NHS IT project is dead, but why do large IT projects fail? Part 18.

Following the news that the NHS National Project for IT was dropped I have been posting some of the views I have recently had provided to me for an unrelated feature was working on about why large IT projects are prone to fail.

I have had such a good response I am keeping the debate going in the blog.

Here are the posts already published: Part 1 Brian Randell, part 2 Anthony Finkelstein, part 3 Yann L’Huillier, part 4 James Martin, part 5 Philip Virgo , part 6 Tony Collins, part 7 ILan Oshri, part 8, Robert Morgan part 9 Sam Kingston, part 10 Peter Brudenal, part 11 Mark Lewis,  part 12  John Worthy, part 13 Stuart Drew, part 14 Milan Gupta, part 15 from a reader known as Matt, part 16 Fotis Karonis, part 17 Fergus Cloughley.

Today in part 18 I am featuring the opinion of Steve Haines, is health & emergency services sector manager at business software maker Unit4. He left his comment in the blog. I also include as reply to his comment from  another reader.

If I get comments from readers I will try and include them so please send me your views on: Why do large IT projects fail?

Steve says: “Basically, the simple fact is the bigger something is the longer it takes to build. Even if it gets built, it’s then more difficult to evolve and less agile to change. We know that technology does not stand still for long, so I can’t believe anyone truly believed that a programme of this scale (NHS project) would ever deliver. There are economies of scale that can deliver efficiencies and benefit, but there is a point at which organisations and solutions go beyond the economies of scale and hit the diseconomies of scale due to the loss of manageability. Our strategy at UNIT4 is to continue to support our NHS customers to grow “local” shared services and collaborations working in local health economies, while at the same time helping new hubs establish, underpinned by leading edge technology that embraces continued development and change. Local collaborations have over time proven to deliver benefits from collaboration while at the same time staying in touch and understanding local economies, priorities and demands. We are now working with a number of customers who are developing “hubs” for such service provision across the country. Additionally, our licence models enable organisations to retain the agility to move in or out of shared services, or indeed from one service to another, encouraging a competitive environment where good quality, efficient and cost effective services can continue to develop. National agenda’s often stifle development and innovation to drive such efficiency. Steve Haines Health & Emergency Services Sector Manager UNIT4 Business software Limited.”

A reader, known as Matt then replied to Steve.

He says: “Steve from UNIT4 seems to be talking along much the same lines as the BCS recommended in its 2006 report “The Way Forward for NHS Health Informatics”:  There has never been a lack of understanding in the industry of the problems associated with large IT projects, especially in the public sector, and there were plenty of sceptical voices over the grand NHS IT project right from the start. It’s just that politicians don’t want to hear that their grand pet project is destined for disaster, and civil servants don’t want to acknowledge this either, while the bloated multinationals who dominate government IT are hardly going to discourage their customers from spending lots of taxpayers money on ludicrously expensive “Big Bang” white elephants, are they.”