IBM business intelligence partly to blame for off-target MOD supply chain

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) was unable to deliver equipment at the time and location that it was needed as a result of incomplete data and poorly integrated systems.

That’s according to a new report (PDF) released by the National Audit Office (NAO), which has listed a number of failings in the MOD’s IT systems, some of which have celebrated the big 3-0, as the cause of incomplete supply chains, data management practices and business intelligence systems.

Information is also poorly integrated, meaning that the MOD found it tough to view the complete inventory of equipment to war zones such as Afghanistan.

In 2010 the MOD was able to make  130,300 deliveries to Afghanistan, and the amount of time troops had to wait for supplies had also declined since the NAO’s 2009 report.

The NAO has not been appeased. It pointed out the MOD was still not meeting its performance targets. It said priority items sent by air should arrive in theatre within five days, although in 2010, this was achieved in only around a third of cases.

The failure to hit targets and deliver the right item on time was found to be due to items unavailable for transport. This, the NAO said, meant that either the MOD was not accurately forecasting usage and repair rates to ensure the right amount of stocks are held; or suppliers were unable to respond to demand.

The flaws were also thought to stem from the business intelligence system that the MOD uses to analyse supply chain data,  which is based on IBM’s Cognos BI software.

It said in the report that the problem here was that the enterprise data warehouse was not populated with all the data needed, and the Cognos reporting tool was not fully effective.

Additionally not all data it has is input into the system, and during monthly updates all information has to be manually added.

“At the same time, the Cognos tool does not always pick up the correct data when producing reports,” NAO wrote in the report.

This is despite the Defence Equipment and Support, the body within the department responsible for managing the supply chain, being given an annual budget of £14 billion in 2010-11. This forms 38 percent of the entire defence budget and the department estimates the value of material recorded in Defence Equipment and Support inventories at £34 billion in 2010.

The report says staff awareness needs to be raised on the need for accurate data. It also warned that the MOD was not yet on the money when it came to establishing precisely which data was required to manage the supply chain more effectively.

“While some progress has been made, “the [MOD] has not yet fully defined, or agreed, the information it needs, or the data that should be collected, to manage the supply chain,” NAO found.

Let’s just hope the £800 million logistics IT contract that the Ministry of Justice signed last year, which will see the MOD’s 270 legacy logistics systems integrated into a single platform, will go some way to helping sort this out.

NAO report