When IT goes wrong: A question of trust

The car crash that has been unfolding during the Post Office IT scandal inquiry puts a big question mark over trust in IT and whether consultants truly work in our best interest.

Thousands of errors, with multiple causes existed in the Horizon computer system, which is at the centre of a major miscarriage of justice. If the data held in a core accounting system is questionable, something has gone seriously wrong. And someone, somewhere knew what was going on.

One would hope that since they are not full-time employees of the organisation that has hired them, consultants can sit above the internal politics and offer independent advice, avoiding the pressures that arise when internal stakeholders get involved. IT consultants position themselves as trusted partners, who want to help the organisations they work for deliver a tangible business outcome, delivered by technology innovation and, where it is needed, through training and education, to facilitate a business transformation.

Who can you trust?

CIOs and CEOs entrust these consultants to guide them through a minefield of technology decisions in order to facilitate an effective technology powered business strategy. The more we rely on technology innovations to deliver key performance indicators across the business, the more we need to trust those who are paid handsomely to advise us on the best technology that meets our unique business requirements.

When this trust is broken, who takes responsibility? Who is to blame? We need to question every poor decision. Why was a dud product deployed. Who made that decision? It is fair enough for a CIO and the business to negotiate the best contract, but we must all be fully aware of the compromises that are being made. A request for tender on a new IT contract should never put the overall contract value above everything else. As the saying goes, “If it looks too good to be true, then it probably is.”

Throughout its history, Computer Weekly has written both about IT innovation and contracts that have gone awry. The more businesses rely on technology, the more they put themselves at risk if an implementation goes wrong. And often, it’s not if something will fail, but when. Business and IT leaders and the consultants they have hired are all accountable for these failures.

Nothing is 100% guaranteed, so as and when something goes wrong, everyone involved in the decision-making behind the implementation needs an action plan to resolve the failure with the least disruption. This is not a service level agreement, negotiated on cost. It is about ensuring the business can continue to operate and its integrity can remain intact.

Data Center
Data Management