Quarkside

27/12/2014

Digital Catapult Showcases Kemuri

Filed under: Innovation,Social Care,Technology — lenand @ 9:14 am
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The KemuriSense smart power socket was invented because it did not exist.  Older people living alone are not all the same, you would not expect this with 2.5 million over the the age of 75.  Some will refuse to wear telecare devices and most will not accept continuous video surveillance.

One is now on show in the Digital Catapult in 101 Euston Road. It has been honoured by the presence of at least three Government Ministers: Francis Maude, Vince Cable and Ed Vaizey.  Look at the Digital Catapult Showcase presentation.  It gives the rationale for passive predictive monitoring for reducing the risk of hypothermia, dehydration and immobility.  And it has a ten year vision for ubiquitous networked power sockets for offices, industry and smart homes.

KemuriSense Smart Power Socket

KemuriSense Smart Power Socket

13/07/2013

MLF supports open standards: Open Care EcoSystem?

Filed under: Innovation,Outcomes,Standards — lenand @ 7:29 am
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Martha Lane Fox understands the case for open standards; from her speech in the lords:

“I am not talking about expensive and costly top down nhs IT projects but instead about better use of data, open standards, more agile development and a more digitally minded culture in our healthcare sector….

 … the Department of Health (DH) believes that at least three million people with long term conditions and/or social care needs could benefit from the use of telehealth and telecare services. Implemented effectively as part of a whole system redesign of care, telehealth and telecare can alleviate pressure on long term NHS costs and improve people’s quality of life through better self-care in the home setting.

The NHS can potentially save so much money, they should consider giving financial support to organisations working on preventative care.  Here’s Quarkside’s idea.

Elderly people living independently could have their homes fitted with activity sensors and wear health monitors eg blood pressure.  Data is collected continuously, via the Internet, and analysed to create an individual’s unique, normal, behaviour pattern.  Deviation from normal patterns, displayed to family members or carers, alerts them of potential health problems and they can provide valuable data for GPs or hospitals.

Early medical intervention could improve outcomes for people with chronic conditions, eg diabetes, loss of cognition eg Alzheimer’s and recently discharged from hospitals.  Each could be worth £billions.

An ecosystem of open standards makes sense.  We need standards for::

  • Home activity sensors, eg smart meters
  • Health monitors, eg heart rate
  • Safety alarms, eg carbon monoxide levels
  • Time series data for all types of home and health monitors
  • Display of analytical information for individuals, families, carers and health professionals
  • Information governance of digital identities and data sharing

Standards like this, developed coherently in the public sector, would encourage innovative SMEs to enter the market and vastly improve health outcomes.  It could be a world leading industry, helping the UK economy.  This open ecosystem should be supported by multiple stakeholders.  It crosses the boundaries of Government departments of Business, Innovation & Skills, Health, Education, Communities & Local Government, Work & Pensions  and Local Authorities with responsibility for Social Care.

Any Government and Trust funding for the development of an Open Care EcoSystem will help the transformation from a reactive public health service to a preventative health culture in private citizens.

Is ten years too ambitious?

18/04/2011

Pan Government Arrogance

Filed under: Governance,Policy,Politics — lenand @ 7:42 am
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The Local Government Delivery Council (LGDC) was established in 2007 to support the Chair, in the role as one of two local government representatives on the Cabinet Office Delivery Council. The Delivery Council was the pan government body chaired by Sir David Varney, to drive the transformation of public services so these became, ‘better for the citizen, better for staff and cheaper for the tax payer’.

We now learn that the Cabinet Office’s Delivery Council has ceased and there is no longer a pan government body which includes local government representation. Fortunately, an independent LGDC has become the recognised and established body for central government agencies to engage with when they are working with or plan to work with councils to redesign services. They provide one of the few (perhaps the only?) forum where central government departments get to see what other government departments might be planning in relation to local government. Examples from recent meetings have had representatives from:

  • DfT – Blue Badge programme
  • Cabinet Office – Digital Britain, Id Assurance
  • DfE – Employee Authentication Services
  • BIS – UK Broadband programme, Post Office programme
  • DCLG – Central Local Digital Collaboration
  • DWP – Tell Us Once, Universal Credit
  • Home Office – Single Non-Emergency Number (101)

It is good that Local Government has the opportunity to provide feedback from the front-line about the realities of providing face to face services. A neat example is the assumption that broadband is ubiquitous and that claims for benefits could be ‘driven on-line’. It was pointed out that broadband is one of the luxuries that go when a household needs to claim benefits. Another example is a department representative having to apologise to irate Chief Executives about by-passing them in a survey of redundancy costs in a specific service.

