The Upper Echelons Of The UK Government Get It, But The Message Didn’t Get Through.

Based on my experience in school, business and education, I developed my personal theory of management:“You may find that you have become locked-in to a particular contract or technology. As part of your consideration of the total cost of ownership of a particular solution, you should have estimated the cost of exit at the start of implementation.” Once an organization gets more than about 30 people the boss loses control and has to depend on unreliable middle-managers. In a small/medium-sized school, a principal or superintendent can call a meeting, deal with an issue and everyone gets the message because they are all in one room. In a large organization, multiple layers of messaging are involved and the message gets lost or distorted in meaning. It certainly takes longer to change anything the bigger an organization becomes. I’ve been in schools that were part of a large organization where just cooling a server required intervention with so many levels of bureaucracy that little got done and small things took 2 years to approve/plan/implement. I’ve worked in large organizations where memos fell like a blizzard and most were a total waste of readers’ time, being irrelevant, wasteful or killing initiative. I was in two schools where the boss demanded teachers file formal written lesson-plans in writing/on paper in advance. This was a surprise sprung in the middle of the school year, messing up everyone’s system. In my case, I planned in detail on weekends and the boss wanted plans on Fridays, so I had to plan two weeks in advance, something just about impossible considering teaching to respond to the needs of students, weather, various interruptions sprung on short notice. In one case, teachers ignored the order and the principal moved on. In the other, the entire staff moved on…

This disconnect between plan and implementation seems to be the case in the government of the UK because the guys at the top definitely understand the cost of doing things M$’s way but others have let themselves be locked in and rendered helpless. If they’d only use FLOSS and GNU/Linux, they would have the flexibility to run their IT regardless of what M$ does, but, no, they followed M$ like cattle to slaughter and now are stuck. Choosing M$ as a platform is like choosing the gallows as a platform, convenient but deadly. The way back is hard. M$ has arranged a multitude of lock-ins to make the trip one-way only. If you get hooked several ways, it is almost impossible to undo. Depending on XP for 15 years was not a good idea on Day One. Now it’s deadly. In the last 15 years, I’ve only selected a system with XP once or twice for work and that was just because that’s all I could find on the market. Now there’s no excuse for getting locked into M$. For those with IT guys there was no excuse back in the day. Munich, Extremadura, Ernie Ball, etc. all figured it out. Most others have been paying repeatedly for their mistake ever since.

See NHS XP patch scratch leaves patient records wide open to HACKERS.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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17 Responses to The Upper Echelons Of The UK Government Get It, But The Message Didn’t Get Through.

  1. DrLoser says:

    We are most likely looking at a Munich mess lot sooner than you think except with deaths this time causes by lack of funds. Sad part is even if NHS goes open source and pays the bar min in IT deaths may still happen due to the lack of funds. The XP extended support has to be paid even if you are using XP mode inside Windows 7. NHS could be between a rock and a hard place exactly how Munich was with NT. Custom made applications that don’t run on newer versions of Windows.

    Munich mess?

    Lack of funds?

    Custom-made applications?

    You’re a pointless little twerp in this instance, aren’t you, oiaohm?

    Not only do you have no clue whatsoever about how the NHS operates, but you have the temerity to reassign the problem to Microsoft, who have actually contracted to the NHS as a whole for XP support. (Which is a stupid idea. But it’s not a Microsoft stupid idea. It’s an NHS stupid idea.)

    You really have no ability to read through things, do you, oiaohm? I’ve pointed out below that this is a per-Trust issue. Not an NHS issue. Not a Microsoft issue.

    The NHS as a whole came to what I would think is a good-value deal with Microsoft:

    Five million pounds to keep XP desktops up-to-date. Which translates to roughly ten pence per NHS customer.

    The Trusts, on the other hand? They were so seriously incompetent that they weren’t even able to sign up to free, pre-paid, IT support.

    That is the nub of the matter.

  2. oiaohm says:

    DrLoser
    It doesn’t make any difference though. The NHS is where it is right now. In ten years’ time, it might well be Munich writ large. But right now it has a vast number of XP desktops which, by and large, do their jobs. Possibly not optimally in any sense whatsoever, but they do their jobs.
    We are most likely looking at a Munich mess lot sooner than you think except with deaths this time causes by lack of funds. Sad part is even if NHS goes open source and pays the bar min in IT deaths may still happen due to the lack of funds. The XP extended support has to be paid even if you are using XP mode inside Windows 7. NHS could be between a rock and a hard place exactly how Munich was with NT. Custom made applications that don’t run on newer versions of Windows.

