The most highly publicised Software Failure in history

I’m stealing a bit of thunder here from an email sent to me by the chap who runs our local IT Architecture SIG here in Adelaide Australia. Have posted here, it is a fascinating read for why good software architecure, design, requirements ad governance are essential for any IT project. The bigger they are the larger they fall I think is the correct addage.


"The most highly publicised Software Failure in history".

"Unluckily for the FBI, its antiquated IT systems were in the spotlight following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when counter-terrorism became the top priority. This resulted in a series of reviews by the Office of the Inspector-General (OIG), US Department of Justice, and testimony to the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary which was highly embarrassing to the FBI."

It sounds like the beginning of the latest blockbuster but is actually the beginning of an article on the FBI's ultimately doomed, US$170 million, Virtual Case File (VCF) IT project. This is an absolutely fascinating article in this month's ACS publication - Information Age. It is also very relevant to IT Architects - the Government Accountability Office (GAO) wrote
a report on this project failure entitled "FBI Needs an Enterprise Architecture to Guide its Modernization Activities". See http://www.fas.org/irp/gao/gao-03-959.pdf . That's a bit of a give-away to why the project failed!

The National Research Council (NRC) reviewed the project and also found that one of the major problems was that the FBI had no Enterprise Architecture. See "NRC Report, IT-Related Issues for the FBI Requiring Immediate Action", Chapter 2.1 "Enterprise Architecture Issues" at http://orsted.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10991&page=16 .

This review by the NRC is particularly relevant to us as the first 7 pages describe "What Is an Enterprise Architecture?", "The Structure of an Enterprise Architecture", and "Recognizing the Role of Top Management in Creating an Enterprise Architecture". It seems that the NRC believes that
Enterprise Architecture is so misunderstood it felt it had to give it's own definitions on what Enterprise Architecture is all about!

The VCF project failure is even documented in Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_Case_File . The External Links at the bottom of the Wikipedia entry are also excellent reading.
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