Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The unstable Supercity

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  • Sacha, in reply to bob daktari,

    this will soon by scuppered by tenders having to be open to all TPPA signatories now

    It's one of the most costly aspects of TPP - permanently removing the ability of small local companies to grow through local contracts because giant foreign firms appear a safer or cheaper bet and are not able to be excluded.

    Good luck growing the next Datacom, Orion or Xero - the IT companies Joyce name-dropped when extolling the virtues of said trade agreement because it is true they will do better export business. Conveniently ignores what happens in the other direction and hence the long-term sustainability of the industry. Many industries. #duncery

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19683 posts Report Reply

  • Hamish.MacEwan,

    And has the lesson been learned? Not in Wellington. There's still an elite bunch of movers and shakers who think the one voice of a Wellington supercity will speak for them and is therefore a good thing. The rest of us will pay for their mistake, as usual.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 13 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Brent Jackson,

    I think that it was an extremely courageous move on his part

    "You'll never get fired for buying IBM"

    .. unless you're the NZ Police

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19683 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    When I saw the ridiculous figure quoted for IT costs, I wondered if SAP was involved.

    Yet another example of useful bespoke software that would probably just do with some freshening up and modernisation chucked out in favour of a monolithic PoS that needs hefty and expensive customisation by expensive and rare (at least the competent ones are rare) consultants.

    I have yet to see a SAP project delivered without the cost increasing by a factor of 10. I have yet to see a SAP project realise all of its supposed benefits.

    Interesting reading recently was the in-depth investigation into the failure of Target in Canada. In no small part due to their throwing out the custom stock control system (still) used by Target US, and replaced with a SAP system implemented by Accenture. A stock control system that didn't even validate the length of a barcode number to have some kind of error-checking.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

  • Graham Dunster,

    It may not qualify as corruption but has the same end result.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2009 • 184 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Graham Dunster,

    It may even qualify, but someone would need to care enough to investigate.

    When government Ministers can get away with Oravida, Saudi sheep, gaming the OIA, and sundry #dirtypolitics activities, what hope of that?

    The fish rots from the head. In Te Ao Maori, that's Wellington.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19683 posts Report Reply

  • John Holley, in reply to TracyMac,

    Well we had two SAP projects at the ARC that were on budget/time and delivered the promised benefits, Asset Management with live linkage to GIS (SAP Plant Maintenance and ESRI GIS) and Sales & Distribution for managing costs/resources/billing for all RMA consent applications. (3 months to implement)

    In both cases we took the out of the box "best practise" configurations and actively worked to avoid customisations, modifying business processes where possible.

    Don't blame the technology. The issue is when organisations try to panel beat complex business systems (Finance, HR etc.) to match legacy business processes.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 142 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to John Holley,

    to match legacy business processes

    weak, blustery ego, in other words

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19683 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Sacha,

    It’s one of the most costly aspects of TPP

    That not a problem with the TPP. You will always be able to choose a local supplier if you believe they are better in any way, cheaper, faster, more responsive etc

    What you won't be able to do is choose a local supplier simply because they are local.

    And that is NOT the problem here. The problem we have is that NZ managers actively avoid local because ... well because they are bad managers.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to John Holley,

    The issue is when organisations try to panel beat complex business systems (Finance, HR etc.) to match legacy business processes.

    Good point. The issue I've seen many times at the coalface is that systems are modified over the years to handle esoteric business processes (which in some ways is reasonable - it's enabling flexibility to work well with customers or suppliers) and become the sole embodiment of the knowledge of how that process works (with the knowledge of who uses it or whether it's still needed being lost).

    Which is a problem when the system needs to be replaced or merged.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • bob daktari, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    And that is NOT the problem here. The problem we have is that NZ managers actively avoid local because … well because they are bad managers.

    Bit it is part of the problem - if say Govt demanded local companies were preferred suppliers and to buy kiwi where-ever possible the culture of thinking we're somehow sub par compared to offshore companies would sooner than later disappear - and seep out into the business community as companies proved themselves

    instead we have wilfully pushed kiwi companies to the back by allowing offshore competition and now with the TPPA potentially allowing well heeled and lawyer'ed up offshore interests to challenge contracts won by local firms

    to create a level playing field you often have to tilt it

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 537 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Daniel Carr,

    Anything a council wants to do can be done with open source software, so if you are paying vendors big fees, you have to justify this against saved labour.

    I definitely don't disagree that there's some weird spending going on here, but what do you see councils as needing to do?

