Common sense at the Revenue

The decision by HM Revenue and Customs to postpone the introduction of an online tax collection system for 12 months represents a welcome dose of common sense.

The decision by HM Revenue and Customs to postpone the introduction of an online tax collection system for 12 months represents a welcome dose of common sense.

Software developers were warning loudly that they had not been given sufficient time to develop products that would link into the system.

The Revenue is grappling with enormous difficulties in its core systems while carrying through an organisational merger that would challenge the most acquisitive private sector organisation. Postponement will allow it to devote resources to dealing with its current problems rather than rushing into service new, under-developed products that are likely to add to its woes.

For once, IT realities and business realism have overcome politically driven deadlines - and we need more of that in the public sector.

It is quite right to talk about IT being a business enabler, but in the commercial world that means organisations have to look at their IT capabilities before making business decisions.

We need recognition of that across government. Perhaps the Revenue's decision marks the start of a new way of thinking about IT in Westminster and Whitehall, but don't hold your breath.

RFID data challenge

There is no doubt RFID has a big future in optimising supply chains. There are many successful RFID pilot projects. The question is whether these can scale to support deployment of tags across companies. In particular, given that tags generate data, businesses risk being swamped by the sheer volume of information they have to process.

Middleware is essential to automate business processes based on information transmitted by RFID tags. For instance, a tag could alert the back-end system that a pallet is about to be shipped to the wrong destination. Clearly the alert may require changes to shipping and the customer may need to be informed of a possible delay. So several systems may need to communicate in order to handle the alert generated by the RFID tag.

Running business processes that touch several applications requires integration - something the IT industry has been attempting to simplify for years.

RFID will make the IT environment even more complex. Small scale roll-outs may prove that the technology can be deployed, but users will need to invest in sophisticated integration and middleware in order to make the most of RFID.

 

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