Spectacular failures

The perception has been hanging around for too long that government IT sites have more problems than private company sites.

The perception has been hanging around for too long that government IT sites have more problems than private company sites.

I hear that government IT managers are having to play it very conservatively these days due to bad publicity over the last year.

However, as Stephen Bell wrote in Computerworld last week, a report by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research and the Simpl Group shows that government projects are no more likely to fail than private company projects.

Setting aside criticism of the study's methodology, the results match overseas results and the study noted that most developments, both public and private, eventually deliver the goods.

While that is happening, private companies manage to keep their failed projects so much more private. When a government project fails it gets the full treatment from the media, and is blown out of all proportion by TV and radio, because taxpayer dollars are being "wasted".

It's irritating.

As if no government department should dare take a risk on a new system.

As if no government department should attempt to keep up with the latest technologies used in the private sector.

Do we really want our civil servants cowering behind their desks, too scared to make a decent decision, sticking to only old, so-called "proven" technology and as a result contributing to New Zealand being globally uncompetitive.

No. We all have a stake in government projects and we should be encouraging them to explore the technology options to the fullest. New Zealand's dependence on IT is accelerating and we have to accept that a certain percentage of IT projects will fail.

It's all very normal - making mistakes, backtracking, finding a better way to do things.

Of course government projects will do this in spectacular fashion. After all, they're all big projects.

Let them get on with it and see their failures for what they are -part of the never-ending drama of IT life everywhere.

Richard Wood is editor of Computerworld. Contact him at richard_wood@idg.co.nz

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