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The FBI Virtual Case File project in The United States of America

The program started by Federal Bureau of Investigations, (FBI), in 2000 as and was known as "Trilogy" program. The main intention of the program was to modernize what the bureau depicted as an outdated Information Technology (IT) system. The computer program aimed at granting field agents a professional gizmo, which would promptly organize, scrutinize and communicate information on terrorism and criminal cases.  The project was to be carried out in three phases including; purchase of modern desktop computers, development of a secured high-performance LAN and WAN networks, and a modernization of FBI’s set of investigative software functions.

In June 2000, a contract was awarded to Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), they were to act on the software aspects of the project.  Nevertheless, all the matters relating to the network aspects were to be handled by DynCorp. In the center of what was happening in the bureau was the new boss Mr. Robert Mueller who had just been appointed FBI director in September 2001 and just a week before September 11 attacks. The attacks painted the Bureau’s information sharing setbacks and thus increased pressure to modernize. Again, in the initial development of the project users of the old system, Automated Case Support (ACS), were to be involved to ensure a proper and gradual transfer from ACS to the new developing Virtual Case File (VCF). Another major involvement was with Aerospace Corporation, whose duty was to review the project.

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Due to problems originating from project management, the set deadline of fully implementation was not met and it was formally abandoned in 2005. This came as the Bureau announced binning of a new and more ambitious software project that was coded Sentiel. Back to Virtual Case File, some of the managerial problems included the coming of a new director to the Bureau as his opinions on the new development had to be sought and thus altering some of the already agreed issues. Again, the threat that was exposed by the September 11 attacks had an effect on the project and how it was to be implemented as new things were put on board while others were dropped.  

The second mistake was lack of blueprint on the side of the Bureau and that lead to alterations and disagreements between various stakeholders even after the project had kicked off. If a clear plan had been put in place and proper arrangements been made, the implementation of the project would have been faster than it was at the time. Moreover, there seemed to be little effort in understanding each other. This is clearly evidenced by request by SAIC to be awarded an extra $ 50 million to complete the project and this was turned down by the Bureau.

Thirdly, the FBI was accused of exposing its upgrading efforts to unwarranted risk as it worked without project architecture.  This was as advised by the Government Accountability Office in September 2003. Moreover, a huge number of FBI personnel who had little or no knowledge in computer science acted as managers and even engineers on the project, which lead to poor performance in project management. Again, FBI and SAIC, made a commitment to have the new changes made within 22 months, which had lead to introduction of flash cutover. In essence, this lead to even a bigger problems as workers were forced to log off from an old system today only to find a new system the next morning. Due to such challenges, workers did not quickly adapt to the new program.

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Lastly, the idea of a plan B had been sidelined by the team to whom the Virtual Case File project seemed the only thing they ever wanted to see. Due to this, they were not able to look into the implications of a failed project and how they would solve such problems in case they were to occur.

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