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Australian State Bans IBM From All Contracts After Payroll Bungle

samzenpus posted 1 year,22 days | from the and-you're-done dept.

Australia 212

renai42 writes "If you don't follow Australian technology news, you're probably not aware that over the past few years, the State of Queensland massively bungled a payroll systems upgrade in its Department of Health. The issues resulted in thousands of hospital staff being underpaid or not paid at all, and has ballooned in cost from under $10 million in budget to a projected total cost of $1.2 billion. Queensland has now banned the project's prime contractor, IBM, comprehensively from signing any new contracts with any government department, until it addresses what the state says are IBM's project governance issues."

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212 comments

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Language Barrier (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507063)

Obviously, you Aussie blokes need to learn Hindi if you want to partner effectively with IBM.

Re:Language Barrier (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507369)

Who knows, maybe in the future Chinese skills grow importance as the then IBM gets boring infrastructure projects the locals are just too lazy to do. Today Chinese build roads and buildings as the locals don't want to bake in the desert sun, tomorrow ours and yours governments essential IT infrastructure.

Re:Language Barrier (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507377)

Exactly.

Re:Language Barrier (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507395)

Not likely given China's propensity towards spying on everyone.

Re:Language Barrier (5, Insightful)

Nyder (754090) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507627)

Not likely given China's propensity towards spying on everyone.

Did you say that with a straight face?

Re:Language Barrier (4)

Entropius (188861) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507783)

Just because the Americans are spying on people doesn't mean the Chinese aren't doing it too.

Re:Language Barrier (3, Funny)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507373)

The Aussies would have learn English first.

Re:Language Barrier (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507495)

^ to

pot / kettle

Re:Language Barrier (2)

Entropius (188861) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507809)

As an American, I find it easier to understand Australian English than many American-born English speakers.

Re:Language Barrier (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44508059)

As an American, I find it easier to understand Australian English than many American-born English speakers.

Yeah that's because the US is infected with gutter trash bastardizations such as redneck "english" and so-called "ebonics". Just that the "ebonics" form of ignorance is associated with a skin color because US is obsessed with group identity, so it has been falsely elevated to the status of a language dialect in a failed attempt to legitimize the fact that only the most ignorant and uneducated (and likely violent) would ever speak redneck OR ebonics.

Lol (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507103)

Deflection, Qld health are the worst run bureaucracy in country. I've heard first hand they put non IT on the project and were forever changing scope then pushing forward with little or no testing.

Re:Lol (2)

Elindor (84810) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507153)

That came up in the various stories I read yesterday about this issue - and I'm more inclined to believe IBM's side of the story.

Re:Lol (4, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507303)

Indeed. IBM's reputation is pretty well established. They are slow, tedious and yet effective. They are a glacier in IT. But I see it everywhere -- people making decisions in an IT project that have know knowledge of what it takes to make things happen. The illusion that "it's all so easy" has really gotten buried too deep in someone's head somewhere.

Re:Lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507437)

" The illusion that "it's all so easy" has really gotten buried too deep in someone's head somewhere."

That's very prevalent in 3D printing stories and Space Nuttery too.

Re:Lol (4, Informative)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507473)

Indeed. IBM's reputation is pretty well established. They are slow, tedious and yet effective. They are a glacier in IT. But I see it everywhere -- people making decisions in an IT project that have know knowledge of what it takes to make things happen. The illusion that "it's all so easy" has really gotten buried too deep in someone's head somewhere.

The magic phrase is "All You Have To Do Is..."

Those six words have destroyed more IT projects than anyone can count.

Re:Lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44508047)

Indeed. IBM's reputation is pretty well established. They are slow, tedious and yet effective.

India Business Machines is among the worst information technology outsourcing and consulting services in the world. Yet governments throw bags of money at them project after failed/delayed/cost-overrun project.

Re:Lol (3, Insightful)

Loughla (2531696) | 1 year,22 days | (#44508143)

The illusion that "it's all so easy" has really gotten buried too deep in someone's head somewhere.

