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IBM veep partly blamed Sopra Steria for collapse of £155m Co-Op Insurance Agile project

Plus insurer kept firing defect reports at us during acceptance testing, said Steve Allen


Co-Op Insurance's £155m Agile contract with IBM for a new IT platform collapsed not only because the insurer kept raising spurious defects but also because Sopra Steria bungled a critical data migration, the Big Blue veep overseeing the project told London's High Court.

In court papers obtained by The Register, IBM vice president Steve Allen said the Co-Op's insurance arm helped cause its own Project Cobalt to collapse after sending a large volume of change requests to IBM and subcontractor 1insurer.

Co-Op Insurance is suing IBM as a result of the project collapsing, alleging IBM deliberately let it fall apart. IBM says the Co-Op failed to pay on time and that it was contractually allowed to walk away as a result. The trial has ended but judgment has not yet been handed down.

Insurance software outsourcer 1insurer, which during the 2016-17 project was known as the Innovation Group, was brought in by IBM to convert its white-label insurance platform for UK use by the Co-Op. The Co-Op says 1insurer's product was built for the US market and wasn't at all suitable for use in the UK, contrary to IBM's claims that it just needed a little light tweaking. IBM hotly denies that it was unsuitable.

In his written witness statement, Allen told the High Court: "The number of defects found during UAT [user acceptance testing] execution in 2017 was higher than anticipated which contributed to the delay to UAT completion. While defects were attributable to IBM and / or IG [Innovation Group], there was also a high number of rejected defects (defects raised in error) and a proportion of the defects raised were attributable to CISGIL [Co-Op Insurance] or its subcontractors."

Allen said that instead of defect fixes following the usual S-curve distribution – a high number during initial testing that flattens out, followed by a small tail at the end – the Co-Op project's defect list instead grew at a "linear" rate over time.

"Over the course of UAT around 23 per cent – 27 per cent of defects were rejected," Allen continued, saying that rejected defects were ones that IBM said were "incorrectly raised" because the "system is in fact performing as expected". He said: "Rejected defects needed to be triaged, diverting Subject Matter Experts ('SME') and developer resources away from fixing real defects, contributing to the delay."

Data, data everywhere, not any byte to drink

On top of the allegations that the Co-Op caused its own Agile project's downfall, Allen told the court: "There were delays caused by CISGIL's [Co-Op Insurance] sub-contractor Steria in relation to data migration."

Sopra Steria managed the entire Co-Op's data warehousing at the time. With one of the main drivers behind Project Cobalt being to sever Co-Op Insurance from the rest of the retail and banking group, Steria's involvement would have been very important. Allen quoted from an email sent by IBMer Paul Osborne to senior Co-Op man Richard White which read: "We have a hard dependency on Sopra Steria which, if not resolved, will lead to delays."

IBM alleges that such delays did come to pass.

Those delays were not only Co-Op contractors' fault, in Allen's estimation, and he told the court that in IBM's view, the insurance company itself contributed heavily to them by not wanting to talk about which defects "could be deferred until Release 2," the second scheduled software drop of the new platform. "Refusing to countenance any defects at all at Go Live is not normal, and I do not recall another client ever having taken that approach before," he said.

Further, the IBM VP also said that the Co-Op had introduced a new requirement at a late stage for data within the new platform to be encrypted in transit, something he described as "a significant change in approach that seemed excessive and would have required significant changes to be made."

Although the trial has ended, The Register will continue reporting from case papers, and the judgment itself once trial judge Mrs Justice O'Farrell hands it down. ®

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IBM ordered to hand over ex-CEO emails plotting cuts in older workers

Infamous 'Dinobabies' memo comes back to haunt Big Blue again

Updated In one of the many ongoing age discrimination lawsuits against IBM, Big Blue has been ordered to produce internal emails in which former CEO Ginny Rometty and former SVP of Human Resources Diane Gherson discuss efforts to get rid of older employees.

IBM as recently as February denied any "systemic age discrimination" ever occurred at the mainframe giant, despite the August 31, 2020 finding by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that "top-down messaging from IBM’s highest ranks directing managers to engage in an aggressive approach to significantly reduce the headcount of older workers to make room for Early Professional Hires."