    I've done some consulting with local councils, mostly around Australia but a few indirectly in New Zealand, mostly as part of a company that resells, supports and customises an EDRMS product. A major part of council operations seems to be managing property and rates issues, for which there are some considerably complex products they'll often pay for, and then pay for support. eg. Infor Pathway (built around Microsoft.Net), or TechOne Property & Rating. Then, on top of that, it'll often have to integrate with proper EDRMS systems for adequate record keeping, which are also often not OSS. Are there OSS or OSS-compatible substitutes out there which handle this type of stuff? Most of these systems have a certain degree of web interfaces, but I've also seen a lot of continuing use of the desktop apps.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1139 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to John Holley,

    And from history, my bit along with some of the other CIOs.

    I was wondering when you'd show up, John :-D

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to izogi,

    Well, if you define open source software as a programming language and a database, then sure, you can do anything, given enough development time.

    If you want some sort of accounts package, then to my knowledge there isn't even a usable package for SMEs, let alone an organisation on the scale of a council. Nor is there an open source GIS (as opposed to a spatial DB like PostGIS) that's ready for prime time.

    I'd be happy to be proved wrong.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to John Holley,

    Well we had two SAP projects ... delivered the promised benefits,

    If you asked our CIO he'd say the same about our SAP implementation too. I'd bet there are very few CIOs who'd say their implementation of SAP was the disaster the actual users get to experience.

    Which isn't to say yours isn't wonderful just that CIOs experience systems differently from users.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • Glenn Pearce,

    Back in 2009/2010 there was a matrix spreadsheet floating around (I think on the Computerworld website) listing the IT systems inventory for each of the seven councils by "line of business". It doesn't seem to be there any more but it made for pretty daunting reading.

    Just migrating/merging the data from 2 councils that were running the same source system for one "line of business" eg: rating would be a big job

    To do this for 7 councils, multiple different source systems and multiple lines of business is a job on a scale never before attempted in NZ IT history, the nearest equivalent would have been the ANZ/National Bank merger.

    The reason many NZ vendors miss out on large government tenders is the mindset that the winning vendor needs to be "big enough to sue" should it all turn to custard.

    Typically a large part of the Tender documents will focus on the financial stability/background of the Vendor companies which is why large multinationals tend to fare better, they have the resources to throw at a situation to keep it out of the media (up to a point), eventually that usually runs out too.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 499 posts Report Reply

  • John Holley, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    In the ARC's case, the business owners (GMs) owned the projects, not IT. So the business owners were clear on what they wanted to achieve against the budget/timeline they had.

    It is always a problem when IT "does" a project/implementation for some part/all of an organisation. In my experience you get much better results when IT supports the project - there are no such things as IT projects, but there are projects that have IT dependencies :)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 142 posts Report Reply

  • John Holley, in reply to nzlemming,

    :)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 142 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    on cue, Nigel McNie advocates for an open-source approach to such projects.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19683 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    The idea that IT is just a servant to the business has been orthodoxy for a long time, but does it produce results?

    In some places, this has broken down: Amazon is a tech company that sells books and stuff. Google is a tech company that sells advertising. These enterprises are doing very well out of looking at things that way round (and you’ll notice, they do almost no outsourcing).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Glenn Pearce, in reply to Sacha,

    Isn't he actually arguing the opposite in fact?

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 499 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Glenn Pearce,

    how do you reach that conclusion?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19683 posts Report Reply

  • Glenn Pearce,

    Open source is not a panacea

    If your project gets too large, you get stuck with many of the same problems that a “customised off-the-shelf” closed-source solution has. In particular, your foundations will move, and you need to accommodate this.

    you are nearly as doomed as if you used closed source. At least your failure will be cheaper.

    Keeping your project small really helps. The software development industry uses open source software all the time at small scale, with great success. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can build larger projects on its back.

    He seems to be saying Open Source not suitable for for large projects.

    Regardless, the Super City IT merger is a systems integration project not a software development project.

    All 7 of the councils already had IT solutions in place for each line of business or functional area, in some cases multiple councils were using the same system. Surely the obvious thing to do is pick the best of each (CRM, GIS, Doc Mgmt, Rating/Billing, AP, AR, GL etc. etc.) and merge the data from all 7 councils.

    It may have been tempting to take the opportunity for a Greenfields replacement but that doesn't seem to be the pragmatic approach.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 499 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Glenn Pearce,

    The basic lesson of that piece, as I read it, is: for large long-term projects, use local developers, and keep some in-house development & support capacity, because that lets you more directly respond to your current and future requirements. Open source can help, but isn’t a cure-all by itself. (Note that the phrase “ nearly as doomed as if you used closed source” doesn’t argue against open source.)

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1886 posts Report Reply

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