    VDI instances of XP is one way to reduce possible attack. This means move to thin-clients or Linux workstations if you are not paying for new versions Windows.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/10/10/nhs_drops_oracle_for_riak/
    DrLoser Orcale last year with NHS hit the same problem no money. They are not just signing off checks any more. Most of the NHS key operations are web-browser based.

    Also remember new versions of MS Office don’t open old versions of MS Office documents perfectly either. They are in for all round migration hell.

    DrLoser like it or not NHS is just another group without the free cash really to pay what Microsoft wants. There is a good video to watch. Heston’s Mission Impossible. This is Heston the cook going into many places. What he finds out about the NHS UK in the video is shocking. They are sell catering services because they don’t have enough money to feed the Hospital Patients even then the budget is insanely short on what it should be. Reality if they don’t sell enough catering services there is not any money to feed the Hospital Patients. A staved person does not heal. Most people were only getting better because food was being brought into them.

    NHS situation makes Munich issues look minor. People were not being staved by Munich lack funds.

    Microsoft has removed discount after discount from the UK NHS making it situation worse. Remember the video I am referring to is 2011. UK NHS is in complete a complete criss.

    The costs DrLoser of medical supplies for a hospital are just astronomical. Without those they cannot function at all.

  3. DrLoser says:

    Not this time. Money is apparently not the issue. Updating the software is. Millions of people have trouble with that. It may not even be a problem hiring people to get to the PCs. It may be lock-in to some weird application that breaks with an update or the location or a breakdown in networking, whatever.

    Or it could be absolutely nothing to do with a single one of those wild hypotheses, and rather more to do with the NHS spending £5.5 million on securing a custom update schedule for XP, and several NHS Trusts failing to sign on the dotted line.

    Don’t take my word for it. Read your wretched cite.

    Still the desperate need to update XP is something M$ caused by shipping such fluffy software and creating lock-in deliberately.

    Again, I am prepared to accept this preposterous argument for the purposes of the present discussion.

    It doesn’t make any difference though. The NHS is where it is right now. In ten years’ time, it might well be Munich writ large. But right now it has a vast number of XP desktops which, by and large, do their jobs. Possibly not optimally in any sense whatsoever, but they do their jobs.

    The immediate issue — the issue covered quite comprehensively by your cite — is not the OS. It is not the supplier of that OS.

    It’s the idiot bureaucrats, who are clearly so incompetent at IT that they couldn’t even be trusted with a thin-client Linux solution … were one to exist.

  4. DrLoser says:

    Sure, it’s 0.44% or so, just pocket-change to a large organization.

    No, it’s 0.41% or so, on one site alone. The implication of the article is that several sites are involved. The way that NHS Trusts are organised (fairly evenly by population, ergo need for desktops or thin clients if you prefer), there’s a good chance that this is a standard factor. Assume, say, ten sites, and you’re up to 4%. Very possibly more. Might even touch 10% (what with the herd mentality of bureaucrats).

    Which is what I meant by “it’s not a rounding error.”

    I have worked in such an organization.

    You’ve worked in an organisation with a customer base of 60 million, an employee base of 1.1 million, and 500 Trusts or similar departmental organisations?

    One place hired folks to go around setting up XP to replace Lose ’98.

    Ah. Apparently you haven’t. Nothing like it, in fact.

    Your experience of system admin in this area is as comprehensively useless as mine is, Robert.

  5. DrLoser says:

    Drloser if everything in your business is a desktop computer your IT management is already lossy.

    1) Completely unsubstantiated rubbish. “Lossy” refers to data, not to financial considerations. Nor indeed to operational considerations, which might well influence the decision not to go full-bore thin client.
    2) Completely irrelevant.

    The OP is not talking about thin clients, oiaohm. It isn’t talking about Linux. It isn’t even talking about XP, really … it’s talking about a catastrophic failure in take-up of a service already paid for.

    This really isn’t too hard to understand if you squint a little and bash a couple of brain-cells together. (NB not an “ad hominem:” merely a metaphor that applies to any reader of the OP whatsoever.)

  6. oiaohm says:

    I like the rounding error idea from DrLoser. Its like the company Philips. If you find their early company registration is Phillips. Removing 1 l over the long term has saved them billions. You would have to say the savings is larger than removing 1 letter from the company name.

