United Nations Embraces OpenSource and Agile... Not! - InformationWeek
12:25 PM
Ben Kepes
Ben Kepes
Connect Directly

United Nations Embraces OpenSource and Agile... Not!

First published on CloudAve

I read the other day that the United Nations is currently embarking on a project with the aim of overhauling its ERP systems. This project apparently has a USD300 million budget and according to the tender document;

presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to equip the organization with twenty-first century techniques, tools, training and technology

The UN is currently running around 1400 different information systems that tell a sorry tale of inefficiency including;

  • up to 40 full-time employees used to process interoffice and interagency vouchers
  • Most duty stations, and many organizational units within duty stations, contain their own stand-alone finance, human resources, supply chain, central support services and information technology areas

So it seems the project is a logical way to drive some efficiency gains while also opening up the United Nations to collaborative and productivity tools that are currently unavailable to them. But I can''t help but think it''s looking at this the wrong way - some functional aspects of the project include;

  • $76 million for "2597 work months" of system build and implementation services.
  • $14 million for travel, which presumes 1285 trips will be taken by "ERP team members, subject-matter experts and corporate consultants" at an average air ticket cost of $6000. Each trip will also get $202 for "terminal expenses" and $5000 for 20 days worth of per diems, for a total cost of about $11,000 per trip.
  • $1.8 million for office furnishings to support 234 workers, including 80 core staff, 66 subject matter experts, eight consultants and 80 system integrators, or about $7700 per person.
  • $6.7 million for office rental, based on an annual rate of $14,300 per person
  • $564,200 for long distance telephone calls, teleconferencing and videoconferencing
  • $18 million for hiring "limited replacements" for subject matter experts involved in the project
  • $16 million for software licences and maintenance fees

So some thought from me on how to do more for less...

  • Ditch the travel - most of these sorts of trips are mere Junkets (and given the budget figures, business class junkets at that). Hire consultants that can work remotely with a need for high frequency face to face sessions
  • Ditch the "long distance telephone calls" - use Skype or another service to avoid large costs. Invest in a collaborative platform that allows for IM, voice, document sharing across large groups of users
  • Ditch software licenses - build on top of OpenSource tools and technology - sure there may be some customization costs but it avoids the noose of license fees and upgrade paths
  • Ditch the office rental - contract people that can hot desk, remote work work from somewhere other than the high rent United Nations locations
  • "Subject matter experts"? ditch that - there are a bunch of people who, for an organization liek the United Nations, would happily give some time and skill. Crowdsource the bulk of this work - faster, cheaper and generally better
  • "System build"? - Nope - use off the shelf OpenSource frameworks and customize to suit the use case

I contend that an agile approach, the use of OpenSource, a modern approach towards workplace management and a move away from UN bloat could see this project completed for a third of the budgeted cost, with greater extensibility and faster than otherwise.

Cool - anyone else want to join in submitting a proposal to the UN? An opportunity to leverage the collective wisdom of the Enterprise 2.0 community to drive some better outcomes for the global community - or something ;-)

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
To learn more about what organizations are doing to tackle attacks and threats we surveyed a group of 300 IT and infosec professionals to find out what their biggest IT security challenges are and what they're doing to defend against today's threats. Download the report to see what they're saying.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Digital Transformation Myths & Truths
Transformation is on every IT organization's to-do list, but effectively transforming IT means a major shift in technology as well as business models and culture. In this IT Trend Report, we examine some of the misconceptions of digital transformation and look at steps you can take to succeed technically and culturally.
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Flash Poll