Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Someone has to be accountable for this

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  • stephen walker,

    so let me ask, if ATA and its consultants have contractually committed Auckland Council to $300 million of expenditure on what should have cost no more than $50-$100 million, then are they not corrupt, even if the persons concerned have not accepted bribes or kickbacks? how can such contracts remain legally binding when the processes through which they were entered into are so questionable? are there no standards at all? can ratepayers file for a judicial review of the contracts?

    nagano • Since Nov 2006 • 630 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    Russell - does anyone know how much of that money will be spent on New Zealand companies? Is this a chance for the Auckland tech. community to shine and grow?

    Or will the money be pissed away on overseas businesses who seem to find the idea of paying taxes in NZ laughable?

    Anyone in Auckland care to ask for some contract cost breakdowns?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1615 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    Senior council officers said a single new computer system was necessary to improve service to customers, reduce the risk of system failures, boost IT efficiency and capacity, meet regulatory and legal requirements, and produce savings.

    Recipe for disaster, right there.

    Keep them small, agile and moving in a common direction...that's the recipe for success, integration and finding points of co-operation.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1615 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    And in case you were wondering, Auckland could have looked no further than...Auckland for a solution - http://www.adaxa.com/

    But no, your $$s are heading into never never land.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1615 posts Report Reply

  • Juha Saarinen,

    Since Nov 2006 • 523 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    Oh yeah, no PO, no invoice. Worked a treat.

    You need SAP for that rule? Why, did they patent it or something?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1615 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX, in reply to Sacha,

    By way of correction - there is no recession in NZ.

    Yes, we can stay perfectly calm - refer to budget and treasury growth forecasts.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1186 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX, in reply to David Hood,

    You are not saying that the play, the players and the plot are similar, however the figures are different and no arrests have been made.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1186 posts Report Reply

  • Adam Gifford,

    Important to remember, ATA argued everything had to be done at crisis speed, so there would be no open tender process. That means for example Technolgy One, which does council systems very well, and was used by at least one of the constituent councils, didn't get a chance to bid. It's headquartered in Brisbane, so it would have been a lot easier to get mods done and new features developed than dealing with Waldorf.

    Auckland • Since May 2011 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    One of the big problems is that our "deciders" have little knowledge of the systems that run our local government organisations, let's face it most of them struggle with a laptop, it is a thing of mystery that only those strange pony-tailed people dressed in black understand. As soon as those "Old Fogies" retire and the next generation of decision makers take the reigns we will see more informed purchasing. I hope.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4684 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    So if it's not corruption, then it's just hypocrisy, right? Still a case to make to the Auditor-General nonetheless.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4158 posts Report Reply

  • Adam Gifford,

    The reality is though that SAP is the ideal solution for the Auckland CIty. Once the decision was made to allow the old Auckland City Council to control the hiring process, everyone in Auckland got jobs and a status rise, while everyone else took redundancy or is now working under a 25 year old who knows nothing about what they are supposed to be doing. The Auckland council culture was allowed to continue, which means big, expensive, inflexible, hierarchical, rule-driven software is just the ticket.

    Auckland • Since May 2011 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • John Holley, in reply to Don Christie,

    Don, you miss the point. The system was already in place. As I have said, Transport was up an running for $2 million. (Adaxa would never had made the grade - where is the HR or asset management?) Why reinvent the wheel?

    And, at the ARC/ARTA, we were using open source to leverage our SAP investment.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 120 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Adam Gifford,

    Any intention to pitch a Herald story along those lines, Adam?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16495 posts Report Reply

  • John Holley, in reply to Adam Gifford,

    Adam, SAP can be incredibly flexible when done right. The problems occur when you put into place arcane rules and insist on customisations to bring modules in line with how the "old" solution did it.

    We, the ARC, put in the Sales and Distribution module to handle the regulatory billing (millions per year) for around $150K in three months. The implementation paid for itself within months. The key? We adjusted our practises to be more customer/ratepayer focused and realigned our processes to best practise. The results? No customisations and minimal requirement of support from external consultants.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 120 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Huh. I've only just noticed that I referred to the Auckland Transition Agency as the Auckland Transition Authority in the original post. Fixed. But aren't y'all supposed to crowdsource that sort of thing and tell me?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18715 posts Report Reply

  • John Holley, in reply to Adam Gifford,

    The selection of SAP was made after considering all the ERP implementations within the legacy councils. SAP was the in largest council, regional council and transport agency (as well as Waitakere) in NZ, running quite successfully. It therefore covered the core business processes of a unitary authority and a really significant CCO (Transport).

