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Improving IT systems for the public sector January Papers have appeared in august journals excitedly setting out research agendas, promising new traction on old problems. In this talk, I will take a critical look at what may realistically be achieved, separating this from the hype and over-claiming, and examine some of the moral hazards that may lie ahead.

As well as tempering neuromania, I will make a positive but balanced case for NeuroIS, drawing on some of my own work, on stress and mental workload, which shows the utility of neurophysiological methods in both laboratory and field in the context of sociotechnical systems design.


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He began his academic career as a cognitive neuroscientist at Durham University carrying out his PhD on the relationships between brain activity and attentional processes. He continued his interests in cognitive and clinical neuroscience first at the Applied Psychology Unit Cambridge , investigating stress and technological innovation in collaboration with British Telecomm, and subsequently at Manchester Medical School.

Grand Successes and Failures in IT: Public and Private Sectors: IFIP WG - Google Libros

In my recently published book, Managers as Designers in the Public Services: Beyond Technomagic , I offer a different formulation of the primary role of the manager. Not a novel definition I grant, but equally, not one which most managers would spontaneously use to describe their practice. Rethinking the managerial role is important, not least because it enjoins a different relationship with technology.

They do not need to be technical specialists, but they do need to understand this potential and engage as designers.

Endless Bad Projects or Evidence-Based Practice? An Agenda for Action

In the book, I show through a series of cautionary tales how important it is that managers embrace the design role and the consequences of abdicating this responsibility. But the ICS is just one recent example in a long dismal litany of failed efforts at IT-based innovation in the public services. The root causes are always the same, of managers abdicating their responsibility for systems design.

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It is striking that the success factors are predominantly managerial prerogatives, not technical ones. There is general agreement that users must be engaged in the development of systems, and that strong leadership at the top of the organisation is required, as is effective project management based on clearly defined objectives aligned with strategic goals.


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Failed projects typically represent management failures, of flawed decision making and lack of engagement ; technology per se is seldom to blame. The definition is critical.


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  • Design is a collaborative process, inherently involving managers at all levels, and a common vocabulary and understanding of roles and responsibilities is critical if design work is to be done well. The need to build sustainable internal capacity for design within the organization is also emphazised. SPRINT has been used by Salford as its primary tool for service redesign and innovation over the last decade or so, and has been widely adopted further afield in the local government community.