FBI and the Virtual Case File in 2000

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Michael Muller, Clarissa Francis, Tolulope Akinyemi 11/16/2012

This study is about failure---more specifically, failure in the software industry. Failure is an attractive subject because everyone experiences it, allowing people to understand on a personal level what will work in business----and won’t. Failure is also a concept that is difficult to define, as there are many different academic opinions on the subject. The aim of this study is to take a look at notable failures in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) software sector, and draw lessons from them, looking at the factors that caused the project to fail. This case was very public, involving not only corporations but also governmental bodies. The FBI began developing a case management software system called the Virtual Case File (VCF) in 2000 but eventually abandoned the project in April 2005. The estimated cost of this project was over $170 million. In 2000, congress allocated almost $340 million for the proposed FBI Information Technology Upgrade Project (FITUP) that was soon divided into three parts and renamed TRILOGY. This project was scheduled three years including an enterprise-wide upgrade of desktop hardware and software plus the implementation of a more modern and secure network. Also, a VCF system would include a case management system, an evidence management system and a records management that would replace the FBI’s antiquated case management system which limited the FBI’s ability to carry out its mission effectively

Managing information technology (IT) projects continues to be an ongoing challenge for many organizations worldwide. What is most humbling about this story of a software project begun with the best of intentions, and developed over years by a top, well-known firm, despite its best efforts, did not make the grade, and this is not uncommon. Most of other projects, if they were completed at all, came in over budget and behind schedule, with fewer features than originally planned for. IT projects that get out of control are very hard to stop or redirect. A high-profile blunder was the FBI’s Virtual Case File, where the FBI finally pulled the plug and built another system to replace it with commercial off-the-shelf software. The VCF started off as an urgent and necessary fix to the FBI’s aging technology problems. This study discusses some common project management errors. It also talks about the VCF case study, problems faced and the lessons learned which includes possible solutions or recommendations to those problems after a close look at this case.

Project Management has a wide range of uncertainty. There are many reasons for this level of uncertainty when managing a project, some of the top ones include; bad communication, poor schedule or resource management (Mismanagement), weak requirements definitions, and Inadequate planning listed by (Anderson, 2011). Communication is huge in project management. The communication has to come from all different angles. It must come from top down and also from the bottom up. Mismanagement will significantly increase your chances of a project failing or going over budget both in time and money. Requirement definition is a must when planning a project. How will you put a budget or a finish date together if you do not know the exact requirements? Last of the top four project management failures is inadequate planning. These include assumptions, risks, or resources. It can’t be assumed that everything will go right its first try. Risks can also cause major delays in projects. If something has a high risk of failure this should been seen in the planning by allotting extra time and resources. There also has to be enough resources on site or this can cause major delays as well. If project management wasn’t complicated enough imagine when IT projects come up. In recent years there has been a higher success...
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