FBI Virtual Case File
COMPLICATED NATURE OF THE PROJECT
The famous and world’s most horrible terror attacks did not only affect the world economy but it also exposed weak and inadequate information technology infrastructure of FBI with the help of media and government circuits. Government filed a series of allegations on the overall forged information network of FBI. FBI took initiative for the purpose of avoiding current official allegations and any sort of future incident like 9/11 attacks. The major purpose behind the installation and development of this new software was to facilitate its employees regarding information sharing and collection on any task very quickly by introducing advanced IT Technologies within FBI. It was expected that Virtual case file (VCF) after installed within FBI replace the existing paper based procedure of raw data collection and sharing with a new wireless system in each department of FBI. This project was closed as incomplete by FBI due to several reasons which need to understand and observed. Afterwards, FBI decided to spend a large budget of money $170 million on the developments of new data collection and transmitting software known as Virtual case file and it was code named as Trilogy.
There were several sub-programs that were handled separately as softwares and result could have been different. Mr. Richard Posner has written a book on the reasons of VCF failure, he described in his book big reason of this project failure and loss of huge money was the program that was not restricted to intelligence. This software was comprised of whole FBI’s operations and network (Lunar, 2005). In the difficult projects like VCF with vast amount of area to cover then it is not at all easy to manage and develop the project. In those situations, the project becomes almost impossible to manage that project up to its successful completion due to its sensitivity. The major and dangerous success factor of VCF was the coverage of whole FBI’s operations such as data collection, reliable transmittance of information, information handling, and database structure into single VCF software. The foremost reason of failure of this project was the designing of complicated tasks related to this project, it was better at that time to handle these complex tasks independently and that may have been proved beneficial (Phariss, 2006).
If this project had been conceived with proper understanding and detailed thinking then the results of the project would have been different. There were a lot of uncertain expectations associated with this software by government and FBI because they were expecting that everything will be covered in this software as quickly and accurately, this unnecessary expected acceleration for the completion of this project also caused the failure subsequently. The project had to be conceived in a step wise manner due to its complexity but it was conceived in a thoughtful manner, this attitude resulted in a failure at the end. Actually, FBI and government didn’t realize the nature of this project at all because they were just concerned to complete this project within a short span of time.
This project was named trilogy because in this project three domains had to be developed such as procurement of new desktop systems for whole FBI firm, establishment of secure, technical and sophisticated LAN and WAN networks and renewal of existing IT infrastructure. Virtual Case File project was a popular failure because wrong and impractical expectations were attached with this project such as accuracy and usability within new few years for such a complex project. The simple and easiest way for the success of this project was to divide tasks in a series and each task was categorized and then the submission, completion and usability ratio of this software was possible. The reason of step by step procedure was that this project reflects high level of national security, due to this reason it needed much basic work and planning for the purpose of setting milestones.
The Human factor
For a complex and national security level data coverage project like VCF, it was definitely required to do proper planning, top class and experienced management involvement from the owner side with large amount of budget and major importance had to be given to the selection of professionally dedicated and experienced team for this project (Wilson. S, 2005). It is very important for the success of any project like VCF that it is properly understood and tasks are planned by considering several factors such as human capital requirement and budget evaluation within the limits (Tariq, 2010). Everything was gone wrong because from the first stage, incompetent FBI team was associated and selected for this project and this team was unable to dedicate relevant field people to the project task and professional contractors.
All the major problems were created because FBI didn’t really understand the nature of this project thoroughly; they were keep shuffling and replacing contractor’s team members on regular basis by considering it a special task for them (Wilson. S, 2005). It was highly important to utilize the skills OF data modeler, software programmers, hardware experts, LAN and WAN field experienced personnel but the case was opposite to what had to be done for such a sensitive and critical project like VCF.
At the start, they made a mistake by assigning various milestones to one project that was resulted in a wrong programming, the concerned team got a lot of stressed due to several tasks that they unintentionally mixed up all the coding. The authorities had a wrong perception about the sensitivity of this software because large number of professionals was hired and due to those high profile professionals, the process was slow down and budget limit also automatically boost up. Trilogy was comprised of three concepts in which one was associated with the up gradation of software and hardware sources existing in 2000 for the personnel and agents of the organization, secondly they were asked to upgrade communication system from technically and third target was to renew in-case management system (Mooore, 2009). Apart from the abilities and skills to develop successful software and enter into modern and advanced phase of data collection and information transmitting but they were failed to complete project unfortunately.
Some major and similar reasons were also defined by the Inspector General of the United States of America Department of Justice Mr.Glenn A Fine in an audit report; he stated that the project was over ambitious in terms of its schedules, carrying ambiguous targets and weak in the areas of network deployment (Marchewka, 2010). Because this huge task has to be completed as one individual project and in this large project paper based system like terrorists data, terrorist’s targets and other useful information needs to be converted into electronic system. FBI would have been needed to get rid of old and conventional “type writers” and “index card system” to enter into an age of electronic data collection and information transmitting to avoid any further terrorists attack and stop terrorist to do any particular attacks. Another respected Authority Mr. Mcgroddy from the USA national Academy of Science defined main causes of failure of VCF in four points such as Enterprise architecture, system design program and contact management and human resources.