I think it's because PC's are the new 'old car'. In my youth, when men were bored, they would go tinker around with their cars. This tinkering began and ended at home, simply because there was no translation to the workplace. Today, though, with all the gee-gaws and doohickeys that are on modern cars, men have less to tinker with. What we do have, though, is a home PC. We can tinker, we can figure, we can play with the home PC and not really screw stuff up. SO, to people like that, it really is a simple transition between home PC tinkering, and systems design.

Or, it could be because most people HAVE to have say in what goes on around them, regardless of skills or knowledge.

One of those two things.

Re: Lol (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507189)

Ditto. I know one of the IBM Admins for this job, she said Qld health signed off at every stage before going live. I'd like to see who has the greater budget for a court battle - the qld govt is broke.

Re: Lol (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507281)

The telling part is that IBM only got $25M for their efforts. I say this as a government PM. We are absolute, miserable failures at buying software. We don't know what we want, which begs IBM, SAIC, SAP, et al, to bid low and then increase the price every time we go "shit, we didn't really mean that."

Let me explain something (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507647)

Ditto. I know one of the IBM Admins for this job, she said Qld health signed off at every stage before going live. I'd like to see who has the greater budget for a court battle - the qld govt is broke.

Here's how I've seen it done on other projects - disclaimer: I don't know about Qld.

While your Admin was toiling away at her job, the folks that the sales rep needed signatures from where being taken out to dinner and were being entertained. Nothing really wrong - just a night or more out.

At a very nice restaurant.

The Beemer shows up - probably a 6' 2" ex-collegian football star that would be recognized by the fans and swooned over by the ladies; let's call him Jeff - they all go to a nice restaurant, the wine list comes out and a bottle shows up (and they don't stop coming), expensive appetizers, and then dinner. At the end of the evening, the Platinum Company Amex comes out and a round of "Thank yous!"

Nothing more.

Signature time comes up. Jeff hands over the form and Government bureaucrat having the best time of his life signs, and Jeff then says, "See you at dinner?"

Rinse, repeat.

That, you geeks, is how it's done.

Re: Lol (1, Interesting)

Capt.Albatross (1301561) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507925)

I know one of the IBM Admins for this job, she said Qld health signed off at every stage before going live.

By itself, sign-off is a red herring in these issues. The contractor is supposed to have the expertise to propose viable solutions before the sign-off, and then to implement them effectively. If the client went against good advice or repeatedly changed its mind, then it carries a share of the blame that can reach 100%, but you cannot establish that from the sign-offs alone (after all, the contractor also signed off on the same things at the same time.) The sign-offs are useful only as corroborating evidence for the information that is needed to determine what went wrong, which is a) who decided what, and when? and b) were the decisions effectively implemented?

While sign-offs are an important formal action in the process, they are not themselves productive, and when I see people obsessing over them, I see people in CYA mode, preparing for the assignment-of-blame phase of the project.

Re: Lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44508117)

Ok then what's the purpose of HAVING a sign-off if not to say "I understand this, think it's a good idea, approve of it, and am willing to put my name to it?" QED.

Re:Lol (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507241)

I worked on a large project for a quasi-government body building software for Queensland Health as a customer.

They had reservations about us being able to deliver. We delivered a rock-solid piece of software on time and budget. They, however, took 8 _years_ to take that piece of software and put it into production.

Yes, they are that bad.

They were a basketcase _at least_ a decade before the payroll bungle.

Re: Lol (1, Insightful)

robmv (855035) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507259)

âThe job of an IT department is to block or delay any solution implementation"

Re: Lol (2)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507479)

I am Mordac, Preventer of Information Services.

Re:Lol (4, Insightful)

wisty (1335733) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507387)

Requirements:

Make it better than the old system.

Make it work the same way as the old system.

Make it compatible with every else's system.

The only trade-off allowed is cost, since it's just tax dollars.

Re:Lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507673)

shit, aint that the truth.

Re:Lol (1)

jythie (914043) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507407)

That is what I suspect. Payroll systems are kinda hard to mess up, they are one of the most well understood problems in IT. I suspect, if anything, IBM needs more of a backbone when dealing with flakey customers.

Re:Lol (2)

sjwt (161428) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507543)

IBM Pulled out after the costs really started to balloon.. as in the 10's of Millions... And then it really went down hill.

