CSIRO project suffers delays, budget increases

CIO still optimistic objectives will be met

CSIRO's Business Enabling Technology Replacement (BETR) project has stalled with the science agency admitting original deadlines and budgets will not be met.

At the core of the BETR project is a four year, $34 million contract with Fujitsu to implement, manage and support a consolidated mySAP ERP application.

Phase one of the project was originally slated for completion in March this year, the new completion date is "by July."

The delay was confirmed during a recent Senate Estimates hearing where the science agency admitted the BETR project had stalled and will not meet its original timeline.

A source familiar with CSIRO IT, who requested anonymity, went a step further and claimed the project is failing and beginning to impact the rest of IT as a result.

The source said the project is costing four times original estimates and is way "over budget".

The same source said SAP is a "good product" but questioned Fujitsu's capability to implement it successfully.

He said CSIRO accepted Fujitsu's implementation claims without any real checking.

Responding to the claims, CSIRO chief information officer Roze Frost remains positive that all three areas of the IT transformation initiative, of which BETR is one, are progressing well.

When asked if the BETR project was "chewing up" a lot of the IT budget, Frost told Computerworld this is incorrect as it is a business project with its own budget and does not fall under IT.

"No, it is not impacting the rest of IT," she said. "All projects are equally endorsed and supported by the board [and] service levels are consistently being met."

Frost said the project has not stalled but is now going through a QA check to ensure the business systems are aligned.

This QA process is expected to last for four months, with the project to be back on track by July.

"CSIRO has identified the critical issues and has a goal of meeting business requirements and is working with Fujitsu to amend the project requirements accordingly," Frost said.

In response to cost-blowouts, Frost admitted the financial outlay "may be more" than anticipated but is confident BETR will achieve its objective.

"The project is under-spent but the investment will be greater than originally estimated," she said, adding three to four times over budget is "way out" and so far the project is "well under budget".

"SAP was chosen through a tender process and has been successful in a lot of enterprises and it is a fit to our business processes and meets our requirements."

CSIRO is also confident in Fujitsu's ability to implement SAP ECC6, an update to R/3, as it conducted a tender process with due diligence.

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BETR is not the only significant IT project happening within CSIRO, there are two other strategic programs centered around e-science information and collaboration, and a foundation program to replace most of the infrastructure over four years.

The source claims the latter two are being adversely impacted by BETR.

Frost's response to the claim CSIRO has a lack of DR and backups for research data, is that it is "partially correct" but is mainly due to the legacy architecture of the former siloed IT organization, not BETR.

"Under a dispersed data storage service, consistent backup and DR services are currently not possible," she said. "The data storage project will put in petabyte capable stores."

Frost said the explosion of data creation has been a strain on all research organisations, and HDS storage systems are being installed now.

Other infrastructure projects happening at CSIRO include a video conferencing roll out across the organization in conjunction with Telstra and Cisco, and server consolidation that will see 900 servers reduced to 300.

Overall, Frost said five programs have commenced in the past few months which will take another year to yield results.

"When you're a government organization these things don't happen overnight," she said. "It's not easy when you're brining in 23 autonomous IT shops together and having to deal with very mixed architectures. I've brought in more money for IT, we've invested in ITIL and the performance indicators say it's going OK."

As for who might be the mysterious source within CSIRO, Frost said it could be a disgruntled scientist, who purchased IT equipment in the past.

"The way capital is managed now is at an enterprise level to do the right thing by taxpayers," she said, adding CSIRO now has more buying clout."

Fujitsu was unavailable for comment at press time.