Saturday, September 16, 2006
Lead Dog Bites Husky Killer
The NHS Supercomputer disaster is still marooned out on the pack-ice. Back in April we blogged how lead supplier Accenture had been forced to take a $450m charge against problems on its share of the NPfIT contract, and how it was unlikely to take the set-back lying down. In their view the problems are largely the responsibility of the Department of Health which keeps changing its mind, and one of the subcontractors, iSoft, which is failing to deliver. We predicted legal action.
Fast forward six months and guess what:
"Industry sources suggest that Accenture has threatened legal action by the end of the month if it cannot reach a satisfactory agreement with Connecting for Health, the NHS's IT procurement arm, on ending or substantially renegotiating the contract. Any withdrawal would be a further blow to the NPfIT, already beset by worries about cost overruns and delays."
Now of course, we all know about Connecting for Health. It's run by a Big Swinging Dick called Richard Granger who likes to treat his suppliers mean. He likens them to huskies:
“When one of the dogs goes lame, and begins to slow the others down, they are shot. They are then chopped up and fed to the other dogs. The survivors work harder, not only because they’ve had a meal, but also because they have seen what will happen should they themselves go lame.”
Great line. The trouble is Accenture turns out to be quite a large husky that doesn't much fancy the idea of being lunch. So it's baring its gnashers and biting back.
Which is catastrophic news for the Supercomputer, especially coming on top of a whole mass of other problems, most recently the near bankruptcy of iSoft (see this blog; also this blog for the recent PAC probe- now to be re-opened).
But there's a much broader point here. Ignoring all the spin, this government's current recipe for fixing our dysfunctional public services is to privatise the suppliers. But crucially- and unlike the situation with normal markets for stuff like groceries- the customer will remain the government itself. So how it manages its supplier relationships is critical.
And the Supercomputer is highlighting once again just what a rubbish customer government is. As we've blogged here and here, most of the time it naively overpays for stuff we don't want. But here's a case where it's swung to the opposite extreme- trying to throw its weight around but succeeding only in getting bitten.
Paul Farrelly, the Labour MP for Newcastle under Lyme is clearly perplexed: "Major consultants, like Accenture, have been paid a small fortune by the government for advising on contracts like this. It is a pretty fine state of affairs if Accenture is now thinking of biting the hand that feeds it."
Paul, it's like this- Accenture is a global commercial enterprise that has clearly decided dealing with your hopeless government isn't worth the candle.
And if you want a friend, don't buy a husky.
Posted by Mike D at 11:03 am