List of failed and overbudget custom software projects

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This is a list of notable custom software projects which have significantly failed to achieve some or all of their objectives, either temporarily or permanently, and/or have suffered from significant cost overruns. For a list of successful major custom software projects, see Custom software#Major project successes.

Note that failed projects, and projects running over budget, are not necessarily the sole fault of the employees or businesses creating the software. In some cases, problems may be due partly to problems with the purchasing organisation, including poor requirements, over-ambitious requirements, unnecessary requirements, poor contract drafting, poor contract management, poor end-user training, or poor operational management.

Permanent failures

Because software, unlike a major civil engineering construction project, is often easy and cheap to change after it has been constructed, a piece of custom software that fails to deliver on its objectives may sometimes be modified over time in such a way that it later succeeds - and/or business processes or end-user mindsets may change to accommodate the software. However, sometimes, for various reasons, neither approach succeeds (or is even tried), and this may be considered as another level of failure - a permanent failure.

Started Terminated System name Type of system Country or region Type of purchaser Problems Cost (expected) Outsourced or in-house? Outcome
1980s 1993 TAURUS Electronic trading platform  United Kingdom (London) Stock exchange Scope creep, cost overrun. The project was never completed. £75m ? Cancelled
1982 1994 FAA Advanced Automation System Air Traffic Control  United States Federal Aviation Administration Cost overruns, underestimation of ATC complexity, delays, non-incremental change. existing system.[1] $3B-$6B ? Scrapped
1984 1990 RISP Integrated computer services  United Kingdom (Wessex) Wessex Health Authority Scope creep, cost overrun. The project was never completed. £63m (£29m) ? Cancelled
1997 2000 Bolit Customer service, finance and administration system  Sweden Patent and Registration Office Too complicated, bad functioning, cost overrun. The project was after completion never used, the agency still today does not have a working IT system.[2][3] SEK 300m ($35m) Outsourced Scrapped
1999 2006 CSIO Portal Common technological platform for brokers and insurers to improve workflow efficiency  Canada Centre for Study of Insurance Operations Low user adoption, conflict between insurers, new technology, lack of funding ~$15 million CAD"CSIO portal abandoned due to lack of insurer support and availability of other solutions". Outsourced to IBM"Reconfiguring CSIO". Abandoned
2002 2011 NHS Connecting for Health Electronic care records  United Kingdom Central government Beset by delays and ballooning costs, and the software part of it was never finished. The government was also criticised for not demonstrating value for money. Although the contracts were drafted to ensure that the contractors would be forced to bear a significant portion of the cost of the project going wrong if it did go wrong, in reality this did not always happen. The NPfIT was described by Members of Parliament as one of the "worst and most expensive contracting fiascos" ever.[4] £12bn (£2.3bn) Outsourced Discontinued, but some parts continued
2005 2012 Expeditionary Combat Support System Military Enterprise Resource Planning  United States Air force No significant capabilities ready on time; would have cost $1.1bn more just to get to 1/4 of the original scope. $1.1bn Outsourced - including requirements Cancelled
2007 2012 da:Polsag Police case management  Denmark Police Did not work properly, technical problems with contractor. DKK 500m ($70m) Outsourced Cancelled
2007 2014 e-Borders Advanced passenger information programme  United Kingdom UK Border Agency A series of delays. over £412m (£742m) Outsourced Cancelled
2007 2010 Försäkringskassan SAP Dental health service system  Sweden Social Insurance Agency Not fit for purpose, multiple delays, cost overrun. SEK 10bn ($1.18bn)[5] Outsourced, then insourced Cancelled[6]
2008 2013 Digital Media Initiative Digital production, media asset management  United Kingdom State broadcaster By 2013, the project was judged to be obsolete (as much cheaper commercial off the shelf alternatives by then existed) and was scrapped by BBC management. The BBC Director General said it had been a huge waste of money.[7] more than £98m (£81.7m) Outsourced, then insourced, then outsourced again Cancelled
2009 2013 The Surrey Integrated Reporting Enterprise Network (SIREN) Crime & criminal intelligence logging system  United Kingdom (Surrey) Police Force Not fit for purpose[8] £14.8m Outsourced Scrapped
2011 2014 Pust Siebel Police case management  Sweden Police Poor functioning, inefficient in work environments.[9] SEK 300m ($35m)[10] Outsourced Scrapped
2012 2014 Cover Oregon Healthcare exchange website  United States State government Site was never able to accept online enrollments, so users were instructed to mail in paper enrollments instead. approx $200m Outsourced Cancelled, then client and supplier both sued each other