    Drloser
    4.5K/1.1M is not a “rounding error,” Robert. It’s the bare minimum of desktops stated to be affected by lousy IT management.
    What about workstations or thin-clients instead of desktops. There is a nasty reality here the cost of IT management is directly linked to the number of Harddrives that have to be kept in operational state as well as the data that has to be protected.

    Linux does provide ways of reducing the hard-drive count without effecting performance that much. When I say workstation a Linux workstation using DRBL.org all the local performance but 1 harddrive image shared between many.

    Drloser if everything in your business is a desktop computer your IT management is already lossy. Ipads and Android tablets are making in roads into business as both reduce work IT Offices has todo. Ok there are some serous downsides to the Ipad and Android cloud connections. But hey there IT management is lossy they don’t care.

    At least a GNU/Linux solution would be keeping majority of the data on site.

  7. DrLoser ran on for a while… “4.5K/1.1M is not a “rounding error,” Robert.”

    Sure, it’s 0.44% or so, just pocket-change to a large organization. I have worked in such an organization. One place hired folks to go around setting up XP to replace Lose ’98. Every desktop profile was goofy. They had roaming profiles and desktops were not locked down. You could login at your desk or the lab but you had to wait for “synchronization”… So, these things do go wrong. Unless one guy somewhere is connected to everything and pushes the right button, it can’t be guaranteed to work. I was in another place where WSUS could never update all the machines at one go. It was an iterative process converging on the desired result. It took an hour or more of someone being in the building to make it happen. There may be 432 buildings where NHS has no one pushing the buttons. This stuff can happen even if it’s only one huge building. NHS has offices in every whistle-stop in the UK. It has 1.4million employees.

  8. DrLoser wrote, “Ever get the feeling you’re barking up the wrong tree”?

    Not this time. Money is apparently not the issue. Updating the software is. Millions of people have trouble with that. It may not even be a problem hiring people to get to the PCs. It may be lock-in to some weird application that breaks with an update or the location or a breakdown in networking, whatever. Still the desperate need to update XP is something M$ caused by shipping such fluffy software and creating lock-in deliberately.

  9. DrLoser says:

    A story that your cite considers to be related, btw:

    Government health chiefs have admitted to spending millions of pounds furnishing bureaucrats with Apple iPhones and fondleslabs.

    Taxpayers forked out more than £2m to buy iThings for the staff of NHS non-departmental public bodies, which are arms-length government organisations more commonly known as quangos.

    So, not only do NHS Trusts routinely fail to take advantage of a £5.5 million maintenance contract on XP — they also piss away £2 million on “small smart thingies” for QUANGOs.

    Ever get the feeling you’re barking up the wrong tree, Robert?

  10. DrLoser says:

    In other words, every single thing you suggested in your rather lengthy OP is totally unsubstantiated drivel, isn’t it?

  11. DrLoser says:

    NHS is huge. That could be just a truncation error, scattered pockets on the periphery of the organization or a particular few offices.

    Actually it’s a report by The Register based upon information gleaned via the Freedom of Information Act. All good so far.

    Also, your cite, which as usual you have not bothered to read in any great detail — I mean, goodness, it’s only a single screen long — points out the relevant details:

    1) £5.5 million spent (we can both agree, not well) on specific EOL support for XP.
    2) 1.1 million desktops in the NHS.
    3) A bare minimum of 4,500 machines at risk, assuming a single Trust.

    4.5K/1.1M is not a “rounding error,” Robert. It’s the bare minimum of desktops stated to be affected by lousy IT management.

    I agree that in the latter case this looks like malfeasance…

    Good. It’s actually incompetence, but I know you like to impute criminality wherever people don’t choose to do things your way. Let that stand.

    …but as an expert on sparsely supported outlying organizations, it is very hard to get IT up to speed.

    a) You are no such expert in any sense whatsoever, Robert.
    b) The NHS in the UK (a very small country, geographically speaking) hardly fits the definition of a “sparsely supported organization.”

    Assume no automatic updates.

    Well, obviously. Didn’t you read your cite? They paid for them, but several Trusts are refusing to accept them.

    That’s my whole POINT!

    Assume itinerant IT people driving hundreds of miles every few days to reach the last outposts…

    You’ve never actually visited the UK, have you, Robert?

    Look it up on the map.

  12. DrLoser wrote, of NHS updates to XP, “they spent it anyway. And now “some” multiple of “4,500” desktops aren’t even taking advantage of it.”