Wrong! (5, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507119)

That's not how government procurement is supposed to work! A company that has failed to deliver on multiple contracts in the past should be given priority, because it has significant experience in government contracting work!

Re:Wrong! (1)

Vintermann (400722) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507137)

That's how software procurement works in the private sector too.

Re:Wrong! (1)

Opportunist (166417) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507139)

"Well, we have a lot of experience working closely with them"

Re:Wrong! (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507211)

"Working closely" being a technical term for the intersection of pockets being non-empty?

Re:Wrong! (1)

jaseuk (217780) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507535)

I tend to find "Working closely" = "We have given them a quote 6 months ago"

Jason

Re:Wrong! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507165)

More likely ill get a "consulting" job with IBM showing other city officials how they can learn to "consult" if I approve this contract?

Re:Wrong! (2)

Thanshin (1188877) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507323)

A company that has failed to deliver on multiple contracts in the past should be given priority, because it has significant experience in government contracting work!

And a company that was ready to sell a $1.2 billion product for only $10 million should be praised as benefactors of Australia!

Re:Wrong! (1)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507445)

Oh you're from Montreal too?

Re:Wrong! (1)

geogob (569250) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507695)

You could have said : "oh you're from that world too?".

Everywhere in the world where I lived and worked, it was more of the same.

$1.2 billion payroll system (5, Insightful)

Agent ME (1411269) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507145)

If I were paying $1.2 billion for something as rote as a payroll system, it better be fucking amazing. It's estimated that the entirety of Linux could be recreated from scratch for $600 million. A payroll system twice as complex as the entire Linux operating system! Think of the possibilities! I have no idea what the possibilities are, but they must be amazing to justify that cost!

Re:$1.2 billion payroll system (4, Insightful)

skovnymfe (1671822) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507171)

You're not taking into account all the middle management and project management such an endeavor requires. That alone easily accounts for 90% of said budget. After all if you don't hire at least 3 managers per developer, how can you make sure they're doing their work properly all 16 hours of the work day?

Re:$1.2 billion payroll system (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507179)

I'm sure a great deal of the $1.2b is compensation to employees that haven't been paid. I imagine many people defaulted on their mortgage/loan/whatever because of this shambles.

Re:$1.2 billion payroll system (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507227)

In fact IBM did comment on this:

As the prime contractor on a complex project, IBM must accept some responsibility for the issues experienced when the system went live in 2010, however, as acknowledged by the commission’s report, the successful delivery of the project was rendered near-impossible by the state failing to properly articulate its requirements or commit to a fixed scope.

IBM’s fees of $25.7 million accounted for less than 2 per cent of the total amount. The balance of the costs is made up of work streams which were never part of IBM’s scope.

Re:$1.2 billion payroll system (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507457)

I have worked for IBM in the past. I know how that works. Australia would do well to boot them.

Re:$1.2 billion payroll system (1)

jeauxkewl (1465425) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507837)

I have worked for IBM in the past. I know how that works. Australia would do well to boot them.

Ditto. A thousand times this.

Re:$1.2 billion payroll system (5, Insightful)

pipedwho (1174327) | 1 year,22 days | (#44508039)

In fact IBM did comment on this:

As the prime contractor on a complex project, IBM must accept some responsibility for the issues experienced when the system went live in 2010, however, as acknowledged by the commission’s report, the successful delivery of the project was rendered near-impossible by the state failing to properly articulate its requirements or commit to a fixed scope.

IBM’s fees of $25.7 million accounted for less than 2 per cent of the total amount. The balance of the costs is made up of work streams which were never part of IBM’s scope.

There is an expectation that engaging a large professional specialist contractor would avoid the problems of using a smaller outfit or running the project in-house. You'd expect a specialist mega-corp would be able to help you define the scope and requirements of the project, as it's something of which they supposedly have prior experience.

IBM should have been the one asking the right questions at the start, and requesting access and authority to do their job. It's not like a health care payroll system is something new that no one's ever seen before. The QLD government is essentially employing IBM to be the experts in this area to deliver a suitable system.

