3 August 2011

IT Fit for purpose - fit for nothing more like

Mr Mustard has a long memory readers and takes longhand notes and records the meetings he goes to.

The Barnet Eye has just brought out of the woodwork some hideous documents about the state of the Information Systems ( often abbreviated to IS or IT ). Well done Roger; you really hit gold with your FOI. When Mr Mustard started his blog he thought he might struggle to write one blog a week. Now he finds himself writing them at 2am as there is so much to highlight.

Mr Mustard recalls being at the General Functions Committee meeting of 30 June 2011 where Cllr Susette Palmer gave a good rubbishing to One Barnet and the IT systems of Barnet Council. Cllr Palmer is easily outvoted on that committee but she still likes to challenge things that are simply not right, as a good councillor should, even if the inevitable outcome is defeat.

So Cllr Palmer said "The IT systems are outmoded, outdated & rubbish, most of them"

Cllr Thomas thought he had best duck that particular question as it was rather awkward and so he passed it to Tommy Craig Cooper, the £132,480 per year Director for Commercial Services who has the misfortune to be responsible for Information Systems. Craig Cooper said, leaving out his usual ums and errs, "The IT service is not seen to be outdated. It is fit for purpose in its current ......" Mr Mustard cannot make out the last word as Cllr Palmer cannot contain herself and simply says "Windows 95". Discussion seems to have ended at that point.

Now let us look at what the LBB Information Systems "Action Plan" of April 2011 said. Please bear in mind that most of the corrective actions had time frames of months with the longest being 2 years so most of the problems in that report would still have existed on 30 June 2011. Mr Mustard has only blogged some of the action points as readers can only take so much pain but even so this blog is quite long. The full action plan, in all its gory, is listed in Pages to the right.

Mr Mustard has added his comments in red as usual.

Subject : IT Infrastructure

Issue ( real meaning = problem )

The lack of an Infrastructure Manager has left the service with no direction and poor management of the 2e2 managed services contract. ( Where did the infrastructure manager go to ? )

2e2 contract was put in place to transfer the operational management and risk of core infrastructure to a private provider. 2e2 no longer feel responsible for this and have passed
all risks back to the council, on the basis that all equipment has reached EOL. ( 2e2 are still taking their fee though ? EOL = End of life )

The Data Centre and Comms Rooms are at significant risk as the A\C is not working correctly, the sprinkler system has been turned off due to a water leak and cables are at risk of being eaten into by Rats. ( Air conditioning is essential to the well being of computers; sprinkler systems are essential to stop fires and rats like it warm and dry - perfect. Don't worry though, the rats will soon be gone as the ship is sinking )

102 Calls open in 2e2 queue
118 Calls open in Barnet Infrastructure queue


The council is heavily reliant on its IT infrastructure and without dedicated management the council runs the risk of significant technology failures. ( The backbone of the council's information systems is not properly managed )

A lot of equipment has reached EOL and will become unsupportable by vendors. (Did no-one notice that Amstrad in the corner of the room that controls everything?)

Where this supports front line services we run the risk of these services not being delivered.

The reactive nature of the way in which IT infrastructure investment is made will result in the council spending more on IT infrastructure than it need to.(Don't panic Captain Mannering)

2e2 will pass all risk back onto the council and not deliver to their contractual arrangements. (but will still claim their fee)

Unless we get on top of the call volumes, the service will never improve. (The service will never improve)


Appoint an interim Infrastructure Manager into the vacant role ASAP. ( Did anyone see him go ? )

Secure funding to develop and deliver a programme of works to stabilise the Data Centre environment. ( Where will this money come from ? )

Consider Agilisys ‘Infrastructure review’ consulting option at £23K, to identify £1M saving over 5 years. ( Agilisys - the answer to all our prayers - not; what spend just £23,000 and save £1,000,000 - someone snatch their hand off )

Consider Agilisys ‘Email and AV review’ consulting option at £4K to deliver £150K worth of savings over 5 years. ( what spend £4,000 and save £150,000; why couldn't we think of that? )

Improve the relationship with 2e2 ( how? )

Desktops Services & Support


A number of Tablet Laptops are coming to the EOL and becoming inefficient and slow creating user frustration. ( but they were the newest fabbest laptops when purchased 10 minutes ago )

As kit comes to the EOL there will be no maintenance on desktop\tablet equipment. ( surprise )

Tablets are very expensive and not used to their maximum potential.( why didn't you listen to Mr Reasonable ? )

Because user departments have historically purchased their own IT kit they are not returning it to IS when staff leave. ( now that is odd. Mr Mustard has asked about kit not being returned and as 462 managers dish it out no-one knows how much has not been returned )

One member of staff is on a 3 day informal Team Leader assignment to the service desk, and this role is not backfilled. ( is this a surprise ? )

Library's support currently resides in the strategy team.

