The UK’s National Audit Office has published its report into the failure of the BBC’s Digital Media Initiative.
The BBC’s Digital Media Initiative (DMI) was meant to enable BBC staff to create and share video and audio material on their desktops. The BBC decided to create its own customised product. However the DMI failed to deliver on its promise and was abandoned in 2013 at a cost of over £100 million.
Key stages in the project
- The vision – the DMI would combine production features, a digital archive and a new archive database.
- Project approval processes – the project was approved by the BBC Trust in January 2008
- Consultants appointed – Siemens were granted a £79 million project in February 2008
- Siemens contract terminated in September 2009 and the project was brought in-house – a new delivery date of February 2011 was set
- In May 2012 a whistle-blower contacts the BBC Trust with concerns they are being misled about project progress
- Work is halted in November 2012 pending a review and permanently halted in 2013
Too much focus on the technology – not enough on changing working practices
If the DMI was to achieve everything the BBC stated, it should have placed more emphasis on changing working practices with regards to archiving and production processes. Instead, the project reporting processes focused almost entirely on the technology rather than considering changes to business practice. Differences between the expectations of future users and those developing the technology were unresolved.
Poor governance and project management
- When the BBC brought the project in-house it failed to appoint a senior project ‘owner’. Instead, responsibilities were split across divisions.
- The executive board applied insufficient scrutiny to the project when its attention was fixed on other major projects including the London 2012 Olympics
- When the project was brought in-house there was little time left in the project plan to meet deadlines. Neither did the BBC properly assess the value for money or risks of bringing the project in-house
- Reporting processes were ‘not fit for purpose’.
The full NAO report is available here.
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