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BBC abandons £100m digital project (bbc.co.uk)
36 points by scholia 1580 days ago | hide | past | web | 17 comments | favorite

As someone involved in Information and Archives where this project was based, it serves as both a cautionary tale on outsourcing and a good example of when to recognise a sunk cost. This has been rumbling on for years ever since Siemens received the contract without competition due to an outstanding deal. The technology surrounding what they were trying to achieve has changed massively in that time frame but doesn't excuse them from delivering nothing of value. These projects have since come back in-house where the BBC has a history of delivering excellent technical products.

The new Director General, Tony Hall, has had to recognise this project as a failure and put it on the books. No doubt the conservative press are going to tear him apart for it but he's made a tough decision that had to be made. Continuing to pour money into the project would have left an even greater mess for somebody to take a bullet for later on.

There's a thorough analysis here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/aboutthebbc/posts/The-BBC-announc...

In the article it says that the £98m was the amount spent during the period 2010 to 2012. It also says that the project was taken over by an in-house BBC team in 2010 (having started in 2008).

Sounds like that cost can't be blamed on Siemens - it was the in-house team's shift.

It depends on why it was taken in house. If it's because Siemens were making a mess of it, then it sounds like the BBC should have canned the whole thing in 2010.

The BBC have been held hostage by Siemens for a long time due to a very restrictive support contract that basically froze their technical infrastructure in aspic for years[1].


I had understood that to be the total cost but you're right, the article does seem to imply that was only after it had come back in-house. The blog says 'total cost'. If the article is correct then it seems it's ignoring whatever Siemens were paid.

I find it telling of the integrity of the BBC that they'd post that on their own website. I like it.

It's neutral at best. Failing to report on it would be very bad, but reporting on it isn't a particular mark of integrity.

It seems the integrity is less impressive when the controversy is closer to home (the people running the failed DMI project and the journalistic ends of the BBC are likely to be very far removed from each other) - see the Pollard Report.


It doesn't say anything. Every other news source will report it. Unlike this article, they won't restrict themselves to quotations from people employed by the BBC or in the cabinet.

You have a valid point there, but still; how could you let it go that far? They say basically that the money is gone and they have nothing to show for afterwards... Does this mean they spent the bulk of that 98m on consultancy fees???

It's funny how the more money that gets spent, the less willing anyone is to pull the plug. I would venture to guess they probably had to dig out of a hole created by the contractors originally hired for the job, then got stuck trying to catch up with the state of the art.

Kudos to the guy willing to step up and say enough already, but yea... I would love to know more details.

Indeed. See the behaviour notes in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunk_cost

> how could you let it go that far?

Isn't this just simple game theory.

When you're on hold on the phone you get no value unless they answer the call, but until then you're spending your time and money waiting. What's the point when you hang up and choose to call again?

as with any software project, it has no value at all until it is mostly complete

quote from http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/aboutthebbc/posts/The-BBC-announc... :

> The cost is so great because much of the software and hardware which has been developed would only have a value if the project was completed and we cannot continue to sanction any additional spending on this initiative.

Well; given the scale; I'd estimate they'd have a couple of million in servers that they could offload...

Integrity and/or fear that failure to be extremely tough on themselves would be used as a weapon to try to get their funding cut.

It's a shame that no amount of money can buy good management. I'm a huge fan of the BBC, and very glad they're prepared to invest in R&D, but clearly this was not managed well.

So...can anyone who has worked on CMS projects explain how the costs for such things could run up to $150 million?

I honestly want to understand.

Yes, how do I get in on this gravy train.

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