The governance of central government projects needs much wider involvement of local government experts. They need to appreciate the diversity of requirements around the country and not assume that a token consultation with a couple of representatives is sufficient. Too much of the initial strategy and architectural work is done by World Class Enterprise Management Consultants; their experience of deprivation is as limited as the policy makers from Whitehall.

18/02/2011

Broadband bags half a billion. Market failure

Filed under: Assets,Education,Local Government,Standards — lenand @ 11:53 am
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DCMS have taken over from BIS, for delivery of “the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015”.  Or so were told the Local Government Delivery Council at a meeting in London recently.  They have a budget of £530 million to oil the market machinery.  It’s supposed to be new money – but in practice it is a TV licence fee top slice, which we are paying anyway.  More maudlin repeats are the true cost.

Apparently we are megabits behind Europe already, judging from comments from the audience reaction.

  • We are ten times the cost of some countries
  • Neither BT, nor anybody else in the market, is going to supply fibre to the home.   This is essential in some definitions of superfast”.
  • Fixed lines are not the only problem.  Local authorities need much broader reach of Wimax to deliver savings from the mobile work force.

The main publicity is about reaching the final third of the population without broadband, who are deemed to be non-profitable to the private sector suppliers.  Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) have been set up to catalyse the market and ‘de-risk’ final third.  BDUK are seek EU funding and hope to extract more from Local Government.  Market failure means public subsidy has to prop up uneconomic networks.  The carrot is the chance for local authorities to bid for some of the central funding.  But one wonders which services have to disappear to release the additional matched funding.

Fortunately, there are some opportunities for using existing public sector network services.  Is the final third more reachable by using police, health and schools network?  The answer is, YES.

The ‘best in Europe’?   Quarkside thinks, NO.  Just read Eurim’s learned “Making Broadband Investment Markets Work – Draft Paper” .

10/12/2010

SRPs avoid PM standards

As Quarked previously, the baseline (Draft) Structural Reform Plans (SRPs) for each Department are almost acceptable. There’s just about enough to begin a reasonable job of monitoring and control. There are actions with start dates and end dates. There are also milestones.

What is missing are definitions of what has to be delivered by an end-date. Quarkside believes that all public sector projects are expected to use Prince2 for project management. It is almost written in stone in Local Government. As everybody who has been trained knows, Prince2 “Focuses on products and their quality“.  In other words it is ‘Product based planning’.  A plan is only considered complete when it has described WHAT should be DELIVERED by a specific date, WHO should deliver it and the QUALITY criteria for acceptance.  All these points rely a documented and agreed Prince2 Product Description.

Number 10’s Implementation Unit have misunderstood the guidelines, or have chosen to avoid them. You can identify a product deliverable because it is (usually) a concrete noun in the Product Breakdown Structure. The SRPs use a verbal description of an action eg Home Office

  • 3.2.ii “Introduce English language requirements for spouses”.

Are these requirements a statute, a regulation or a ministerial memo to the Immigration and Nationality Directorate? Delivery implies the complete acceptance of a specific product. An alternative might be:

  • 3.2.ii “English Language regulations agreed by Parliament and applied in Border Control”

Quarkside is not making a political point or just being pedantic. The first definition has many options on what the end product might be; the second is more specific and would be linked to the Product Description.   In fact 3.2.ii in the Draft SRP does not give an end date, showing uncertainty.  Prince2, using Product Flow Diagrams, would enable an end-date to be calculated.

Action based planning must have its devotees.  Notably that’s the path followed by Microsoft Project out of the box.  MS Project, unsurprisingly, does not follow the UK standard but is easy to tailor for Prince2 methods.

Martha Lane Fox has called for the use of standards  Not only does it increases the interoperability project managers, it is the most effective way of controlling projects.   The good news is that it is not be a big problem to change the Draft SRPs and produce a Prince2 plan with a useful Product Breakdown Structure.  When this process is done it always uncovers things that had originally been considered.  It improves the Plan.