    There was a robust selection process to select the ERP including peer reviews.

    Where possible, we (the CIOs) looked to leverage existing IT investments councils had made – this was after all a merger and we needed to protect ratepayer investments. We made similar decisions around websites (Sharepoint – based on Manukau and NSCC), GIS (ESRI, most councils and ALGIM already had a portal) etc,

    But selection of a solution to support business processes needs to be separated from implementation choices. The implementation choices, and subsequent results and costs, highlight those differences when comparing Transport and Council. SAP was not was expensive, how SAP was implemented dictated costs.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 120 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    But aren't y'all supposed to crowdsource that sort of thing and tell me?

    wouldn't want to be labelled a pendant :)

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16495 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Juha Saarinen,

    Springtime for Sarkozy in France, perhaps? Hmmm, sounds like a song...

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1885 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Russell Brown,

    But aren't y'all supposed to crowdsource that sort of thing and tell me?

    Every now and then, we just need to let you make a dick of yourself, Russell. ;-) (Personally, I never knew what "ATA" stood for, but then I'm probably even more of an invisible middle-class weasel than you are)

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1885 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to John Holley,

    Prompted me to buy from Amazon The Management Myth: Why the Experts Keep Getting it Wrong by Matthew Stewart. Read it an you will understand!

    Short version in this Atlantic article (if reading a whole book just to remind oneself how loony modern 'management practice' is seems too much like loading 47 tons of pig iron daily :))

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 1470 posts Report Reply

  • stephen walker,

    i think Ben Wilson might enjoy that Atlantic article.

    nagano • Since Nov 2006 • 630 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to stephen walker,

    Danyl might find it more elucidating. For me, it's pretty much exactly what happened to me in management, I discovered 2 important things.

    1. It's really easy if you have half a brain
    2. If you have a whole brain it's really boring and stressful

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8318 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Edit: I'd like to say that my above comment is unfair. There are good managers, and it is possible to enjoy management without being a wanker. But I think it does attract wankers, and it's easy to be a bad one.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8318 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Also, more on the point of this thread, I found Software Engineering, as taught at University, to be very similar to many of the complaints leveled at management training generally in the Atlantic article. It was not taught in a way that was like any other subject in Computer Science - the whole thing was taught as parables, and processes that were argued to be better, but never proven so. There are a thousand and one tools for software development management, but quantifying how much value they add and how much they cost is seldom done. I distinctly remember one huge push in a firm I worked in to totally change the way all the programmers worked by slotting them into a "big paradigm" a large CASE environment with all sorts of tools. The learning of the environment itself was the work of many months for every one of the hundreds of programmers. In learning it, they found that they already had all of the tools before, of course, they had to because the issues they were designed to solve had come up many times over the years. So they were just learning stuff they already knew how to do, and had to bed down systems again that had been stable for years before. So ultimately the tool just wasted a whole lot of time, productivity and money. But management would never accept this, and rated the abortive rollout of it, which took several years, as a huge achievement. It wasn't the first project of it's kind in that firm, either. There had been another one to change the entire underlying database of the massive accountancy system to SQL, because it was newer and better. This project never finished, it was just too big, and involved massive changes to the code-base because the old DBMS did things that SQL couldn't (which is generally better if you're starting afresh, designing things new, but when you've just got to keep something going, it's disastrously expensive to try to get a relational database to try to do things that a lower level database was doing).

    So I'm not that surprised that the costs of this council system have skyrocketed, I've seen it happen in software too many times. It's part of the reason I have sympathy with hanging onto legacy systems, and changing them only iteratively, as needed. But this is seen as being old-skool, backward, etc. If you take this stand in a big organization you are quickly targeted by the consultants trying to sell in new systems, and branded as recalcitrant. It was very weird too, because the self-same consultant were such sticklers for the way their systems worked that I was quite literally not allowed to help people by writing small programs for them (as had been my job for a couple of years) because these programs could not be controlled by the consultants, especially if, shock horror, the users themselves took them and began to adapt them.

    It was an especially painful memory that has branded itself on me that I once helped this guy out in about 15 minutes by fixing up a little macro he'd written to scrape a bunch of data out of the front end of the mainframe system, and I casually remarked that he could get the data a thousand times faster if he just had SQL read access to the underlying table. He took this straight to IT and asked for it, and raised a shitstorm when they sat on it for months and did nothing (because they ultimately didn't want someone outside of their control accessing the database), and gave me a team beating for failing to "manage his expectations", a phrase I have come to understand as meaning "keep his expectations low". My problem had been that I had been too helpful too quickly.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8318 posts Report Reply

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