respect and were awarded the contract to

respect to human resource and payroll
programs and Logica CMG Pty Ltd (Logica)
for the delivery of finance solutions.
There were smaller numbers of contractors
from SAP Australia and IBM Australia
to build a solution comprising SAP
ECC5 and Workbrain for payroll rostering
and time and attendance recording.
In March of 2006 Queensland Health had
transferred responsibility for the maintenance
of human resource software and
hardware to CorpTech. At this time the
provision of a new computerised payroll
system for its employees was thought to
be urgent because the existing system,
known as LATTICE, was nearing the end
of its useful life (WS122, p. 11).
By 2007 an independent review, known
as the ‘Kelliher Report’ found that the new
system was significantly behind schedule.
At about the same time Queensland Health
was advised that the support for the ageing
Lattice System would cease in 2008.
A series of reviews and tenders were
undertaken to determine a different approach
built around the idea of a ‘Prime
Contractor’. IBM subsequently won that
tender and were awarded the contract to
proceed on the 5th of December 2007. ‘By
October 2008 IBM had not achieved any
of the contracted performance criteria;
but it had been paid about $32 million of
the contract price of $98 million; and it
forecast that to complete what it had contracted
to undertake would cost the State
of Queensland $181 million. Accordingly,
the Shared Services Solution across the
whole-of-government was abandoned
and IBM’s contract was reduced in scope
to providing a new payroll system for
Queensland Health’ (WS122).
On 14th of March 2010 the system finally
went live after ten failed attempts. The
resulting system was reported to have
35,000 payroll anomalies (WS059, p. 51)
and required one thousand clerical staff
to process fortnightly pays. Facing a total
expenditure in the range of A$1.2 billion,
the Executive Council of the Queensland
Government ordered a Commission of Inquiry
into the project on the 13th of December
The documents forming the basis of the
data collection are drawn principally
from two sources:
1. The published files of the Queensland
Commission of Inquiry into the
Queensland Health Payroll Project; and
2. Documents obtained under freedom
of information requests to the Department
of Health Queensland, and to the
Queensland Treasury Department.
In total more than 200 documents were
obtained. These documents were initially
in the form of concatenated PDF files and
needed to be separated into individual
documents. Once broken up, there were
355 files, of which 116 were witness
statements from the Commission of Inquiry,
and the balance of 239 files have
been sourced by FOI. The documents
sourced by FOI contain multiple records
in each file, bringing the sum total number
of individual files to be examined to
approximately 1,000.
The total number of pages of witness statements
amounted to 3,850. In addition, there
was the collection of project documentation
which exceeded 5,000 pages of emails, reports,
project plans and other data.
The task of investigation – detailed scientific
investigation – requires the researcher to
understand the decision making that was
made at the time that those decisions were
made, with the information that was available
to members at that time (Vaughan,
1996 ; 2016, and Dekker, 2014).
Vaughan investigated the Challenger
space shuttle disaster and developed new
theories to explain how an organisation
of experienced, qualified and concerned
individuals could make what in retrospect
appeared to be ill-informed and
careless decisions. Vaughan referred to
this phenomenon as “The Normalisation
of Deviance”. The significant departure in
Vaughan’s work from other investigations
was her insistence on reconstructing the
events and data flows surrounding the
incident as it unfolded, “To understand
decision making in any organisation, we
must look at individual action within its
layered context: individual, organisation,
and environment as a system of action”
(Vaughan, 2016, loc: 1245)
Vaughan further opined that “individual
choice is constrained by institutional and
organizational forces”, undermining the
notion of ‘amoral calculations’ (ibid). In
other words, individuals attempt to make
the best decisions that they can given the
data available to them at the time, and
within the known or experienced constraints
of the institutional and organizational
forces arrayed before them.
To examine a case from the perspective
of a timeline of events, of data and
advice that was available at the time, to
the participants, the researcher must endeavor
to reconstruct the project from
the available information. Dekker refers
to this method of investigation as being
‘inside the tunnel’. “This is the point of
view of people in the unfolding situation.
To them, the outcome was not known (or
they would have done something else).
They contributed to the direction of the
sequence of events on the basis of what
they saw on the inside of the unfolding
situation. To understand human error,
you need to attain this perspective.”
