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CSC elevates moustachioed mesmerist from Kingston University

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Mike Shove - CSC.pngA few losers may have scraped through their time at Kingston University, but surely few have reached as high as Michael Shove, precariously appointed global head of Managed Services at Computer Sciences Corporation.

That Shove spent his time at Kingston developing his talents for mesmerism and growing moustaches is just a rumour started here.

What can be said for certain is that Shove, having graduated with a mere Higher National Diploma in Business Studies in the early 80s (in days when Kingston was nothing more than a grubby Polytechnic) has taken on one of the most challenging jobs in Computing.

Yesterday he was appointed head of the loss-making, scandal-ridden ball-and-chain that is CSC's Managed Services Sector, or outsourcing division.

The $6bn business unit took a whopping $2bn hit on its second quarter results last week when CSC was forced to write down goodwill attributed to acquisitions it made over the last 10 years. Those included some of the proudest acquisitions in its portfolio, the very foundations of the outsourcing business that forms its commercial identity.

Talking to Wall Street analysts about the results last week, CSC CEO Mike Laphen wasn't laff'n when it came to MSS.

It "continues to be a drag on the company's performance", he said. It would all be sorted out with the appointment of a fixer.

He will have a lot of fixing to do. MSS is the subject of the the US Security and Exchange Commission's investigation into accounting irregularities at CSC. MSS management have already been replaced in the Nordics, where the allegations over the irregularities may be serious. Now CSC Americas and Australia have been dragged into the investigation, with accounting errors having been confirmed down under. That's even before he addresses general market decline and tectonic changes on the demand-side.

Shove will at least be familiar with the Oz books, having been president of CSC Australia and New Zealand prior to his appointment in 2007 as president of CSC Asia. He became Oz Prez during the reshuffle after Laphen was appointed CSC president in 2003. The path from Oz to office was already laid, with Shove's predecessor in Sydney having filled Laphen's shoes in Europe.  

CSC bagged Shove as part of its 1999 acquisition of GE Capital IT Solutions' $200m Australian business, a titbit it picked up as part of a $300m, 10-year outsourcing deal with GE - just the sort of outsourcing deal that looked good 10 years ago but lost some of its lustre, and book value, as the markets dived.

Shove presided over some big deals in the Malaysia and Singapore-centred Asian industry. He served as a director on Automated Systems Holdings, which CSC sold to Beijing-based Teamsun in 2009 for $34m. He was appointed to the board of the then partially-owned $135m Computer Systems Advisers (Malaysia - known as CSAM) in 2007, before CSC bought it outright in 2008. CSAM was controlled by CSA Holdings, a regional conglomerate that was already doing $270m when CSC bought half of it in 1999. It bit off the rest in 2005.

In the same time, Francis Yeoh CBE, a contemporary of Shove's at Kingston, followed a career in which he grew his father's corporation into one of Malaysia's largest conglomerates. Other Kingston alumni include once-cool guitarist Eric Clapton, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire cheat Charles Ingram, Duke Nukem programmer Nick Pelling and at least one jaded technology correspondent known to these pages.

Godfather of code-breaking leaves legacy of make do and mend

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Colossus valves photographed by Andrew Back.pngTony Sale started rebuilding the Colossus computer using his and his wife Margaret's own savings in 1994. It is said no-one believed it was possible.

Just as no-one had believed Tommy Flowers when in 1943 he proposed it, the world's first programmable electronic computer, as a way to automate work being done by the Bletchley Park mathematicians to break the encrypted messages Hitler was sending his generals across Europe.

Sale, who died yesterday aged 80, began the rebuild officially on the same day in 1994 the National Museum of Computing, another of his preservation projects, was opened by the Duke of Kent. It was just as the PC industry was booming and the World-Wide Web taking off.

Then as now, while the industry prospered, the Museum struggled for cash. The computing generation didn't know it was making history. It thought it was making the future.

The Sales had to fund the Colossus rebuild themselves because, Tony Sales said in a booklet he wrote on the project, they couldn't wait any longer. There were too few people with knowledge of the original Colossus computer.

"If the effort was not made immediately there would be nobody still alive to help us with memories of Colossus," he wrote.

Many of those who worked on the original project had died before the 1970s when the British government at last allowed the Colossus secret out. It had destroyed all record of the machine, to hide Britain's proficiency in code-breaking from the Cold War Soviet Union. (Or it thought it had, as Sales was fortunately to discover).

