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Spotted yesterday outside a Sainsbury's carpark: An employee wearing a bright orange jacket proclaiming

"Sainsbury's
Reducing carbon emissions 65% by 2020"

So who's going to tell the shareholders that they might possibly manage that if they cut store opening times to two days a week?

Nov 11, 2013 at 2:39 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Too much positive thinking is a big problem
- "just do it", "believe and achieve"
and I include CAGW belief as positive thinking.. it's jut taking the easy option of going with the crowd and not crunching the numbers, believing it will be proved right eventually.
(I would count Ross's faith in the ease of Thorium in that, there are good reasons why existing people have not implemented magic solutions before)

- It's much harder to say "I don't know" and then go on to think thru the negatives and do risk assessment etc.
- that's why IT projs get screwed up etc.
- When really you should put in the hard work of understanding the system and then write a airtight specification so the contractors can't screw you for extras.
- best system for portable medical records I heard was basically something like a Facebook system of privacy systems so you can see "friend" a consultant for a limited time so that he can see your full case details, whereas the nurse can only see your allergies etc...that should not cost $billions to implement
- And I see what you are saying about not doing white elephant projs, but rather let things grow organically with the private sector taking the risk for their own little aspects

1. "Harrabin at the BBC says" first sign of BS
2. "A new study suggests" 2nd sign of BS
I'm not wasting time reading it,....we'll see in 6 months

Nov 11, 2013 at 2:38 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

johanna: if you're still involved in public sector IT, I'd be happy to email you some presentation material I used when I was so involved. Ask BH for my email address.

Nov 11, 2013 at 2:08 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Robin - thanks for the link to your also excellent essay on the NHS IT debacle.

In Australia, the Federal Government has spent many millions of dollars over at least seven years trying to get an EPR (electronic patient record) system up and running. It has been a series of debacles, and is still not working.

My sister is a ward clerk in the largest hospital in New South Wales. The hospital's patient management system, which has been "standardised" across the State by government decree, is a disaster.

The Queensland Government Health Department spent more than $1.2 billion on a new "integrated" pay system for their employees which failed as soon as it was introduced, and is still not working properly many months later.

The chronic inability of governments, in particular, to learn from IT debacles (although the private sector has had its share) is one of life's great mysteries. The health sector is especially prone, it seems.

Having been drafted into service to rescue a couple of (thankfully smaller) IT projects in the public sector when they were off the rails, I found the same errors had been made over and over again. Gullible public servants and Ministers, endless specification changes - often encouraged by IT companies who behaved like dodgy builders, lack of accountability, absurd over-optimism about what could realistically be delivered; these and more, just as you identified in your article.

Nov 11, 2013 at 12:53 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

joaanna: thanks for the link to the (as you say) "admirable" John Brignell's essay.

At the risk of blowing my own trumpet (well, not a risk: I AM blowing my own trumpet), you'll find here an article about the disastrous NHS IT project - an article I wrote just after it was launched in 2002. (The "Chancellor" I refer to at the end is Gordon Brown.)

Brignell's analysis is excellent. However, with regard to the NHS fiasco, the list of project stages is incorrect. In that case, it was (1) enthusiasm (2) more enthusiasm (3) even more enthusiasm (4) silence (5) trying to pretend it hadn't happened.

Nov 11, 2013 at 12:09 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

The admirable John Brignell has an excellent new essay up at Numberwatch:

http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/BIG.htm

I particularly liked his thoughts about failed large Government computer systems, e.g.

" The World Wide Web is the model of how to build a very large computer system. One man designed and demonstrated a software interface, the rest followed automatically.The internet, on which it depends, has a similar history. What is vitally needed, as in nature, is a small but perfect seed; the rest is evolution, not revolution. There are many failures on the way, but these are small and largely unnoticed in the scheme of things, while the risk is widely spread."

Well worth a look. And don't forget the tip jar there - JB is in poor health and has done the hard yards for scientific integrity for many years at his own expense.

Nov 11, 2013 at 10:43 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

geoffchambers
thanks

A couple of hundred words flows fairly easily when focused - longer pieces need structure and research.... ;-)

What's clear to me is that many in the public sector live in some kind of warped parallel reality - and I'd include our western academia in that fantasy land - what else could Lewindopeski's statistical analysis be but fantasy? (OK, nasty mendacity could also explain it)

To my mind - effective confrontation is really key in all this and the road to that "open and frank exchange of views" and robust evidenced criticism is comprehensively blocked by the legacy media. Believe me - I've tried.

I'll give you an example - David Cameron is absolutely on record as saying that if there's an in/out EU referendum and the popular / winning vote is for "outski" he'll simply ignore it and stay in. Now... where have you heard that on the UK MSM?

My beliefs in the matter are irrelevant - but as an example of the arbitrariness that is being exercised with a crystal clear contempt for the electorate it's up there.... one also has to assume that he said it confident that it wouldn't get any UK airtime / dead tree treatment.

Nov 11, 2013 at 1:23 AM | Registered Commentertomo

Nice to see people with irony bypasses are alive and well and living in Truro.

Nov 10, 2013 at 10:42 PM | Unregistered CommentersandyS

Trolls just aren't what they used to be. Quite a poor show, these days.

Nov 10, 2013 at 10:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

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