651 Calls open in NLBP desktop support queue.
130 calls open in remote sites support queue


1/3 of the organisation has a problem with their desktop equipment which is impacting on the delivery of council services. This percentage will increase unless action is taken. ( A third; over 1000 staff! )

A change in desktop standards may affect mobility as staff with older machines will not be able to use new docking stations. ( yet more advance planning )

Unnecessary kit being purchased, because Directorates are not returning IT equipment when staff leave. ( Why bother when nothing happens )

Increased desktop volumes will lead to an overcharge in any outsourcing arrangement. ( No surprise there then )

Unless we get on top of the call volumes, the service will never improve. ( The service will never improve )

Library's IT support remains isolated and different levels of support will lead to dis‐satisfied customers


Directors Group to endorse a return of equipment to the IS department when staff leave. ( No-one takes any notice of me; get a Director to tell them )

Ring fence some of £1M budget for desktop refresh and look at changing the standard tablets to laptops on a floor by floor basis to ensure mobility remains ( Another million up the swanny )

Applications Support


Two Team Managers supporting SAP and other business applications, creating confusion in the business and the team around who is responsible for what. ( Which idiot manager organised this? )

Staff and Team Leaders involved in a huge amount of projects with the business not none of them really know what there ( their there ! ) role is on any of these projects. ( Mr Mustard thinks the writer was going to put "none" and then decided to put "not one" and ended up with "not none" and no-one proofread the report. )

406 calls open in SAP and Business Systems queue
47 calls open in EDRM queue
27 calls open in Logica queue


Lack of ownership of the Logica Contract. ( Logica own it )

Confusion in roles leads to poor service delivery ( self inflicted )

Inefficient use of resources. ( management failure )

Unless we get on top of the call volumes, the service will never improve. ( The service will never improve )


Look to restructure into a Single Structure. ( who decided to have two in the first place ? )

Structure Team Manager roles in a manner where by one is focused on operational support with the second focusing on development and Business Partnering. ( easy peasy )

Restructure call logging and create a short term hit team to close down all old calls. ( just close them all and they will go away anyway )

Develop a service catalogue for all business applications. ( no idea )

SAP Optimisation


Team have been working on SAP optimisation, but neither of the managers are clear on who is the Business Owner for SAP, the sponsor for SAP Optimisation or the Project Manager. No structured project documentation exists for this programme. ( as suspected no-one has any idea about One Barnet nor is there even a fag packet about it )


No business owner for SAP means our council’s core business application has no strategic direction. This will lead to the need for expensive on‐going consultancy advise and a lack of benefits being realised from the application. ( The whole council has no strategic direction; there is on-going expensive consultancy advice and there are no benefits )

Without an identified Programme\Project Manager there is a lack of understanding in the requirements from IT on the project, which subsequently can lead to project failure. ( failure, absolutely )


Identify Corporate Business Owner for application. ( rather late, what ? )

Identify Project Sponsor and Project Manager. ( ditto )

Get detailed understanding of the role of IS in this project. ( take your time )

Get a plan for completion. ( another plan )

Information and Data Management 


Numerous Reports highlight weaknesses in information and data management and IT security.

Business Continuity is virtually non‐existent ( obviously )

Open Corporate Internet Access allows staff to send information out from the council via personal e‐email accounts, which cannot be traced. ( thank you Mr Mole )

When staff access the corporate network through their personal home computers via Citrix they have the ability to download corporate information. ( Citrix have lots of products so this means nothing )

A historic 'T' drive which was originally set‐up as a transit area is now being used by the organisation to share data. Sensitive data now resides in an open area. ( point Mr Mustard to the T drive now please )


Information is leaked through weaknesses and ICO impose a fine on the council for not taking all possible steps to prevent loss. ( and deservedly so; the ICO have already had one grovelling apology from Mr Walkley )

Information can be downloaded to personal home computers via Citrix leaving the council fully exposed to data falling into the wrong hands. ( please send it to mrmustard @zoho.com )

Unable to track source of information leak. Total loss of the computer room will bring the council to a halt in areas where it is reliant on customer information held on systems in the Data Centre. ( i.e. most of them )


Agree funding and appoint a temporary Information\DR consultant. ( oh no, another interim manager )

Develop an action plan to address immediate weaknesses and reduce risk. ( oh no. another action plan )

Create a Security\Information Management Incident queue and process. ( that will have a lot of entries )

De‐commission ‘T’ drive ( shut the stable door )

Consider using an existing board or creating a new board to agree and sign off IM policys. ( do you mean policies ? )

Develop a short and long term DR strategy. ( we don't have any policy at all )

