back to article Hundred-million Kiwi Oracle project on hold after Deloitte review

New Zealand's government has decided to stop sending good money after bad by suspending an Oracle implementation that's so far cost the country NZ$100 million (£51m, $65.4m). The National Oracle System (NOS) was the subject of a critical report from the country's Auditor-General in June this year. The NOS was designed to …

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FAIL

Expensive Oracle Cockup

That's doesn't do what it's supposed to do and generally doesn't work.

Who'd have thunk it?

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Re: Expensive Oracle Cockup

That depends on who's point of view you see it from, yachts aren't cheap....

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Why Oracle?!?!?!

You could have an in-house team to build it and maintain it for half as much. It would work and there'd be no rabid lawyers. Hell, many Silicon Valley geeks would move to NZ in a heartbeat in exchange for a living wage and fast Internet.

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Re: Why Oracle?!?!?!

in exchange for a living wage and fast Internet

I love NZ, but if those are your criteria for moving there you might end up a bit disappointed.

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Re: Why Oracle?!?!?!

errrr i have gigabit fibre internet into my apartment http://www.speedtest.net/result/6931367330 on a public holiday here at peak time and on an "old" 2014 router. Not bad eh bro? This expat Aussie loves NZ :-)

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Re: Why Oracle?!?!?!

Sure, we've got fast broadband in the cities and big towns. But the living wage, not so much.

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Are all government health IT projects doomed to fail ?

Okay, in the UK it's a given, I know, but IIRC Australia has had its problems and now it's New Zealand that is wasting money.

Is there a special curse on IT in healthcare ? Or is it that healthcare manglement is particularly clueless about project specification and procedures ?

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Re: Are all government health IT projects doomed to fail ?

People who work in healthcare, esp, management, are self important, process and personal responsibility avoiding morons.

Not sure why. Its chronic.

And before you say - 'Ah its only computers/software ..' they apply the same level of competence and ability to clinical stuff too.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Are all government health IT projects doomed to fail ?

There's a healthy dose of stupidity for sure. But there are other issues too:

1) Healthcare organisations are notoriously (perhaps understandably) risk- and uncertainty-averse which makes it hard to get projects up and running, approvals for anything, etc. And they're just used to this way of operating even when it's not necessary. I've seen some NHS people uneasy with a lack of "governance" for the most trivial little non-clinical projects; it's just not in their DNA.

2) Like other areas such as aviation, the requirement for safety, certification etc inflates prices. And means loads of additional controls - see (1).

3) IT is generally regarded as a cost centre so doesn't get the funding it needs to do a good job (of course a lot of money is also wasted). It's hard to make the case for why you should invest in "computers" rather than nurses, beds etc.

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Re: Are all government health IT projects doomed to fail ?

It's not confined to government health IT projects. My second Rule of Computing states:

Any large scale public sector development will exceed the initial budget by a factor of x* times and will be late.

* - choose any number but you may underestimate the value.

To save you asking, there are currently only 2 rules, the first is

If the project is High Profile, has "challenging" timescales and uses something new (hardware or software) it will fail.

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Megaphone

Re: Are all government health IT projects doomed to fail ?

It's government in general - they just can't do IT in any sensible way. The ones making the decisions are not the ones to USE the software, as well as many managers don't really understand the day-to-day processes that sustain their own department. That means you get software that either doesn't work at all or has such an atrocious user interface it requires 10 steps to do something that should be done with one click. The system we're getting before too long fits the latter category.

Deloitte throwing poo at Oracle is amusing. Deloitte took the California state court system for over $300 million for a supposedly statewide computer system that didn't work. The very idea was ridiculous because the scope made no sense. They were attempting to write software that would scale from a 2 judge rural court up to run Los Angeles County, which has a court system bigger than the entire U.S. Federal Court system. With such a ridiculous scope, of course it didn't work. Based on what I've seen, I wouldn't trust Oracle OR Deloitte any farther than I could throw one of their salesdroids. But those guys do know how to lie effectively to manglement, so the robbery and crap software will continue.

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Re: Are all government health IT projects doomed to fail ?

No.

You are making the classic mistake of saying 'cant do IT'.

The assumption is that they are OK at the not IT stuff. They are not.

The problem is that the NHS, UKGOV/public sector do no purge people. The private sector as recession and competition - adapt of die. The private sector is not good at IT/software because it wants to spend the blood sweat and tears. They are good because they HAVE to be - or die. See TSB for this.

The problem with UKGOV/NHS/public sector is people get their feet under the desk and move up according to age/brown nosing. Anything disruptive/competitive o that position gets pushed back on.

For a bureaucrat, theses nothing more undermining than software - poof, jobs gone in flash.

If you want to get the same level of change/adaption in the NHS/UKGOV/public sector then you need to getting rid of a good 50% of the none clinical/techinical positions every 10 years - spoof recessions. Do it by random selection otherwise the same self import clique will remain.

