$50 Million of Frustration

By: Brian Johnson Email
By: Brian Johnson Email

The state responded Friday to Thursday's Auditor General's reported that found a $50 million dollar project filled with all kinds of errors. A spokesperson for the Department of Technology, Management, and Budget called the project a "failure," but said the state is committed to fixing what went wrong. What was supposed to be a five year contract has turned into a nine-year-long ordeal, and the project isn't even closed to finished.

It started as a $50 million dollar contract to upgrade and modernize the states billing and data processing. The original contract started in 2003 and was supposed to last 5 years. Four years past due, the project isn't complete and the state is out the money.

"I don't think we can argue the fact that this have been a failure," said Kurt Weiss, the director of communications for the Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget. "I mean, we have had some large IT projects in the state, anytime you do a large IT project, it's a difficult endeavor, there's no question about that."

The project is called "BAM" for "Business Application Modernization." It was a joint venture of the Department of State and the Department of Technology, Management and Budget. The goal was to bring computer programs out of the 1960s and into the 21st century.

"To say that the BAM project has been a success, that I think would be a stretch," said Weiss. "I think we would certainly classify it as a failed it project. But we are getting there."

If the project isn't finished, what did the $50 million dollars buy?

"The biggest thing we have to show is the ExpressSOS.com," said Weiss. "That's the online tool that citizens can go to to use to for express service for their renewal of license plates and that sort of thing."

The new site launched during October 2011. To date, 1 million customers have used the site. But some voters expect more.

"To not finish a project inside the time frame and to almost double the time frame and still not be finished and not have the funds to finish, it's not acceptable," said Justen Sharpe, a Okemos resident.

While the new Secretary of State website is up and running, the back end of updating computer systems is far from completed.

"The state is very committed to delivering the BAM project, to seeing it through, to making sure that we finish this off," said Weiss. "We agree with the findings but again, the new administration is very focused on getting this done right."

The state is currently in negotiations with the project vender, HP to finish the project and address the more than $12 million dollars it owes in late fees. Weiss, said the negotiations should finished sometime in August and then the state will establish a new project completion date.

To view the complete Auditor General's Report follow the link below.

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  • by Ex-insider Location: Lansing on Jul 24, 2012 at 04:05 AM
    Examining the names of those directing this from both the SOS and DTMB sides will show many former Engler cronies who bumped their way into civil service positions as Granholm came in. Most of the labor on this project has been outsourced, and largely to foeigners on L1 and similar visas working in out of state boiler rooms - robbing Michigan of jobs. The small piece delivered is little more than a rehash of services SOS has offered over the Web for over two decades. The core Saber "product" that is being "customized" was a sad little joke of a system. This is what happens though when the uniformed are allowed to make big decisions. The State once had professional software developers on staff, but almost all of these have either fled or been demeaned to technician and clerical roles - part of Engler's legacy of de-professionalizing State employment.
  • by Insider Location: Lansing on Jul 23, 2012 at 08:25 AM
    What this article fails to mention is that the entire BAM project has been headed up, organized, staffed and run by Hewlett Packard. State of Michigan employees have had very little to do with this project. It would be nice if the "News" agency would at least assign the blame to the correct organization.
  • by Anonymous2 Location: Lansing on Jul 21, 2012 at 03:52 AM
    The actual cost of BAM is much greater than is being reported. Someone needs to look at the “soft” costs as well. For example, how many state employees have been working full-time on BAM for YEARS and have made careers out of trying to get BAM to work? How many knowledgeable staff have retired or left DOS (or DIT) because of BAM? How many temp/permanent workers have been hired to do their jobs while others work on BAM? How much has been spent to train them? How much money has DOS paid DIT to support/test BAM? How much money has been spent fixing BAM production errors? Things like that. It’s only when those types of costs are factored into the equation will a true cost of how much money has been wasted be revealed. DOS has to stop writing blank checks to DIT and vendors. Both DOS and DIT need to stop hiring vendors that want to supply off-the-shelf "solutions" - but that later charge a premium price for each and every modification to customize the product so that it will actually work.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jul 23, 2012 at 08:24 AM in reply to Anonymous2
      The key word in the article is CONTRACT. HP is the contractor. Just wanted to clarify where the cash went.
  • by Woopsy Location: Daisy on Jul 20, 2012 at 08:24 PM
    Find someone to proof read your work before you post it.
  • by Anonymous on Jul 20, 2012 at 04:43 PM
    As a previous State employee I saw this same thing go on for 30 years. But the company involved always seemed to take the Directors on golf junkits.
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