Bite-Sized IT Projects Are Best in NZ


Bite Off a Piece

Lady Fair and the Hatches in Chaffers Marina

Bite-sized IT Projects Are Best in New Zealand Environment

by Deborah Hill

The government should move away from IT megaprojects and instead aim for building infrastructure followed by bite-sized upgrades, according to the specialist who successfully built a computer network for the police.  Technology consultant Jeff Hatch said some of the epic projects were so big they had become unmanageable, causing the client to lose sight of what business goals the system was meant to achieve.  "IT people should not dictate to business people what business they are in," Mr Hatch said.  "In the US, computer systems can mushroom into huge projects but still remain nimble but in a country of three million people it isn't economical.  New Zealand needs the sane application of technology - you've got to be very focused."

Loka, the Wellinglon-based technology company Mr Hatch owns with his wife Ruth and their staff designed and deployed the state-of-the-art Police Enterprise Communications Network (PECN).  It was completed just over the time frame but on budget in July 1996.  The system will provide police in each station high speed access to the network which has the capacity to be increased 300% to cope with future demand.

A letter from deputy police superintendent Barry Mathews praises Loka' s performance and the quality of the network designed by network guru Murray Cresswell, who also led the design and deployment of Telecom's New Zealand national fault system and the Department of Social Welfare network.  However, almost two years later PECN is still not being used for what it was intended.  Police have yet to roll out PC terminals into all police stations let alone connect the Incis computer, which will replace the old Wanganui computer.

Industry sources said the Hatches' network was well-built, was successfully running the 111 Card emergency callout system and was ready to handle Incis.

Loka is a private consultancy. Ruth Hatch was one of the first women to become a "techie", writing computer code and her US projects included creating the technology for Dr Pepper soft drink's bottling system as well as retail bank software.  Mr Hatch became a computer whiz after choosing to work in data processing while in the US Marine Corps. While he had been a self confessed. "gun nut", his attitude changed after becoming sick and seeing other officers, who had been shot in Vietnam, undergoing rehabilitation.  After the Marine Corps he and his wife established a computer software company, which they sold before emigrating to New Zealand.

In Wellington, Mr Hatch's network building expertise soon won his new firm, Loka, technology contracts with the police and other government departments and it has become familiar with the New Zealand technology environment.

Mr Hatch said technology is volatile and it is unwise for a company to commit to a fixed infrastructure that could not be readily adapted to changing applications.  He advocates keeping the infrastructure (hardware) and applications (software) independent of each other allowing flexibility to keep up with changing technology.  "We do not need $30 million projects," he emphasised.  "We need a strategy where you deliver a sound infrastructure and then deploy application systems a bite at a time.  Individual IT projects should, if possible, be small and manageable - lean and mean."

Source: The National Business Review 9 April 98

Two and a half years (and lots of money) later, the following article (written by a different Jeffrey) appeared which verified my husband Jeff's opinion:

Expectation and Tardiness Killed Incis

by Darren Greenwood

Inflated expectations led to the Incis debacle, says former Police technology boss Jeffrey Soar.  Soar told the inside story of Incis to an audience of IT chiefs in Auckland last week at the CIO Conference 2000.  He says the $107 million Incis project was doomed because of the long lead time from its promotion in the 1980s by former police commissioner Peter Doone, and actual work not starting until 1994.  It survived 41 audits, but Incis also carried the can for major discontent, because it became a scapegoat for other shortcomings in the police force, such as it having many rusty cars.

Incis provided the police with a national WAN, Internet/Intranet, 3500 PCs, 800 laser printers, 400 LANs, a central server, a Microsoft suite of services, Lotus Notes, GIS, 24x7 service and a library.  But, he says, it did not provide case management studies, easy access to servers and the Wanganui computer.

In his "search for villains" Soar says he would "talk" to IBM, the police commissioner, police rank and file, police CIOs, ministers and politicians.  "We could not tell who our friends were as both sides were outbidding each other in slamming Incis," he says.  With hindsight, Soar says the debacle could have been avoided by the "brand" being repackaged, doing the project in smaller sections, the police gaining ownership of the scheme with the right to kill it, and allowing it extra money.

Source: Computerworld New Zealand - 9 October 2000

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