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President's update: October 2019

Sharks, gators and IT projects: an official apology

Sharks, gators and IT projects: an official apology

There is a film poster doing the rounds at the moment, “Crawl” I think it’s called, that shows a very scary alligator about to devour one of the cast, although one suspects she might escape but plenty of others will become reptile fodder.

The strapline is “Crawl will do for alligators what Jaws did for sharks”. I think a better comparison will not be with the Spielberg classic, but with the dire sequels. Who remembers Jaws 4? Michael Caine does as he was in it. When asked for his views on the critically panned film, he replied: “I have never seen it, but by all accounts it’s terrible, but I have seen the house that it built and that’s terrific”.

So your starter for ten, what do the following have in common? Crawl, Jaws and my last blog to you?

Struggling? Let me help. They will all come and bite you.

This is what I said earlier this year about our major IT overall: "Just a few weeks ago after a long period of preparation we launched a long-overdue major upgrade of our website. In the digital age that we live in, we all know that these changes can have a catastrophic impact. Just ask Paul Pester – the ex CEO of TSB: ”So far so good, but if only I had shut up then and there." Unfortunately, I continued. “Touch wood and initiate any other superstition, it’s gone reasonably well, and most of our members are reporting improvements”.

Well, that was true enough over the first few weeks, when I wrote the blog, but sadly it turned out that Mystic Meg I am not because soon after the curse of IT struck, and it all went pear-shaped.

It turned out that first, the capability we were expecting, especially in the front-facing customer relations bit of the package (and I apologise, it’s impossible to write about IT without slipping into jargon and cliché). What that means in plain English is that we suddenly got shut out of our accounting system - which made it very difficult to run the business at all. And the “front-facing” bits of the website turned out also to be a bit of a dog’s breakfast.

The Section pages seemed to disappear from the website. It took ages to get a response to anything submitted via the website because it seemed to be held in a waiting room that would make getting access to CAMHS* services seem speedy. We know also that members were unable to access e-journal learning resources for far too long. And what was supposed to be a new ”customer-friendly“ way of sending e-mails and communication would only be customer friendly by the standards of Ryanair. And yes, some of our Sections felt they were also cast into outer darkness for a time.

We are sorting it out. I promise. It means spending more money – so when our accounts finally become visible, there will be less in the coffers than we thought. And we have yet more catching up to do with the sections and programmes. It would be good in the meantime if we could cut the poor old education team some slack over this – promise you it’s not their fault. Don’t shoot the pianist, as it used to say in the Wild West saloons, they are only doing their best.

So it’s on the mend. But, a bit like my shoulder, which I managed to shatter into multiple pieces on the ski slope, and provided scans that are basically pure orthopaedic porn, it’s taking longer to heal than we expected. Our new team, and more of that anon, is definitely on the case, and the green shoots of recovery are now visible.

So please take this as us saying sorry to the membership – it’s been difficult for everyone. And I apologise personally for challenging the Gods of IT Projects by believing we had them beat. I think the Greeks called it hubris.


*For those who don’t know, CAMHS are Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, and are I am afraid associated with dreadful waiting lists, but before NHS-E starts to shout at me, yes, I know it’s improving, much like our website is improving.

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