Saturday, October 26, 2013

Welfare reform delay is mature politics


From Brother Ivo:

BBC News leads with the story that the Government is delaying the implementation of part of its welfare reform policy: it is replacing a full roll-out of its Personal Independence Payment with a limited pilot scheme in Anglesea.

Anyone with experience of implementing an IT project, within a business, school, or even a home network, will appreciate how much can go wrong with such plans, and taking the time to implement change would appear to be the prudent response if there is any doubt about its preparedness.

The feverish response of the Labour opposition is to declare the Government's flagship policy of welfare reform in "chaos".

Little illustrates the worst side of politics than such a knee-jerk, shallow response. All parties do it, but it rarely fails to irritate the public. It is a matter of record that Labour's record on the implementation of complex IT projects is unimpressive, and one might wonder if any within their campaigning strategy team gave any thought to the wisdom of allowing the inevitable response about the pot calling the kettle black.

Do such spin doctors think we have no memory? In the age of social media, the deep recesses of collective recollection will ensure that somebody revives a past failure and re-circulates it. Presumably those responsible for starting this hare running are either so young or myopic that they lack historical perspective from even the most recent past.

It is not as if one needs to look back more than a few weeks to learn from the IT failure of others. In the USA, President Obama's flagship healthcare policy is in deep technical difficulty regardless of any objections to the project in principle, or to its intellectual architecture.

In many states, the number of people who have successfully signed up with the Obamacare exchanges to obtain a quote for the new insurance scheme is currently running in tens rather than the hundreds of thousands. This is three weeks into the scheme and after three years planning and half a billion dollars worth of investment. Inevitably, their opponents are making hay.

The company responsible turns out to be Canadian, with an very recent history of failure of its last smaller project in that country. It now turns out that its main owner was a Princeton classmate of Michelle Obama which may or may not be significant. Those programmes are always fraught with practical and political problems.

The spin doctors are insulting the voters intelligence, and so is Kathleen Sibelius, the Secretary for Health Human Services who is responsible for the project, with her briefing that the responsibility lies with the Republicans because of the government "shutdown" which began the same day Obamacare went live. The only person to have been sacked over this disastrous project is Erling Davis, a hapless black telephone operator on the project, whose only failure was to talk to radio talk show host Sean Hannity about the difficulties that were being encountered. To his credit, Mr Hannity is meeting her $26k annual salary whilst helping her to find re-employment. For such a lady to be the only casualty of such gross failure tells you all you need to know about this President and the modern political culture.

In such a context, for somebody within Government or Civil Service to take responsibility and say "You know folks, this just isn't ready" is rather refreshing. It is in keeping with one of Brother Ivo's dicta that it's better to get the right answer than a fast one.

A similar response may be needed over the HS2 rail project. Large structural change, whether in welfare reform or transport infrastructure, is fraught with both predictable complexity and many "unknown unknowns". That is the very nature of sophisticated systems and reforming multi-layered old entitlements.

Instead of complaining, we should be celebrating the rare acknowledgment that lessons were there to be learned; those subject to the change will not be inconvenienced to save political face, and we shall not see change implemented unless and until the systems are fit for purpose.

Had the opposition positioned itself with a mature response, its stature would have been enhanced. But, sadly, it appears that the era of the juvenile cheap soundbite, recycled by the BBC, continues.

Brother Ivo is the Patron Saint of lawyers

33 Comments:

Blogger E.xtra S.ensory Blofeld + Tiddles said...

Old Ernst is reminded of an insider story told him regarding a privatised company.

For many years prior to privatisation this and other companies within the industry had a stonking it billing system that did all that it was asked of it.
It was mainframe driven and the IT was all in house with experts who had experience of running this marvelous specimen.

Privatisation came along and the Government, through it's eternal wisdom in decisions like this, decided to make the current crop of senior managers fight to come the new CEO of new privatised company.

As is common with such a venture, the laziest brown-noser types rose to the surface like a large turd floating in a toilet pan.

