« Mary Riddell. | Main | Spontaneous HIV Cure? »

November 13, 2005

Government IT Projects.

Not being an IT specialist this is, of course, simply speculation. But it looks to me like these people have committed the great unpardonable sin of any engineering project.

In the e-mail exchanges in September, Granger blames a senior civil servant in the Department of Health for the fiasco, criticising her repeated last-minute changes and failure to heed his advice.

Granger censures Margaret Edwards, the department’s director for access and patient choice, for adding numerous new specifications to the booking programme, known as Choose and Book.
Granger complains that the project has been allowed to change beyond recognition from the original specification. “The original request from your predecessor and yourself was for an Electronic Booking System. The change of this to Choose and Book occurred in (the second quarter of) 2003. This was the first of what are now recurrent major changes in your requirements.”

They changed the specification after the start of the project. Of course it’s a cock up.

November 13, 2005 in Your Tax Money at Work | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Government IT Projects.:


And being an IT specialist I have to say you are absolutely correct.

The problem with software systems is that because they are not hard, as in you can drop them on your foot or throw them at someone, people tend to see them as malleable.

The other issue is the perceived input. For any information system those who order it will, of necessity, be heavily involved in its design; because it is being built to their detailed requirements. However, this leads them to think they can KEEP having an input, in a way that couldn't happen if it was a bridge being built.

All in all, IT systems are cock ups.

Stay away from them.

Posted by: Chris harper | Nov 13, 2005 11:32:51 AM

What amazes me is that this is news. Every client, especially the government, messes around with the specs after placing the order.

It's one of the main reasons that I am confident the UK ID scheme will never actually get off the ground. The whole database thing will be a complete stuff up. The only problem is the billions of quid that will have been spent on it beforehand.


Posted by: Remittance Man | Nov 13, 2005 1:01:40 PM


"Every client, especially the government, messes around with the specs after placing the order."

Well, yes, but only in a way which completely distorts the truth: Every client messes about with the spec, but good ones only do so in trivial or presentation matters or to resolve issues which arise during the implementation phase - i.e. where the design is clearly incomplete.

What the government does is completely screw around and make such fundamental changes as to question the fundamental underlying assumptions of the system. When told of the consequences of a proposed change the civil servant will snort "you're the supplier - that's your problem".

The big problem is simply a failure of almost every branch of Government to make sensible decisions due to a lack of a clearly deliniated chain of command, and lack of high level clout in the project sponsor.

Posted by: The Pedant-General | Nov 13, 2005 7:27:37 PM