Do they have what IT takes?

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The Independent Online
THE RECENT spate of costly computing disasters suffered by the likes of Wessex Regional Health Authority, the Stock Exchange and the London Ambulance Service has heightened criticism of information technology consultancies.

The fact that some of the biggest names in the field have been involved has only served to increase business confusion about how best to implement the technological changes that all the management theories say must be made.

Quidnunc, a London-based consultancy, has responded to this disquiet by publishing the results of a customer satisfaction survey carried out among its own clients.

It was prompted by the consultancy's frustration at being unable to persuade either the Government or its trade association, the Computing Services Association, to back a league table designed to guide companies about which consultancies are the best for given jobs.

According to correspondence seen by the Independent on Sunday, the Department of Trade and Industry has expressed sympathy with Quidnunc's complaint, but argued that a league table might not tell a client very much, while the CSA felt it would be hard to find a set of measures that would be fair to all concerned.

However, Laurence Holt, Quidnunc's chairman, feels something, however flawed, must be done to assist customers and improve the standing of his industry. 'Hiring an IT consultancy for a large project is one of the biggest risks a company will ever take. It's scandalous that there is still no reliable means of sorting out good consultancies from bad.'

Quidnunc claims that its survey showed an overall 81 per cent approval rating. To compare this with its rivals, it commissioned research among 49 IT managers in some of Britain's biggest companies and discovered an overall satisfaction rating of 65 per cent.

But in the absence of such information Mr Holt fears that companies will think they are playing safe by opting for the biggest providers - which may not necessarily be the case.