Over budget and late: the BBC epic software fail

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com, or follow me on Twitter.

Sad that this goes on, and top management never seems to learn:

“Agile development was agreed upfront, not developing the whole system end-to-end from day one,” Linwood told MPs.

“Several months later [the business] decided it didn’t want to do that, but would wait for the full functionality; it didn’t want to continue down that path,” he said.

“The business objected to the [agile] approach. Small incremental releases would allow the business to get hands-on with the technology so it would not need to wait until the end of the programme. The business then said it didn’t want to spend time testing, but wait until large incremental pieces [were completed].”

As a result of scrapping agile, the IT team went ahead and developed large chunks of functionality ready for review by users.

According to Linwood, those users were still not happy. In one of his submissions to the PAC hearing, he cited two examples of business requirements undergoing significant change that caused additional work for the development team.

In one case, he claimed that users wanted a function to produce a “rough cut” of video output, which was subsequently developed, only to be told that those users now wanted to use an off-the-shelf product from Adobe instead. Once the IT team had integrated that Adobe product into the DMI software, users then said they wanted to use a different Adobe product altogether, said Linwood.

In another example, he quoted several changes to requirements for search functionality, at each stage requiring “significant and challenging” extra work, according to Linwood.

“These changes caused delays in delivery, which were appropriately reported at every stage,” he said.

Under questioning at the committee hearing, Linwood added: “They wrote off more than they should have done. They wrote off software that was working and infrastructure that was working. They were written off because the business decided not to use them.”

…Somewhat ironically, BBC director of operations Dominic Coles told MPs that the broadcaster plans to change the way it delivers technology in future by “chunking it up in definable separate projects” – in other words, agile by a different name.

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