IT will be key to pensions reform

The Turner Review of pensions poses a challenge not just for the government, but for IT as well. A New Pension Settlement for the Twenty-First Century is a hefty tome, which proposes policy options to provide decent old age pensions for all and discusses mechanisms to implement a new National Pension Savings Scheme.

The Turner Review of pensions poses a challenge not just for the government, but for IT as well. A New Pension Settlement for the Twenty-First Century is a hefty tome, which proposes policy options to provide decent old age pensions for all and discusses mechanisms to implement a new National Pension Savings Scheme.

None of this can be done without significant IT spending by government, insurance providers and hundreds of thousands of businesses across the UK.

That is why it is disappointing that IT gets no direct mention in Turner's 460-page report. No one expected Turner and his colleagues to consider in detail the IT implications of their proposals, but the ability to build and integrate systems will be crucial to the success of any new approach.

Whatever the government does, its choice should follow detailed consideration of the technical and project management issues involved.

It would be disastrous if politicians, as they have done so often in the past, based their decisions on wishful thinking, rather than practical reality.

 

Cutting a clear path

It is easy to get confused these days. On the one hand IT professionals are being urged to be business people and to stop worrying so much about technology, and on the other there is constant talk of technology opening doors to unimagined business opportunities and woe betide anyone who does not keep up to date with technical developments.

Among the buzzwords which many experts seem to have a problem translating into plain English is SOA, or service oriented architecture. Definitions we have heard range from the attractively simple but rather uninformative, "It's bits," to the most abstruse descriptions which get you reaching for the aspirin.

In the article, Think business processes for SOA success, analyst Ian Charlesworth takes a machete to this verbiage to reveal not only the essence of what SOA is but also the principles that users need to adopt to put it to good use.

In doing so, he debunks the notion that technology in itself can provide a path to business efficiency (is anybody in Whitehall listening?) while pointing to the paradoxical truth that effective application of technology depends on non-techno-centric thinking.

The challenge for the IT professional is not to make a choice between being a "techie" or an "entrepreneur", but to combine an in-depth understanding of both technology and business processes with some radical thinking and a genuine commitment to change.

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