The same study identified in its findings that FBI had low profile human resources like inexperience project manager, contract coordination managers or senior IT managers so they were compelled to hire top professionals outside FBI on a high pay rate.
FBI did a lot of mistakes in the initial phase of the project like they had a flexible attitude and worked under several external restrictions. If FBI was able to offer free and independent authority and environment for making any changes or tackle all kind of problems themselves for the sake of completing this project so the results may have been different than the ones they got in terms of project failure. It was very difficult for programming and management team of VCF to develop highly user-friendly and supportive software. Criticism and appreciation always matter in these sorts of highly sensitive, complex and risky projects but there was no such atmosphere during the development of VCF software that also caused lack of understanding about the project.
Another major reason of VCF failure was less or almost no authoritative involvement and input by the inspection and tasks evaluators appointed from FBI with contractors. The input of evaluation team was important because for the purpose of identifying and understanding proper needs and involvement of key users in the VCF software. The project was planned in a way that professionals were needed to take congressional approval before making any deviation in the plan or taking any type of action related to the betterment of the project, this requirement of approvals only complicated the project in terms of exceeding cost up to $5,00,000 (Marchewka, 2010). Unfortunately, VCF project lacked any sorts of strong criticism by the key users.
Various Unfulfilled and ignored misconducts
It is very important to state that VCF was a very ambitious project for the purpose of facing the future terrorist’s challenges in 2001 but unfortunately it was failed in 2005 right after 4 years period, the status of the project was incomplete as only two activities out of three were accomplished. FBI blamed contractors for the failure but the real fact disclosed by government and independent researchers as well as government clarified that FBI intentionally blamed contractors to hide their own faults.
The complete responsibility of failure was transferred on the shoulders of VCF contractor IT agency Science Applications and International Corporation by FBI, they stated that contractor provided 7, 00,000 useless codes and out of track software functionalities (Goldstein, 2005). Moreover, they stated that contractor’s IT team was incompetent and due to their incompetency $170 million as well extra $105 million amount was wasted (Moore, 2009). Neutral authorities and committees identified that VCF was failed due to FBI’s mishandling, incompetency on technical items and there was lack of communication between developers and FBI authorities contributed to VCF’s failure.
In this type of large-scale IT project, the input or involvement from each and every FBI’s department was not up to the mark. In addition to this, there were consistent delays in the plan target dates that converted into the wastage of money and incomplete project at the end. Plenty of things were wrong in VCF such as ineffective communications, inconsistent goals and uncertain resources stating that this sensitive project faced issues related to improper human resource management as well as planned project management (PM). The speed of milestones was designed as per the requirement of FBI but not as per requirement of the actual project and this was a different reason of VCF failure.
These types of projects cannot be completed successfully with an instant finishing attitude but FBI wanted to complete within a short timeframe only to prove their so called image. After reviewing whole scenario, one can conclude that bulk of developing and completing a high level IT driven technology in short period of time can destroy everything and increase difficulty level greatly. The unrealistic acceleration of the project can be supported with the report given by Glenn in which he stated that FBI was trying to complete this project within 3 years, moreover they were considering this much time too long for this type of huge project (Moore, 2009). They specified that they are not comfortable to achieve set targets in this much given timeframe, contractors were also not ready to implement whole project before 3 years period at any cost because FBI expected to implement this project less than 3 years period (Moore, 2009). Unfortunately, this type of unbelievable expectation from the software team created negative impact of FBI on them and they get demotivated and were not ready to take up this task anymore. The hired contractors disapproved 3 years period completion demand of FBI right away.
Although, FBI’s professionals contributed greatly in the failure of VCF but software developers were also responsible for the failure of the project. Here, the question arise that when they were highly qualified and experienced and they were paid as per their demands then why did they not think ethically about the things that were going wrong. They would have been suggested to FBI about the consequences of their behavior and attitude towards VCF very clearly or they may have been used media as well to execute their necessary demands (Moore, 2009). The irresponsible and unethical attitude of software development also added substance to the already imbalance and shaky production.
Major complex tasks of this project were data storage, computer networking, establishing. All these tasks require proper care, skills and knowledge as well. All these discussed factors improperly managed and the mismanagement of these above discussed factors caused the failure of VCF project (Tsui & Tsui, 2011). FBI and other higher US authorities should take lessons from this project failure and realize the reasons of failure to avoid this software failure in future. FBI is unable to complete VCF project so it is currently required to install modern technologies for data storage, sharing, matching and sorting regularly. The programming quality should be great like it should be user-friendly, well-defined and straightforward nature (Tsui & Tsui, 2011). One can conclude that VCF was a huge project that was initiated at the wrong time when there was not such demand of that sort of project but this was started to prove the efficiency of FBI.
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