I see this crap from these big end of town software outfits all the time. They sell products and customisations that the client doesn't need, features that in most cases just get in the way and make the systems unusable. They charge 10s to 100s of millions to build websites that are unstable and too cumbersome to maintain and use. And generally overcharge for a final product that they shoehorn to fit the actual requirements of the customer (and by extension, the customer's customers).

I don't think the general tendering/bidding process helps much either, as it doesn't always give enough access to scoping and requirements gathering to be able to generate a valid cost estimate. In many cases it comes down to the sales team getting a huge bonus contingent to signing off on the sale. And they'll say and promise anything upfront, and let the weasel^wlegal team rewrite the contracts to make every request for something that should have been included seem like an out-of-scope up-charge.

Re:$1.2 billion payroll system (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44508149)

As the prime contractor on a complex project, IBM must accept some responsibility for the issues experienced when the system went live in 2010, however, as acknowledged by the commission’s report, the successful delivery of the project was rendered near-impossible by the state failing to properly articulate its requirements or commit to a fixed scope.

Wait a minute! IBM has decades of experience in requirements gathering and all related project activities. To claim they were prevented from reigning in the client based upon said experience is a bald faced deflection of accountability. I wouldn't hire IBM if they were the only company in the galaxy selling mainframe computers and COBOL.

Re:$1.2 billion payroll system (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507187)

Ah, but that's 600 million US dollar versus 1.2 billion IBM dollar. Think of IBM dollars like yen, just without an appropriate exchange rate.

Re:$1.2 billion payroll system (0, Troll)

dimeglio (456244) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507191)

It's estimated that the entirety of Linux could be recreated from scratch for $600 million.

I suppose you mean the Linux kernel only and not all of GNU.

Re:$1.2 billion payroll system (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507301)

Yeah, I'm guessing that's what he meant by the fact that's what he fucking said, idiot.

Re:$1.2 billion payroll system (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507715)

GNU _IS_ Linux these days. Wake up people, Hurd is never going to see the light of day as a working, released project. Time to stop sniffing fairy dust and re-join reality.

Re:$1.2 billion payroll system (1)

Entropius (188861) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507835)

He wasn't saying that it should be called GNU/Linux; he was saying that the cost of creating the Linux kernel, vs. the cost of creating the Linux kernel + gcc + everything else, might be very different.

Re:$1.2 billion payroll system (3)

Joce640k (829181) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507307)

If I were paying $1.2 billion for something as rote as a payroll system, it better be fucking amazing.

The real WTF is that IBM still don't have an off-the-shelf payroll system.

Paying people's wages is almost the original computer application.

Re:$1.2 billion payroll system (4, Insightful)

orlanz (882574) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507465)

Every consulting company out there has multiple off the shelf, turnkey payroll options. Just that no one wants them. Most of the time, the "consultants" just customize one of the options as per the customer's unique needs. Then the customer has even more extremely special and unique needs. Some clearly poor practices and some just not feasible. About 1/2 way through the project people realize that the customer never wanted an off the shelf, turnkey solution. They want a custom built solution. But they just keep going cause its hard to stop a train; even thou they all know the wreck that is coming.

Funny thing is that if people just bit the bullet and understood the limits of a turnkey or that they wanted a custom solution, they would certainly save a lot of money. It would cost more than the original budget but it would cost a LOT less than the end result. This is why people just don't be honest up front. No one likes approving a $100k project while there is a $90k option. No matter how wrong the second is, they just spend $9.9k figuring out how make the later look good in the summary reports.

I have spent an unfortunately amount of time & cost convincing and proving to the decision makers what basically to me was 2+2 can not equal 5. It feels insulting most of the time cause they bring us in for our "expert" opinions, but don't trust said opinions. Until there is a cost that is big enough to show up as a line item in a report or some high up gets red in the face. Its sad, but just the way of the world.

Re:$1.2 billion payroll system (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507533)

I'm afraid that calling this a solved problem is like saying that because we've successfully created nanofibers, we should already have a space elevator. There's an enormous gap between a mere accounting system to help balance a single checkbook, and the tracking and integration necessary to actually handle paychecks. And in a large government bureaucracy, the number of distinct systems and workflows that have to be replaced or integrated to will be enormous, and fought tooth and nail by people who perceive it as encroaching on their workflow. I'm afraid I've worked on similarly complex issues, though perhaps not as likely to work directly with so many distinct managers all at the same time. But I've some harsh experience that suggests that it can be _amazingly_ difficult.

