Digital Media Initiative

Executive Summary

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) launched the Digital Media Initiative (DMI) to improve systems in production and archiving in 2008. However, the project faced various problems that led to its failure in the initial stages of implementation. Most of these problems are what led to project management essay.

The report identifies project planning and project governance resulted in critical failure in the project. Project planning, in this case, deals with the design, modelling and simulation of a programme or activity. It builds a system and subsystem need for success based on needs assessment, project objectives, project design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. On the other hand, project governance revolves around stakeholder responsibility with regards to the project. It is the coordination between tasks, responsibilities and resources for the realization of programme objectives within the set timelines and budget.


In project planning, DMI missed assessing viable options for implementing the project while in project governance, the stakeholders failed to identify the cost variations for undertaking the project. The ideal option for the success of the project was in house implementation based on BBC’s initiatives and additional funding for the project to succeed. Nonetheless, the withdrawal of Siemens allowed deviation for the contract agreements into the project.


In 2008, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) launched the Digital Media Initiative (DMI). The project was initiated to improve systems in production and archiving activities at BBC. Particularly, the project was meant to modify and reinvent digital programmes at BBC. The project faced various untested programs and activities that made it fail. All the same, the project was restructured after several problems (National Audit Office 2014, p.1). The failure of DMI in the initial stages is attributed to project planning. The project indicated certain flaws in the design, management and implementation. As a result, the operations of the project failed to meet its expectations. Equally, the financial costs of the project provided various un-matching options for the project success. Thus, the viability of the project was questionable from the start. Nevertheless, the project was salvageable given the initial investment that made the recurrent project management costs less expensive for BBC.

The current report reviews briefly the details of the project and identifies two crucial parts that made the project fail at inception. The project within its structure discusses the details of the project. In chapter 2, it gives a Brief background of the project. In Chapter 3, it gives the Main Discussion of the Two Topics. Generally, the paper discuses the relevance of planning and governance in DMI. The analysis of this project in subsequent chapters; discussion, conclusion and recommendation are independent of the views expressed by the National Independent Office. The conclusion and recommendations from Chapters 4 and 5 respectively. The current paper only introduces Chapter 3 while Chapter 4 and Chapter 5 are discussed in the final report.

The purpose of this work is to develop a report addressed to the BBC Director General about the problems of the project and lessons learnt from them. Subsequently, the recommendations are made on how to improve the project.

Brief Background of the Project

Digital Media Initiative (DMI) project was launched by British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 2008. The project aimed at modifying content and programmes’ development to state of the world class. The project was to change, through the use of technology, how BBC staff members formulate, make, distribute and synthesize audio and video content on their computers. In developing the project, BBC contracted Siemens on a single outsourced platform to carry out the project at the cost of ?133.6 million. However, by 2009, the programme had faced serious problems including financial underestimations. The value of benefits forgone due to poor project management, and implementation was in excess of ?25 million with a delay of 21 days in project implementation (National Audit Office 2014, p.1).

The project developed complications because of the following reasons:

  1. The appointment of the contractor was not based on competitive bidding process. BBC single sourced Siemens and awarded it the multimillion programme at the core of its business operations. This kind of procedure exposed BBC to a financial risk since the capabilities of Siemens delivering the project were not fully assessed. Single sourcing locked out options of accessing other viable options of doing the project even though determining Siemens failure was difficult based on its market experience in information and communication technologies.

Further, the financial benefit of single sourcing was not assessed against the financial loss of single sourcing of the contract. The project ignored sustainability checks and balances in the long run. The paradigms for cost analysis were unrelated. BBC compared reduction in procurement costs to technological efficiencies of the project, which was meant to be the benefits of the project in the first place.

  1. BBC did not consider the options of developing the technology in house. This included the cost implication of in house development against outsourcing from Siemens. Thus, the cost analysis of the programs and its alternates came to be realised when the project failed.
  2. Finally, the project cost was underestimated. The cost evaluations between 2008 and 2017 changed from ?17.9 million to about ?39 million.

Due to these problems, BBC reversed the programme to an in house development. As a result, Siemens withdrew from the programme and BBC started implementing the project. The project costs were offset with costs related to the termination of business relations with Siemens.

Main Discussion of the two Topics

The most relevant project management issues to DMI project is project governance and project planning. The section provides introductory issues on project planning and project governance relevant to the DMI programme.

Project planning is an essential principle in developing a programme of any kind or business. It requires design, modelling and simulation. The design structures the system and subsystems’ need for success. This often includes programmes requirements and stakeholders involved in the project. Programme requirement is an aspect of design while stakeholder is a function of stakeholder mapping. Project planning requires formulation of a programme from need assessment, project objectives, project design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. The needs assessment identifies problems faced by an organization and recommends appropriate measures to correct the problems. Once a project or solution has been identified, it is customized to meet the organization’s goals and objectives through the design. The design outlines the tasks, time lines, resources and responsibilities required for the success of the programme. The design lays the basic requirement for the programme against the objectives. It can be changed in three ways. If a design is satisfactory, it is meant to be improved. If it is average, it can be changed for success. However, if it fails, it can be dropped all together. The implementation puts the abstract plan into a workable piece. Monitoring and evaluation justifies if the project design is meeting its obligations in terms of objectives, timelines, and resources.

Project governance, on the other hand, revolves around stakeholder responsibility with reference to the project. It is the coordination between tasks, responsibilities and resources for the realization of programme objectives within the set timelines and budget. It lies on the personnel required for the success of the project and includes senior staff, junior staff, supplier, contractors, customers, society and physical environment. Within the project design, each stakeholder is assigned a role to be fulfilled within the stipulated timeline. The success of a project lies on the operations of the system. The system often has sub systems that work and link up for the success of the overall project. Project governance requires stakeholders to meet their obligations unless otherwise. In such a situation, it is assessed to determine the criticality of the underlying issue.

Therefore, the critical issue for evaluation are aspects of project planning in DMI are the extent BBC formulated the design against the objective. The project presents a clear objective ‘to improve operations by transforming production of content and programmes.’ The project was meant to make it easier for the staff to do their work. The reason for the project failure is lack of customization of the project to meet the needs of the staff. The critical issue is why an in house was not adopted from the onset.

However, the project governance is more questionable. The critical issues are the mismatch in resource allocation in the first phase of the project. Consequently, the delay in the delivery is up to 21 days. Fortunately, the project carried with the capability of modification in case of partial failure. Thus, it is evident that project planning and planning governance was important for the success of the project.

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