The court's description of these emails between executives further contradicts IBM's assertions and supports claims of age discrimination raised by a 2018 report from ProPublica and Mother Jones, by other sources prior to that, and by numerous lawsuits.

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HCL to end all support for old versions of Notes and Domino in 2024

As if users needed any more reminders they’re stuck on a dying platform

HCL has given users of versions 9.x and 10.x of its Domino groupware platform two years warning that they'll have to upgrade or live without support.

Domino started life as Lotus Notes before IBM bought the company and milked the groupware platform for decades then offloaded it to India's HCL in 2018. HCL has since released two major upgrades: 2020's version 11 and 2021's version 12.

Now it looks like HCL wants to maximize the ROI on those efforts – a suggestion The Register makes as the company today emailed Domino users warning them that versions 9.x and 10.x won't be sold as of December 1, 2022, and won't receive any support as of June 1, 2024.

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IBM CEO explains why he offloaded Watson Health: Not enough domain expertise

And not enough customers, Shirley?

IBM chairman and CEO Arvind Krishna says it offloaded Watson Health this year because it doesn't have the requisite vertical expertise in the healthcare sector.

Talking at stock market analyst Bernstein's 38th Annual Strategic Decisions Conference, the big boss was asked to outline the context for selling the healthcare data and analytics assets of the business to private equity provider Francisco Partners for $1 billion in January.

"Watson Health's divestment has got nothing to do with our commitment to AI and tor the Watson Brand," he told the audience. The "Watson brand will be our carrier for AI."

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IBM finally shutters Russian operations, lays off staff

Axing workers under 40 must feel like a novel concept for Big Blue

After freezing operations in Russia earlier this year, IBM has told employees it is ending all work in the country and has begun laying off staff. 

A letter obtained by Reuters sent by IBM CEO Arvind Krishna to staff cites sanctions as one of the prime reasons for the decision to exit Russia. 

"As the consequences of the war continue to mount and uncertainty about its long-term ramifications grows, we have now made the decision to carry out an orderly wind-down of IBM's business in Russia," Krishna said. 

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IBM AI boat to commemorate historic US Mayflower voyage finally lands… in Canada

Nearly two years late and in the wrong country, we welcome our robot overlords

IBM's self-sailing Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) has finally crossed the Atlantic albeit more than a year and a half later than planned. Still, congratulations to the team.

That said, MAS missed its target. Instead of arriving in Massachusetts – the US state home to Plymouth Rock where the 17th-century Mayflower landed – the latest in a long list of technical difficulties forced MAS to limp to Halifax in Nova Scotia, Canada. The 2,700-mile (4,400km) journey from Plymouth, UK, came to an end on Sunday.

The 50ft (15m) trimaran is powered by solar energy, with diesel backup, and said to be able to reach a speed of 10 knots (18.5km/h or 11.5mph) using electric motors. This computer-controlled ship is steered by software that takes data in real time from six cameras and 50 sensors. This application was trained using IBM's PowerAI Vision technology and Power servers, we're told.

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IBM buys Randori to address multicloud security messes

Big Blue joins the hot market for infosec investment

RSA Conference IBM has expanded its extensive cybersecurity portfolio by acquiring Randori – a four-year-old startup that specializes in helping enterprises manage their attack surface by identifying and prioritizing their external-facing on-premises and cloud assets.

Big Blue announced the Randori buy on the first day of the 2022 RSA Conference on Monday. Its plan is to give the computing behemoth's customers a tool to manage their security posture by looking at their infrastructure from a threat actor's point-of-view – a position IBM hopes will allow users to identify unseen weaknesses.

IBM intends to integrate Randori's software with its QRadar extended detection and response (XDR) capabilities to provide real-time attack surface insights for tasks including threat hunting and incident response. That approach will reduce the quantity of manual work needed for monitoring new applications and to quickly address emerging threats, according to IBM.