Re:$1.2 billion payroll system (0)

jonbryce (703250) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507309)

$600bn in US Dollars. Using bank exchange rates, that would translate to $660bn in Oz Dollars. Using tech company exchange rates, it would translate to about $1800bn in Oz Dollars.

Re:$1.2 billion payroll system (1)

black3d (1648913) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507315)

$25 million has gone to IBM. This means the Qld government has wasted the other $1.175 billion on 'consulting', 'implementation' and 'training'. IBM is just a scapegoat here for the state government's incredible incompetence in, really, everything they touch.

Dont underestimate payroll system, in Govt agency (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507405)

While IBM is just being IBM here, Govt Payroll systems are not easy to deal with either. Combine that with bureaucracy, ever changing requirements, you got perfect recipe.

Most of the Govt agencies have their own rules for payroll, union contracts, written words that contradict each other often. Union contracts and payroll stuff is so complicated they can drag cases through courts for years. Yet, someone thinks its easy to implement "payroll" into software and sets project with 10 mil expectation.

The very impression that Govt Payroll automation is simple is THE root cause of the disaster.

Re:$1.2 billion payroll system (1)

readingaccount (2909349) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507499)

It wouldn't be Slashdot without someone finding a way to mention Linux in an article that isn't even relevant to it. :)

Re:$1.2 billion payroll system (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507575)

Yeah i would think that 1.2billion system would be actually making money out of thin air instead of just counting it.

Perspective (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507155)

"Hey honey, I'm going to McDonald's to grab a bite to eat, be back in 10!"

(A few hours later)

"... Umm, honey, how did you manage to spend $710 dollars at McDonalds?"

Re:Perspective (2)

girlintraining (1395911) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507243)

* Footnote: The average meal at mcdonald's costs around $6. The ratio is accurate: This is like going to McDonald's to order a happy meal and winding up spending more than you do on rent for it. Whups.

Re:Perspective (3, Insightful)

Somebody Is Using My (985418) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507555)

"Hey honey, I'm going to McDonald's to grab a bite to eat, be back in 10!"
(A few hours later)
"... Umm, honey, how did you manage to spend $710 dollars at McDonalds?"

But let's be fair, the actual breakdown is probably more along these lines:

            $6 Happy meal (expected budget)
            $250 consultants and managers haranguing you about how you are hungrier than expected
            $200 to replace provided hamburger with a specialty burger
            $250 "expert eating" trainers who advise you on the how to insert hamburger into mouth
            $4 extra hamburger you ate because the above three took so much time lecturing you that you got hungry again

IBM only got $25 million of that $1.2 billion. The rest was a result of "the state failing to properly articulate its requirements or commit to a fixed scope." [delimiter.com.au]

Re:Perspective (1)

pne (93383) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507513)

Such a cost increase would probably be due to similar bungling on the part of the seller, I imagine, who is not able to articulate clearly what, exactly, he wants. It's not like QLD was buying off-the-shelf software that required no customisation.

"A burger, please!"

"Wait, no, I'm allergic to peanuts. Did the packaging of any of the food you sell say it may contain traces of nuts? Please throw away all of the stuff you have cooking, sterilise the food preparation area, and re-make my burger."

"That's a meat burger! I can't eat meet. I meant a soy burger, of course."

"Well, if you don't have one, go out and buy one."

"If they only come in packs of 100, whatever, I don't care. Buy a pack and make me one burger."

etc. etc.

Australia could have learned from New Zealand (5, Insightful)

ernest.cunningham (972490) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507159)

IBM were the contractor for New Zealand's largest IT cock up INSIS (Integrated National Crime Information System, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/INCIS [wikipedia.org] ) which was a total flop and cost $110,000,000.

Funny thing is though, we didn't learn from our own mistakes and hired an Australian company called Talent2 for our Education Payroll. It has been a runaway failure (with more new bugs being found than being fixed over any given time period).