The brown-nosers were then encouraged, by their new city accountancy friends, to meet people who could given them a brand spanking new, all singing, do it all in secs, computerized billing system, actually developed by the accountancy firm IT arm...brilliant, HUZZAH.

After being told by their knowledgeable in-house IT staff it was a pup, the clever dicks at the company decided 'What do these people who work for us know, We have spent tens of millions of our hard earned cash and will look like incompetent to**ers. We will proceed but with test run first,

It was tested and found to be not only a pup but a flea infested, worm ridden, mangy one at best, that crashed constantly and would take lots of expensive 'Fixes' by the consultancy's IT arm to help make it better.

Days before going live it was discovered the 'Fixes' only made matters much worse, leading to more expensive fixes that did not work either.

Did this knowledge stop the brave board from going ahead regardless. Indeed, it did not.

The wise CEO and his minions charged at the problem like the light brigade as , laughably, they believed their reputations were at stake and were being shown to be the knobs they were.

This led to cock-ups of humungous proportions, crashes, lying to all who questioned its veracity and fraudulent behavior to exploit the systems failures.

Ernst is advised that all the big Six have a pup and it continues to this day but hidden from the public.

The moral of this story, for IDS and others is, if it looks like a turd because the proctological IT dept have knowledge and say it is, believe them!! Now send the Turd saleman merrily on his way, for him to look for a gullible arse in need of one. Do not a sphincter be ye and leave well enough alone, there's nice folks.

blofeld

26 October 2013 at 11:10  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

One has experience in a new system being set up. The biggest hiccup was the migration of data from the old to the new. If the data migration programs are overambitious, and they are, you have on your hands a desperate search for a solution to key in the data, including setting up a second or even third database for these miscreant items. Bad enough when you have tens of thousands of records...


26 October 2013 at 11:32  
Blogger E.xtra S.ensory Blofeld + Tiddles said...

brother Ivo

"Instead of complaining, we should be celebrating the rare acknowledgment that lessons were there to be learned (These lessons are never 'learnt', as history proves, merely that the incompetent half wits given power to implement crap systems sold to them by spiv 'Chancers' are let off the 'accountability hook', only for the taxpayer/customer to pick up the bill) ; those subject to the change will not be inconvenienced to save political face (Dear Lord, man. Do you really believe such high follutting nonsense that is given as an explanation), and we shall not see change implemented unless and until the systems are fit for purpose." See Ernst's comment above regarding a likkle live test and where it then leads to..

Pffft!

blofeld.

26 October 2013 at 11:34  
Blogger E.xtra S.ensory Blofeld + Tiddles said...

ps

Shouldn't that read better as "political farce" dear Ivo?

26 October 2013 at 11:36  
Blogger E.xtra S.ensory Blofeld + Tiddles said...

Brother Ivo is the Patron Saint of lawyers..and dodgy, incompetent politicians of any class, perhaps?

26 October 2013 at 11:40  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

A typical scenario was running data in a new field which was strictly numeric. However, it had been forgotten that the earliest records were alpha-numeric. Which was enough to bring the program down. One’s task was to identify them, and take them out. About 700 in number. They were then input manually. Earned one’s corn that day, I can tell you...

26 October 2013 at 11:43  
Blogger E.xtra S.ensory Blofeld + Tiddles said...

Office of Inspector General said...

Aaah. An IT genius of mainframe ability and agility it seems. You are a dying breed, old boy...but what on earth would you know compared to the newly worshiped server gods of IT, hmmm?!

blowers

26 October 2013 at 11:48  
Blogger E.xtra S.ensory Blofeld + Tiddles said...

"A large Midwestern U.S. security company replaced more than 200 servers with one big mainframe in 2012, according to the company's data center architect. "We save a fortune on ELECTRICITY and the mainframe is doing EVERYTHING our 200-plus servers were doing in the past. And we can reduce the size of the data center, which means that we can SAVE an additional FORTUNE on realty," he explained." but what would the old IT fellas know about key performance and energy/efficiency anyway..Who listens to them anymore?
Can they insulate servers to reduce huge energy costs now?

blowers

26 October 2013 at 11:55  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

You’re talking to a COBAL man old chap, well, a derivative thereof. Wonderful stuff. You started with a blank screen and typed it in, or cut and paste. One’s finest hour was the two years leading up to the year 2000.

