i6 – Police Scotland’s Failed IT System Implementation

The story of i6 as told by Audit Scotland is an excellent example of how to break down a system implementation that goes wrong!

The introductory summary caught our attention: 

A project to build a national IT system for Police Scotland followed good practice in its early stages but ultimately collapsed due to a damaging loss of trust between those involved and fundamental disagreements about what the programme needed to deliver.

So what was the national IT system for Police Scotland and where did it all go so wrong?  Lets start with what was the system – referred to as i6:

In June 2013, the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) awarded a ten-year, fixed-price contract of £46.11 million to the technology firm Accenture to develop a national IT system for Police Scotland. This system was known as i6. Accenture was to provide software development and implementation services, as well as user training, ongoing system maintenance and support services.

The national i6 system was a central element of longer-term police reform.  It was intended to improve how Police Scotland records, manages and analyses information. It was also intended to provide operational and financial benefits to Police Scotland, the SPA and their partners in the justice system and beyond. i6 would replace around 130 IT and paper-based systems used by the predecessor police forces in Scotland.

There is some brilliant Scottish understatement:

The i6 programme was complex and highly ambitious. Police Scotland and Accenture originally believed that the majority of the i6 system could be based on an existing IT system that Accenture had delivered elsewhere.

This belief was incorrect.

And:

As the design and development of i6 progressed, it became apparent that Accenture would need to develop significantly more than had been originally anticipated. Despite delays and serious problems throughout the lifetime of the programme, Accenture provided regular assurance, in the face of strong challenge, about their confidence in delivering the i6 system.

This assurance proved misplaced.

Where did it all go wrong?:

Within weeks (of contract award to Accenture), and despite 18-months of pre-award discussion, Police Scotland and Accenture disagreed about whether the proposed system would deliver the requirements set out in the contract.

A period of negotiation followed, during which Police Scotland and Accenture disagreed over the interpretation of the contract and the requirements of the system. In April 2014, the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and Accenture signed a contract variation agreement.

Summed up perfectly on this and so many other projects:

This early disagreement contributed to a breakdown in relationships and a loss of trust between Police Scotland and Accenture that never fully recovered.

This is an excellent report in the way that it documents the history of a clearly challenged system implementation.

It is perhaps best summed up by the observation:

There is no single reason why it failed.

But fail it did perhaps because everyone was so keen on it to succeed:

Both Police Scotland and Accenture were determined to deliver the i6 programme. This may have led to optimism bias and a reluctance to pause or halt the project at an earlier stage.

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PS – We love the way Audit Scotland promotes their work.  We wish more would take their lead.

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