DPM's diary: 27 June 2006

We at Bogcaster City Council are actively progressing the shared service agenda and expect to make major savings in IT. Those of you familiar with public sector jargon will know what this sentence means – absolutely nothing.

C P BOUND

Monday

We at Bogcaster City Council are actively progressing the shared service agenda and expect to make major savings in IT. Those of you familiar with public sector jargon will know what this sentence means – absolutely nothing.

Note the choice of the word “agenda” as distinct from “project” or “programme” and the phrase “actively progressing” rather than, say, “implementing”. “Expect to” always means “could happen, but not actually banking on it because it probably won’t”, as in “we expect England to win the World Cup” or “we expect Choose and Book to come in on time and in budget” or “we expect Choose and Book to work properly” etc. “Major savings” is another good one.

Note the complete absence of any attempt at actual quantification – we are always a hostage to fortune after all. Moreover, the relative framework is not defined. For an old-age pensioner on benefit top-up, a two-for-one offer on Hobnobs may well represent a major saving.

In the NHS, of course, savings are measured more innovatively, so that an investment of £20bn in IT systems is a major saving because it could easily have been £30bn.

Tuesday

There is a lot of nonsense about Choose and Book being more expensive that the moon programme. This is not the case.

Yes, it has cost more than any one of the individual moon missions, but taken collectively the great Nasa programme of the late 1960s and early 1970s was actually slightly more costly.

Wednesday

Charlie showed me a new portal his team have developed for our library service. It is called Choose a Book.

Four things strike me about this project as significant: it is fast, it works, the users like it and it did not cost £20bn.

Thursday

Dave reports that something interesting is happening. When he came to load up the Choose and Book portal database there was no server available and no money in the budget. So he took an old box out of the store, loaded it up with Debian and went live on that.

Now it seems we have suddenly become a key trusted node on NHSnet.

“Was there something in that box?” I asked.

“No we cleaned it up. It is one of those old Norsk Data machines.”

Friday

Bogcaster residents can now use the same portal to review their library book and schedule their MRI scan.

That is what I call customer service. Moreover, there will be major savings generated as we continue to actively progress the agenda.

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