The world meanwhile thought the USA had built the first computer, much to Sale's dismay.

As he wrote: "For far too long the Americans had got away with the myth that their ENIAC was the first computer in the world."

"As 1996 was the 50th anniversary of the switch-on of ENIAC I made sure that Colossus was rebuilt and working in Bletchley Park, just as it was in 1944. There has been a stunned silence from across the water!"

This was one of his motivations for embarking on the ambitious Colossus rebuild, as he put it defiantly in a video on his code-breaking website. He had lived through the war, and though he was too young to fight, had joined the Air Force in the 50s. They were proud times.

Since Britain's pride had been destroyed to preserve its secret, Sale had to rebuild it literally from scraps.

He unearthed eight war-time photographs, 10 fragments of circuit diagrams some of the original engineers had kept illegally, and some general lectures given by lead engineers including Flowers in the 80s.

His effort was helped by British Telecom, which was then decommissioning telephone exchanges that still used equipment Sale could authentically put in the 1940s computer. It had originally been built using Post Office components, most visibly radio valves. Like all good inventions, it had used what was to hand.

Some War-time Post Office engineers joined Sales' rebuild team too. A final break-through came with the publication under US Freedom of Information of reports a US engineer had made about Colossus from Bletchley during the war. It still took them 14 years to complete the rebuild.

The other reason why Sale led the rebuild was to prove how good the 1940s technology was. A Pentium PC, programmed to perform the same tasks as Colossus, took twice as long to do them, Sale said in his 1998 booklet on the project.

Not many people were interested in the mid-90s. Sale eventually secured funding for Colossus from a small charitable fund operated at the bequest of Mrs LD Rope, a Christian family's inheritance. A donation was made by Frank Morrell, one of the original engineers who built the Tunny, the British contraption that emulated the machine that produced the German military's 'unbreakable' ciphers. Keith Thrower OBE, a former president of the Institution of Electronic and Radio Engineers and an author of books about the radio valves used in Colossus, donated money as well. Those firms providing the metal, electrics and valves did so at knock-down rates.

Lately, some of those US firms that grew in the 1990s to dominate the industry have put money into the National Computing Museum also founded by Sale, and which now houses his rebuilt Colossus. Insight Software and IBM were prominent among them.

Though it preserves the memory of the richest of industries, the museum is still so short of cash it relies on volunteers. The Museum's home of Bletchley Park, which was also preserved through Sale's effort, lacks funds to preserve the history of Britain's War-time computing pioneers, though it was recently relieved by funds and publicity from Google. It has made an exhibition of the extraordinary War-time code-breaking machines and put them alongside papers and a most moving sculpture of Alan Turing, the centre's famous mathematician and father of computing.

Sale's accounts of the War-time code-breaking efforts were conspicuous for not mentioning Turing. The latter's memory has tended to overshadow the work of others at Bletchley Park, even while he became the figurehead around whom many of its patrons rallied. Sale was a radio ham who celebrated those Post Office engineers often left out of casual tellings of the code-breaking effort.

Sale himself joined the Air Force because it had been the only way he could afford to get an education. He had been a bit of a whiz-kid, making the news in the late 40s with a life-sized, radio-controlled robot he built out of Meccano. But his tinkering with radio got him into serious work in the RAF. He had to shun the limelight till retirement, and became principal science officer at MI5, like Q in the world of James Bond. What he actually built at MI5 is still a secret.

Tony Sale.pngThe Museum's volunteers took on something of Sale's spirit. They have assembled an impressive selection of hardware and acquired a couple of super computers they are now considering putting head to head over a game of chess. Exasperated by the quality of computing education in schools, they get groups of kids in to teach them how to programme.

If they don't succeed there will be more reasons why Britain is the most appropriate place for a museum of computing. But they, Sales legacy, have like Sale himself carried on the Bletchley pioneers' work of achieving extraordinary things with whatever was to hand. Or as they said in the War, make do and mend.

Innovation in the NHS - yes it happens

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Healthcare software supplier System C has beaten nearly 3,000 entries from around the world to win 2010 Microsoft Partner of the Year award in the category 'Public sector health partner'. 

The award recognises innovation and solutions which clearly benefit customers ' businesses.