Re:Australia could have learned from New Zealand (4, Informative)

LordLucless (582312) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507205)

Geography lesson: New Zealand is NOT a state of Australia.

However, we've got provision for you in our constitution, just waiting :P

6..."The States" shall mean such of the colonies of New South Wales, New Zealand, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia, and South Australi

Re:Australia could have learned from New Zealand (1)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507475)

It's New Zealand's choice as to whether they become a part of Australia or not though, iirc? Although if they do I don't think Australia then gets a choice in the matter, it just happens. I can't see NZ wanting to do anytime soon though...

Re:Australia could have learned from New Zealand (2)

Entropius (188861) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507897)

In the US, there was a "three-fifths compromise" in the drafting of the Constitution, where the South got to count 3/5 of the slave population in determining representation in Congress. Could NZ do something similar with sheep?

Re:Australia could have learned from New Zealand (1)

Talderas (1212466) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507963)

And they call American imperialism bad. At least we just overthrow democratly elected governments we don't like. You Aussies are laying claim to a sovereign state.

Lol x 2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507161)

QLD implemented SAP payroll and IBM was the consulting firm. Why they went ze German based ERP is a good question.

Re:Lol x 2 (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507213)

Golf.

Large information system purchases are made based on games of golf.

That and Bribes.

Re: Lol x 2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507251)

Probably :) Large ERP systems payroll modules are not a good fit for Aus. Each state has its own payroll taxation laws and regulations, the large ERP's are always beind in keeping up with the changes.

Re: Lol x 2 (2)

DeathElk (883654) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507439)

They should have gone with Pronto [pronto.net] . An Australian ERP company that is quickly responsive to changes in legislation (for Australian and overseas customers) and very flexible during implementation.

I've recently finished a two year planning and implementation of Pronto for my employer, and we are impressed with the outcome. We were on budget, accomplished within a reasonable timeframe (given some feature creep) and the post implementation support is great.

Re: Lol x 2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44508111)

Pronto is ideal for low-bandwidth satellite offices. It's client reinterprets terminal line drawing characters around menus (like on Midnight Commander) and then shows a Windows GUI drop down menu client-side. There were remote mine sites running Pronto clients via 33K6 modems to a hosted solution, and it was as usually as responsive as their local copy of Office. Pronto was (in my time dealing with it) like having a gui terminal directly into a highly normalised database with programming for those times SQL didn't quite do what was required. The initial schema was highly useful out of the box, but customisation was moderately easy.

Worked as Internal Systems Admin for a consulting, implementation, and hosted service provider. It involved much SCO Unix work, since that was the company line at the time. Admittedly, it scared any two-bit "IT Gurus" from tinkering with the servers located onsite with clients.

Anonymous since the Pronto support community know everyone supporting it by first name ^_^

Queensland Health Payroll were a joke already (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507177)

My wife is a doctor who works for Queensland health. To be honest, they had comprehensively mucked up her payroll numerous times prior to the IBM System. Unfortunately, they now feel the need to deduct her pay based on shifts she did 4 years ago (as the new system has slightly different data than the old one). The staff of QH are basically comprehensively useless, and even prior to the new system they would do things like email her other people's personal details and salary information. The staff always have been lazy and careless, and the new system couldn't handle users that didn't give a shit about doing a good job. IBM has undoubtedly ballsed things up, but QH Payroll are genuinely amongst the least competent people in the world. In fact, pretty much anyone in a government position in Queensland is useless, which is why they are in the process of firing 16,000 of them...

Re:Queensland Health Payroll were a joke already (1)

ferrisoxide.com (1935296) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507563)

I don't think it's limited to QH Payroll.. or Queensland Health in general. Health IT in Australia has long been a gravy train for some of the most incompetent IT vendors on the planet. One Federally-backed party who I won't name has the amazing QA process for 3rd party vendors. You send them a packet of data via their API, then wait up to two days for a response. When nothing happens you call them and - if you're lucky to get through to the right person - will say something sensible like "ah, that's a version 6 packet. You're only registered for version 4" (even though you've already gone through the process of getting validated and have documents to prove your are registered for version 6). Another one - scarily involved with determining correct medications - will not work unless you send a malformed XML message (with unclosed tags) to their service, despite what the docs or common sense might say. I don't know if it's the same around the world, but here it is just scary.

