Stop carping and look at firms that fail to deliver
The leading academics who want an independent audit of the NHS national programme for IT (Computer Weekly, 18 April) ought to know that during the development of any large-scale IT project it is perfectly normal to find dissidents who will readily complain about lack of consultation and technical problems.
They should also know that the management of a project of this nature is a difficult enough task without having to deal with carping from the sidelines. Instead, they should be directing their attention to the firms that are failing to deliver.
A more pertinent independent audit would be one that looked into the effectiveness of our universities in producing graduates who can manage, design and program effective IT systems within budget and on time.
Ken May, Poole, Dorset
Operational efficiency is the vital benchmark
In most sectors, the purpose of IT is to improve the efficiency of operational staff by allowing them to do the same job faster, or to do a better job in the same time. Even in aggressively competitive sectors, such as supermarkets, till systems and stock control systems take precedence over management information systems.
This simple imperative – use IT, first and foremost, to improve operational efficiency – has been lost in the NHS national programme for IT. To take a simple example, Choose and Book takes up more time of the most critical resource (doctors). This problem is deeply embedded in NHS culture to the point that the phrase “IT” stinks in the nostrils of many of the medical staff.
Technical doubts are counter-productive
I have strong views that the architecture and approach to NHS Connecting for Health is not the best choice that could have been made. I am not a centralist, but a believer in distributed processing supported by mandatory data and connectivity standards – and competition.
But I also know that it is possible to implement an appalling system so that the users love and revere it; and equally possible to have the perfect solution rejected. It is the people/business change aspects that mark a project’s success or failure, not the technology.
And I know that is it so very easy to derail a programme by providing those not quite on board with irrelevant side issues. Providing those caught up in the people/business change issues with doubts about technical capability almost inevitably undermines potential success.
Such a technical audit, even if it finds perfection, will have irretrievably killed the whole exercise. It is far too late to do this, and very costly, throwing away millions, rather than making it work by spending a few extra millions at a later stage.
Let’s just get on with getting the best out of a poor decision.
Mike Burrows, NHS
NHS is trying to eat an elephant all in one go
Having been involved in health sector IT for many years, in my opinion there are problems in many areas of what is proposed by the NHS national programme for IT.
The NHS seems to be flying in the face of good software design – if you are going to eat an elephant, do it one bite at a time. The national programme “consultants” seem to be trying to swallow the elephant in one go. I also believe that some of the technologies proposed have not been tested to see if they are appropriate for the proposed tasks.
I fear that a disaster looms on the near horizon – both for the NHS and for us as taxpayers. There has been a need for a review of what the NHS is doing in IT for a long time.
Boards are too savvy to fall for SOA promises
Although Chris Hayes’ letter (Computer Weekly, 18 April) extolling the benefits of service oriented architecture is written with passion and eloquence, it highlights an age-old problem of the software industry by suggesting that “promised benefits” can equate to “a business case”.
Is it not the case that boards are much more savvy these days, especially when looking at new paradigms, and wary of the word “promise”?
If I were an IT leader trying to get the point about SOA across, I would focus on communicating the business key performance indicators that will be used to measure and demonstrate the value of the new technology, plus a slew of case study examples demonstrating both successful implementation of a complex technology and resulting benefits.
Colin Bartram, Vector Networks
Remote working must not mean greater risk
I read your article about mobile collaboration as a priority for CIOs with interest (Computer Weekly, 11 April). The rising demand for remote working is an issue that affects not only CIOs, but has become a topic widely discussed from the boardroom right through to all employees.
The benefits of untethered real-time collaboration for companies, employees and the community are obvious. What is more, reduced commuting time benefits the environment, allows staff to enjoy an improved work/life balance, and can improve efficiency.
At the same time, remote and mobile working can also pose real challenges to companies. The introduction of consumer-oriented collaborative applications and innovation is by no means new to the mobility world, however, neither are the challenges introduced by these applications.
Although IT organisations have the means and technology available to simplify, secure and control these remote environments, the advent of the “virtual cubicle” only further reinforces the necessity for corporates to align their application, security and mobility strategies and support.
Organisations embracing progressive, collaborative applications develop effective but flexible policies which involve the end-users, and do not attempt to anticipate their adoption and use of the software.
Much in the same way, IT organisations are facing the challenges of an increasingly wireless environment within and outside of their corporate facilities, issues like these have to be addressed by the boardroom as well to ensure that remote and mobile workers can collaborate effectively without introducing increased expense and risk to the organisation.
Marc Patterson, BT Global Services