British Eventing admits mistakes made during £2.75m IT project *H&H Plus*

  • British Eventing has admitted mistakes were made during its IT transformation project, which has cost £2.75m so far, but intends to continue to make improvements and hopes to rebuild members’ trust now the system is up and running. H&H finds out more...

    Mistakes have been made in the British Eventing (BE) IT transformation project, BE has acknowledged, but the system is up and running and will continuously be improved.

    BE has updated members on the major undertaking, which includes not only BE’s website but also its database, entries and results system; the “first end-to-end sport delivery system”.

    The statement ran through the IT transformation project (ITTP) from its inception in 2015, when it was decided that there were four necessary components: a database and new safety app for technical advisers to use in the field, a customer relationship management platform, an entry management and scoring system (EARS) and rebuilding the BE website.

    The first two phases were rolled out in 2016 and 2017 but EARS, which should have come next, was delayed owing to “contractual disputes”. In 2018, the BE board decided to complete the work in house, to reduce cost, increase speed and reduce reliance on a third party.

    The new website launched last January, and was “not entirely successful”. But BE chief executive Jude Matthews told H&H the system is now up and largely running well.

    “A lot of the planning and development work was undertaken before my time and there were very valid reasons that led to the decision to take the work in house,” she said. “But it is often the case that IT development is more challenging in a company whose focus is not solely IT. Our priority is ensuring we have the best system available for our members and our sport.”

    Ms Matthews pointed out that user groups from across the sport had been involved throughout the project and that almost none of the current board members or executive of BE were in position when the project was started.

    Members were updated on EARS, rolled out this year to replace systems such as BDWP, which it had been known would not be available for BE use from 2020, and the technology used for which is “obsolete and cannot be used with the new IT systems”.

    “This meant work had to be prioritised to ensure the BE website could deliver the entries platform,” the BE statement said. “The project has not been straightforward, and it is a significant move for the sport to have the entire process handled by the governing body’s IT system.

    “EARS was rolled out at the start of the 2020 season, and there were (and still are) a number of issues. The IT team has used the time during lockdown to work on some of the more critical issues.”

    These issues include functionality of the scoring app and issues with timeouts. Having considered feedback, the BE board decided to use other scoring systems while the app was worked on, to allow the team to focus on EARS.

    BE has also been working with Miranda Collett, who operates Eventing Scores and is on the EARS working group.

    “Eventing Scores already held some of the functionality needed by the sport, and Miranda has developed additional functionality to handle sectioning and times,” the statement said.

    “BE has worked with Miranda to integrate some of this functionality with the EARS system. This integration has been in place since the restart and it is testament to the hard work of Miranda and the BE team that this has been ready.”

    BE acknowledged that there had been errors and underestimations throughout the process, but pointed out there was no tailor-made solution for the complexity of the required system.

    There were issues with contracts and quality of work carried out by contractors, and BE said initial major issues with the new website last year, and the “challenges” with EARS, eroded members’ trust.

    Ms Matthews said she hopes this can be rebuilt with time, as the system is now up and running.

    “Most people have no trouble with it,” she said. “We have had emails from members saying, ‘Wow, it was amazing’, or that it’s really easy, but equally there are those who have had trouble. No system, however much money is spent on it, is fault-free all the time.

    “The system is in use, we need to continue to fix any bugs and improve training for users where necessary, and continue to make enhancements requested by the user community.

    “Lessons have been learned and we’ve got something to build on to take the sport forwards.”

    The total cost of the project to date is £2.75m, and BE’s ongoing IT bill has been put at £500,000 for 2020, to include all IT-related costs.

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