Temporary issues and budget overruns

Started System name Type of system Country or region Type of purchaser Problems Cost (expected) Outsourced or in-house?
1992 LASCAD Computer-aided dispatch for emergency ambulances  United Kingdom (London) Central government Ambulance delays and other problems were caused by the introduction of the system. More than 30 people may have died as a result, making it the largest computer-related disaster until the downing of Boeing 737-MAX planes in 2019. The Chief of the London Ambulance Service resigned as a result of the problems and the adverse publicity. £1.5m Outsourced
2002 Smart Systems for Health / eHealth Ontario Electronic health record Ontario, Canada Provincial government eHealth Ontario is a group of projects that replaced a previous failed project, Smart Systems for Health, which "spent $650 million but failed to produce anything of lasting value." However, in 2009 the CEO of the eHealth Ontario agency resigned, followed by the government minister responsible for overseeing the agency, after a scandal over excessive payments to consultants. In the next audit in 2016, the Auditor General of Ontario noted that 14 years after Smart Systems for Health was started, not all of the eHealth projects were complete, and it was impossible to even determine if they were overbudget because the government had never originally put a budget on them.[11] Can$8bn (unknown) In-house, but with heavy use of consultants
2013 Healthcare exchange website[12]  United States Federal government By some estimates, only 1% of people managed to successfully enroll with the site in its first week of operation.[12] On October 20, 2013, President Barack Obama remarked, "There's no sugar coating: the website has been too slow, people have been getting stuck during the application process and I think it's fair to say that nobody's more frustrated by that than I am." $1.5bn ($93.7m) Outsourced
2013 Queensland Health Payroll System Payroll system  Australia State government The Queensland Health Payroll System was launched in 2010 in what could be considered one of the most spectacularly over budget projects in Australian history, coming in at over 200 times the original budget. In spite of promises that the new system would be fully automated, the new system required a considerable amount of manual operation.[13] $AUD 1.2bn ($6m) Outsourced

Projects with ongoing problems

Until the significant problems with these projects are resolved, or the projects cancelled, it is not yet possible to classify them into one of the above categories.

Started System name Type of system Country or region Type of purchaser Problems Cost (expected) Outsourced or in-house?
2013 Government website portal  Canada Central government Original plan was to consolidate 1,500 Canadian government websites into a single portal on a single platform. In over three years, only 10,000 webpages of a total 17 million have successfully been migrated.[14][15] $9.4 million + $28 million (ongoing) Outsourced platform and proprietary software
2007 PRIO Logistic and financial system  Sweden Armed Forces Parts of the system was put into use in 2009, with reports of big usability issues following.[16] In 2012 troubles with supply of spare parts was reported, causing multiple Gripen fighter jets to be put out of service. The air force was operating at a 70% capacity, another area was reported to operate at a 3% capacity with half of the staff not able to work at all. It would take up to a year to restore capacity.[17][18] At this point the cost to scrap the project and develop a new one was estimated to be SEK 11bn ($1.3bn). Not seen as an alternative, the development continued and the original budget of SEK 2.4bn was increased to 4bn.[19] In 2015 the project was still on its way to be fully implemented. SEK 4bn ($470m)[20] (ongoing) Technical aspects outsourced
2013 Universal Credit Welfare payments system consolidation  United Kingdom Central government The schedule has slipped, with the final delivery date now expected to be 2021, although the system is gradually being introduced. In 2013, only one of four planned pilot sites went live on the originally scheduled date, and the pilot was restricted to extremely simple cases. £12.8bn (estimated) (£2.2bn)[21] Outsourced[22]
2010 Standard Business Reporting (Australian Taxation Office) Electronic Reporting to Government  Australia Statutory authority 6 years after program started in 2010, approximately $800m to $1bn has been spent in total. A significant portion of this spend was composed of contracting fees to IBM[23] and Fujitsu.[24] As of early 2016, business take up of electronic reporting was 2-3%. Program has also suffered from significant scope creep[25] and confused objectives.[26] It is likely that choice of XBRL as the reporting format is the main driver behind low take-up (due to its obscurity and high implementation cost [27][28][29] relative to other technical standards). ~$1bn to date (ongoing) Technical aspects outsourced

