The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Digital Media Initiative (DMI) was terminated in the year 2013 because of lack of progress and many problems. The National Audit Office reported that the project had failed because there was no adequate planning, and there was confusion in the objectives and governance of the project. This report introduces the story of BBC and its failure in the DMI Project. The background of the BBC DMI project is explained as well as the reasons why the project failed. The report explains the importance of project management, and evaluates the major areas of project management that BBC failed to give the necessary attention. The two areas include project planning and risk management. Project planning and risk management are discussed widely so as to show their importance in project management. The report draws conclusions derived from the discussion of project planning and risk management. Recommendations are then made to BBC on how to carry out future projects.
In the year 2008, BBC launched a new project known as Digital Media Initiative (DMI). The project was, however, terminated in the year 2013 because of lack of progress and many problems. In the year 2014, the National Audit Office reported that the project had failed because there was no adequate planning, and there was confusion in the objectives and governance of the project. This report seeks to explain about project management so that BBC can learn from the past mistakes it made in the DMI project.
The report critically evaluates the project focusing on two major areas of project management. The two areas include project planning and risk management. Project planning creates a path through which the project moves forward towards the achievement of the goals of the company. Risk management enables the company to assess the potential risks that the project will face and provides solutions on how to tackle such risks. The evaluation of project planning and risk management will enable BBC to know its shortcomings in these areas. BBC will be able to identify the mistakes it made, and know the steps it should have taken for the project to succeed. Critical evaluation of project planning and risk management will enable BBC to know how to effectively manage a project to success.
Background of the project
The BBC DMI project was launched in the year 2008 with an aim of modernizing BBC’s processes of archiving and production (Bevir, 2013). The project was to use media asset management systems and digital production systems. The two systems were to be connected to each other. The DMI project was introduced by Ashley Highfield who was the director for BBC Technology. The project was geared towards streamlining the broadcast operations by using a digital workflow which was to cost £81.7 million. The DMI was contracted to Siemens, under the consulting service of Deloitte, at a cost saving of £18 million (Cinegy, 2014). Some of the features that were to be provided by the DMI project included unifying audio, online storyboarding system, media asset management system, video and stills archival, metadata storage and sharing, and media ingest system (Austerberry, 2012).
There were many delays and technical problems that caused the cost of the project to rise up. These high costs caused BBC to terminate the contract it had with Siemens (Rushton, 2009). At that time, the losses that BBC had incurred were approximately £38.2 million (ITProPortal, 2011). Siemens offset £27.5 million and the remaining loss of £10.7 was left to BBC. In the year 2011 BBC received a lot of criticisms from the National Audit Office regarding the way it was handling the DMI project (Plunkett, 2011). One of the problems that pointed out was the fact that BBC had given Siemens the task of running the project without going through the tendering process. The reason behind this decision was based on the fact that before the project began BBC had contracted Siemens to offer BBC support for a period of 10 years. The relationship between BBC and Siemens had become distant because the risks of the project had been transferred to Siemens (HC, 2011). BBC was, therefore, not able to adequately monitor the progress of the project.
After BBC had terminated the contract it had with Siemens, it decided to carry on with the DMI project by itself (BBC, 2010). The BBC staff worked on the DMI project under the new name of Fabric (BBC, 2012). The BBC employees working on the project handled multiple projects, and were under a lot of stress. The stress experienced by the employees was too severe that they had to be placed under medical care. The cost BBC incurred on the treatment of its employees was approximately £19,000 (Rushton, 2012).
BBC terminated the project in the year 2013 after experiencing many technical problems and delays. The project was not making any progress, and the costs were rising. The employees of BBC had expressed concerns about the project, and concluded that the project was going to fail long before it was terminated. The DMI project was termed as a complete failure.
For a project to succeed it is very important to apply skill, care, and effort at the initial stage of planning (Blair, 2014). BBC made a mistake when it chose to give Siemens the DMI project instead of going through the tendering process. The tendering process would have enabled BBC to choose the best company to carry out the project. It would have availed a variety of options to BBC, therefore, enabling BBC to select the best choice. Choosing Siemens because of having an existing support contract was a bad choice because it overwhelmed Siemens and adequate attention was not given to the DMI project. The choice was made based on the fact that BBC was going to make savings on the costs. Project planning would have enabled BBC to make the decision of carrying out a tendering process.