Re:Queensland Health Payroll were a joke already (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507615)

It's the same.

Re: Queensland Health Payroll were a joke already (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507661)

Lol TGA right?

Re:Queensland Health Payroll were a joke already (1)

sjwt (161428) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507587)

I've known Managers in the QLD government system who would move office equipment around the building so that it slowed down workflows and many more staff where needed to do the same job.. Why? Because they got pay rises when they went over certain staff numbers.

Same thing here (2)

vikingpower (768921) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507201)

IBM bungled a massive project for the re-automation of the AKH, Vienna's main hospital. Got banned. It seems, however, that IBM does not care: such "missers" are like flies to such an elephant - yet.

Project governance issues (4, Interesting)

DrXym (126579) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507245)

I wonder if any government has *ever* had a good experience after signing a major contract with a supplier to implement one of these systems. A single time ever where a project was delivered on time, on budget and performed at or beyond the expectations set down in paper.

I thought these contracts were just an excuse by suppliers to wildly overcharge governments on the daily rates, software licences and support fees knowing that once the ink has dried on the contract they basically have them by the balls.

I wonder given the expense of these systems if governments wouldn't be better off to hire teams in-house to write this stuff.

Re:Project governance issues (2)

jonbryce (703250) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507321)

The London Congestion Charging System was delivered on time, within budget and with no major flaws.

Re:Project governance issues (2)

benjfowler (239527) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507347)

You NEVER hear about the successes.

An example is the Docklands Light Railway here in London. It's conspicuous by the lack of whingeing that went on about the cost of its construction. When they extended the line to Lewisham, they had to dig tunnels under the Thames, etc. Delivered on time and under budget, and nary a complaint.

Contrast that with the Jubilee Line Extension...

Re:Project governance issues (3, Informative)

maroberts (15852) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507469)

Hmm, about that successful Docklands Light Railway

While the first five years were plagued by unreliability and operational problems,[55] the system has now become highly reliable.[55] In 2008, 87% of the population of North Woolwich were in favour of the DLR

i.e. it took five years to fix the issues with it.
It's also overcrowded and the level of demand was grossly underestimated.

Re:Project governance issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507651)

A lot of times these projects have independent (either government employee, or 3rd party contractor) project managers that majorly fuck things up by not having idea what the system should do.

However, I still blame the contractors. When the project manager is obviously fucking up, the contractors, who actually know what they are doing, should go around him and let the client know the project is getting off track. More often than not, the idiots in charge at the contractor will tell the project manager whatever he wants to hear. "100 additional requirements 1 month before go live date? No problem!" Yes, I literally had a boss that told a client that. To this day I wonder if I should have gone "outside the chain of command" and told the client that this would result in disaster. I wanted to keep my job, so I didn't. It was a disaster of course. They were still picking up the pieces a year and a half later when I left the company. They are probably still picking up the pieces today, lol.

BTW, the correct response to a client asking for 100 changes a month before go live is "Pick 10, and be gracious that I'm willing to grant that over 6 months after requirements were due."

wait a nanosecond (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507271)

don't you need to learn German to work for IBM?

Re:wait a nanosecond (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507869)

don't you need to learn German to work for IBM?

You think IBM likes assisting in genocide? Don't be ridiculous - they just don't care.

Capitalism is a sponge (1)

abirdman (557790) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507293)

Just like in the US, the healthcare system guarantees that no valuable money is wasted on actually delivering healthcare to actual people.

Re:Capitalism is a sponge (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507391)

are you taking the hand's off approach?

Govt Payroll is simple - NOT (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507419)

While IBM is just being IBM here, Govt Payroll systems are not easy to deal with either. Combine that with bureaucracy, ever changing requirements, you got perfect recipe.

Most of the Govt agencies have their own rules for payroll, union contracts, written words that contradict each other often. Union contracts and payroll stuff is so complicated they can drag cases through courts for years. Yet, someone thinks its easy to implement "payroll" into software and sets project with 10 mil expectation.

