NHS IT: who'll see it through?

The news that John Pattison is to step down as the senior responsible owner of the £2.3bn national programme for IT is cause for...

The news that John Pattison is to step down as the senior responsible owner of the £2.3bn national programme for IT is cause for concern.

The critical position of SRO was established after the government's gateway review laid out a number of measures to pre-empt further disasters in large public sector IT projects.

Appointing an SRO to every large IT programme would, we were assured, guarantee that one person is accountable for a project from start to finish. This would provide a solid bedrock of support and continuity as other officials on the project moved from department to department.

This would also ensure that someone was accountable for the outcome of a major IT project.

But now Pattison is on his way to a new role within the Department of Health and remains tight-lipped about any potential replacement.

Not only will he not be in-post to witness the delivery of the national programme's national systems, but his departure goes against a key cabinet recommendation that the SRO should not change during the project inception and initial implementation.

This, in the wake of the resignation of junior health minister Lord Hunt in protest at the government's policy over Iraq, leaves a considerable shortfall in the number of senior figures overseeing the national programme.

The government's aim in appointing an SRO is laudable, but it needs to stick to its own guidelines. Any delay in appointing a successor to Pattison risks jeopardising the successful implementation of one of the largest IT projects ever in the UK.

Five rising stars with real business value

Despite the sceptics who have written off IT as a commodity, there are still new technologies that may offer organisations new ways of doing business, improved customer service and the opportunity to cut costs.

The feature on page 36 of this week's Computer Weekly offers five technologies that IT departments would do well to look at in 2004. Our list is made up of web services, wireless technology, open source software, utility computing and real-time computing.

IT budget holders may have kept a tight grip on purse strings this year, but these technologies may offer enough realistic business value to encourage a more positive approach to IT investment.

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