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View Full Version : Another government IT fiasco?


tony draper
1st Mar 2006, 23:11
Just been a item on Newsnight re the National Firearms registry(never heard of it meself),after the Dunblaine massacre it was agreed a central computer systm should be set up to hold all information on legaly owned firearms and aplications for FC's in the uk,at present apparently each police force area has its own register which is not accessable to police forces in other areas, so the situation as it stands now means someone refused FC in one area may be granted one in another area
A simple task one would think,,not so,after nine years and umpteen millions of pounds its still not up and running.
What i it with government deptments that they can never get puter systems to feckin work?hell,we must have more IT graduates in this country than you could shake a stick at
Hell I could probably get every single firearm certificate holder in the UK on the wee hard disc in my desktop.
Woss up?
:confused:

BOFH
1st Mar 2006, 23:22
I fail to see why this is a surprise. The Grauniad jobsworth ads was out today - look at the calibre of recruits they want.

I scanned them (not my newspaper) and did not see the word 'intelligent' mentioned once. Not even a 'bright'.

BOFH

G-CPTN
2nd Mar 2006, 00:15
What percentage of gun crime is perpetrated by FC holders?
Would you think the guy who loosed-off at the NEC yesterday had a FC, or the ones who shot the WPCs?
Or the (s)heisters?

Spinflight
2nd Mar 2006, 02:24
Can't see why its difficult. Quite frankly its reasonably basic SQL.

Thing is they probably sold the contract to the lowest bidder (prolly EDS as experience tells me) who knew fine well that failure to deliver on time meant more snouts in the trough rather than a failure to pay for substandard or non-existent work done.

BombayDuck
2nd Mar 2006, 03:59
high time you blokes outsourced your IT things to India!

oh, you've done that already, have you?

Saintsman
2nd Mar 2006, 08:24
Can't see why its difficult. Quite frankly its reasonably basic SQL.


I quite agree. It could all be done with a MS Access database over the internet.

But then again its difficult to reward some crony if you don't give them a big contract for a new IT system:hmm:

under_exposed
2nd Mar 2006, 08:43
Quite frankly its reasonably basic SQL
It could all be done with a MS Access database over the internet

Capacity, contention, replication, bandwith, locking, security, failover.

The reason so many projects fail is due to people failing to understand the size of the problem.

Blacksheep
2nd Mar 2006, 08:56
The reason so many projects fail is due to people failing to understand the size of the problemIts still a miniscule project compared to the payroll database of any medium sized business.

The real question is "How much has been spent and to whom was the money paid?"

Not being a taxpayer or a registered voter, I'm not qualified to make a fuss, but for all you taxpayers out there, why not write to your MPs or better yet, go and see them face to face at a constituency clinic and ask them for an answer.

batninth
2nd Mar 2006, 09:31
Capacity, contention, replication, bandwith, locking, security, failover.

Add to this - Data Protection Legislation and auditability, user training in yet another new system, compliance to government standards, diverse user requirements from the various stakeholders etc etc

Its still a miniscule project compared to the payroll database of any medium sized business.

Not really - any commercial application is bounded by the organisation infrastructure. A roll out of any government project, by it's nature, will usually involve working with a diverse range of technical and organisational facilities. For the firearms regsiter - who will use it (various police forces may have different teams they want to use it), how will they access it (what security standards are required to access the network, does each force have access at that level) etc

Finally I would say that on most of these projects, there is some form of research and feasibilty done, but cost constraints prevenet testing at full-scale. Quite often it's the scaling up that causes the problem

Primary Care
2nd Mar 2006, 09:35
high time you blokes outsourced your IT things to India!

what could you do for the UK health service?

And how would you (technically) do it?

And how much would it cost?

And how would you measure quality?

rustle
2nd Mar 2006, 09:50
Can't see why its difficult. Quite frankly its reasonably basic SQL.

Thing is they probably sold the contract to the lowest bidder...

There's a strong probability that the technical solution is not the problem.

Typically with Govt. IT projects the cause of cost/time over-runs are:

1. Mis-sold at the outset (not fit for purpose);
2. Scope changes as more and more "experts" add their two-penneth;
3. Re-negotiations to try and fix the original mis-selling problems at 1 above;
4. Changes in statutory requirements during development, leading to 2 above;
5. Changes in user-base (this will happen in this case if the police forces combine as proposed) leads to 2 above;
6. Changes in the head of department/ministry will force 2 above;
7. Financial mis-management which leads to 3 above;
8. Technological advances that demand a visit to 2 above.

