Friday, November 18, 2011

Christmas round the corner means one thing- Business Continuity Planning

So, the decorations are going up in the streets, the nights are drawing in and Starbucks have switched to red cups. It can all only mean one thing. Christmas is upon us. However, for those in IT, the other herald of the season is calling for us to brush off our business continuity plans and work out how we keep the wheels turning with skeletal staff.
In the hospitality and leisure industry, the problem is particularly acute as when customers and staff are wanting to party, we need to keep the party going. So, I'm pleased to report that we have closed off our plans. A couple of months of consulting with colleagues, partners and suppliers have come to a close and our arrangements are in place. Scenarios have been identified; systems and processes mapped; contingency plans are written; the control centre has been resourced (with a fancy dress theme- it's not all work work work); and deals have been done with key suppliers.
It's hard to get fired up about Christmas in late summer and it's amazing how many IT companies need to be convinced there's a discussion to be had, but it just goes with the territory and we're all glad now it's done. Now we can look forward to the sound of sleigh bells etc with everyone else. Ok... and maybe a few tweaks to the plan.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Snatched from the jaws of victory

Last week I found myself needing a taxi in the West End of London and I walked for about 15 minutes (or a dozen blocks in US money) before I was finally able to hail one down. Frustratingly, I could see available taxis in the distance, but only long enough to tease me with their yellow lights before they melted round a corner. I had an "Ah ha!" moment, realising the market for an app which could broadcast my geotagged need for a taxi pronto and drivers in the area could swoop to my location. My mind raced with the thrill of seizing upon the opportunity- from writing the business plan through to a glitzy launch.
So, you can imagine my annoyance this week when I found that someone had beaten me to it. Still, perhaps they've executed the idea badly? Perhaps there'll be flaws in their offering? Sadly not. I have to hand it to Hailo, they've done a great job. The "first time use" experience is slick, the app is intuitive, the marketing is simple but effective (it was the sight of a Hailo emblazoned taxi which drew my attention to the app) and it works. Available on the iPhone and Android, I highly recommend Hailo- even if they did beat me to it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A lesson in healthcare from the game Balderdash(TM)

I was fascinated to learn something new by playing the game Balderdash. In case you've not played the game before, you are basically given a word from a card and need to guess what it means from amongst a selection of options provided by other players and the real answer from the card. I was challenged with Question 4 from the card below:
Frankly, I had no idea.  I was shocked, given my line of work, to hear the answer:
Who would have thought it?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

IMT decisions back in the hands of the hospitals

The rules of the game have changed. Since the inception of the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) in 2005, the responsibility for specifying, procuring, configuring and deploying major hospital systems has been centralised and the role of local management had become one largely characterised as facilitation. Now though, following a Department of Health review and the announcement in a ministerial statement that the NPfIT is “no longer required”, executive decisions regarding the full breadth of Information Management & Technology (IMT) need to be back on the agenda of board meetings up and down the NHS in England and Wales.
The announcement is that the centralised approach of NPfIT is no longer relevant and IMT decisions should be local, with more modular systems being selected from a plural system of supply. What is more, the tone set in the white paper is continued- that healthcare provision needs to improve, yet the costs need reduce. So providers quickly need to pick up the mantle and take control of how IMT will enable their organisation to deliver this objective.
This new onus on Trust boards brings the need for them to be more tech savvy than they have previously needed to be. Not only are the decisions and responsibility for system delivery back with them, but a plural market requires significantly more expertise, not only in system selection, but also in architecting how more modular systems will be orchestrated to deliver their digital platform. As the Operating Framework for the NHS in England puts it, the approach is about “connecting all” rather than “replacing all”. Integration is the name of the game and the challenge of making a handful of interoperable systems drive an organisation is exponentially more demanding than merely multiplying up the effort of making a single system work.