The very impression that Govt Payroll automation is simple is THE root cause of the disaster. This is not the first or the last one to start with that assumption and tank.

USA should follow suit (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507431)

IBM has become a joke. At one time, they were an expensive company, but competent. Now, they are an expensive company, but inept.

dah (1)

anthonywr (1982670) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507529)

When you outsource work to a 3rd party, the best you can expect is to get what you ask for. If its not explicitly specified in the agreed specifications, then you can be sure it will not be delivered. An example (or actual) in situ is a payroll system that limits payouts to 160 hours per month, with higher hours requiring manual approval by an appropriate, accountable and human authority.

Customer wants to be unique (1)

ColdCat (2586245) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507567)

When a company try to sell a solution to an organisation/company the customers always try to change the way the product work. It's easier to ask a contractor to change the product than to ask your employees to change the way they work. People hates change. And big contractors LOVE that, they even encourage you to ask for special requirement because each change is a lot $ in their pockets.
It's even more surprising that the same customers who ask for everything to be customizable accept to have completely generic windows stations sometimes even with default background or accept the new office with ribbons, which is a big change, more easily than you product where an icon moved.

Aussies (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507589)

What do a bunch of criminals need a payroll system for anyways?

Airports always give me a chuckle (1)

tibit (1762298) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507595)

Every time I'm at an airport, and see the backlit billboards pandering various IT and organizational consulting services, I think of the endless stream of waste of our, the taxpayer's, money those companies have caused, are causing, and will, very likely, continue to cause. Every time some smug suit talks about how great outsourcing is, and how their consultants are going to fix everything for everyone, I just chuckle. It's the stories like this that keep my chuckle going. IBM Australia, thank you very much for that. A smile supposedly makes you live longer. The way things are going, I'm immortal.

$10 million to $1.2 billion (2)

CadentOrange (2429626) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507621)

That's off by more than two orders of magnitude. Heads need to roll.

ejaculating into fish tanks to feed fish (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507671)

how much do i have to cum to feed a few goldfish in a bowl?

I've been on Both Sides (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44507675)

IBM has long known how government contracts tend to work, the company has been around the block. At the first sign of issues, they should have back out of the contract and sighted reasons of customer failing to stay on target. If IBM doesn't have lawyers who could have made those arguments, they should just close their doors now.

Any government entity will naturally blame a contracting company for their failings to know how to handle a business project in a government environment. I've seen the same thing happen here in the USA with the EPA and other departments. They don't want to spend a little extra up front to properly scope out and gather requirements that make sense and then stick to those requirements.

And OMG your initial project for your government was $10 million and it ballooned to over 1.2 billion? Who the F... does that or allows that? How did the tax payers not fire all of your asses in a new election?

The common thread is government business (1)

gelfling (6534) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507677)

IBM has had some newsworthy problems with big contracts of late and ALL of them are government deals. And at that all of them are at the sub-national level; states, provinces and such. Whatever is going badly wrong has to do with the horrendous problems of trying to do business with 'state' governments be it Texas or Indiana or Queensland. For every anecdotal story about the absurd demands placed on contractors by Federal or National governments - states are that and more. The states seem to think they can be even more demanding, cheaper, vague, arbitrary and frankly, insane. Because there's no standardized contract arbitration process at that level of government like there is at the state level. They hold out the carrot of the potential of large long run contracts and then they act like Napoleon screaming contradictory requirements and there's no opportunity for the contractor to appeal the threats.

Sounds like what IBM did in PA (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507871)

The Department of Labor and Industry wanted to upgrade its unemployment compensation system from its mainframe system. IBM initially said it would take 3 years and cost $15 million.

The state finally pulled the plug after the project was 42 months behind schedule and $60 million over budget.

So much for those vaunted project managers and the PMI certs they have. These two projects fall under the 70% of IT projects that fail, a statistic that hasn't changed in 2 decades.

IBM (1)

HangingChad (677530) | 1 year,22 days | (#44507929)

I remember an IBM project at my old day job where the firm, fixed-price bid was $5 million with delivery in 3 months.

5 years and $27 million dollars later the project was abandoned, no product was ever delivered.

The government project manager was given an award and promoted.

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