How to Fail When Introducing Electronic Technologies into Organisations

The challenges of large scale IT projects viewed through the National Programme for IT – NPfIT

The history of computer applications is littered with examples of large and expensive IT systems failing when they were implemented in organisations. This paper illustrates how this happens by describing the case of the NPfIT, the National Programme for IT, in the UK National Health Service. It was introduced with a great fanfare in 2004 to standardize electronic patient records across the NHS and was ‘dismantled’ in 2011 having cost somewhere between £12 and £20 billion.

The paper concludes this programme encountered major problems because it adopted a top down, technocentric approach that led to a ‘one size does not fit all’ response from health agencies of widely different types. A major lesson is that these developments have to be treated not just as technical developments but as sociotechnical developments, i.e. the organisational and technical changes have to be treated in parallel and as interdependent entities. The paper offers six principles for the implementation of new technology into organisations that may improve the chances of users being able to harness the potential of new technology.

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Eason K.D. How to fail when introducing electronic technologies into organisations. Proceedings of DESE 2016 (Developments in eSystems Engineering’, Liverpool September