    NHS is huge. That could be just a truncation error, scattered pockets on the periphery of the organization or a particular few offices. I agree that in the latter case this looks like malfeasance but as an expert on sparsely supported outlying organizations, it is very hard to get IT up to speed. Assume no automatic updates. Assume itinerant IT people driving hundreds of miles every few days to reach the last outposts… I taught in places where IT support from the outside world came a couple of times a year at best and stopped at the router… NHS offices can be in tiny remote communities. The plan at head office just doesn’t work for everyone. M$, of course gets paid for all the updates whether they happen or not…

    e.g. The last place I worked had XP SP1 with FAT when I arrived. That’s in an organization with a multi-million annual budget and expertise available via the ISP, educational consultants, the in-house IT person and still it didn’t happen. Yet, I brought things up to XP SP3 and turned on auto-updates with no thanks at all. Still the system was racked by malware. I can sympathize with NHS. I still think M$ should bear much of the blame making a system too complex and too fragile for deployment in the real world. The same organizations that suffered greatly under XP are enjoying Android/Linux.

  13. DrLoser says:

    Let’s tackle this the Underpants Gnomes way.

    Phase 1: Windows XP
    Phase 2: ???
    Phase 3: GNU/Linux!

    The point here is not that the NHS is starting with Windows XP. And it isn’t that they should end with GNU/Linux.

    The point here is the question marks in the middle.

  14. DrLoser says:

    Let’s see… M$ illegally built a monopoly that forced people to use XP…

    You should carve this religious credo of yours on a stone tablet and place it on the summit of a mountain somewhere, Robert. It doesn’t get any less tedious or more accurate, the more times you repeat it.

    But let’s say it’s true.

    It still has nothing to do with the following (regrettably I am forced to repeat myself too):

    Some trusts in England have more than 4,500 machines running Windows XP, with no security patches in place to provide protection, the FOI responses revealed.

    The NHS has paid for these updates, in their slightly less than infinite wisdom. As I recall, the figure was around £5 million. And I agree with you, this was an absurd misallocation of public funds.

    But the point is, they spent it anyway. And now “some” multiple of “4,500” desktops aren’t even taking advantage of it.

    The OS is not at issue here. The IT implementation is.

  15. DrLoser wrote, of the XP-fiasco in UK NHS, “This is not evidence of M$ malfeasance.”

    Let’s see… M$ illegally built a monopoly that forced people to use XP. It was a very expensive solution soaking up the IT-budget. The severely locked in could not afford to take the next step on the Wintel treadmill, so we have what we have and yes, M$ did have a big part in the expense and the lock-in. They compounded that with their inability to bring forth a new release for what, 8 years? And Vista flopped so NHS did not migrate to it. By the time “7” came around the lock-in was pretty thick. Lots of folks did migrate to “7” but at what cost? OTOH, this is a great selling point for FLOSS and GNU/Linux. The cost of staying on it or upgrading are about the same, with no big dent in the budget. That’s why Munich is saving money with each new release of that other OS and why NHS is a mess staying with it.

  16. DrLoser says:

    Some trusts in England have more than 4,500 machines running Windows XP, with no security patches in place to provide protection, the FOI responses revealed.

    Excuse me, Robert. This is not evidence of M$ malfeasance.

    If anybody is leaving patient records and so on open to hacking, it isn’t M$.

    It’s the overpaid idiots in charge of NHS Trusts.

  17. DrLoser says:

    I don’t suppose that it’s relevant here to point out that Microsoft begged the NHS to migrate to Windows 7 before XP went EOL?

    And that the NHS response was, “We’re a bunch of dysfunctional incompetents. Here’s a bundle of money. Keep supporting that old shit.”

    Now, arguably, what the NHS should have done is to migrate as many systems as possible to Gnu/Linux. Which they didn’t do, because for a variety of incredibly stupid reasons they failed to make any sort of IT choice whatsoever, even given two or more years’ notice of EOL.

    I don’t see how you can blame the supplier here. It doesn’t really matter whether the supplier is M$ or (to take a believable alternative) RedHat.

    If the fool managers are prepared to lay out money for support of an OS that is designated as being beyond its lifetime expectancy …

    It doesn’t actually matter where that OS comes from, does it?

    Idiot people, Robert. Not idiot software.

    Oh, and the idiot people (managers) in question are being paid, on average, $200,000 pa or more. Perhaps you might invest a small portion of your justified ire on that.

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