Sadly, progress marches on, and a fellow is now stuck with the rigidity of templates to work from. Blank screens no more. Still, when one’s days are over, there is an excellent possibility of being stuffed and mounted in a museum...



26 October 2013 at 11:56  
Blogger E.xtra S.ensory Blofeld + Tiddles said...


"Still, when one’s days are over, there is an excellent possibility of being stuffed and mounted in a museum..." *Chortling and sniggering in agreement, heartily*

26 October 2013 at 11:58  
Blogger Uncle Brian said...

Forgive me for going off topic but Vatican Insider has some news from Syria that may interest Your Grace’s communicants.

Russia's “protectorate” over Middle Eastern Christians

The Kremlin is about to consider granting citizenship to about 50 thousand Syrian Christians in the region of Qualamun after they issued a collective request to Moscow’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. … [Their] letter was full of praise for Putin’s Russia, which was described as a “powerful factor for global peace and stability”. But its remarks about western countries were less flattering: “the aim of the terrorists who are being supported by the West, is to eliminate our presence in our homeland. They use the most abhorrent methods to achieve this, murdering ordinary people for example.”
(more)

http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/world-news/detail/articolo/russia-rusia-medio-oriente-28944/

26 October 2013 at 12:37  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Happy Jack thinks it a good thing the government is taking more time to bring in these changes. Jack knows all this is confusing everybody and causing a lot of upset. Jack remembers a man once saying, "It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg."

26 October 2013 at 16:16  
Blogger David Hussell said...

In my experience of being legally responsible for handling and maintaining a large active public land use database whose information has a legal status , so accuracy and constant availability is crucial, legally necessary, the slick IT salesmen inevitably promise much and deliver little, often late and over budget. The field is infested with snake oil salesmen. Constant vigilance and deep scepticism is absolutely essential to sniff out the con men. Secure performance clauses and financial penalties written in to the contract and if they refuse such reasonable and necessary ones, show them the door !

26 October 2013 at 17:09  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Uncle Brian,

My recent two week tour of european Russia, and subsequent self guided private studies, tells me that Putin may well be serious in making Russia truly the new champion of much of Christianity, a northern Constantinople. Of course he has his political objectives but so did Constantine et al. If he offers protection to deeply persecuted Christians, of any type, whilst the post-Christian west looks elsewhere, in liberal embarrassment, then blessings on him I say. We need friends in high places, below heaven.

26 October 2013 at 17:17  
Blogger Brian Gould said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

26 October 2013 at 17:30  
Blogger Brian Gould said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

26 October 2013 at 17:32  
Blogger Uncle Brian said...

David Hussell

I quite agree, David. My blessings on him too, if …

As you say, If he offers protection to deeply persecuted Christians. But does he? Note that the story only says,”The Kremlin is about to consider granting citizenship.” To be “about to consider” doing something is not yet the same as “considering” doing it, let alone actually doing it.

But tell us more about your Russian trip. Where did you go? Did you find what you expected to find, or did anything surprise you?

26 October 2013 at 17:45  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...


David Hussell. “the slick IT salesmen inevitably promise much and deliver little, “

You’re not wrong there Sir. The crowd that came to see us admitted within a few minutes they themselves were ‘learning on the job’. This following a few questions that left blank faces. There’s so much money tied into it, that it seems presentation over product is essential. Having said that, they hired the best. Sharp suited types with mobiles that rang out the US Bell telephone ring. We were impressed, to start with, and before we questioned them...

