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Munich: A Case Study in Poor Project Management

By Bob Lewis-Basson

For the last 15 years, IT experts working for the city of Munich have been attempting to migrate the city’s systems away from Microsoft Windows and to a Linux operating system. Now they have done an about-face. The city council intends to reverse course and spend millions on returning to the Windows environment. The LiMux project Munich was so proud of years ago has become a case study in poor project management.

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When Munich first decided to go LiMux, their intent was to break free from the economic and legal constraints of using Microsoft software. They chose the open source Linux alternative as much to save money as to be able to modify their new software to meet their needs. So what went wrong? First and foremost, the city did not seek out professional IT support. Instead, they tried to do everything in-house.

Thousands of Computers and Software

On the surface, it does not seem like so much of a big deal to install a new operating system and new software – even on thousands of computers. At the start, it looked like Munich’s IT team would be fine. But it did not take long for things to start going wrong.

A report from The Register’s Andrew Silver makes it clear that neither the OS nor its alternative software packages were the real problem in Munich. Rather, it was a case of poor project management. The problems in Munich are numerous:

In-House IT Staff – The staff assigned to the migration were not capable of handling the job. But rather than contracting professional IT support, the city council decided to go it alone.

Too Much Software – The city uses somewhere in the region of 800 different software packages to do what it does. That is far too many. Still, the IT staff did manage to find workable alternatives for about half.

Lack of Support – City employees are unhappy about the Linux migration, but not necessarily because of the software. They complain about lack of support. Unfortunately, a lack of support makes for unhappy employees regardless of the operating system being used.

Politics – Last but not least is the ugly issue of politics. City councils are not known for their efficiency and transparency. This is critical when undergoing something as massive as migrating an entire city software system from one platform to the next. It would appear as though politics infected the project.

A Lesson Learned

If there is any good news from Munich it is that there are lessons to be learned, lessons that can save other municipalities and companies from failed projects that waste millions. As an expert in IT support for small business, I can say with certainty that just about any migration is doable with the right project management and support. The Munich case clearly shows that the software itself was not the problem. Rather, the project failed because of poor management.


The Register –

By Bob Lewis-Basson.

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