On each iteration costs go up and time goes out: That starts the whole discussion off again.

Even when off-the-shelf solutions are purchased there is a strong likelihood of going through this loop at least 3 times.

When it is a bespoke solution, the loop continues until:
The project is scrapped;
and/or
The government changes;
and/or
The sun super-novas

;)

slim_slag
2nd Mar 2006, 10:05
Funnily enough I have seen the different ways large software projects are developed in the US and UK. Basically in the UK project management is crap and the people who know what they want and how to do it are the last people to be involved in decisions. The UK will follow a Methodology to the detriment of the project, in the US the methodology is a tool which has to be flexible to make the project work. Note my use of capitalisation. It's a shame, as the individual programmers I have worked with are much smarter in the UK, they just have crap managers. I have also seen small UK outfits who are extremely good and would without a doubt get the project in on time and within budget, but business managers are reluctant to hire them, they would rather pay Accenture huge amounts of money as they have a posher souding name. The project ends up being late and over budget, and never actually works.

As for costs, it's an absolute disgrace that the UK government refuse to publish costs, hiding behind some crass excuse that it is commercially sensitive.

SpinSpinSugar
2nd Mar 2006, 10:52
I find it astonishing that any electorate would even consider allowing these goons to try and introduce a national ID card register. But there we are.

Five years hence... after the 500% cost over-run charged directly to the taxation pot (as point-of-purchase costs will be capped so they can claim "good value", well, capped in line with standard social engineering policies that'll make the cost to the individual means-tested), we'll have a bloated and leaky system on single-vendor proprietary hardware plagued with embarrassing "misplacements" of highly personal data.

The database itself will no doubt be provided by an American registered company (I see the iris scanning suite is), and thus the son-of-Patriot act will mean that US intelligence legally gets it's hands on all our particulars (there was a big fuss in Canada last year over this point, if I recall correctly), and the ex-Labour MPs working as "special advisors" to said company's UK subsidiaries will grow fat on a series of suspect stock market flotations.

Meanwhile, all manner of spammers and con artists will be queuing up to buy details of our physical traits and personal history from the Government at £5.00 a pop. Not to mention the enormous amount of potential for abuse within Government departments themselves, as Gordon Brown lets Councils and the Revenue loose on the national identity database to "individualise" income tax and national insurance based upon your class background and political sensibilities.

And benefit fraud and terrorism carry on, unperturbed.

"Trust us, we're here to keep you safe" :yuk:

BombayDuck
2nd Mar 2006, 10:57
what could you do for the UK health service?

And how would you (technically) do it?

And how much would it cost?

And how would you measure quality?

well.... we could save you money!

Thats about it :D

seriously, medical transcription services were otusourced long ago... quite a simple menial job that can be accomplished by paying hordes of undergraduate students looking to earn cash on the side ;)

BombayDuck
2nd Mar 2006, 10:58
slim slag

Basically in the UK project management is crap

then all the more reason to outsource it to India - we can provide crap project management at cheaper rates! :}

tony draper
2nd Mar 2006, 11:09
Good idea Mr Bombay,because when the ice sheets start to advance again we are all coming there to live anyway.
:rolleyes:

angels
2nd Mar 2006, 11:22
Only probelm is Herr Drapes is that India is still steaming north at a great lick (in geoligical terms) having parted company with Africa a few moons back.

So it's gonna get cold there as well once its bulldozed its way through the Tibetan plain.

Reckon we're gonna have to move into Bluey's gaff.

slim_slag
2nd Mar 2006, 11:44
One's missus was out in Bangalore recently visiting the new place where they will be offshoring her job (pharmaceuticals, not programming), and she found they had modelled their campus on the same campus she works in the UK. She said it was a rather nice place, though if they continued to dig the foundations using spades and pickaxes her job is safe for some time to come. As for Bombay, after the sea level has risen and given it a good wash, that might be an OK place too :)

rustle
2nd Mar 2006, 11:47
well.... we could save you money!

Thats about it :D

As the thread was about Government IT contracts, that statement is not really true :ouch:

Private companies off-shoring their service desks (etc.) save real money as they don't pay as much for the service and the tax-take from their employees doesn't factor into their balance sheet anyway.

