NZ's top 5 tech disasters
"Next IT disaster the $1 billion IRD upgrade ... someone is milking us at a level that is just ridiculous."Featured comment
The Wheedle/listselltrade fiasco got me thinking: what have been NZ’s top five tech disasters?
Five that have to make any shortlist:
INCIS: The $110 million Integrated National Crime Information System was abandoned in 1999. The document management system upgrade was only partially completed before the police and IBM parted ways. The project, $40 million over budget, became a case study in mismanagement, and inflated expectations.
It also shows how tricky it is to pick a winner in any technology race. Even if everything had gone swimmingly, people would have soon been sucking their teeth at Incis’ OS/2 and Lotus Notes setup.
YELLOW: The directory started post-Telecom life in 2007 with a website that delivered the vaguest of results, then took years to complete an upgrade (finally completed in 2011). Pity it was up against Google. As Yellow’s marketing director said on TVNZ7’s The Ad Show in July 2010: “People actually race up to me on the street and say, ‘Do you know your product doesn’t work?’ And it’s like stating the obvious, really.”) Throw in the 018 outsourcing to Manila (phone queries involving Maori place names - what could possibly go wrong?) and brand suffered major damage.
THE XT LAUNCH: A rushed launch caused problems that Telecom is still paying for today as Vodafone maintains a solid lead in mobile market share.
BUBBLE: In 2007, there was confusion and chaos as Telecom migrated around 800,000 customers from its inhouse webmail system to XtraBubble, hosted by Yahoo in Sydney. There have been intermittent problems with Telecom’s webmail ever since, including multiple instances of delayed messages and other glitches over the past year, and just last week for some customers. Meanwhile, Telecom's Australian subsidiary, AAPT, moved customers to Google Apps and Gmail.
UFB CONNECTION COSTS: The Ultrafast Broadband (UFB) rollout has stalled amid a standoff over who pays for connecting fibre from the kerb to a home – especially given many homes are further back from the road than the minimum distance Chorus is obliged to cover. ISPs want Chorus (responsible for 80% of the project by premise) to extend its free connection deal beyond the end of this year, fearing – quite correctly – that consumers will take fright if asked to stump up hundreds or thousands of dollars, on an open-ended tab, for a fibre connection. Will the load spread? Will taxpayers have to chip in more? Confusion reigns. No one thought this part of the project through. That’s why, so far, there’s only a handful of connections to show for the government’s $1.35 billion contribution to the UFB.
What else? F&P's Dish Drawer has to be a contender.
So does the Auckland Transport/Thales vs Snapper Auckland e-ticketing disaster (and I can's say I'm overly impressed with the Auckland Transport/Thales/Telecom mobile payment project that's betting against Apple, and the likes of superhot NFC-killer Square. Again, why trying to pick a winner, or guess where technology might be in 18 months?).
Then there was TiVo with its Caspa download service that didn't work - with no one at TVNZ, Telecom or Hybrid TV particularly bothered about its failings (I was also shocked to talk to Telecom's then head of retail and realise he didn't actually realise the practical impact of no Prime EPG. I guess that's human frailty and poor management rather than a technical issue per se - but then again you could say that about practically any item on the list above).
Obvious lessons are:
1. Like an extension on your house, an IT project always takes twice as long, and costs twice as much, as you think.
2. Don't rush things, especially in the test phase.
3. Eat your own dog food (hello managers involved with TiVo, watcing your MySky boxes).
4. First mover advantage doesn't count for anything if the technology doesn't work
What would you add to the list? Leave your suggestions below.