26 October 2013 at 19:12  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Uncle Brian,

" But tell us more about..."
OK.
On a tourist trip it is inadvisable to read too much into a limited perspective, however useful impressions can be gained I believe. We took a 17 day package, fly then accommodation, full board on a small, 90 metres long, river boat. This keeps the costs down as Moscow is the world's most expensive city, followed by St Petersburg. We moored at each major city for 4 nights and cruised the enormous, vast waterway system in between. All was satisfactory, clean, efficient and the English manager
plus three Russian guides extremely open, friendly and well informed. I was surprised by : -
1. The sheer size and scale of everything, inland seas, vast rivers, huge abandoned former soviet era industrial towns scattered along the major waterways, all now empty and decaying, hundreds of miles from anywhere.
2. The seemingly hard working, well organized and sensible approach of well, the vast majority of people that we saw.
3. The relaxed low profile nature of the police and officials. UK police look more threatening nowadays.
4. The deep interest of the young and the middle class people in the west, the UK and the wider world in general. Many of them have travelled in western europe etc.
5. Wealth around the cities, with Range Rovers, big BMWs etc incongruously commonplace outside rough looking Kruschof era "Chicago" apartments, but obvious poverty as well, just one block behind the street frontages.
6. Large, comfortable, expensively built "dachas" scattered about the beauty spots of the countryside.
7. Thriving Orthodox churches. Very few were in fact destroyed by the Communists.
8 The inadequate pensions of those who had been comfortably paid significant people during the communist era.
9. The toughness of their capitalist system, "work if you want to eat" as our charming 28 year old guide put it. Poor hospital and medical provision for those unable to pay.
10. I now listen to Russian folk music and Church male choirs !
11. I am plodding through various tomes on their history, which I always find means much more after such a visit.
They have switched from cradle to grave Communism to a very pure form of red in tooth and claw capitalism.
They are a lovely people plagued for over a 1000 years by a harsh system of government is my overall impression. As a people I prefer them to many nationalities, but they seem unable to from effective, balanced systems for government. I would not like to live there despite the beauty of the countryside.
However our western media feeds us a much biased account of them I think. They are certainly not my enemies. My uncle risked his neck on the arctic convoys and unsurprisingly they respected that when I told them.

26 October 2013 at 20:13  
Blogger Wry Comment said...

I agree with Brother Ivo and all the other right wing tories here. Welfare reform! Just because you are in a wheelchair or mentally impaired is no excuse to scrounge off the state. Ian Duncan Smith is a saint, who is a tea party icon- and Ivo agrees with these in no way shape or form right wing fanatics- I mean passing a budget is utterly left wing marxist extremism. Only the loony left disagree with the fact that Atos and the current wonderful coalition are nothing other than visionaries trying to get those feckless wheel chairs out to the workhouse, which is where they belong, whilst privatising everything in sight and rightly slashing the army to 80,000 people, as it is not as if Cameron wants to, say, intervene in middle eastern countries.

Look, when we've done all of this we can promote private enterprise, stop the wealth drain of the rich, who are refugees in that awful place called Monaco and give a tax cut to the likes of brother Ivo, I mean it is criminal that he has to pay, yes, pay any taxes at all, let alone taxes to help the poor and feckless. I mean send them to the workhouse and give us rich toffs a tax cut - Osborne is on the right path here.

The small income tax reduction from 50% to 45% is welcome. But if he can get Ian Duncan Smith to abolish this welfareism we'll have enough to abolish the top rate of tax and to bail us bankers out a second time. Well done to Ivo and the Tories.

26 October 2013 at 22:14  
Blogger Uncle Brian said...

Hello Why Comment! Welcome! Just what we wanted -- a nine-year-old contestant for the Least Funny Humorist Award.

26 October 2013 at 22:26  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...


Wry Comment. Before you wheel out the portable guillotine, do appreciate the rich are the people that create wealth. Like it or not, that’s why they are rich...

26 October 2013 at 23:12  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Happy Jack's been thinking.

If we double the real wealth of everyone in the country the gap between the richest and poorest will also double but everyone will be better off. Is there anything wrong with such inequality?

26 October 2013 at 23:52  
Blogger E.xtra S.ensory Blofeld + Tiddles said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

27 October 2013 at 00:30  
Blogger E.xtra S.ensory Blofeld + Tiddles said...

At last YG

Thought you had forgotten about poor old Ernst or were just callously ignoring a chap.

"You do delete old blowers."

