List of failed and overbudget custom software projects

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This is a list of notable custom software projects which have significantly failed to achieve some or all of their objectives, either temporarily or permanently, and/or have suffered from significant cost overruns. For a list of successful major custom software projects, see Custom software#Major project successes.

Note that failed projects, and projects running over budget, are not necessarily the sole fault of the employees or businesses creating the software. In some cases, problems may be due partly to problems with the purchasing organisation, including poor requirements, over-ambitious requirements, unnecessary requirements, poor contract drafting, poor contract management, poor end-user training, or poor operational management.

Permanent failures[edit]

Because software, unlike a major civil engineering construction project, is often easy and cheap to change after it has been constructed, a piece of custom software that fails to deliver on its objectives may sometimes be modified over time in such a way that it later succeeds - and/or business processes or end-user mindsets may change to accommodate the software. However, sometimes, for various reasons, neither approach succeeds (or is even tried), and this may be considered as another level of failure - a permanent failure.

Started Terminated System name Type of system Country or region Type of purchaser Problems Cost (expected) Outsourced or in-house? Outcome
1980s 1993 TAURUS Electronic trading platform  United Kingdom (London) Stock exchange Scope creep, cost overrun. The project was never completed. £75m  ? Cancelled
2002 2011 National Programme for IT Electronic care records  United Kingdom Central government Beset by delays and ballooning costs, and the software part of it was never finished. The government was also criticised for not demonstrating value for money. Although the contracts were drafted to ensure that the contractors would be forced to bear a significant portion of the cost of the project going wrong if it did go wrong, in reality this did not always happen. The NPfIT was described by Members of Parliament as one of the "worst and most expensive contracting fiascos" ever.[1] £12bn (£2.3bn) Outsourced Discontinued, but some parts continued
2005 2012 Expeditionary Combat Support System Military Enterprise Resource Planning  United States Air force No significant capabilities ready on time; would have cost $1.1bn more just to get to 1/4 of the original scope. $1.1bn Outsourced - including requirements Cancelled
2008 2013 Digital Media Initiative Digital production, media asset management  United Kingdom State broadcaster By 2013, the project was judged to be obsolete (as much cheaper commercial off the shelf alternatives by then existed) and was scrapped by BBC management. The BBC Director General said it had been a huge waste of money.[2] more than £98m (£81.7m) Outsourced, then insourced, then outsourced again Cancelled
2009 2013 The Surrey Integrated Reporting Enterprise Network (SIREN) Crime & criminal intellegence logging system  United Kingdom (Surrey) Police Force Not fit for purpose[3] £14.8m Outsourced Scrapped
2012 2014 Cover Oregon Healthcare exchange website  United States State government Site was never able to accept online enrollments, so users were instructed to mail in paper enrollments instead. approx $200m Outsourced Cancelled, then client and supplier both sued each other

Temporary issues and mere budget overruns[edit]

Started System name Type of system Country or region Type of purchaser Problems Cost (expected) Outsourced or in-house?
1992 LASCAD Computer-aided dispatch for emergency ambulances  United Kingdom (London) Central government Ambulance delays and other problems were caused by the introduction of the system. The Chief of the London Ambulance Service resigned as a result of the problems and the adverse publicity. £1.5m Outsourced
2013 Healthcare exchange website[4]  United States Federal government By some estimates, only 1% of people managed to successfully enroll with the site in its first week of operation.[4] On October 20, 2013, President Barack Obama remarked, "There's no sugar coating: the website has been too slow, people have been getting stuck during the application process and I think it's fair to say that nobody's more frustrated by that than I am." $1.5bn ($93.7m) Outsourced

Projects with ongoing problems[edit]

Until the significant problems with these projects are resolved, or the projects cancelled, it is not yet possible to classify them into one of the above categories.

Started System name Type of system Country or region Type of purchaser Problems Cost (expected) Outsourced or in-house?
2013 Universal Credit Welfare payments system consolidation  United Kingdom Central government The schedule has slipped. Only one of four planned pilots went ahead according to the original schedule, and this pilot was restricted to extremely simple cases. There were reports that all the benefit calculations had to be done manually in spreadsheets, which implied that only the digital forms part of the system was working correctly. A maximum of 25,000 people – just 0.2% of all benefit recipients – will be transferred onto Universal Credit by the next general election in 2015[5] £12.8bn (estimated) (£2.2bn)[6] Outsourced

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "NHS IT system one of 'worst fiascos ever', say MPs". BBC News. 18 September 2013. Retrieved 29 September 2013. 
  2. ^ "BBC abandons £100m digital project". BBC News. 24 May 2013. Retrieved 16 October 2013. 
  3. ^ "Siren police IT project's £15m failure a 'debacle'". BBC News. 19 June 2014. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Paul Ford (16 October 2013). "The Obamacare Website Didn't Have to Fail. How to Do Better Next Time". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 16 October 2013. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Mark Ballard (3 June 2013). "Universal Credit will cost taxpayers £12.8bn". Computer Weekly. Retrieved 16 October 2013.