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From our Swindon Correspondent:

Not quite literally, but metaphorically, this is where you’d be after this as a project manager if you had this level of cockup in the private sector.

From the Daily Mail

The new coronavirus tracing app was hit by another fiasco last night after it blocked tens of thousands of users from logging their test results.

The app asks users to input a special pin code when they receive their results. But humiliatingly for the Government, only those tested privately for Covid actually received the code.

Those tested by the NHS did not get one – and, consequently, have been unable to register their results.

This sort of thing is what I do for a living. I’m classed as a software developer, so I build code, but quite a lot of my job, quite a lot of everyone’s job in software team is this sort of thing. Someone proposes a solution: “they’ll unlock with a pin code” and people say “um, and what about the NHS tests? We don’t have a pin code for those” and everyone looks vacant and goes quiet and then it’s like “well, we’ll probably need to change that process, then” and we add that to the project. Then when it’s all built, we do some tests to make sure there’s no holes. Which isn’t entirely the case as there’s always a few, but we at least fix the big ones.
Now bear in mind, all that stuff about the solution is before we even write a line of code, and all that stuff about testing is before we go live. And there’s often things that get missed and have to be fixed, but they tend to be obscure cases. No-one notices.
So what the fucking fuck have the cockwombles on this project been doing for months? Apple and Google did most of the heavy lifting for you. And Singapore and Gibraltar wrote apps and posted the code on Github that was free to use. You just had to take it, re-skin it, and add this one small feature and test it all. And this included two data sources for results, one of which is the people you are working for. The NHS has an army of bureaucrats and they missed that the tests from their own people didn’t work? Who’s in charge of this at whatever level? Who signed off on the testing?
However, it has emerged that only ‘Pillar 2’ tests – those carried out by commercial testing centres – provide the relevant codes.
I mean… this is some Thick of It level parody, isn’t it? This is like the problem screaming up to your face with blues and twos on. Did no-one think “wait, Pillar 2? Pillar 2? Where’s Pillar 1?” How utterly clueless were these people to miss that?
Last night, Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said of the latest glitch: ‘This beggars belief.’
And you can va te faire foutre too. Your party burned £12bn on a computer system that delivered nothing. You’re all as useless at dealing with civil service incompetence as each other. The odds that Labour wouldn’t have also colossally fucked this up close to zero.

After a flood of complaints yesterday, the Department of Health and Social Care said it was ‘urgently’ trying to fix the problem. Hours later it promised that ‘everyone who receives a positive test result can log their result on the app’ by requesting a code from NHS Test and Trace.

Which probably means a human being in an office typing the same result into the Serco system, because you don’t get the NHS building software in hours. Burn some more of our money, why don’t you?

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dodgy geezer
dodgy geezer
1 year ago

“The NHS has an army of bureaucrats and they missed that the tests from their own people didn’t work? Who’s in charge of this at whatever level? Who signed off on the testing?”…………………. A LONG time ago (in computing terms) the UK Treasury decided that they would need to consider how to introduce this new mania for ‘computing’ into the bureaucract that was the Civil Service. They developed an internal consultancy unit which eventually became the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency – whose job was to develop methods of managing, and provide support for, all Government IT projects. CCTA was… Read more »

Arthur Dent
Arthur Dent
1 year ago

The other problem with the app is that once you have signed into a location with the QR code it assumes you remain there until midnight or you log into a different location.

Bloke on M4
Bloke on M4
1 year ago
Reply to  Arthur Dent

Jesus H Tapdancing Christ. How many false positives is that going to produce, then? Why didn’t someone simply put some sort of background check every 30 minutes to get a GPS location and if you’re 500m away, remove it?

1 year ago

Shades of ObamaCare. Big IT projects are tricky and if you do a great job the glitches, as noted above, are minimal and easily manageable. Bureaucracies are not going to this right. They’ll spend more time on making sure they’ve focused on diversity & inclusion than getting it right. Our lead engineer doesn’t know his stuff, but he’s bi-trans-black, so well done us!

Bloke on M4
Bloke on M4
1 year ago
Reply to  Esteban

“Big IT projects are tricky and if you do a great job the glitches, as noted above, are minimal and easily manageable.”

They can be complicated, yes, but banks, retailers, phone companies manage this stuff very well. The NHS has more than enough resources to do a proper job.

And it isn’t about the engineers, generally. It’s about the management. The politicians and the civil servants who define the scope and analyse the problem and what is to be built.

1 year ago
Reply to  Bloke on M4

The politicians and the civil servants who fail to define the scope, can’t be arsed to analyse the problem and don’t have enough between the ears to understand what needs to be built.


1 year ago
Reply to  Matt

I do remember, in my former incarnation as a bureaucrat, asking at a conference about introducing a new payments system, ‘What if they don’t pay?’ I was told, ‘But you just send them a letter and they give you the money.’

I didn’t have a clue about the politics of it, but it came right from the top. It sorted itself out after a year or so.

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