AFP's cursed core overhaul delayed again

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AFP's cursed core overhaul delayed again

Twelve months on, still no movement.

When it sacked its systems integrator last year, the Australian Federal Police insisted the replacement of its legacy PROMIS crimes database was still “a matter of priority”.

But a year since the AFP cut its losses on the $145 million project, the force is no closer to finding a replacement solution for its 19 year-old investigations system, and has already been forced to push back its expected decommissioning date by two years.

The AFP has been working towards replacing its core database, the police real-time online management information system (PROMIS), since 2007. Like many of its Commonwealth peers stuck with legacy IT, the force has found PROMIS increasingly expensive to run and less and less adaptable to new operational demands.

Its first approach to market came up empty handed, but on its second try the police force signed Israeli defence contractor Elbit to address its tech headache.

But in the latter half of 2015 the agency confirmed its $145 million attempt at moving to a new platform had been abruptly cancelled, and the Elbit deal terminated.

The AFP told iTnews at the time that “significant challenges in meeting project objectives” had prompted the agency to cut its losses.

But it insisted the cancellation was only a temporary hiccup in its modernisation agenda, and it would continue to seek “options for a replacement as a matter of priority”, with an eye to delivering a new system to officers by 2018-19.

Twelve months on, however, the goal posts appear to have shifted again.

The AFP confirmed to iTnews that it had not yet applied for any new funding, nor has it settled any new procurements that would put it closer to migrating off the PROMIS system.

Asked what work had been done since pulling up stumps with Elbit, a spokesperson said the force was "continuing to explore available options with industry and law enforcement partners”.

This ‘exploring’ has already convinced the agency it needs to push back the date it can reasonably expect to complete the task.

“With the increased understanding of business requirements and the development of technical opportunities available to the AFP we intend an incremental replacement with final switch off of PROMIS in 2021,” the spokesperson said.

But the timing is not great for the feds, who now face the prospect of having to compete with two of the biggest tech projects Canberra has ever seen - Human Services’ welfare payments replacement and Defence's ERP systems overhaul - to secure IT professionals to work on modernising PROMIS.

“We have moved on from a time when work was scarce and it was easy to negotiate contracts, to a time where work is increasing the right skills are hard to find,” lead public sector analyst at Ovum, Kevin Noonan, told iTnews.

He said this time around, however, Canberra will face “a skills shortage of a different type”.

“In the past agencies have been looking for coders because they were building bespoke systems," he said.

“Today they are after a much more subtle skill set that is even harder to find. They are looking for people who can build systems but also architect them in a fairly complex way and understand new and better ways of dealing with service providers.”

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