How to blow 12.8 million NOK
The University of Bergen needs to build a new web site based on a new content management system (CMS). The CMS will be adopted by every organisation within the University and will offer functionality such as editing and publication of news, announcements, programmes, courses, list of employees, etc.
On the 14th of September 2006 the University Board decides to initiate a project called EksternWeb for the new web site, to which it allocates four million NOK. The University has, among others, a Department of Information Science, a Department of Informatics and an IT Department. One might expect that the University Board would assign the management of EksternWeb to one of these Departments. On the contrary, however, the University Board assigns the management of EksternWeb to the Communication Centre. The Communication Centre forms a working group composed of a project leader, a project co-leader, a technical leader and two co-workers. Again, one might expect that someone from the Departments of Information Science or Informatics or from the IT Department would cover one of these roles. On the contrary, however, all members of the working group, except for the technical leader, belong to the Communication Centre. The project leader and co-leader do not have specialist educations in web design or software engineering. The technical leader of the working group has an education in informatics but does not belong to the University. The working group spends more than one year and four million NOK planning EksternWeb.
On the 13th of September 2007 the working group presents the plans for EksternWeb to the University Board. According to these plans, the development of the CMS will be assigned to the external web development company Bouvet, which guarantees the use of state-of-the-art development techniques. Moreover, once the CMS comes into service, the maintenance will be assigned to the IT Department. The University Board accepts the plans and allocates an additional seven million NOK to the project. Bouvet spends more than one year on development of the CMS, on completion of which it presents a bill of 8.8 million NOK.
On the 4th of February 2009 the CMS is launched with due ceremony, after which it enters into service. Unfortunately, faults in the CMS design immediately become evident, with problems such as instability, unresponsiveness, duplication of contents, poor search function and unfunctional navigation, to name but a few. Both employees and students soon become frustrated. Again, one might expect that the working group of EksternWeb would demand Bouvet to honour its contractual agreement, repair all faults and pay any necessary fines for damage caused. On the contrary, however, the working group simply allows the IT Department to deal with the faults as they see fit. The IT Department hires software developers and assigns them to the faults. The developers do what they can, but after one year many design issues remain unresolved. The head of the IT Department, who has an education in informatics, decides to perform a thorough evaluation of the CMS. On doing so, he discovers that the CMS is built on an obsolete, rather than a state-of-the-art of framework, and that this framework would not guarantee the stability of the CMS, but rather hinder its maintenance. Finally, he concludes that it would be expedient to develop the CMS from scratch using a different framework altogether.
On the 29th of April 2010 the head of the IT Department presents the evaluation to the University Board. At this point the University Board finally acknowledges that severe action must be taken and demands that Bouvet repair the CMS faults, excludes the Communication Centre from the project and hands the management of EksternWeb to the IT Department. Oh, wait... here at the University of Bergen things work a bit differently...
On the 29th of April 2010 the head of the IT Department presents the evaluation to the University Board. At this point the University Board decides to create a new EksternWeb project to which it allocates a further 1.5 million NOK.
Do you find this story unbelievable? Me too! Which is why I feel the need to ask questions of those responsible for EksternWeb.
Why did the Communication Centre not select the head of the IT Department as technical leader of the working group? The head of the IT Department would almost certainly have chosen an appropriate framework to ease the maintenance of the project.
Why did the Communication Centre not include anyone from the Departments of Information Science or Informatics in the working group? Researchers in the fields of web design and software engineering could have provided a significant contribution to the project.
Why did the Communication Centre not demand that Bouvet repair the faults that were discovered after EksternWeb's deployment? Bouvet signed a contract with the University and this contract should have been honoured.
On what basis will the University Board select members of the new working group? On the basis of their web technology expertise or not?
Finally, why is the University as a whole called upon to pay 1.5 million NOK to remedy the faults of Bouvet and the Communication Centre with respect to the management, design and implementation of EksternWeb?
I very much hope that both the Communication Centre and the University Board will furnish some answers to these questions.