System C won for its Clinical Dashboard products which use indicators, gauges and charts to display real-time, relevant healthcare information - for example on clinical outcomes.  

The Dashboard products bring together data from many sources, including a hospital's PAS and clinical systems.

Cabinet Office answers my questions on reviews of IT projects

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These are my questions and the Cabinet Office's replies on Government plans to freeze projects over £1m and review major IT-related projects and programmes.


Me: I understand that an initial review of projects between £1m-£50m will be undertaken by departments, by the end of July. Given that some departments and agencies have been defensive and self-justifying in the past, can the Cabinet Office be certain that departments will be objective when reviewing their projects?

[For instance the Department of Health has said that the NPfIT is within budget, although the original contracts were announced as being worth £6.2bn and have since increased to a cost of about £7.3bn. The Department would say that the budgets have not increased; the contracts are delivering much more than originally intended. Some may see the increase, though, as scope creep.]


Morecambe Bay go-live is "fantastic news" for patients

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CSC announced today - nearly a week after it happened - that iSoft's Lorenzo Regional Care Release 1.9 went live on June 1, 2010, at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust.

Tony Halsall, University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust CEO, was quoted in CSC's press release as saying: "Becoming the first acute trust in England to implement Lorenzo is not only fantastic news for the trust and our staff, but also for our patients."

Lorenzo has been rolled out to all of the hospital sites at the Trust -- including Furness General, Westmorland General, and Royal Lancaster Infirmary -- replacing the existing patient administrative system), and is the "first such deployment at an acute trust in England" says CSC.

The deployment involved the training of over 3,500 staff and the migration of approximately 80 million data transactions to the new system.

CSC referred to the benefits of Lorenzo in the future tense. It said:

OGC says its e-auction strategy will save £270m by 2011/12

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The Office of Government Commerce's Centre for e-Auctions has today published its Forward Plan for e-Auctions.  The OGC hopes the e-auctions will save the public sector up to £270m by the end of 2011/12.

The Forward Plan sets out the e-auctions for the next two years which, says the OGC, will influence over £900m of public sector spend.

Major public sector IT project said to be going well

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The much-needed Tell Us Once IT project is said to be progressing well, though it's early days.

The project is being led by the Department for Work and Pensions, and is important because, if it continues to work well, the next of kin after a bereavement won't need to give the deceased's name and address countless times when informing government departments and agencies of the death.

Tell Us Once would also make it easier to inform government of a birth, or a major change of circumstances. The idea is that you tell one department, and the information gets passed to all departments and agencies that need to know.

"That sounds an utterly obvious thing to do - and it is - but making it a reality is very challenging," says Sir Leigh Lewis, Permanent Secretary at the DWP.

Cerner success at Kingston Hospital?

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Kingston Hospital reports that its implementation of the Cerner Care Records Service  has been more successful than at other trusts - but the local paper, the Surrey Comet, isn't convinced.

Meanwhile the hospital's Chief Executive reports that "ongoing operational issues are being prioritised".

In 2009/10 the Trust received extra money - through NHS London and NHS Connecting for Health - to support its Care Records Service go live and to help develop a scaleable national implementation model. But it needs extra funding because "ongoing resource requirements are much greater than those originally expected".

The Trust says: "Due to increased development of the reporting systems to ensure they are sophisticated enough to deliver a timely, accurate reporting solution, the Trust is currently seeking additional funds to ensure successful delivery."


A model public sector CIO? Josh Ellis at the Serious Fraud Office

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Josh Ellis, the CIO at the Serious Fraud Office, is a breath of fresh air.

He doesn't believe in mega projects, and would rather take on the risks of a sizeable programme than pay a premium to transfer risk to a systems integrator.

josh ellis.jpgIn an exclusive interview with Computer Weekly, Ellis explained that he is senior responsible owner for a case management system that is due to be delivered by the end of this year.
"If I get it wrong they can fire me. I have no problem with that. I have come from a pedigree where you are only as good as your last project, or last job. I have a firm belief I can make this work."

It's rare for any CIO in government to declare themselves personally and publicly accountable for the success or failure of IT-based projects and programme.

Josh Ellis became the Serious Fraud Office's first CIO in May last year. He spoke to me in the wake of media reports that his organisation has written off £1.2m on a failed IT project.

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