Thursday, October 13, 2005

FBI Software

Photon Courier is exactly right: the problems with the FBI's Trilogy project deserve more attention. These two articles provide a pretty good look at the basic story.

Who Killed the Virtual Case File?

Why The G-Men Aren't I.T. Men

Two points jumped out of the second article. First, shouldn't this be red meat for investigative journalists.

Gregoire was offered and accepted the CIO job in September 2003. But within days, Lowery called him at his ranch in Austin, Texas, asking him to send a letter declining the offer, according to Gregoire. (Despite persistent requests for an explanation of why the FBI was withdrawing the offer, Gregoire did not receive any reason for the reversal.)

Gregoire was interviewed a few months after the quick departure of Darwin John, the former CIO for the Mormon Church and Scott Paper. John lasted only 10 months as FBI CIO before leaving due to what he would only describe as a disagreement on "a matter of principle" with Mueller

Second, the turnover in the CIO's office suggests that something structural and cultural is hurting the FBI's attempts to use technology to fight crime and terrorism.

Changing the culture at the FBI will be a gargantuan task, Azmi acknowledges. The job has been so frustrating that many top executives left after only short stints. Between 2002 and 2003 alone, four CIOs came and went. And the $170 million VCF system ground through 10 program managers before it was killed.

Peter Drucker wrote about this problem in Management: Tasks, Responsibility, Practices:

In many companies there are jobs which manage to defeat one good man after another-without any clear reason why. These jobs seem to be logical, seem to be well-constructed, seem to be do-able-yet nobody seems to be able to do them. If a job has defeated, in a row, two men who in their previous assignments have done well, it should be restructured.

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