Futura font, Passendale cheese and Walter Mossberg, courtesy of Hunch

I arrived at the site with excitement, having read an interview with the founder, Caterina Fake, where she promised to personalise the internet for me. On choosing to sign up using my Facebook account (which saves loads of time and avoids having to remember yet more account details), you are immediately faced with the fairly startling truth that Hunch will only be able to personalise the internet by having access to some very personal information. At least they challenge this head on and you know where they are coming from, and why.
I was then asked to answer a series of question so Hunch can learn more about me. Some of the multiple choice questions were tricky to answer as my life often falls into the "none of the above" category. However, I pressed on and even found myself choosing to answer more questions than considered essential. It was fun and I was optimistic.
So, at the end of the process I was provided with a set of "top 5" recommendations for lots of (seemingly endless) categories- from books to magazines and cars to credit cards. Whilst I found this mildly intriguing it didn't pop up any surprises and, to be really honest, had a slight whiff of product placement (4 Apple product recommendations even though I answered a question saying I was more of a PC user); stating the blooming obvious (who doesn't like "The Wire"?) and simple wrong calls (the site is heavily biased to East Coast US even though my Facebook profile clearly says I'm British and live in the UK). That said, I will be trying Futura font, Passendale cheese and Walter Mossberg (tech writer) at the next available opportunity. The proof of the pudding will be in whether I like these things.
Hopefully in time the dataset being used to drive the collaborative filtering will become richer and provide more insightful suggestions. The range of suggestions needs to grow and become more localised too. However, for that to work they need to encourage me back. To my mind there isn't a sticky enough element to the offering to compel me... but know they now so much about me, I'm sure they'll find a way.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Things to do before I die #67385: Write a good IT Strategy Book

I was recently asked by a client for an example of an "IT Strategy". Although the language, grammar and punctuation all seemed to make sense, the sentence struggled to be processed by my brain. I couldn't, at the time, express in words why this was such a difficult request to satisfy. With the benefit of some time to mull over it and a blog, I will explore this question now.
In short, an IT Strategy is a very difficult thing to nail down. Perhaps this is why there are (by my reckoning) only three books stocked by Amazon on IT Strategy:
By way of comparison, Amazon stocks thousands of titles about IT Service Management (search for ITIL) and there are at least 11 books which were 'written' by Katie Price alone... I gave up counting (and near enough the will to live) on page 2 when I realised that other authors have seen fit to write about Miss Price too.
Advanced Searches on Google for IT Strategy .doc documents are similarly fruitless, or at least bear largely unpalatable fruit. We can put aside that most such documents are commercially confidential because there are usually enough exceptions in the public sector- or leaks! The results are there (all 6,460 of them) but invariably these 'strategies' are more tactical in nature rather than a strategic framework to support business cases, projects and service management decisions. Frequent bloopers are wish lists of projects and esoteric statements such as "we will buy only Microsoft" (whether or not you drink from the Microsoft fountain this is a dictat which helps in too narrow and exclusive a way). Still, poor examples there may be, but all this criticism is actually neither here nor there if the result is of the highest possible value which the IT function could make to the organisation.
Before I continue, I should explain this is an exploratory article so I welcome any further contributions as to why there are few books on IT Strategy.
First of all, the valuable component of an IT Strategy is not really an object. Yes, there is a document (or all manner of communications media) as a deliverable, but it is the exercise of going through the process of designing, developing, implementing and reviewing IT strategy which provides immeasurable value to an organisation.  You can have a great document, but only with alignment to the business, education and ownership will the organisation use it to great effect.
Any IT Strategy worth its salt intrinsically links to, is guided by and enables the Business Strategy, so often the deliverable is contained within a deliverable of wider scope. This also leads us to conclude there are as many IT strategies as there are unique organisations. Yes, IT strategies often share common themes, but although boilerplate may be a helpful starting point, it will ultimately constrain or miss opportunities for the subject.  What is fit for purpose (in process and deliverable) for one team is not fit for another organisation.
So, this explains why a definitive reference for IT Strategy has not yet emerged. Perhaps we should ask the prolific Jordan to give it a go?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Caught on Google Streetview

On reading the news that almost all of the UK is now covered by Google's Streetview I did the obvious and had a virtual nosey around my own home, my family's homes and various friends' homes. Then I began to wonder whether that car with the contraption on the roof which we saw on holiday last year had anything to do with Google... and it did. Zooming in on the location from memory I was able to see Mr and Mrs Clickrich driving along the A9 in Scotland. I'm pleased to say faces and numberplates were appropriately blurred. Amazing technology! Here's a compilation of the stills of us zooming... ahem, cruising by (these things don't measure speed do they?).

Monday, February 08, 2010

CircleBath. Yes, it's a hospital.

Champagne on ice
CircleBath AtriumLooking at these photos which I took last week, you'd be forgiven for thinking that I've been hanging around rather swankier bars than normal. However, these are actually from the new CircleBath hospital. ClickRich has been working on this project for the best part of 4 years so it's really exciting to see the vision becoming reality and being so highly acclaimed.
What? You still don't believe it's a hospital? Well, take a look at the much better quality photos on our architect, Foster + Partners', website where you can see real healthcare-shaped things. In that gallery of photos you can glance at one of our state-of-the-art digital operating theatres, but in terms of technology, that was still a fairly simple win really. I look forward to bringing you more news about the tech in due course, including some healthcare firsts.