Mega IT disaster

published on 2013/09/18

An abandoned NHS patient record system has so far cost the taxpayer nearly £10bn, with the final bill for what would have been the world’s largest civilian computer system likely to be several hundreds of millions of pounds higher, according a highly critical report from parliament’s public spending watchdog. MPs on the public accounts committee said final costs are expected to increase beyond the existing £9.8bn because new regional IT systems for the NHS, introduced to replace the National Programme for IT, are also being poorly managed and are riven with their own contractual wrangles. When the original plan was abandoned the total bill was expected to be £6.4bn.

The Guardian

My take on this situation:

  • NHS IT system is massive and complicated because it has to deal with millions of people and enormous government rules and regulations
  • The risk of failures in large IT projects are high
  • A large IT system needs constant investment on its basic technological infrastructure. Do not keep adding features without making the system architecture more robust. As some point this lack of investment will make the cost of repair astronomical.
  • Do not rush your critical IT projects.
  • Organizations constantly underestimate the challenges in implementing a large IT system.
  • There is no silver bullet to these type of failures. The only way to solve this situation is to improve the system incrementally over period of years. Evolve them, do not replace them.

This is an insightful Hacker News discussion on this topic.