Major problems "not inevitable" after major change

Colin Beveridge, an IT industry commentator and consultant on IS management, makes the point that major problems are not inevitable after go-lives of large-scale change programmes.

He was responding to a comment on the IT Projects blog by a BT spokesman over a troubled implementation of a Cerner care Records Service at the Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust.  

Beveridge’s point is important because NHS Connecting for Health, officials in Whitehall and ministers are trying to inure hospital executives and patients to serious disruption in hospitals after implementations under the NPfIT  – which may be a little like NASA saying after each loss of a space shuttle and its crew that crashes are inevitable when you’re pioneering.  

Beveridge said:

“The BT spokesperson is absolutely right that this is a massive change programme.

“However I strongly disagree that major problems are always inevitable with major change; careful design, a truly systematic approach, rigorous risk management and intelligent implementation can, in appropriate combination, provide effective mitigation.

“It seems to me that some of these essentials must be weak or absent although I realise that the overall programme (NHSpfIT) has its own strategic influences [IT-centric approach and political reputations] that appear to be overwhelming imperatives towards unnecessary difficulty.”

Links:

Royal Free considers compensation claims for Cerner problems – Computer Weekly, Aug 2008

NPfIT hopelessly flawed – says Norman Lamb, Lib Dem Shadow Health spokesman

Colin Beveridge website – effective IS for the 21st century

Conservatives instigate review of NHS IT – project.central

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Major change management is about the ability of people to absorb change over time and relates to the learning curve and the memory.

There's a complex relationship between scale of organisation (number of people affected) compexity of change plus the balance between the rate at which people learn during training and testing and the rate at which they forget that training pending using it day to day.

If you get that balance right through careful planning and management then you'll go live with a few "teething troubles" which should be managed through co-operation amongst those working the system.

If you get the balance wrong by going live to early or over to protracted a period you will have much bigger problems.

All of this assumes, of course, that you only go live with a properly working product!

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