Waitemata curbs IT spend

Waitemata Health has called a halt to spiralling IT costs following a major overhaul of hardware and software. Waitemata Health information services manager Ray Delany says the health authority has so far cut its IT spending from 4% of total revenue to 3.5%

Waitemata Health has called a halt to spiralling IT costs following a major overhaul of hardware and software.

Waitemata Health information services manager Ray Delany says the health authority, which is based on Auckland's North Shore, has so far cut its IT spending from 4% of total revenue to 3.5% - a saving of about $250,000. It is aiming for 2%.

"We can expect to save $1 million a year, although in reality we won't do that because the organisation will grow. Before this the IT spend was going up about half-a-million dollars a year just to keep up. Now we have a good infrastructure to provide a jumping off point for other projects, but halting costs was enough of a reason for doing it," says Delany.

The project included switching from Novell NetWare to Windows NT Terminal Server, implementing Microsoft Systems Management Server, installing NT Cluster on clustered Compaq servers and rolling out a standard operating system and applications to 1000 PCs.

The project, which was managed by Compaq Services working with systems integrator Software Spectrum, was completed in six months, winding up at the end of last month.

Given the scope of the project there were many lessons learnt along the way, according to Delany.

The first was the formalising of roles within the project.

"We went out with an RFP [request for proposal] in the normal manner. We found that Software Spectrum was really good from a technical perspective and Compaq was very strong on project management. We wanted both and asked them if they'd consider working together.

"Next time we would formalise that relationship much more than we did. We left it to them but we should have said: 'This is how we see you working together'. It took them a little while to overcome that competitive spirit - which is only natural."

Delany says a simple downfall was underestimating the amount of effort involved in swapping out 1000 PCs.

"Resourcing the manpower was where we come unstuck all the time. Next time we would figure out how much effort is involved, run through the process, test what each person has to do and cost it out on a much more strict basis. It just takes 20 small drawbacks to put you behind."

One of the key tasks was to test software once applications had been installed.

"We have lots of little applications, [for example] for dieticians or radiologists, and we estimated that users could test them adequately, but they need guidance.

"Around that, there are a lot of issues on how users perceive their systems. For example, people used short-cut icons and when they disappeared with the upgrade, they thought the entire application had disappeared.

"We made a lot of assumptions about how people operate in the field. Most are relatively unsophisticated users although many of them are highly skilled technically in their own area. Next time I would assess sophistication of the user group with something like a survey."

Delany says as a result of the project Waitemata Health is already seeing a "dramatic" fall in workload on the helpdesk with outstanding jobs reducing by 85% and break/fix incoming jobs falling by 80%.

The project has also positioned Waitemata Health to move on with its IT strategy.

"The network was really cruddy. Now we have the fundamental foundation to provide the jumping of point for things we want to do in future."

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