See also


  1. ^ Y. Bar-Yam (2003). "When Systems Engineering Fails --- Toward Complex Systems Engineering in International Conference on Systems". IEEE Press, Piscataway, NJ. Retrieved 20 December 2018. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ "Regeringens proposition 2003/04:34". Government of Sweden. 6 November 2003. Retrieved 26 February 2016. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ "Därför floppade projekten: Tre svenska it-fiaskon under lupp". IDG. 11 June 2010. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  4. ^ "NHS IT system one of 'worst fiascos ever', say MPs". BBC News. 18 September 2013. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
  5. ^ "Tio miljarder för SAP på Försäkringskassan". Computer Sweden. 12 September 2008. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  6. ^ "SAP-stopp på Försäkringskassan". Computer Sweden. 29 January 2009. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  7. ^ "BBC abandons £100m digital project". BBC News. 24 May 2013. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
  8. ^ "Siren police IT project's £15m failure a 'debacle'". BBC News. 19 June 2014. Retrieved 14 November 2014.
  9. ^ "Polisen lägger ner Pust". DN. 20 February 2014. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  10. ^ "Intern rapport dömer ut Polisens it-system". Computer Sweden. 27 May 2014. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  11. ^ Bonnie Lysyk (November 30, 2016). "eHealth Still Unfinished After 14 Years and $8 Billion: Auditor General" (PDF).
  12. ^ a b Paul Ford (16 October 2013). "The Obamacare Website Didn't Have to Fail. How to Do Better Next Time". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
  13. ^ Tony Moore (7 August 2018). "Worst failure of public administration in this nation: payroll system". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  14. ^ "Federal government's project 'off the rails'". SR. 13 December 2016. Retrieved 6 February 2017.
  15. ^ "Canada's Headed For A Disaster Of Its Own". SR. 22 December 2016. Retrieved 6 February 2017.
  16. ^ "Hård kritik från Statskontoret". SvD. 12 July 2009. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  17. ^ "Datorstrul förlamar försvaret". SR. 17 April 2012. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  18. ^ "Många Jas-plan kan fortfarande inte lyfta". Norrbottens-Kuriren. 12 June 2012. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  19. ^ "Försvarets SAP-strul toppen av ett isberg". Computer Sweden. 2 November 2014. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  20. ^ "Granskning av Försvarsmaktens införande av ett integrerat resurs- och ekonomiledningssystem (PRIO)" (PDF). Statskontoret. June 2010. Retrieved 26 February 2016. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  21. ^ Mark Ballard (3 June 2013). "Universal Credit will cost taxpayers £12.8bn". Computer Weekly. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
  22. ^ "Freedom of Information request response" (PDF). 18 October 2012.
  23. ^ "AusTender: Advanced Search - Contract Notices". Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  24. ^ "AusTender: Advanced Search - Contract Notices". Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  25. ^ "Standard Business Reporting | XBRL as the SBR standard for financial and SuperStream transactions". 2015-05-06. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  26. ^ "Appendix A: Policy decisions taken since the 2015‑16 - Revenue Measures". Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  27. ^ "International Financial Reporting Standards" (PDF). March 2013. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  28. ^ "Costly Data Go Untapped - CFO Journal. - WSJ". 2013-01-22. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  29. ^ "Telling it like it is: standard business reporting | UQ Business School". Retrieved 2017-02-27.

Edited: 2021-06-18 19:18:01