It is likely that full DR might only be achieved post outsourcing, as the costs and time frame for a project to build or lease a new data centre will be significant and will most likely need to be written off. ( the costs of good compliance are money down the drain so lets try and avoid them )

One Barnet


No one in the IS team believe they are the lead for the service specification in IT and as such, nothing has started. ( I never agreed to carry the can )

None of the Managers have the breath of knowledge across the whole of IT to develop a specification and the sheer volume of calls in the team questions whether any capacity exists. ( I am paid a packet but I know nothing )


Specification will be poor and not reflect the needs of council. ( someone tell Cllr Rams )

Time frames will be compromised. ( There is always next year )


Send all line managers and staff who will be involved in the development of the spec on training. ( Train them and then make then redundant )

Ensure staff are clear about their role on the project, expectations and time frames. ( What are their job descriptions for ? )

Project Management


No formal Project Management in IS exists. ( why not ? )

The lack of project management means that no one is aware of their role and responsibility on any project. ( please, One Barnet is not new )

Staff in IT deliver projects as a secondary function, resulting in a lack of understanding by the business on who the IT lead is on their business project. ( One Barnet focus is lacking )

Staff themselves are not aware that they are the assigned PM for some projects and do not follow any methodology to manage delivery. ( PM = Project manager - what me ? )

No one in the team believes they are the IT lead for the health service moving into NLBP. A number of staff have attending meetings but none know of what there role is in relation to the project. ( their role ! what did the meetings achieve ? )


No sponsorship and no recognised project manager or sponsor will result in project failure ( hello failure )

Projects poorly scoped and resourced will not deliver business benefit or value. ( outsourcing will be crap )

Costs will overrun due to the above. ( outsourcing will cost money not save it )

Time frames will be compromised. ( late again ? )


Agree funding source and appoint an Interim Programme Office Manager to portfolio manage existing projects and implement a method of process and control into the delivery of new projects. ( oh no, another interim manager )

Create a culture where dedicated project management is essential for project delivery and funded into project costs. ( culture, what culture? )

Look into whether the Corporate Programme Office can manage the initiation of new business systems projects up to the point where the business case is signed off. ( not a chance )

IT Business Office


Lack of understating of what contracts exist in IT, their content, when they started and when they expire.( Mr Mustard thinks you meant udnerstanding not understating; no-one proof read this document )

Lack of understanding and management of software licensing and asset management. ( How many licences have we purchased; enough or too many ? )

IT Procurement ineffective. 123 calls open demonstrates the number of people who have requested something or are waiting for something to be installed. ( 123 lash ups )


Contracts not renewed in time, leading to loss of service and unacceptable time frames and cost for resolution from failures.( expired contracts are the norm in One Barnet )

Budgets overspend as renewal times not known and planned for. ( Money poured constantly down the drain )

Ineffective procurement as new orders are not cross checked with available assets. ( Procurement ineffective; that is an overstatement )


Restructure Strategic IS team and create a Business IT Office. ( how has Barnet limped along for so long without one ? )

Take up Agilisys’s finance and contract proposal to take out £1.2M over 5 years for £64K ( is this the same offer as taking out £1m over 5 years for £23k ? )

Take up Agilisys’s licence’s and asset consulting option to take out £650K for £22K ( why not just give Agilisys all of Mr Mustard's money and save trillions? No apostrophe in licence's, for goodness sake )

Business Relationship Management


Business is detached from IT and has little confidence in services provided. ( IT is evidently rubbish )

Directorates purchase their own IT systems without engagement or approval from the IS department. ( well just stop them )

No Business Relationship management exists within the IS function. ( with whom ? )

No Corporate KPI’s set or reported. ( KPI = Key Performance Indicator so just do what you like )

No service reporting or trend analysis carried out in the team. ( Trend analysis - at the bottom and staying there )

No IT strategy. ( get the smelling salts - who would have guessed )

No forward planning and budgets not fully understood. ( sack the entire department )

Business unaware how to engage with IT. ( what has the Internal Communications Manager been doing ? )


IT systems bought directly by the business will fall out of scope of the specification currently being developed. ( we do not know what systems we have )

Any systems found during the commercial negotiations could slow down the procurement process. ( Of course )

Any systems that are missed will be subject to expensive change control post contract. ( Much will be missed even if LBB manage to list all systems )

Business unaware of the strategic direction of the IT service. ( What has the Internal Communications Manager been doing - Mr Mustard thought that the job of the ICM was to impart this sort of knowledge )

Without structured KPI’s and SLA’s the team do not know what they are working to and the business do not understand the level of service to expect. ( KPI = Key Performance Indicator, SLA = Service Level Agreement: It will be impossible for service areas to get what they need if their needs are not understood and set out in an SLA )


