Mr Atwood never actually mentions the NHS supercomputer or the others, but it turns out that they're a continuous loop replay of some very well known themes.
In The Long Dismal History of Software Failure, he runs us through the global catalogue of IT woe. It stretches all the way from mighty financial sector disasters at Allstate Insurance and Westpac Bank, through to the notorious $526m write-off at Sainsburys after its whizz-bang automated supply chain management system decided the shelves were best left empty.
And in this post he lists the 36 classic mistakes of software development, first identified by software writer Steve McConnell. Tyler had never seen them before, but to anyone who has any knowledge of the NPfIT they are immediately familiar. Try these for starters:
- Silver bullet syndrome
- Lack of stakeholder buy-in
- Lack of user input
- Politics placed over substance
- Wishful thinking
- Insufficient risk management
- Contractor failure
All very well known problems, so I guess we shouldn't be too surprised when our Big Government gets whacked by them.
Well, guess what. Most customers have learned. As Atwood reports:
Just pause there. The overall success rate has more than doubled in the last ten years- hurrah! But it's still only 34%- boo!
Pause again, to let that sink in. The key industry improvement has been to do projects in small "iterative" steps. Not to launch the world's biggest ever civilian IT project.
Project failures have declined to 15 percent of all projects, a vast improvement over the 31-percent failure rate reported in 1994."
Overall then, outright failures are now down to a mere 15%, but projects are much smaller.