(Dekker, 2014, p.18)
Project Management failed, there was a lack
of requirements definition, and management
was in conflict – all of the issues that
appear in the literature on failed projects.
Yet, such issues as these got flagged by staff
and consultants throughout the project
(PD103, WS012, WS003, WS053), and still
they remained as issues. No one could suggest
that management was not made aware
of these failures. The findings indicated it
was not an absence of problem awareness
that allowed a lack of project management
discipline to continue unabated.
Management was regularly informed of what
was going on with its project, both by staff
and external consultants who knew how
the project should be run to avoid problems
of the nature experienced. The report on
the 2005 Whole-of-Government initiative
(WS039), the KPMG Report (WS003), the KJ
Ross report on testing (PD103), the IBM and
CorpTech report to ‘reconstruct’ the business
requirements (PD063) and the 2009
Queensland Audit Office report (PD108) all
provided clear statements identifying where
the project was failing and what needed to be
done to remedy the situation. Yet the problems
persisted until the total project costs
had blown out to beyond A$1 billion.
To paraphrase Cobb’s Paradox – the State
Government of Queensland understood
why projects fail and what specifically was
going wrong on their payroll project; they
had been informed of what needed to be
done to prevent failure and were well aware
of the methodologies and governance arrangements
that were required — so why
do they still fail?
The proximal causes of failure, as identified
in this research, are:
1. a lack of domain expertise by senior
management responsible for the
project as evidenced by the inability
or unwillingness to adopt appropriate
governance processes;
2. stakeholders remained in conflict
throughout the life of the project;
3. internal advice was ignored (or
worse) and team members were unable
to find an avenue to raise their
4. there was a complete lack of accountability
for failure evident throughout the
project and especially when it came to
vendor and contract management.
An Information Technology project employing dozens or hundreds of people from different
stakeholder groups, with different training, experience and motivations is a microcosm of
society – it is its own unique social construct, existing within a larger organisation. This research
is studying the consequences of ‘actors-working-in-organisations’ (Manning, 2008,
p. 678) and in particular looking at individual interactions, decisions and consequences.
Goffman (1959), investigating the microsociology of face-to-face interactions developed a
theory referred to as ‘dramaturgy’ that states ‘we are all performers in the interest of order’
(Manning, 2008, p. 679). Dramaturgy refers to the manner in which individuals ‘perform’
in social situations in order to produce a result. Performance ‘comes and goes as required’
and ‘selectively presented, selectively responded to, and selectively adequate to sustaining
the working consensus on which interaction depends’ (ibid.).
The actors in the Queensland Health Payroll project came from many different organisations:
IBM, CorpTech, Queensland Health, Department of Works, KJ Ross ; Associates, independent
contractors working for any of the aforementioned, and several senior executives with no
discernible experience or knowledge of information technology projects being asked to run
a large and complex project interacting with other individuals all ‘acting their parts’.
In the Queensland Health Payroll project there was a range of people, with different backgrounds
and experiences interacting in an organisational setting. The manner in which
they respond to ‘events’ or ‘problems’ depended upon a range of inputs – their personal
experiences, education and training, the availability of explicit knowledge in the form
of documented and available materials, and the use of tacit knowledge. Vo-Tran (2014, p.
15) found that ‘stakeholders who possessed greater amounts of experience tended to rely
upon the use of their tacit knowledge to manage and share information. Whereas stakeholders
who possessed lesser amounts of experience had a tendency towards the use of
explicit forms of documentation’.
In a ‘Goffmanesque’ environment individuals will behave differently depending
upon whether or not they are ‘acting’ front-stage or back-stage (Vo-Tran, 2014, p.
131, Manning, 2008):
• Front Stage – where the actors’ actions are visible to the audience and form a part of
the performance. The person knows that they are being watched and acts accordingly.
Competence versus Confidence of IT Project Leadership 13
manage and share information. Whereas stakeholders who possessed lesser amounts of
experience had a tendency towards the use of explicit forms of documentation’.
In a ‘Goffmanesque’ environment individuals will behave differently depending upon whether or
not they are ‘acting’ front-stage or back-stage (Vo-Tran, 2014, p. 131, Manning, 2008):
• Front Stage – where the actors’ actions are visible to the


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