Met Police data platform £64m over budget

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The Metropolitan Police Service’s integrated record management system is nearly £60m over budget, and still facing major teething problems, with officers and staff raising more than 25,000 support requests in its first four months of operation, according to a freedom of information (FOI) disclosure.

The Connect system – contracted to software supplier NEC Software in May 2018 for up to £150m – is intended to help the force with end-to-end management of various policing processes, from intelligence and investigations to custody and prosecution, by giving officers instant access to real-time information across eight previously disparate systems through a single operational platform.

According to the NEC website: “Connect’s deep integration tells officers 100% of what’s known in real time. Which means they’ll always make informed decisions … Just as one example, it defines, for every police officer, the steps they must take when recording a crime, so that information is never missed that would prevent the case going to court, which also creates operational efficiency improvements.”

In a “Force management statement” published in June 2022, the MPS claimed the system would reduce the need for officers to check multiple systems and eliminate “double keying” while delivering a self-service functionality and better linkage of data: “It will also deliver non-cashable savings of up to £26.3m from 2023/24.”

Connect is already being used in its “off-the-shelf” form by 15 other police forces, but the MPS’s size and its volume of work means the core product requires a “large amount of customisation”, adding “time, cost and complexity”.

The system went live in November 2022 and is expected to reach a total spend of around £214m, putting it on track to exceed its original budget by roughly £64m.

“The spend to date is £134,411,638, and projected spend on the project is an additional £80m, which includes delivery of the project and running support, running costs for the duration of the contract post-delivery,” said the MPS in response to an FOI request.

The FOI submission also asked the Met to “provide the number of calls logged and service ticket requests raised” in relation to the system thus far, to which it responded there had been 25,768 “Connect Live Incidents”, 4169 “Connect Training Incidents” and 3144 “Connect requests”.

While a portion of the “training incidents” occurred from May 2022 onwards before the system was formally deployed, the vast majority of these requests were raised between November 2022 and March 2023.

Responding to the FOI’s findings, Caroline Russell, chair of the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee, said: “The Met needs to get the basics right to help officers to do their job. They should be fighting crime, not computer systems.”

According to an updated version of the system’s “full business case” published in March 2022 by the Mayor’s Office for Police and Crime (Mopac), the programme has experienced three significant delays since being contracted.

“The first two delays extended implementation by a cumulative 19 months but were able to be funded within the overall approved budget,” it said. “The third delay (Delay 3) was caused by the impact of Covid-19, as well as the identification of scope and delivery method changes required for the programme to be successfully delivered.

“Delay 3 has further extended implementation by 14 months and the programme requires additional funding to implement the solution as well as maintain service support until 2028, the full term of the contract.” Computer Weekly contacted the Met about the FOI disclosure, and for clarification on whether the support requests were made by officers and staff as a result of system errors or issues they had encountered.

“The original request was to provide Connect Incidents and Service Requests,” said a spokesperson for the force. “The requests are predominantly changes to access (temporary and permanent moves, supervisory), requests for advice and guidance on configuration, personnel and team changes, and so on.

“Training incidents are issues noted during training and logged against the online training system. These would have been wide ranging, for example, network access issues where users may have connected remotely, etc.

“The Connect Incidents and service requests were reported from November 2022 to March 2023 (up to time of original request) and the training system incidents were from May 2022 to March 2023 (up to time of original request).” Computer Weekly also asked the Met for comment on the system’s implementation running roughly £64m over budget, but received no response on this point.

Operational efficiencies

Computer Weekly was told that a further FOI request would need to be submitted for that and other information, including when the Met expects the operational efficiencies to be delivered and whether there was any forecasting of how many support requests were initially expected under Connect.

In a general statement issued to Computer Weekly about the system, an MPS spokesperson said: “Connect is one of just a very small number of systems that can meet the needs of a police service of the scale of the Met. The first phase included replacing the out-of-date custody system, and we have also provided a new digital system for criminal property replacing a largely paper-based approach.

“The replacement for the prosecution file delivery has proved challenging to implement, and the supplier, NEC, has made a number of changes to improve the system that is increasingly stable, and they continue to make improvements to support our officers, staff and volunteers to better enable them to build the best case files.”

The Met added: “We are focusing on the next phase of delivery with the introduction of the remaining elements of Connect, replacing investigation, intelligence and a number of other standalone systems. This will enable the Met to manage data in one system and to achieve the benefits associated with a single, integrated system. The Met Board have implemented a number of enhancements to training and controls to governance, oversight and external assurance, to ensure stable delivery through this next phase.”


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