*Huge Guffaws*

blofeld.

27 October 2013 at 00:51  
Blogger Marie1797 said...

Well tell us Mr Blofeld what did you write that was so offensive?
Do you tease the host on purpose for attention?

27 October 2013 at 01:00  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Happy Jack, doubling of everyone's wealth does not necessarily mean doubling of the gap. In fact, more wealth reduces it as it brings more services and grater availability of consumer goods, all of which would narrow the difference between the rich and the poor in their quality of life.

This is what modernity has brought. Technology and cheap energy can equalize things because there is only so much that a body can objectively benefit from. In terms of shelter, you can have a family of modest means, with a comfortable house, transportation-wise, a low-priced but safe and comfortable vehicle; similar opportunities emerge with access to good education; equal access to healthcare with a universal healthcare system; salubrious recreation opportunities to vacations at a cottage and on the ski slopes.

A wealthy family may have a bigger house which doesn't add much to one's well-being, a pricey car which isn't all that much better than a cheaper one, a villa that doesn't "do" much more than an affordable resort hotel, fashionable schools which may not provide much of an advantage in a competitive economy and a private, as opposed to a semi-private hospital room, which barring the annoyance of your neighbor snoring and farting, doesn't affect your chances of recovery. Such differences are differences in comfort and status and impact little on one's "quality of life."

27 October 2013 at 02:11  
Blogger E.xtra S.ensory Blofeld + Tiddles said...

Marie 1797

"Well tell us Mr Blofeld what did you write that was so offensive?
Do you tease the host on purpose for attention? "

(Mr Blofeld ..offensive? NEVER. His Grace just has a wicked sense of humour then we tend to ignore at our peril!)

"Reminds me of a song I have waited much too long to sing to H G.

You don't delete old Blowers
You don't correct me nonsense
You hardly chastise to me anymore
When you come on this blog
Anytime of the day
I remember when
You couldn't wait to remove them
Used to hate to leave them
Now after reading me late at night
When it's good for you
And you're feeling uptight
Well you ignore me humour
And I worry til early daylight
And you don’t delete old Blowers Anymore"

He DOES delete old Blowers anytime of the day '@27 October 2013 00:30'

*Big Chortles*

27 October 2013 at 10:35  
Blogger Uncle Brian said...

David Hussell

Thank you, David. Sorry to have taken so long to get back to you. You have given me quite a different perspective on life in Putin’s Russia. It’s encouraging to learn that at long last they are finding it possible to achieve a measure of prosperity. It wasn’t all that long ago that East Germans—yes, the “unloved country”, the German Democratic Republic¬—enjoyed a standard of living that the people of the Soviet Union could only gaze on with admiration and envy.

27 October 2013 at 12:27  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Marie, my bet is that Mr Blowers blew it by going off-topic early on a brand new post, threatening to derail the thread before it has a chance to yield a few rare on-topic comments. Not cricket, you hear that, Mr Blofeld? Bad boy! As a former paid blog administrator and moderator I can confirm that the chance of off-topic tomfoolery surviving in the comments section increases as the post gets pushed down on the queue and the commentary exhausts itself. In other words, we play in the backyard, behind the shed, not in the parlour when guests are over.

27 October 2013 at 12:57  
Blogger E.xtra S.ensory Blofeld + Tiddles said...

"Marie, my bet is that Mr Blowers blew it by going off-topic early on a brand new post, threatening to derail the thread before it has a chance to yield a few rare on-topic comments." Ernst most certainly did NOT. No new post had beeen done @12.30am.

Ernst merely quipped to Uncle Brian that Wry Comment was even beyond the help of Ernst with such poor materials on show to work from...H G showed Ernst that He is indeed blessed with a form of all-seeing and at All Times of the day. It was HG's JOKE!

27 October 2013 at 14:45  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Isn't Wry Comment that mad French bint with a new moniker?

27 October 2013 at 15:22  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Avi, they were good points and Happy Jack hadn't thought of it like that. Happy Jack would hate to have too much money. What would he do with it all? It would worry him too much.

27 October 2013 at 15:46  

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