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Some free advice for Mr Fixit

Written By: - Date published: 7:15 pm, January 28th, 2013 - 52 comments
Categories: business, Steven Joyce - Tags: , , ,

Steven Joyce, as one of the few apparently competent Nats, is called by some “Mr Fixit”. He’s about to severely tarnish that reputation by making the wrong decision about Novopay:

Joyce: Novopay likely to stay

Teachers and school staff look likely to be stuck with the problem-prone payroll system Novopay.

The minister tasked with fixing the mess, Steven Joyce, has today revealed he is leaning toward keeping the system.

My advice to Mr Joyce is to seek advice from independent programmers / software engineers before making a final decision (not politicians, not managers, not the company concerned – talk to independent working programmers).

Fixing software is not like fixing other things. You can’t shout at it, you can’t motivate it, fixes are hard, and adding resource often makes it worse not better.

I don’t know anything about the details of Novopay, but I do know this, from the outside it has all the hallmarks of a fatally flawed software project that needs to be scrapped. From the outside my advice would be – start over.

52 comments on “Some free advice for Mr Fixit”

  1. PlanetOrphan 1

    From an outsider perspective…

    The problem lies in the Front End data formats not allowing the schools to perform their weekly payroll requirements, and back end kludges to make up for the lost data resulting in loss of granularity.

    Theortically fixable by someone who has the ability in about 2 weeks, maybe a month to catch up.

    Start from scratch implies going back to the “Analysis” stage which would mean 2-3 months before anything could be done, only asnwer to that is Datacom takes the reigns again and they try next year.

  2. Dv 2

    What has been happening for the last 2 mths?

    • PlanetOrphan 2.1

      Exaclty, people covering their arses and making statements like “The front end is solid M8!”

      Kludges have a way of walking away from you at the best of times, let alone first time implementation etc …

  3. bad12 3

    Joyce is the ‘black hole in space’ of New Zealand politics, whatever he touches simply disappears from public view, He possesses an innate ability to ‘smother’ stuff which is why He is the Minister of everything,

    He,(Joyce) isn’t there for His ability to fix whatever the hell is wrong with No-No-Pay, He is there to make all the right noises in front of the media to indicate that He is doing something about the problem…

    • mike 3.1

      Yep, he’s not called Mr Fixit because he fixes things, but because he’s good at making nice soothing noises about things that are broken.

      • bad12 3.1.1

        Years ago Bill Birch had the same ability, Bill could make the most disastrous of scandals sound so bland and innocent that after listening to Him talk for a mere 60 seconds a hole in ones memory was formed and a state of sleepiness engendered…

        • emergency mike 3.1.1.1

          Jesus I’d purged him from my memory. He’d made a hole for himself in my head. I had to use google images to recall what his face looked like. I don’t recommend it.

      • mike e vipe e 3.1.2

        he’s good at bullying the media and public into submission !
        They don’t want to fix no va pay its a good mechanism to bully the teachers union!
        It was originally supposed to be trailed but because it was so far past its deadline it was rolled out nationally by National!
        Steven Joyce the smarmy shit is trying to blame labour 4 years later!

      • tracey 3.1.3

        ++1

  4. Pete 4

    I have to say I wouldn’t be all that confident if the IRD rolls out the new system they’ve been after for years if this is the way the Nats manage a project.

  5. infused 5

    It would be much easier fixing it than starting again. It would be a massive cost and massive delay.

  6. Dv 6

    B12
    Nope, they fact that the pay cycle rolls around every 2 weeks means it will not disappear.

    Some of the fixes have caused more problems.

    • bad12 6.1

      Ah but ‘Mr Fixit’ being the media czar knows exactly which palms to grease so that the media lose interest in the story,

      Like Steven Joyce cares about other problems??? fat toad probably thinks it’s great that the teachers pay is causing a continual state of confusion among the ranks…

  7. dumrse 7

    Lets not forget who got us into this mess in the first instance.

    • Tony P 7.1

      If by that comment you are implying Labour is to blame then technically yes as they started the process…..2 months before they lost the election.
      This current govt have had 4 years to get it right before rolling it out. The testing before roll out was not conclusive and showed lots of errors yet this current administration signed off on it. So the blame can be laid at the feet of this current administration and to some extent the MOE.

    • tracey 7.2

      but it was national who decided to roll it out before it was actually ready…

  8. BM 8

    Nothing worse than making judgement calls when you’re on the outside looking in.

