Friday, February 01, 2013

Example of Expensive Software Project Gone Wrong

Novopay is a payroll system for school and school support staff in New Zealand. It’s development started in 2005, was planned to cost 30 million NZ dollar and take 2 years to develop. As of 01 February 2013 staff are owed an estimated 12 million NZ dollar due to errors in the software. As of writing it is still possible that it may be switched off.

While I can’t speak as an expert for this particular project, the newspaper articles reveal some interesting facts. For example the first emergency meeting apparently was conducted only after 5 years. Note this project was planned to take 2 years. The system was signed off based on the recommendations of four advisers, one of them PWC. Then it went life despite almost 6,000 payslip errors.

One actual result of the live system was a payslip sent to a caretaker who was awarded a 102 million dollar holiday pay packet. Unfortunately for him, he won’t be able to keep the overpayment.

The deputy education secretary reportedly said in April 2012 that “there was a need to run a total of 270 test scripts”. Frankly, I’m hoping that they had more than 270 test scripts and I hope they were all automated.

More details can be found in articles here and here. I’m mentioning this project here as quite obviously something went terribly wrong. Is there something that can we learn from this? Can we do better? Are we doing better?

1 comment:

Simon Geard said...

I don't think "terribly wrong" even *begins* to describe what's happened with this project.

Starting with requirements gathering - from an article I saw today, it sounds like the data volumes and profiles are greatly different from those the Novopay developers were expecting, e.g a much higher number of reliever-teachers moving between different schools. Then we get to the QA process, which as you note, sounds like they didn't do very much of it (and still found lots of bugs). And finally, the project management appears to have been virtually non-existent.

All in all, it seems from the outside to have been an unmitigated disaster.

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