The current Plan is little more than a ToDo list.  That style is suitable for planning a foreign holiday for a group of thirteen people. It is not suitable for the far reaching political reforms of the coalition government. Prince2 is the Standard.  The No 10 Implementation Unit should have ensured that each of the thirteen Departments understood and used Prince2 for both the Plan and the control mechanisms.

It’s not too late to produce a final plan that follows the Prince2 Standard.  Then we can produce a transparent monitoring and control process.

09/12/2010

No 10: SRP shambolic progress

Filed under: Policy,Politics,Process,Risk — lenand @ 9:17 am
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The Prime Minister launched 13 draft Structural Reform Plans (SRPs) in June.  Departments set out their reform priorities and the actions they would have to take to achieve them, including a specified timetable and measurable milestones. Under the initiative each department had to produce a monthly progress report, holding the Secretary of State to account to the Prime Minister if they are not on track.  Quarkside has not studied all in detail, but the structure of the plans looks sound.  There is a consistent layout and it is easy to see what is expected.

However the monthly updates are shambolic.  Granted the layout is consistent but they do not conform to best practice in progress reports.  With the intention to increase transparency, they are more likely to obfuscate than clarify. Some examples to illustrate this career threatening statement may elucidate:

  • The reference numbers are not carried forward, it is difficult to know which deliverable a progress line refers to.  All good systems would refer to a Product Breakdown Structure (PBS) number for ease of reference.
  • Missed target lines are in red, but they don’t give any indication of the changed date or the action to be taken to recover the plan.  This is not control, it is an ineffective observation.
  • The status column only has a choice of complete, not complete, not started, work started, work ongoing. and still not complete.  This is primary school level planning, not the way to control a nation reform programme.
  • The reasons for failure to meet targets look more like excuses and not a lot of value.  They just lose credibility without plans to get the programme back on track.
  • There is no risk register to give any idea of the seriousness of any delays.  Every project needs a risk register – it looks like the product of amateurs, not professionals.

That’s the bad news. Looking at the Quarkside principles, the Process is bad, the Governance is pathetic and the Technology is antiquated.  Could we respectfully request that the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit takes some crash courses in effective Programme Management Office (PMO) processes.

The good news is that is all recoverable. Watch Quarkside for some answers in future blogs.

30/11/2010

Education Regression? Return to Victorian methods.

Filed under: Education,Innovation,Politics — lenand @ 7:34 am
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Two recent ‘innovations’ in education both seem rather regressive – at least in time.  Teach First and Tuition Fees.

Innovation 1

My grandmother was a Pupil Teacher in the time of Queen Victoria.  I suppose it was a form of apprenticeship for clever girls who acted as classroom assistants.  They learned on the job, studied at night school, and subsequently became qualified teachers.  At the time I doubt if there were any opportunities in higher education affordable to the majority of families.

What is the innovation a century later?  Clever adults with good motivation and qualifications teach first in classes without any teaching qualifications. They attend training courses and the objective is to become a qualified teacher, on the job.  There is a vast difference in how the programme operates – I am just comparing the principle.  People passing through the scheme will have done far more teaching practice than graduates following traditional Post Graduate Certificates of Education courses.

Innovation 2

My mother was also a clever child.  She obtained good A Levels in the late twenties.  She had the ability to go up to university for a three year degree with some of her classmates, but not the finances.  There were no grants or loans available for fees or living costs (this is hearsay for which I would need corroboration).   The family were able to scratch together enough for a two year teacher training course.  After 1945 it was possible for state grants to fund both tuition and maintenance at a university.  What a fantastic opportunity for academically gifted children!

The innovation (sick) is to turn the clock back to the depression of the thirties.  We are back into an era where wealth in the family is more important than natural ability.  Perhaps we will soon be asking school leavers to stay on and become pupil teachers.

Is it time to rethink of the higher educational policy of the country?  British education is well respected round the world and attract enormous numbers of well funded foreign students, but it risks disenfranchising too many poorer citizens.  It may be stretching a point as a Quarkside topic, but the governance of the UK’s education system may not achieve the outcomes intended.

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