT projects - they haven't the temperament.

Germans are great process people. Given a big system, they will make it bigger, better, more efficient, more resilient and generally improve life no end. BMWs, Audis, Mercs etc were not designed and built, they evolved over decades.

However, given a target 3 years and a half-billion euros in the future and the first thing they will do is build an enormous, costly and totally opaque process to get them there in the most 'efficient' way they can think of. And, they will then blindly follow that process long, long, long past the point where most people have not only smelled the rat but archeologists are excavating rat skeleton.

And, if you are a Siemens or an IBM are you really going to kill your gravy train and 'fess up to fulfilling useless purchase orders?

Ironically, the best project managers I've ever seen were German. They could take almost any setback and continue but they could not say: we're going the wrong way, we must back up and go off in a different direction.
19:43 April 27, 2010 by xyz_79
Ahhhha! The Germans refuse to bail out GREECE and than make systems with their GOD's name, ofcourse it was going to flop....

By the way; hope GERMANY doesn't bail out GREECE, the Greeks need to go through it on their own....."Through chaos comes peace and clarity"...
00:13 April 28, 2010 by wood artist
This type of problem is certainly not unique to Germany. It happens all over the world, and it seems to happen very often to governmental projects, especially the military. Why?

Well, speaking only for the US military that I'm more familiar with, I think the usual problem is "specification creep."

Somebody decides a "new system" is required. That decision is probably based upon an older, antiquated system and some reading that suggests all kinds of wonderful new things can be done. So, a specification is developed and bids taken. Then, after the contract is awarded, things start to change.

First they find something that just can't be done with current technology. Then, somebody says "hey it would be really great if it could do this too," and that gets added. As the real work starts, the design keeps changing, and even pieces that do work won't integrate with the new ideas, so they must be discarded and started again.

In the end, the whole thing doesn't work, because no one is actually sure what it is supposed to do. I don't really think this has anything to do with "Germans" as opposed to "Americans" or any other national group. The problem is with the process, not the people trying to make it work.

01:09 April 28, 2010 by Prufrock2010
wa --

Good points. There's nothing so lucrative as government R&D projects developed by private contractors. It's a limitless cash cow.
10:31 April 28, 2010 by michael4096

Yes and No. Scope Creep is blamed for just about every failed project out there. But, it is impossible to specify a system years ahead, the world changes, technology changes, the users change. Scope changes are a fact of life in all projects big or small, government or business. The difference between successful projects and failed ones is whether you manage the changes correctly.

Government projects fail slightly more frequently that commercial endevours for two main reasons: they try to do too much and they are badly managed - not necessarily a slight on project managers but the environment they are forced to work in. For example, they usually treat scope change as a process problem when it is equally an architectural and a planning problem.


I'll go with that. However, there are a number of companies out there that, like Goldman S, have discovered that a little bit of deliberately 'poor' customer advice can be worth billions in future work.
11:37 April 28, 2010 by snorge
And who can forget NMCI...
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