IS Success and Failure—The Problem of Scale



    1. An ‘early adopter’, pioneering thinker and commentator, with a fascination for technology and its impact upon society. A web developer since 1995, he did his PhD thesis on Cyborgism, and has become an expert in Web Accessibility.
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    1. Senior Lecturer in Information Systems (IS) at the University of Salford, and is engaged in Critical Research in IS, including issues of gender in the ICT labour market, IT projects in the NHS and the global sourcing of shared services.
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In the midst of Implementing Electronic Government (IEG), the almost knee-jerk reaction of our political elite seems to be to embrace hugely ambitious Information Systems (IS) solutions to public-sector operations. Problem after problem has been viewed as solvable by throwing some big IT at it. However hindsight and a wealth of evidence and examples shows that overly large-scale public-sector IT projects do not work and persistently end in failure and costly waste. In this article we consider IT projects ‘failures’ and the combination of social and technical factors that contribute. We illustrate our argument with more detailed reference to the Connecting for Health agenda, part of the NHS National Programme for IT. We suggest ‘think local, think modular’ to build on good practice and advocate use of the government's own 2004 eGovernment Interoperability Framework (eGIF) to learn lessons from past IT project catastrophes.