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As technical issues can be life-changing, where next for test data management?

  • 18/08/2011
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  • Posted by EuroSTAR

Read any statement made by an organisation after a blunder has occurred and it is easy to marvel at the judicious use of bland phrasing.

In ‘crisis management’, the first flurry of activity is almost invariably designed to buy time. Behind the scenes, cue frantic accusations, investigations and counter-accusations. Perhaps there isn’t a management phrase that approximates ‘arse-covering’ but let’s go with a ‘full and thorough investigation’, and no one, be it management or otherwise, wants to be still running around the chairs when the music stops.

Are we too unforgiving? Would it not be easier to accept that no organisation can run complex operations flawlessly? Perhaps we should, yet instead, we expect more, not less from the companies we buy from and the agencies there to protect our interests. In part that might be because we all believe in the great redeemer – technology. Yet technology-based improvements inevitably bring a host of issues and the systems designed to improve customer service and business processes do falter.

Earlier this year Fuad Mohammed raised concerns that his 2-year-old daughter Shakila, who has a rare eye condition, encountered delays in treatment, as an online booking system failed to load her details. Barts said that there were ‘technical issues’ with the system and that the incident was being investigated.

One glitch and one health care provider perhaps, but with this month’s announcement that the NHS is abandoning its centralised computer systems (despite a spend of £11.4bn) comes a new set of challenges as local health trusts and hospitals will be expected to develop individual systems.

The problems that beset the NHS centralised computer system were manifold but one issue that kept emerging was the failure to consult with those using systems on a daily basis. Design of any ambitious project aimed at improvement has to involve those working at the ‘coal-face’, but frequently there is a missing link. Listening is essential to any project and it is simply not true that people don’t like change, they just don’t like stupid change.

With a full review of how existing systems are used, the chances are that a test data management strategy will have a thorough grounding and be a central component in delivering systems less likely to suffer from ‘technical issues’. Issues that can harm the interests or well-being of those it set out to help.

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