And Im serious on that.

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From the book "I've been thinking" (1996) by New Zealand politician Richard Prebble:

"The Post Office told me they were having terrible problems tracking telephone lines ... They found an excellent program in Sweden which the Swedes were prepared to sell them for $2m .... So the managers decided to budget $1m for translating into English and another $1m for contingencies.

... But, as the general manager explained, it had turned out to be more expensive than the contingency budget allowed and they needed another $7m

"How much", I asked, "have you spent on it so far?"

"Thirty-seven million dollars" was the reply.

"Why don't we cancel the programme?" I asked

"How can we cancel a programme that has cost $37m?" they asked

"Do you believe the programme will ever work?" I asked

"No, not properly"

"Then write me a letter recommending its cancellation and I will sign it"

The relief was visible. I signed the letter, but I knew I needed new managers."

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Prebb's book.

I was there for the tail end of that one.

The software was indeed good and thirty-seven million was probably an underestimate(+), but it was a little like making sausages: what comes out has hardly any resemblence to what went in.

(+) That was mostly spent before NZ's currency took a massive nosedive and would be equivalent to USD250million now.

As with the DHBs, the software suffered every manager and his dog piling hundreds of conflicting demands into the spec _after_ purchase (shifting goalposts) forcing continual rewrites.

I'm not privy to the DHB stuff(*) but in the case of the Post Office even this wasn't where most of the money went - the vast majority was soaked up in exorbitant consultant fees(**) and managerial international trips - where the manager concerned would take his family along (all flying first class) and spend a couple of weeks of that trip at various 5-star mediterannean resorts far from the software houses - all paid for by the Post Office (at that point, meaning "at taxpayer expense")

A transparency activist recently described NZ as "Having a perception of innocence, whilst actually being a nasty banana republic without the bananas" and many in the know have been calling it "The Banana Dominion" for decades.

WRT bringing in external consultants: Nice idea, but the first thing that happens is that foreigners (or long-term returning expats) who who might show up the locals are ostracised (whilst those who play the game are loved) and anyone who dares point out the emperor has no clothes usually ends up tarred, feathered and run out of town on a rail - anyone considering moving to NZ should spend time looking at http://e2nz.org/ and the "migrants tales" sections in particular.

(*) The DHB I was dealing with in the last 1990s early 2000s was running their entire financial system on Excel - yes seriously, including a number of hospitals. These was an outfit handling budgets of hundreds of millions of dollars per year, paying managers enormous figures whilst at the same time saying there was no money to replace creaking hardware (including a server room in the main hospital with a leaking roof and failing aircon)

(**) It shouldn't come as a surprise that the consultants were either close friends of senior management or were ex-management, being paid around 10 times what you'd expect as consulting fees. The building where all this was centred on in Wellington was known to most in the Post Office communications section as "Bullshit Castle" due to the antics going on inside.

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Windows

Ageing and unsupported

I wonder how much it would have cost to train a new team to support the ageing systems?

Then run them for, say, 3 years whilst the new teams collaborated on documenting functions and requirements?

Possibly less than paying someone to replace the systems when apparently nobody had a clear idea of what they were replacing and so couldn't cost the time and effort.

I assume that the old systems are still running anyway, and likely to be doing so for some considerable time yet.

Then again the supplier (not clear if Oracle is just the platform or is also the developer) may have just bid a figure it knew would be acceptable with no idea of the actual cost.

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Anonymous Coward

Which ERP system was it?

in Oracle Land that could be Fusion, eBusiness Suite or PeopleSoft. Be nice to know which. None of the articles I've looked at mention it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Which ERP system was it?

Found it: eBusiness Suite

https://www.gets.govt.nz/HBL/ExternalTenderDetails.htm?id=17292531

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Anonymous Coward

behind budget, over spent...

but the sales team still managed to have their cocaine and hookers party.

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Trollface

They wouldn't be a proper sales team if they did not (and one assumes the party was held wel well before anyone even thought about what might get delivered)

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FAIL

They never learn, do they?

You would think by now that the words IBM and Oracle would be known as being synonymous with FAIL.

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TVU
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A long term lock-in to Big Red never turned out to be value for money for anyone in recent history.

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Deloitte have just built a swanky new building in Wellington. No prizes for guessing where they spent the money from this failed project eh?

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Anonymous Coward

Deloitte-Asparona? they are a joke! Unfortunately I was working for this company and for these projects as well. I have never seen in my life a bad management team like that. And what about the damage to good professionals caused by them? They threat their own employees, bullying exists, if you report them that something is wrong they literaly tell you to shut up, or they will ensure you can't talk. If you want to work in a good company, or you are seeking for good results, STAY AWAY from that company.

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