Learning from the “worst fiasco ever”

_69899119_recordsI’m not surprised to see a story today citing the failed NHS electronic patient record system as one of the worst fiascos ever and a £10bn write-off.

A few years ago I had the pleasure and pain to work on an NHS IT project. It was a pleasure to be working on a project that had the potential to have a real positive impact on the lives of millions of people.  The pain was enduring the endless overbearing bureaucracy and complexity forced on us by the NHS.

My team wanted to pull some data from the electronic patient record to assist GPs during prescribing.  We just wanted a few simple pieces of demographic data, such as age, gender and so on. Having looked at the specs we estimated it would take 2-3 months of effort to develop that capability.  The complexity of the design was astounding.

What’s wrong with government IT?

In an attempt to get good value for money for taxpayers, politicians and civil servants push for ever-bigger projects with the aim of removing duplication of effort across many different projects. After all, you don’t want lots of different projects all solving the same problem in different ways, right?

On the face of it, the argument makes sense. But here’s what happens in the real world:

  • Projects with similar goals but competing requirements are merged together
  • Because it’s hard or impossible to get small projects signed-off (remember, you don’t want to duplicate effort!) scope creep ensues
  • A huge amount of effort is spent figuring out how to fit all the requirements into a single deliverable
  • Projects become bloated and impossibly complex
  • And so… projects fail

      An alternative approach

      What if the government took a leaf from the start-up world where entrepreneurs set out to solve a problem in the simplest way possible and deliver quickly so they can gauge success. Because solutions are built around a common set of open standards the various online services all inter-operate.

      Perhaps instead of trying to build a single IT system to conquer them all, government should instead focus on the results they want, and a set of (simple!) common data formats, then leave the private sector to get on with developing elegant solutions to common problems that can move healthcare forward more quickly.

    Office 2010 – 32-bit or 64-bit?

    Office 2010 is the first version of Microsoft Office to be available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

    If you are running a 64-bit version of Windows, you should install 64-bit Office, right?


    Official advice from Microsoft is to use the 32-bit version unless you specifically need to make use of some of the capabilities only available in the x64 version such as Excel 2010’s support for larger data sets.

    The problem is that Office 2010 x64 introduces breaking changes that mean 32-bit add-ins may not work in 64-bit Office. For a complete discussion see http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee691831(office.14).aspx

    Office 2010 System Requirements

    Minimum CPU and  RAM requirements are unchanged from Office 2007, but the footprint of most Office applications have gotten larger. Most standalone application disk-space requirements have gone up by 0.5 GB and the suites have increased by 1.0 or 1.5 GB.

    So, in short, if your PC can run Office 2007, it will be able to run Office 2010. If you just acquired a brand new PC, it also will be able to run the forthcoming suite. But if you’re using Office 2003, there are no guarantees you’ll automatically be able to run Office 2010 on the same hardware.

    The 32-bit version of Office 2010 will run on the following 32-bit operating systems: XP with Service Pack (SP)3, Vista SP1, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2003 R2 (with MS XML). The 64-bit version will run on on 64-bit versions of all of these same operating systems, with the exception of Windows Server 2003 R2.

    via Mary Jo Foley

    4 Great Reasons to use Social Media

    1. If your customers, competitors or partners are using social media, why wouldn’t you?
    2. No matter how big you are, you cannot hire all the smartest people. It doesn’t mean they are inaccessible.
    3. Your customers and clients are co-shaping your reputation. Do you know what they are saying?
    4. You can spot trends by monitoring …but only monitor what would cause you to act.

    All too often, businesses block access to tools that they deem irrelevant to employees work and a drain on productivity. But why block employee access to tools that your customers are using? It’s a false assumption. You may as well ban email because for sure people will be sending irrelevant emails during the day. Instead, provide the tools but have clear policies regarding their use and the consequences of their misuse.

    With thanks to Sharon Richardson and her two great posts from the Dell Social Media Huddle: Trends Part 1 and Community Matters.

    Official SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 Blogs

    image Following on from my summary the other day of official SharePoint 2010 resources, here’s a list of 20+ official Microsoft Office and SharePoint product team blogs that you can count on to have the most up-to-date product information as we head towards launch.


    SharePoint Server 2010 Blogs


    Office 2010 Client App Blogs


    Have I missed anything? Leave a comment below to let me know.

    Why the Microsoft-Yahoo Search Deal Should be Good for Yahoo and Good for Consumers

    image Lots of stuff on the web today heralding the death of Yahoo.  Not least this one from Jason Calacanis, that sits atop Techmeme as I write.  Nothing could be further from the truth though…provided Yahoo play it right.

    Jason argues that Yahoo is dead because they lost the battle for Search eyeballs…a category they helped define.  He argues that Apple and Nintendo beat Microsoft through “aggression and innovation”.

    Maybe. But you need to decide which battles to fight.

    Before Apple won big with the iPod, they lost against the PC, lost against Windows and lost against Office.  They lost to the extent that they even needed to be bailed out by Microsoft.

    Before Nintendo won big with Wii, they lost out massively to PlayStation with the GameCube, and many commentators were predicting a slow, drawn-out death for them.

    What happened? Apple and Nintendo both found new niches that played to their strengths, where they could dominate; Apple with the portable music player, and Nintendo with casual video games.

    So, what next for Yahoo? Time for them to double-down, look at their strengths and portfolio, innovate and then go out and define their market. There is absolutely no reason they cannot  do what Apple and Nintendo have done so successfully.

    Yahoo have an awesome array of consumer applications, from Yahoo Mail and Groups, through News, Flickr and Messenger.  And then their is delicious.com. What the heck happened to that? In fact when you look at Yahoo’s array of consumer-focussed social software, it easily trumps Microsoft, it’s better than Google and faces biggest competition from Facebook.

    Yahoo now have a guaranteed revenue source from Microsoft, are freed from the need to chase Google in Search, and can now focus all their energies in excelling in their category of choice.

    Time for the new Yahoo to step forward…


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