Computer Business Review

10 reasons why Surrey Police’s £15m SIREN IT project was binned

by Joe Curtis| 20 June 2014

The system was exposed to unnecessary risks and delays, finds auditors Grant Thornton’s report.

A £15m police IT project scrapped last year was exposed to unnecessary risks and delays, according to a damning independent report.

Auditors Grant Thornton's review into Surrey Police's £14.86m scheme to develop SIREN, a system to store criminal records and log crimes to identify county-wide trends found that its ambition was not matched by staff expertise.

The review was published yesterday, more than a year after the project was ditched in March 2013 by Surrey PCC - and then chief constable - Kevin Hurley, following the force's conclusion that it did not represent the "best long-term option for the force and the public".

Surrey Police's Chief Constable, Lynne Owens, admitted it has been a "challenging episode" for the force, and it welcomed the report's recommendations and findings.

Grant Thornton compiled a damning list of reasons for the failure, outlined below.


1 The ambition of SIREN was not supported by staff expertise

"The Force was not experienced in delivering projects of this type and complexity and the chosen supplier, Memex Technology Ltd (Memex), did not make up for this shortfall in terms of managing the risk to delivery."

2 Surrey Police didn't use the agile work method properly

"The Force had little experience of using the Agile approach to project management, development and delivery, which was central to the way that SIREN would be delivered." This meant the scope of the project was poorly controlled for "a significant period", and meant staff identified delays and shortfalls in funding late in the process. "This was a key factor that resulted in the project taking considerably longer than planned," said the report.

3 A failure to accept iterative project modules under the agile development process

However, even when new versions of modules were not being accepted by the police, Memex carried on delivering them. "Neither Memex nor the Force sought to resolve this issue at an early stage. In our view, this contributed to the risk of the project rising above acceptable levels and was fundamental to the project's failure."

4 Too much staff churn

The project had five Senior Responsible Officers and five Programme Managers - that's a lot of change.

5 The right people weren't recruited

Maybe this is a corollary of the above point, but as the review says: "There was a failure to recruit, retain and allocate appropriately skilled and experienced resource to the programme. The Force failed to recruit for some key roles until very late in the project's life - for example, the key roles of business change analyst and test manager, amongst others."

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