Monthly Archives: February 2010

A call to action to UK software developers to stop your money being wasted

As I write, the petition to demand the UK government reviews it’s outdated I.T. project processes has been going for a week and has 193 signatures.

Am I disappointed? Far from it. The signatories list reads like a who’s who of people in the UK who care about software. Among the countless thought leaders, authors, conference speakers and influential bloggers, signatories includes:

  • Steve Freeman, winner of the Gordon Pask award and author
  • Rachel Davies, director of the Agile Alliance and author
  • Karl Scotland, founder member of the Lean Software and Systems Consortium.
  • Mike Hill, conference chair for SPA
  • Giovanni Asproni, conference chair for ACCU
  • Keith Braithwaite, conference chair for XPDay

Lets face it, this is never going to be a populist campaign. The simple matter is no one else is going to tell our government that there’s a more effective way to manage software*. It’s certainly not in the interests of people like BT and Siemens to stop signing multi-million pound contracts and I’ve no doubt there are very few people working in an advisory manner to the government on I.T. strategies who are particularly aware or interested in the now well-established and highly successful Agile umbrella of ways to build effective software, both on time and on budget.

So it’s up to us to highlight this situation. No one else is going to do it for us. As member of the software development community in the UK, your money is not going towards hospitals or schools, your money is being wasted on failed I.T. projects and will continue to be wasted** until our government stops naively signing off massive contracts for hugely optimistic and unrealistic projects.

I’m calling on everyone involved in software development in this country to do more to try and raise the issue to the level of visibility it deserves:

  1. Sign the petition if you haven’t done so already
  2. Write to your MP informing them about the petition and personally demanding a review. I’ve written a sample letter here which you can use as a template, but you should try to use your own words as much as possible otherwise it’s likely they will ignore it. Some more tips are available here.
  3. Blog about the petition. Tell people to sign it and email their MP and blog about it too. Twitter is great but blogging is better.

Nothing is going to change unless you get involved and demand your hard earned cash is better spent.

* An open letter was written to the Government by a bunch of academics about the problems with the NHS I.T. project, but was woefully misguided asking to see, among others, documents showing the “detailed design” and “technical architecture” for what must be the most idealistically naive and over-ambitious software project ever undertaken.

**According to IT Jobs Watch the average salary for a developer in the UK is £37,000 which means that, on average, they will contribute around £6,000 per year in tax. We’ll also say for the sake of argument that our average Joe works 40 years in his/her lifetime so in total he/she will pay £240,000 in tax. It would take 100,000 developer lifetimes to accrue the estimated £26 billion that has been wasted so far on failed Government I.T. projects.

Sign my petition to the PM to demand the UK Govt. reviews it’s failed IT processes

The Independent newspaper recently reported that the UK government has wasted £26 billion of it’s tax payers money on IT projects which have, “run millions of pounds over budget or have been cancelled altogether”.

£26 billion!

Of the projects mentioned in the article I’ve particularly been following the massive NHS balls up for some time and it’s quite clear that most of the reasons it has failed so badly can be attributed to following Waterfall type project management processes, dooming these behemoth’s to failure from the outset. The only value these projects are delivering is lining the pockets of companies like BT and Fujitsu who’ve landed most of the contracts for this work. There’s no doubt that most of the other cash sink holes mentioned suffer from the same problems* (it was the UK government that created PRINCE2 project management after all).

I find this totally unacceptable, especially when we now know that there are now well-established alternative approaches to the way these projects are managed which would have likely saved the tax payer an absolute fortune.

Keith Braithwaite has also blogged his views about the Government IT failures here.

I’ve created a petition on the Number10 website asking the Prime Minister to  demand a review of the out-of-date manner in which government IT projects are undertaken. I urge you to sign it and Tweet, blog, Facebook this to everyone you know**:

Thank you.

Update: If you don’t think it’s worth signing as it will have no impact have a look at this article on the BBC about the UK Goverment’s support for IE6

*Ironically the National Audit Office are currently producing a (delayed) report on the NHS IT project. They still advocate the Waterfall Approach according to this document found here. XtC members are in the process of writing to them about this. That letter can be found here.

**UK residents only. I ‘ve been involved in these petitions in the past and if they get enough support they do get responded to.