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Compute responsibly: Yet another IT industry sustainability drive

From greener datacenters to data transparency and 'conscious code', IBM, Dell, others push for better IT ops

IBM and Dell are the founding members of a new initiative to promote sustainable development in IT by providing a framework of responsible corporate policies for organizations to follow.

Responsible Computing is described as a membership consortium for technology organizations that aims to get members to sign up to responsible values in key areas relating to infrastructure, code development, and social impact. The program is also operating under the oversight of the Object Management Group.

According to Object Management Group CEO Bill Hoffman, also the CEO of Responsible Computing, the new initiative aims to "shift thinking and, ultimately behavior" within the IT industry and therefore "bring about real change", based around a manifesto that lays out six domains the program has identified for responsible computing.

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IBM ordered to pay $1.6b to BMC

Big Blue's 'routine eschewal of rules' justifies large penalty, judge says

IBM has been ordered to pay Houston-based IT firm BMC $1.6 billion for fraud and contract violations because it moved mutual client AT&T from BMC software to IBM software.

On Monday, US District Judge Gray Miller issued his final judgment [PDF] in the case, which began five years ago and culminated in a bench trial in March.

For years, IBM had serviced AT&T's mainframe computers which at least since 2007 have relied on BMC software. IBM and BMC in 2008 entered into a contract governing the business relationship between the two companies. And in 2015, the two IT outfits agreed several amendments including an Outsourcing Attachment (OA) that disallowed IBM from moving mutual clients over to its own software.

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IBM ends funding for employee retirement clubs

HR boss admits news may be 'disappointing' for the 'significant' population of former staff

IBM has confirmed to former staff that it will no longer provide grants for the Retired Employee Club, meaning no more subsidized short trips to the Italian Riviera or golf days.

The clubs are regionally split. In the UK, for example, there are 28 local organizations that have run short trips or national tournaments including corporate games or group runs.

Joining a club was free for all Big Blue retirees with at least 10 years of service under their belt, regardless of pension age. For Local Clubs, members were asked to pay a small annual subscription.

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IBM's self-sailing Mayflower suffers another fault in Atlantic crossing bid

If the idea was to see if a ship could make it without any humans, we think we may have the answer by now

No, this isn't deja vu. IBM's self-sailing Mayflower ship, tasked with making it across the Atlantic without any humans onboard to help, has suffered another mechanical glitch preventing it from continuing its intended journey.

Named after the vessel that brought passengers from England to America in the 17th century, the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) was expected to retrace that historical voyage. But its attempts to cross the ocean, led by ProMare – a non-profit organization focused on marine research, with support from IBM – haven't exactly gone smoothly.

We admire the tenacity and the project's aims but we're not going to pretend this has been perfect.

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IBM adds side order of NLP to McDonald's AI drive-thru chatbots

CEO talks up 'great economics to franchisees ... through the power of software... AI and creative construct'

IBM says it is rolling out its natural language processing software to a greater number of McDonalds' drive-thrus months after buying the automated order technology unit from the fast food chain, along with the team that developed it.

IBM already added extra NLP features to its Watson Discovery enterprise AI service last year, and now the burger-flinger's AI chatbot will feel the benefit, it said.

In October last year, Big Blue wolfed down the McD Tech Labs, which was itself created after McDonald's bought and renamed AI voice recognition startup Apprente in 2019.

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IBM-powered Mayflower robo-ship once again tries to cross Atlantic

Whaddayaknow? It's made it more than halfway to America

The autonomous Mayflower ship is making another attempt at a transatlantic journey from the UK to the US, after engineers hauled the vessel to port and fixed a technical glitch. 

Built by ProMare, a non-profit organization focused on marine research, and IBM, the Mayflower set sail on April 28, beginning its over 3,000-mile voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. But after less than two weeks, the crewless ship broke down and was brought back to port in Horta in the Azores, 850 miles off the coast of Portugal, for engineers to inspect.

With no humans onboard, the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) can only rely on its numerous cameras, sensors, equipment controllers, and various bits of hardware running machine-learning algorithms to survive. The computer-vision software helps it navigate through choppy waters and avoid objects that may be in its path.

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