"No, that's not how the suppliers want things developed, because that type of thing costs them more to support and eats into profit margins."
that tends to depend on how well the con-tractor has managed to "negotiate" the con-tract.
"A good few of these systems could well be 30-40 years old and probably developed in house when the departments had their own IT staff and there are so many of them because the departments were all separate entities in those days, as they got amalgamated over the years there was likely to be little budget or compelling reason to merge the systems and you suddenly find yourself in the position they're in today."
No doubt. However it's a truism that support costs rise as systems get older. I find it *very* hard to believe that the point has not come for *some* of these systems to be shut down as their support costs (old hardware/migration costs of a re-write to go on new hardware/cost of processing change requests for software written in creaky 70 4GL) to the point that it *will* be cheaper to shut them down, merge their functions into a new generation of some of the remaining systems and link in the relevant data to the new system.
"Yes, there's huge scope for improvement, but that needs money, which no-one wants to spend. Pick any two random systems and you'll probably find they're running on kit that's anywhere between five and fifteen years old, so if you wanted to merge them you would almost certainly have to buy one new server to do it on."
I'd say it needs *leadership* by people with solid map of the systems data models and interrelationships. See my comments on your previous paragraph.
"Add to that the data centre space, design work for the merged system, training for staff to use the merged system, building and testing the new system, secure disposal of data on the old system and you could find that it would take 3-4 years to recover the cost of the system against the money you save."
And of course you would do *all* of these together. A classic big bang with *everything* depending on everything working out properly on time. What could possibly go wrong?
I find it *astonishing* that the UK government seems to operate c150 data centres. US states bigger than the UK run their *whole* operations for a given state services in one data centre.
Let's start with identifying *which* systems should be merged and *then* begin a phased process of merging the support teams and hardware, then beginning to migrate to 1 hardware platform and eventually a unified application.
That should be all fine, but as soon as you decide to do that you find yourself beset by the unwashed masses who think that all of that transformation work should be done for free and that hardware is made from fairy dust (no, it just runs on magic smoke). If anyone dares to charge for any work then they're evil money-grabbing b*stards.
Maybe it's because they have had the sharp end of a *very* sharp stick thrust up them too often to entirely trust those nice IT con-tractors?
At the risk of being boring I find it *very* hard to believe the support costs on some of that ancient software has not started to climb through the *roof*. What is the going rate for a skilled IBM S360 COBOL programmer these days?
I imaging that allowing lower case note entry SO IT DOES NOT LOOK LIKE ALL THE NOTES ARE BEING WRITTEN BY SOMEONE SHOUTING alone would save a fortune in eye tests and spectacle upgrades.
Or perhaps you could just start on a decent data cleansing run to pick out the real stupid stuff. I know there should be no entries with invalid birth and/or death dates and of course if you do have a date of death it should be *after* the DOB should it not, but something tells me that won't be the case. I'll be there's a *lot* more rubbish to find.