PwC report criticises DMI management

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The BBC was too slow to act on the Digital Media Initiative, a new report has found, due to project management that was 'not fit for purpose'.

Its authors, PricewaterhouseCoopers, blamed a lack of proper scrutiny at different stages of the project for the BBC's failure to spot that the digital end-to-end production tool was unlikely to deliver its objectives.

The accountants said that effective decisions about the project's future were prevented by weaknesses in project management and reporting, as well as 'ad-hoc' assurance activities.

'The complexities of DMI and a series of missed milestones, combined with weaknesses in DMI governance, risk management and reporting arrangements meant that it took longer than we would have expected for the BBC to reach Executive agreement on the future for DMI,' the report summarised.

Lack of knowledge

PwC pointed out that there was no DMI steering board, while the DG Finance Committee, which took on some elements of the role, lacked the in-depth knowledge of technical solutions to be able to offer 'more robust oversight'.

Meanwhile, the report said, costs were not tracked against project delivery. It judged that a complete review of the business case should have been triggered by a July 2011 report forecasting that DMI was 'at risk' of not delivering £11.4m of benefits.

Any action taken by management was too focused on the day-to-day issues of delivering the technology rather than on the wider risks, stated the BBC Trust-commissioned report that cost £263,340.

Single sponsor

It makes seven recommendations based on good practice for managing projects. These include the need for a single sponsor 'accountable for the programme's overall success and empowered to make the most important decisions'.

In response, the BBC Trust said the report had identified 'serious weaknesses' in the management of DMI which had led to it being scrapped in May at a cost of around £100m - an 'unacceptable cost' to licence fee payers.

Diane Coyle, vice chairman of the trust, said it would be 'more rigorous and transparent' about assessing BBC performance in future and would review its progress in implementing the report's recommendations.

'We announced last week that we were strengthening project reporting arrangements within a clearer governance system,' she said. 'That will enable the BBC Executive to ensure any serious problems are spotted and addressed more swiftly.'

Dominic Coles, the BBC's director of operations, said the BBC had got DMI wrong.

'While the BBC has a strong history of delivering complex projects such as BBC iPlayer, the digital Olympics or major property moves, we got this one wrong which we regret. We know it is vital to spot problems early, which is why we have overhauled how these projects are run to ensure this doesn't happen again.'

A National Audit Office report into DMI is expected in the new year.

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