The Toronto auditor general’s report on the failed eCOPS project reads like a list of what not to do with a large software project. To start, the project was handled in-house with no regard for the expertise of existing employees. Probably because of their lack of experience, requirements and use-cases were “inadequate, incomplete, or in some cases, non-existent.” Most importantly, development costs were not tracked and quickly got out of hand.
Too often it would seem that project managers and developers forget the old maxim that “time is money.” Projects are often started without a proper plan including a time estimate, cost assessment and an analysis of whether the benefits outweigh those costs. This mismanagement of time results in changes of scope over the course of the project with creeping time overruns as “unforeseen” difficulties arise and features are tacked on.
Sadly, the Toronto Police eCOPS failure isn’t an anomaly in the software industry. The only news here is that it has been a colossal waste of public money.