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

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03/05/2012

Vaizey crazy about hazy rules

Filed under: Local Government,Policy — lenand @ 8:58 am
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Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, said he had two important jobs, Broadband roll-out and Wi-Fi in libraries. He is only satisfied with the first. He is disappointed with the second. The demand for library Wi-Fi is large and increasing, but fewer than 50% have achieved this. The CIPFA October 2011 survey indicates the scale of adoption at the time, although it is improving.

Wi-Fi in Libraries. Oct 2011

 

What is Ed doing about it?

He started by listening to the problems. For example, one London Borough was quoted £7000 for one library; another City Council had an internal quote of £18k for two libraries. Suppliers attending the meeting gasped with astonishment. They were hard pushed to justify more than £500 per library, putting Wifi into a chain of coffee shops might only cost £300 per location.

Why don’t you approach suppliers directly?” asked inquisitive Ed.

I would get the sack”, was the immediate response. “I was told there were security problems”, he added.

There’s two points to make:

  1. Users only require access to the Internet, not direct access to Council systems. They want a simple solutions that work in their own home, libraries or even Starbucks.
  2. Some local authority ICT strategies are outdated if they have not caught up with modern mobile technology. They should help libraries to respond to demand in the most cost effective way, not suggest gold plated portals that are guaranteed to be unaffordable.

Template procurement contracts are a possibility, but some have restricted use – such as the Courts service. The Public Sector Network (PSN) templates may be applicable – but this is only for a limited number of suppliers. Concession deals, like Westminster and Colchester, could also be considered in the wider context of town centre Wi-Fi.

Ed banged (metaphorically) on the table, and proceeded to diss local authorities for over-elaborate procedures. He demanded that suppliers, LAs and assorted ministries work together and “sort out a viable procurement model by the end of the year ”. We shall see.

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.

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