Restructure strategic IS team and create a Business Relationship Management function. ( Oh no, more management and more people earning £100,000+ )

Create a strategic IT steering group from across the council which meets of a 6 weekly basis, providing a forum to discuss up and coming projects and understand key IT issues from across the business. ( A talking shop, that will fix the problem. Just talk about it until the problem, or we, go away )

Ensure IT Project Managers are business focused. ( Rather than on the 2.30 at Newmarket ? )

Introduce meaningful KPI’s and SLA’s and measure service. ( Meaningful - what other sort are there ? Measure service - a first in Barnet )



Through the report produced by Agilyis (sic) and an assessment of how the team is currently working, reported through the ‘Red Book’, it is clear that the IT structure is not fit for purpose. ( So Agilisys have been paid a packet to tell LBB how bad their systems are which they should already have known. What is the Red Book - Mr Mustard feels an FOI request coming on.  )

A strategy and commissioning team has been created, but no formal JD’s or secondments are in place and gaps have been left in the teams where staff have been pulled in from. ( So a team has been created but they don't know the rules of the game. JD = Job description and LBB have messed up other departments to do this! )

A number of staff have been promoted into roles without corresponding JDs or reward in salary. ( Promote me, pay me the same and don't tell me what my job is; then sack me for failure? )

Staff carrying out the same job with the same JD are on significantly different pay grades on the Service Desk. ( more poor management )


Strategy and Commissioning team does not operate effectively and informal arrangements limit the ability to set targets against JD’s and manage performance accordingly. ( MetPro highlighted the problems with informal arrangements. There is something rotten in the management of this team; save me an FOI someone - if you know what this sentence is about please comment at the bottom )

Without a clear definition for the team above and an effective process in place between strategy and BAU service , the IT service delivered to customers will be poor. ( BAU - not Business as usual. Unless a reader can tell me Mr Mustard will have to send his zillionth FOI request. )

Potential for ET claim around inequality. ( Looks like a good idea if you get the sack to issue an Employment Tribunal claim )


Appoint an SDM to manage transition between old service and new. ( SDM = Strategic Development Manager? Another One Barnet cost. Another £100,000 up the swanny. )

Move posts to substantive functions where appropriate. ( No idea )

Restructure the strategic team as far as possible to create roles in the PMO, BRM and Business Office as outlined in the Agilysis ( sic - again - 3rd variation of the name in one report; sloppy sloppy sloppy ) report. ( PMO = Project management Office?, BRM = Business Relationship Management, Business Office = what do they do ? What did this report cost? )

Consider Agilyis consulting proposal (£133K. 3 days per week for 12 months) to take out £3.3M over 5 years from staffing, through an IT structure transformation. ( So that is £221,000 a year to Agilisys to supposedly save £3.3m. The current Director in charge of IT should be sacked for letting over-staffing get this bad, and for ignoring so much obsolete equipment - that's you Mr Cooper

Mr Mustard had his hair cut yesterday as it had come to the end of its life. He remembered what Warren Buffet once said "I don't ask the barber if I need a haircut." In Barnet they ask Agilisys to prepare an expensive report on something and the solution is to hire consultants from Agilisys to fix the problems they find. Suckers. 

Mr Mustard never for one moment dreamt when he started his blog that he would have to read such a damning indictment of Barnet Council which he had assumed, until recently, was a fairly well run ship with a few minor problems, not the rusting hulk which is holed below the waterline and heading for the seabed. No matter how frantically the senior employees bail, not least Captain Tommy Craig Cooper, whose recent history as a management consultant does not suggest any great knowledge of computing, the ship is going down with all hands on deck.

Before you go Tommy Mr Craig Cooper, Mr Mustard thinks that you owe Councillor Susette Palmer a huge apology and a bunch of flowers would not go amiss as you told her two bloody great whoppers in one night. Behaviour unbecoming of an officer.

By the way Mrs Angry: you think you are inept at computing. Not true. Mr Mustard thinks that when compared to Barnet Council you are a genius.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


  1. Hmm. I'm thinking, then, that I should make one of those Big Society pledges to hold IT tutorials for Captain Cooper and his team.Might be necessary to incorporate a few lessons in literacy and numeracy too. Not to mention public sector administration: basic skills, beginners' level.

    What an utter shambles: apart from the Director yet again avoiding all responsibilities: what about the Cabinet member who is supposed to have oversight of this responsibility?

    Oh, and ahem: I think you'll find you stole my rats/sinking ship theme, Mr Mustard, you cheeky man. Although admittedly, it is the most obvious metaphor.

  2. I knew I'd seen a "sinking ship" cartoon somewhere... it's HERE.

  3. There is a rumour going around that ALL tablets will be replaced in the next 2/3 months as they are no longer fit for purpose.


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