Another State IT-related disaster - Student Loans Company

IT that sparked Student Loans chaos may still be faulty –

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It's rather confusing to say the least, and to think the systems are cheaper when done on a Trust by Trust basis is folly. The base product in London doesn't meet the full needs of a UK NHS when you drill below the managerial level and look at the doctor and nurse level (ie: the workers). Consequently every site will end up paying again and again for "new" patches to make it work as we need it in the UK. It soon adds up as it's a contractor/IT consultant fest.

Up North, the system is gaining traction at last so it would be typical to can it when it shows success.

I'm pretty sure the NPfIT won't be aborted. The Gov't's aim is save £600m from cutting internal costs and the local service provider contracts. The total NPfIT contracts are worth about £7.5bn and nearly half of that has been paid.

With different versions of the Cerner and Lorenzo systems going in, and, as you say, modifications to the system locally, there will always be scope for consultancy fees when a local upgrade is needed.

It's a fallacy to think there are national systems which can be upgraded together to cut costs.

I'll just quote from the NAO Criminal Records Bureau: Delivering Safer Recruitment? ( which says "Weaknesses in the business assumptions made at the start of the project and in the delivery of systems to process all types of application were key factors in the Bureau's problems."

The SLC assumed their new technologies would work. What did their risk assessment tell them to plan for if it failed?

Risk assessment? You've hit the nail on the head. The Student Loans Company's risk assessments were of the tick-box variety where you state the risk and the mitigation and assume that takes care of everything.

The SLC's "can do" culture meant that specifics were ok to criticise but not the big things.

Risk assessments, in my view, are worse than useless (they give a false sense of security) if they don't take account of small things causing a chain of events which brings down the whole system.

In the SLC's case it was faulty scanning equipment - a small thing in itself but the straw which broke the camel's back.

There is no way that a few scanners brougt the whole system to a halt. Scanners are easily and readily available and it was more likely the underestimate to the pre-scanning phase of a solution which heavily involves the public. Indexing and document preperation is a critical and key factor in any document management and electronic records creation solution. They fell behind because they underestimated and under prepared the system BEFORE it ever gets to the technology. Re-Designing forms and managing how the students prepare their evidence bunddles for their applications is critical at the opening and scanning stages and the company failed to make adequate preperations for this by designing envelopes with integrated automated indexing systems such as barcodes and ICR. A simple envelope with an integrated patch code on the back would have held all the scanned documents in batch order ready for manual indexing. Alternatively they should have controlled the production of documentation and asked for more preperation by the student (They are going to University after all) which would have helped enormously in processing.

Another national project screwed up by big companies with bad histories and expensive contractors who should know better...