Letter: Computer consultants face unfair criticism

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The Independent Online
Sir: I am a former civil servant, now an independent consultant, who worked on the written-off DHSS 'smaller system' and was subsequently employed within the computer department of one of the electricity boards during privatisation. I would like to offer the following

observations:

Reviews of 'failed' projects invariably concentrate on technical problems rather than inadequate management and the failure to understand business needs.

All computer projects have inherent risk: the mature approach is to recognise these and take some action to minimise their impact - in extreme cases this should lead to abandoning the project.

Management rarely welcomes internal or external advisers who highlight potential problems. These people are seen as 'prophets of doom' or negative thinkers who have no place in the currently popular 'don't give me problems, give me solutions' style of management which allows senior managers to abdicate their responsibilities.

Finally, a major objective for a consultancy is to obtain repeat business. This can be achieved in one of two ways: we can give our customers such a good service that they will keep coming back, or we can flatter management by telling them what they want to hear.

Yours faithfully,

DAVID HAWKINS

Southsea, Hampshire

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