Each of the organizations featured in the case studies in this chapter faced significant challenges. London's was the world's largest congestion charging scheme to be developed. The JTrack system for the Criminal Justice System involved the input of 43 police forces and 42 Crown Prosecution Service areas. The Bradford Teaching Hospital NHS Trust needed a system that would centralize procurement while simultaneously allowing clinicians to make requisitions as they moved around wards. But the solutions found did not involve state-of-the-art technology: instead, existing technology was used in new ways. SMS text messaging was one of the ways in which Transport for London (TfL) made paying the capital's new congestion charge as convenient as possible. JTrack provided the agencies involved in the persistent offenders' scheme with secure access to Web-hosted software. Clinicians in Bradford were given PocketPC devices enabling them to place orders through a wireless network. After the excesses of the e-business boom, organizations have focused their efforts on leveraging existing technology in innovative ways, rather than investing in new systems. The All England Lawn Tennis Club also used personal digital assistants (PDAs), to get information to important people likely to be roaming around the site - club officials, VIPs, and special guests - the first time that this technology had been used on this scale anywhere in the world.
Whereas the monolithic systems of the 1990s were predicated on the idea of bringing the disparate functions of an organization together by standardizing processes and centralizing control, the initiatives described in these case studies are indicative of a very different approach. Rather than trying to impose uniform technology on UK police forces, JTrack provided a secure, easy-to-use way to update and access information in a variety of formats to cope with the different business processes and counting rules used by the different organizations. Rather than try to make all central London drivers use one method of payment, JTrack allowed them to choose a method convenient to them, leaving behind-the-scenes technology to link everything together. Because each of these initiatives relied on the cooperation of a wide array of stakeholders, a top-down approach was never going to work. To encourage take-up, the different needs of potential users had to be worked with, not ignored.
Of course, taking a wide range of different requirements into account necessitates not only intense user involvement, but also an ability to respond to changes. None of these projects would have succeeded if those in charge had adopted a rigid approach, refusing to adjust the specifications as the project progressed. The congestion charging scheme was just too high profile for there not to be considerable political and media pressure influencing the form the final scheme would take. Bringing together so many systems and types of technology meant that mistakes were inevitable; lessons had to be learned. The Home Office concludes: ‘Planning is essential to reducing risks and increasing the chances of success, but planning only takes you so far. After that, success is dependent on a flexible and cooperative approach which enables changes in scope and timescales to be accommodated and overcome.'
At Wimbledon, there was an issue with the number and varieties of use to which the match data could be put (players needed different information to commentators; online viewers wanted other information again). This was solved by having a single, central database from which a wide range of ‘feeds' could be drawn.
But flexibility can be a double-edged sword: ensuring that the final system will meet a complex set of requirements increases the risk of delay. Too many changes can make a project seem never-ending. Yet all of these projects were completed to tight deadlines. PA Consulting Group used its Rapid Systems Development techniques and iterative prototyping in order to complete a pilot version of JTrack within just eight weeks. London's congestion charging scheme was implemented in two and a half years, one year less than an independent study had predicted it would take. It took the Bradford Teaching Hospital Trust only three months to pilot its new procurement system and assess the benefits. Like flexibility, speed plays an important part in building the credibility of a new system and increasing its take-up by users; if the people implementing a system are taking it seriously, then those supposed to use it will do so as well.
The IT department of 10 years ago might well have expected large-scale projects to be undertaken by a single supplier, but it is rare these days for clients to ‘single source'. The complexity of the work and technology involved means that it is increasingly hard for a single supplier to provide all the expertise required in-house: instead, they are more likely to focus on those areas of a project where their expertise is greatest and sub-contract other aspects to other specialists. Moreover, clients looking for world-class expertise - masters of one trade, rather than jacks of none - are better informed about which supplier excels in which area. Pulling together and managing consortia, especially where large-scale, complex programmes are concerned, has become a key skill for clients and consultants alike.