Introduction and background of the case
As a part of the FBI's $581 million "Trilogy" program, the Virtual Case File (VCF) was a software application that intended to facilitate the case file management for FBI agents. VCF faced a vast array of trouble, finally convincing the Bureau to abandon the VCF project after years of development imposing $170 on US taxpayers. VCF would have been a huge step in the improvement of the paper-intensive and outdated IT infrastructure for the FBI. VCF was designed to integrate modern desktop computers for in FBI offices: VCF's goal was to develop a secure high-performance network and to provide a modern database for storing case information, allowing agents to manage and share data electronically. The Bureau announced its development of a new, more ambitious software project, code-named "Sentinel", to replace the outdated case file management VCF. A timeline of the project is attached in the appendix. This case report discusses reasons why VCF failed. The second chapter analyzes connections between the Information System Strategy and the FBI organization, while the third chapter discusses the CIO's final comment about how to change the attitude of FBI agents towards more recent types of technology. The last chapter is concerned with the FBI's options of integrating modern technology. This case report ends with a summary and a final conclusion. 2.
Discussion of the FBI case
Reasons why the VCF System failed
According to Holmes, reasons for the failure of the VCF are most importantly related to issues of control, culture and incompatible organizational systems. We know from the Information Systems Strategy Triangle that business-, IS- and organizational strategy must be related to each other. With the VCF system, the FBI introduced a new IS strategy. Did the FBI adapt their business and organizational strategy to this change in IS strategy? Although FBI agents are located in the US and around the globe, sharing information has not been part of the FBI's organizational culture. When developing the "Trilogy" program, the FBI did not initiate any organizational change. Keeping secrets was a part of the FBI's organizational culture. Consistent to that, a former IT manager at the FBI said: "There always has been a culture of intimidation at the FBI. It doesn't surprise me one bit that people don't want to talk." The FBI also forgot to adjust their business strategy. It still operated its business strongly hierarchical from decentralized offices. As we see, the FBI failed to make necessary adjustments in its information, business and organizational strategy. In addition to that, the VCF project demonstrated the FBI's poor skills in managing investment in Information Technology. Some managers and engineers on the project simply lacked in training and implementation of new Information Technology. In my opinion the strategy of the VCF should have been revised immediately after the general report of the justice inspector in Dec. 2002. 2.2.
Points of alignment between the Information System Strategy and the FBI organization Traditionally the FBI was based on a matrix organization structure. Agents within the FBI were divided in groups that exchanged only little information with other agents. Each job an agent was assigned to focused on his specific group. Key technologies that support this type of organizational design are networking systems with shared data processing. The VCF system was designed as a Web-based application and was meant to be implemented in one big step. This type of technology has a strong level of decentralization and did not fit with the tradition of Information System the FBI had until then. It had to fail and, therefore, points of alignment were few. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11 the US found itself in an unstable environment. According to these crucial external changes, the FBI had to adopt its organizational structure. It still needs to transform...
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