Govt. entities off-shoring service desks must look at the total cost which includes the loss of tax revenues (both corporate and employee) -- Therefore, unless the saving from off-shoring is greater than the loss of tax (and the flow-on benefits of money remaining in the UK economy) there isn't a financial case for off-shoring.

The current favourite is to import the labour from cheaper economies (to do the grunt work of developing / testing IT platforms) which means the UK economy benefits through additional tax, but the job still costs less* as the imports aren't paid as much...

* or the margin is greater

batninth
2nd Mar 2006, 11:57
Primary Care - I think you'll find a lot of Health Care IT *is* outsourced to India already

Slim Slag - I disagree about the US & UK PM outlook, my experience is that it is the US that are more inclined to follow the methodologies to the letter whereas Europe is much more flexible. Having said that - the new "Adaptive PM" methods being espoused are coming from US academics who realise the importance of flexibilty in our new Internet derived working practices, possibly our Italian colleagues having some influence?

Bombay Duck - outsource PM to India? Outsourcing works very well when everything is rigorously defined, but managing complexity and uncertainty from 7000 miles away? I'd be open to being shown otherwise but I can't see how it could operate effectively at that distance.

slim_slag
2nd Mar 2006, 12:17
Ah batninth, but that wasn't exactly what I said. Both sides use and follow a methodology, just different ones. The US are more iterative, the UK more anticipatory. Adaptive Project Management is nothing special, it is just a new name for something that has been around for years in the States, just called a different name.

Well, it might be new to the UK, where anticipatory project management is the rule. Actually that's not 100% either, as I said there are some really good small outfits in the UK who are more adaptive, but not the big dinosaur ones who get all the government work, and where the management is crap.

rustle
2nd Mar 2006, 12:41
Well, it might be new to the UK, where anticipatory project management is the rule. Actually that's not 100% either, as I said there are some really good small outfits in the UK who are more adaptive, but not the big dinosaur ones who get all the government work, and where the management is crap.

With only one notable exception that I can think of immediately, the big dinosaurs with the UK Govt. contracts you refer to are all US owned ;)

(NB I'm talking about IT development, not consulting generally)

The methodologies used, whilst pretending to be UK-centric, are primarily derived from the parent even if they're re-branded :p

charlie-india-mike
2nd Mar 2006, 12:46
Hang about a bit guys, It's me your slaging off here.


C_I_M

slim_slag
2nd Mar 2006, 12:59
Rustle,

My understanding is that corporations tending for UK government projects have to use SSADM, a methodology with a capital M if ever there was one. So, your big UK consulting company will have that as an internal standard in order to get the nice gravy government jobs. Mention SSADM or PRINCE to a yank and he will think you are talking about some pop star. Has this all changed?

batninth
2nd Mar 2006, 14:56
Slim Slag - we could argue on US vs European PM, but I think the comments are coming to a consensus. BTW - I suggest that if say "PMBoK" in Europe and most folks will think you're talking about some new chemical found in fizzy drinks.

Anway - the start was that the esteemed Mr Draper asked:

What i it with government deptments that they can never get puter systems to feckin work?hell,we must have more IT graduates in this country than you could shake a stick at
Hell I could probably get every single firearm certificate holder in the UK on the wee hard disc in my desktop.
Woss up?

And I think the answer to the first question is summed up by your comment
...and where the management is crap.
not by the PM tools being applied. I also wonder if the quote applies a tad wider than the big organisations working as contractors to these departments?

You are right Mr Draper about the number of IT grads, but most want to be web designers or design J2EE apps - they don't want to work in the real world with real problems - like linking different technologies in police stations to a single database. Longer term this means we don't get a cadre of managers who have a grounding in this stuff and can get these projects working properly.

"Enough Batninth!" - I must go and put the kettle on to get my next fix of Java Beans.

Primary Care
2nd Mar 2006, 17:26
well.... we could save you money!

Thats about it

if you can deliver quality goods, and demonstrate that quality, that may be enough my friend.

Batninth, take your point, perhaps a lot is being outsourced already. I'm coming into this with some knowledge of health care systems, and little knowledge of IT, but surely there could be more we can outsource, I'm thinking in terms of clinical information systems, clinical audit, clinical management of patients (eg pathology links, nhs direct etc).

I'm open to further suggestions.

batninth
2nd Mar 2006, 18:36
Primary Care - look in your PM