In project planning it is important to write down the specifications (Blair, 2014). Specifications enable the company to know the problems it seeks to solve. It is recommended to write it down so that it acts as a guide whenever the company is making any decisions concerning the project. Specifications detail the requirements of the project and the period of the project. Everyone who is involved in the project should be well informed of all the requirements so as to make sure everyone is on the same page. BBC made a mistake when it terminated Siemens contract and placed the project in the hands of its employees. The employees were overwhelmed because they were working on their projects as well as the DMI project. The employees became overstressed and had to be placed under medical care at the Priory. BBC incurred extra costs of about £19,000 in treating the employees. Project planning would have enabled BBC to seek the service of another company rather than overwhelming its employees. The absence of specifications caused BBC to make mistakes by assigning the project to its employees. These employees were not fully aware of the exact results the project was intended to achieve. In addition, the employees were not able to focus on multiple projects. They did not get enough time to learn about the DMI project because they were busy handling other projects.
Project planning enables the company to create a structure that will be followed in the progression of the project (Thayer and Yourdon, 2000). The structure should enable the team to know what needs to be done. The structure should also create connections among the various tasks of the project so as to avoid confusion and delays. The specifications that were set up should be converted into tasks that fall within a given structure that will provide guidance. It helps the team in knowing the progress that the project is making (Quentin, 2005). BBC did not have a clear structure on how the project was going to be established. That is why it easily terminated its contract with Siemens, and went ahead to transfer the project to its employees. A good structure would have enabled BBC to easily monitor the progress Siemens was making in the project. The Siemens’ team on the DMI project would have not been frustrated at not making any progress because the tasks would have been expressed clearly enabling them to see their progress.
A Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) enables the tasks to be simplified into tasks that can be handled by the team. WBS simplifies the tasks for the employees and enables them to achieve the results they desire (Quentin, 2005). The aim of a project is to achieve the goals that have been set. It does not matter how simple the tasks are made. When BBC transferred the project to its employees, it should have simplified the tasks using the WBS so as not to cause stress to the employees.
Risk management involves identifying, evaluating and prioritizing risks (Hubbard, 2009). These actions enable the company to minimize the chances of experiencing failure. It also helps the company in maximizing its chances of achieving success. Applying risk management in projects can enable the company to remain within the budget, to deliver quality, and to deliver the project on time (IJRAM, 2014]. BBC did not apply risk management in the project because it left all the risk to Siemens. As a result the relationship between BBC and Siemens became distant, and BBC was not aware of the issues that the project was experiencing. The costs rose and BBC experienced a loss of £38.2million. The loss experienced by BBC would have been avoided if risk management had been applied by the company itself. BBC made a mistake by entrusting the risk management to Siemens instead of taking part in the risk management of the DMI project.
Risks need to be identified early enough in the project. It requires having an open mind that focus on the possibility of some future occurrences (Jutte, 2014). People are very useful resources in the identification of risks. People can share ideas based on their expertise and personal experiences. People can also gather information from external sources. The company can also identify risks from experiences in previous projects. Project planning can also help in risk identification (Larson, 2014). BBC was not able to identify the potential risks because it did not carry out a proper project planning. BBC did not try to gather information about risks from people, but rather it left the whole process of risk identification to Siemens.
In risk management it is important to communicate about risks (Jutte, 2014). There is no way a project can fail without someone in the project foreseeing the failure. Project managers in most cases are not able to foresee the failure of the project. The project managers should allow other team mates to give their views of the risks they see in the project. There are some people who foresaw the BBC DMI project failing and communicated their concerns, but no action was taken. BBC made a mistake by not paying heed to the communication about the risks the project was facing.
BBC made many mistakes that resulted in the failure of the DMI project (PAC, 2014). The project management of DMI was very weak, and it largely neglected the areas of project planning and risk management. Proper project planning would have enabled the selection of the best company to run the project through the tendering process. Specifications would have been written down, and this would have enabled the development of the project structure that would have led to the success of the project. A work breakdown structure would have further simplified the tasks, and prevented the employees from getting overstressed. Risk management would have enabled the identification, evaluation, and prioritization of risks. Managing the risks would have enabled the project to stay within the budget, deliver quality, and deliver the project in time. The failure of the DMI project was as a result of neglect of project planning and risk management.
A project team should be carefully selected for any given project that the company wants to undertake. The team should comprise of members of staff from the functions of which the project is addressing (Daniel and Ward, 2014). Experts should also be included in case the project is high risk or large. The team should carry out project planning, and write down the things that need to be done. A structure should be developed so as to enable the project team to know whether the project is making any progress. Reviews should be carried out so as to determine the progress of the project, and whether the benefits that had been forecasted are still achievable. Risk management should be carried out so as to ensure that the company avoids the chances of project failure. Risk management will also enable the company to make use of opportunities that are available. Risk management should be done by the company itself. Employees should also be given the chance to be heard through communication of risks. The company should also learn from other IT project failures, and avoid over-reliance on processes and methods.
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