by Edward Qualtrough

Sacked BBC CTO ‘not solely responsible or accountable’ for failed DMI

Apr 10, 20142 mins
CareersGovernmentIT Leadership

Sacked BBC chief technology officer John Linwood was offered a glimmer of respite by the Public Accounts Committee after chair Margaret Hodge’s report concluded that “no single individual had overall responsibility or accountability” for delivering failed £100 million Digital Media Initiative.

Linwood was sacked in July last year over the digital transformation programme, with a number of commentators suggesting Linwood was made a scapegoat for the project which Hodge described in her summary as a “catastrophic failure”.

“No single individual had overall responsibility or accountability for delivering the DMI and achieving the benefits, or took ownership of problems when they arose,” the PAC found.

“The BBC did not appoint a senior responsible owner with overall responsibility for the DMI. The BBC’s CTO was responsible for the DMI system but not for achieving the projected benefits across BBC divisions.

“There were different views amongst those responsible for developing the system and the intended users about the effectiveness of the technology and how engaged business areas were in the Programme. The absence of a senior responsible owner to take responsibility for resolving these different views led to a situation where the DMI Programme team spent years working on a system that did not meet users’ needs.”

The committee recommended that “projects like DMI need to be led by an experienced senior responsible owner who has the skills, authority and determination to achieve transformational change, and who sees the project through to successful implementation”.

Linwood appeared at a PAC hearingearlier this year, repeating much of his submitted written evidence to the committee that his department delivered “a substantial amount of the DMI technology”, but that changes in board level responsibility and the perpetual moving of the goal posts and changing specifications by the DMI Steering Group caused the failure of the project.

The Public Accounts Committee agreed with this to a certain extent in its findings that nobody was responsible for resolving the differing views among system developers and the intended users about the progress and benefits of the DMI, echoing the view put forward by BBC Trust member Anthony Fry last year that “there was not enough technological expertise around either the Trust table, or the executive board, to actually go ahead on something of this scale and complexity”.