FBI Case Study

Table of contents

The “Who Killed the Virtual Case File? ” case study is a clear example of project failure which resulted on not only balloon the cost of the project, but also loss that could be counted on millions of dollars. Because of the size of the project and the failure of the project, it is broadly used to prevent future IT Project Management disasters. Project Overview: When special agent Larry Depew collected evidence of illegal activity of the Russian and Italian mafia tax skim activity, FBI didn’t have database system, which could organize and support all the information gathering processes that were needed for the organization.

A decade later, Depew was landed in his first project management job called FBI Virtual Case File project (VCF), even though he had no previous experience. In the PMBOK Guide book describes what abilities a project manager should possess to successfully manage projects is: knowledge, performance and personal . In the results of lack of experience and ineffective planning the project was unfortunate failure. Because of availability of funds, the FBI’s 23 divisions developed own database system for each of the different divisions.

In the result FBI ended up with 45-50 different investigative databases and applications, which are not communicating with each other. Also, the Automated Case Support (ACS) system was cumbersome to use, inefficient and had limited functional capabilities. Additionally all 13000 were really old which resulted in not supporting new software’s. Intranet that connected FBI offices had 56-kilobit-per second modems. SAIC (Applications International Corp. ) for software developed delivered 700,000 lines of code bug-ridden, off target system which resulted in $105 million worth loss.

However, researches and findings showed that the FBI—lacking IT management and technical expertise—shares the blame for the project’s failure. The research and study later on painted a picture of an enterprise IT project that fell into the most basic traps of software development, from poor requirement gathering, planning and bad communication between software developer and FBI. The key issues related to the failure of the project:

  • Violation of the Project Scope Management. One of the main factors of VSF project was poorly defined business requirements and overly specific nature of the requirements defined in systems design and analysis phase which resulted in creating 400 functional deficiencies found after testing the system.
  • Violation of the Project Cost Management The lack of IT investment processes resulted in ballooning the cost of the project in spite of the millions of dollars spending which was the also one of the main reason of VSF project failure.
  • Violation of the Project Time Management Overly ambitious schedules and poorly defined schedule is one of the among VSF project failures.
  • Violation of Project Risk Management Procedure The lack of a plan to guide hardware purchases and deployment was one also of the failures of VSF project.


The FBI’s higher management will be participating in the new software development to overcome the discrepancies associated with the previous those were VCF project. FBI is planning to purchase software from the vendor to digitize all documents, crime related evidence paperwork processes in the single database and still continue use VCF project systems up until it will be replaced with the desired software.

The new project will deploy and create new monitoring, risk management system which involves planning, scheduling and target oriented testing. Relevance to IT Project Management: * Project Scope Management Project Scope Management includes the processes required to ensure that project includes all the work required, to complete the project successfully.

Scope Management includes following steps: clearly defining and documenting project business requirements by the company shareholders (collect requirements), develop a detailed description of the project (define scope), subdivide project deliverables and project work into smaller, manageable components (create WBS), formalize acceptance of the completed project deliverables, and monitoring the status and scope (verify scope), and managing changes to the scope baseline (control scope).

FBI’s VSF project failed to define detailed project requirements, formalize acceptance of completed project deliverables by SAIC and monitoring and managing the scope by project manager. * Violation of the Project Cost Management Project Cost Management includes the processes involved in estimating, budgeting, and controlling costs so that the project can be completed within the approved budget.

The cost management process includes: developing an approximation of the monetary resources (estimate costs), estimating costs of the individual activities (determine budget) and monitoring the status of the project budget and managing changes to the cost baseline (control costs). VSF project failed to address cost control in project cost management, because it had possibility to receive funding from the government.

Violation of the Project Time Management.

Project Time Management includes the processes required to manage timely completion of the project. It includes following processes: identifying the specific actions to be performed to produce the project deliverables (define activities), identifying and documenting relationships among the project activities (sequence activities), estimating quantities of material, people, equipment, or supplies required to perform each activity (estimate activity resources), coming up with the approximate number of works periods needed to omplete individual activities with estimated resource (estimate activity durations), analyzing activity sequences, durations, resource requirements, and schedule constrains to create project schedule (develop schedule), and monitoring the status of the project to update project progress and managing changes to the schedule baseline (control schedule). In VSF project most of the required activities in time management FBI management and SAIC failed to follow.

Violation of Project Risk Management Procedure.

Project Risk Management includes the processes of conducting risk management planning, identification, analysis, response planning, and monitoring and control on the project. It includes following processes: defining how to conduct risk management activities (planning), determining which risks may affect the project and documenting their characteristics (identify risks), prioritizing risks for further analysis and combining their probability of occurrence and impact (perform qualitative risk analysis).

Numerically analyzing the effect of identified risks on overall project objectives (perform quantitative risk analysis), developing options and actions to enhance opportunities and reduce threats to project objectives (plan risk responses), and implementing risk response plan, tracking identified risks, monitoring residual risks, identifying new risks, and evaluating risk process effectiveness throughout the project (monitor and control risk). In the FBI case none of the project risk management was applied to minimize risk associated with the possibility of the failure of the VSF project. Key Takeaways:

It is important follow IT project management rules in order to develop the system. Main lessons learnt from the case study:

  •  Business requirement analysis and technical requirements are crucial in the success of the project in planning phase.
  • Managing communication between companies’ key shareholders and server providers is required for productive outcome of the development.
  • Project monitoring and testing is vital task and should be accepted throughout the development
  • Prototypes be shown to client on regular basis to avoid all changes required at the end of the project
  • Having a individuals without proper knowledge in the rojects leads to the project success
  •  Planning and monitoring leads to delivering the right product and timely completion of the project
  • Unsystematic approach in project time management could lead to delay in completion of projects
  • Deficient and unsatisfactory requirements lead to incomplete projects failure

Research Approach For my research approach, I used Project Management and body of knowledge to identify main processes of the project management, and applied some basics acquired from the Systems Analysis and Design class to identify where FBI’s VSF project failed to address and manage this huge multimillion dollar project.

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