The scariest software project horror stories of 2012

Billions of dollars were wasted and tempers ran hot as multiple projects hit the skids this year

By , IDG News Service |  Software

Sure, plenty of enterprise software projects go just fine and end up giving customers all the things vendors promise: lower operating costs, streamlined operations and happier users.

Unfortunately, some still end up in ruins, leaving customers out huge sums of money, churning up lawsuits, damaging careers and destroying relationships.

On the bright side, when examined these failures can reflect some important lessons for both vendors and customers to take to heart. Here's a look at some of 2012's scariest software project disasters.

U.S. Air Force pulls plug on ERP project after blowing through $1 billion

In November, reports emerged that the U.S. Air Force had decided to scrap a major ERP (enterprise resource planning) software project called the Expeditionary Combat Support System after it racked up US$1 billion in expenses but failed to create "any significant military capability."

ECSS was supposed to replace more than 200 legacy systems. The project dated to 2005 and used Oracle software, but its ballooning costs clearly suggest that Air Force officials and systems contractor CSC conducted an overwhelming amount of additional custom coding and integration work.

An Air Force spokesman said the project would require another $1.1 billion just to complete one-fourth of the original scope, and that wouldn't be complete until 2020.

Watchdog agency's report suggests ongoing U.S. military ERP projects are failures in motion

The U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report in March that found many ongoing ERP projects by the nation's military are drastically behind schedule and over budget.

One such project, the Marine Corps' Global Combat Support System, is projected to cost nearly 10 times its original budget and was supposed to be fully deployed in November 2009, according to the GAO. Its expected cost has reached $1.1 billion, up from an initial $126 million, the GAO said at the time.

Another ERP project at the Navy was begun in 2003 and planned for completion in fiscal 2011, but that schedule has slipped to August 2013, with costs expected to be $2.7 billion instead of $1.9 billion.

"It's so bad that maybe the government should give up the ghost on trying to do anything and simply accept that multibillion failures are a permanent part of the landscape," said analyst Michael Krigsman, CEO of consulting firm Asuret and an expert on IT project failures, in a recent interview.

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