CMI Blog

The Biggest IT Disasters: Hard to Believe True Stories

IT_disasters_London_managed_service_provider.jpgSomewhere between hiring the best employees, the streamlined operations process, the carefully crafted management meetings, KPIs and customer support, lies what is quickly being considered the most important element of business: technology.

Business IT is not dissimilar to the vital organs of a human body, and all the connective tissue.  IT provides the tools, applications and hardware that the departments of a business need to do their job and communicate with each other.  The competitive edge of an organisation is often a direct result of the level of investment in IT, and likewise, the commercial disasters are often a direct result of the lack of investment.

Let’s take a look at what happens when IT goes wrong.  Here are 5 real-life examples of IT disasters.


Twas the month before Christmas and Black Friday saw e-commerce sites buckling under the weight increased shopping (think Tesco, Topshop and Net a Porter), but perhaps none so badly as Amazon. A glitch in price comparison software saw thousands of products in Amazon’s Marketplace (most supplied by small shops) on sale for just one penny. Shoppers stormed the site, quickly buying everything from laptops to surfboards for 1p. The problem is that many of these products were housed in Amazon’s behemoth warehouses and were shipped, to the loss of the small shops.

UK Border Agency and the immigration system

You may remember the public outcry when IT failures were found to add up to a breath taking £1 billion of wasted tax payers’ money. The Commons Public Accounts Committee also found that 11,000 asylum seekers had been waiting for seven years to find out whether they could stay in Britain and they still hadn’t resolved 29,000 applications dating back to 2007. PAC said the system was in chaos and a new backlog is building up. Government IT failures of this nature play into the hands of opposing political parties and anger tax payers who foot the bill.


A holiday maker was charged £23.7 billion for a return flight with a low cost airline when she tried to book a Spanish getaway. This overcharge was down to a data validation glitch and was a signal to eDreams that it needs to tighten up its testing processes, which it did. Luckily the woman wasn’t held to the nearly £24 billion charge, but the negative headlines, damage to the eDreams brand, and drop in share price cost eDreams.

Online DIY retailer made headlines in February when everything on its website – from sheds and ride on mowers, to power tools and kitchen appliances – were listed for the bargain price of £34.99. Word spread like wildfire on social media and shoppers bought thousands of items at the discounted flat-rate price. Eventually the error was noticed (a data validation problem), and Screwfix was forced to cancel orders, which went down poorly with customers, and investors, who paid for the reputational fallout.

Target Canada

Target tried to expand to Canada and failed miserably due to what could only be described as IT error after IT error.  Eventually it caused Steinhafel, the CEO and a 35+ year veteran of Target, his job.  By this point Target had lost $7 billion, applied for bankruptcy protection, and was in the process of shutting down all 133 Canadian stores.  More than 17,000 employees lost their jobs.  Ouch.

The moral of the stories?  Don’t skimp on IT. 


 About BTA

BTA is a Managed Service Provider based in Wandsworth, London, specialising in IT consultancy services, out-sourced IT, help for IT managers, help desk support, and everything from cloud solutions to hardware procurement.  As one of the most established IT providers in London, BTA has been providing exceptional IT support and solutions to businesses across the UK for more than 20 years.  Learn more at or get in touch at


Topics: security, technology, upgrade, internet, business

Duane Godwin

Written by Duane Godwin

Duane is Bertie the Robot's father. Need we say more.

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