    • bad12 8.1

      Really, Steven Joyce had plenty to say on the TV tonight even if He was only visiting a school to talk to a Principal to see if He could find out what was going on,

      I agree with you tho that Joyce isn’t the sharpest knife in the draw and gives one hell of an impression of being as you say a complete fool…

    • mike e vipe e 8.2

      ironic bland monetarist!

  9. Tim 9

    “My advice to Mr Joyce is to seek advice from independent programmers / software engineers before making a final decision (not politicians, not managers, not the company concerned – talk to independent working programmers).”

    Don’t tell him that man!
    Leave the cnut to it!

    Anyone and everyone knows Nova is fundamentally flawed – another invention from those that sought to reinvent the wheel and do it better.

    I wish I could remember the names of those Otago Uni guys that did an analysis of IT projects a few years back – they were brilliant.
    But leave Joyce to it. At least there’ll be a bit of employment for a few.

    Nothing’s changed since IBIS (otherwise known as Abyss), or INCIS, or Planwise (fuck – now there was a gem if ever there was) – and now NovaPay.
    Oh – should we discuss the various Health system projects?
    Fuck me fast with a feather duster!
    I’m not sure why it is that various IT projects commissioned over the years are such abysmal failures but those Otago Uni guys had a damn good idea about why.

    Nah – let Joyce hang

    • r0b 9.1

      Don’t tell him that man!
      Leave the cnut to it!

      Yeah if it was just him, sure. But it’s the teachers and schools getting stuffed around with Novopay, and they don’t deserve it…

      • Tim 9.1.1

        +1 Agree totally r0b.
        Those stuffed around though will have recourse.

        It all became clear to mw though when I became aware of exactly WHO “Talent”2 was.
        It isn’t just bankers that are capable of the big Con!..

  10. Tiresias 10

    I don’t know why some bright spark decided that the previous Datacom system needed to be completely scrapped and replaced, but to me this has all the hallmarks of someone dim and gullible being taken in by a flash harry who’d done a once-over lightly and then turned up one day at their office with a few impressive slides in a PowerPoint and a promise that they could do a better job for half the price.

    It’s a utter mess for which in true public service fashion no-one will ever hold their hand up or take any blame, and who has probably already had another promotion just for having sat for two more years behind their desk.

    But starting again isn’t an option. There’s already a real danger that mispayments, both under and over, will never be picked up or corrected as every fortnightly cycle adds errors to errors all of which will need to be individually tracked down and corrected – hopefully correctly. And we’re talking thousands of these which even at a few minutes each means hundreds of hours time by people who know their way around a massive database and the software to access it – so you’re talking tens of thousands of dollars just to correct the errors so far, let alone put things right and get it running properly. The school at which my wife works, which is one of the smallest in the country with a staff of five, has ongoing payment errors for two of them which are developing a cascade effect, keeping track of which and trying to get Novapay to correct is now taking a substantial part of the part-time school secretary’s paid hours.

    Starting again, though, means keeping the present system going for months while you build a new system and database from scratch, which means all those errors are still being made and multiplying and will need to be corrected at some point. With absolutely no guarantee the new system will work any better.

    This is a case where – like the poor buggers on the Somme – the only option is to start from where you are and do whatever it takes to win through.

    What sticks in my craw, though, is that the incompetents who drove this thing are happily hiding behind politicians who can’t admit to a monumental cock-up because it would paint them too.

    Mind you, was it Grant Robertson I heard on the radio tonight saying that the only thing wrong with National’s Novapay disaster was that they didn’t have a “Plan B”? What’s he suggesting? Oh yes, it’s going to take a few million dollars to try to get Novapay right, but we’d better start spending a few more million building another, separate system just in case.

    • Ed 10.1

      Surely Plan B should have been to retain the Datacom system available – perhaps even running the two side by side for a period. That would not have invovled the huge expenditure you are talking bout.

      I have heard a rumour that the Novapay system generally works well for full time teachers who don’t move schools or go on maternity leave etc. It goes wrong with staff who are not able to be paid based on a daily rate. If that is true, surely they could have used the Datacom system for all relievers, temporary staff, etc once the problem was identified – but perhaps they weren’t monitoring where it went wrong .. . .

      It all comes back to not having adequate testing . . .

      • CV - Real Labour 10.1.1

        And hopeless irresponsible decision making and leadership once it became clear the problem was significant nad widespread.

        • higherstandard 10.1.1.1

          I think what you’ll find once it has finally collapsed is the following.

          1. Flawed tender and tender process
          2. Outright lies by the winning bidder
          3. Poor trialling and hopeless and irresponsible decision making and leadership in progressing beyond testing phase.
          4. Hopeless and irresponsible decision making and leadership since that time.

          It is exactly the same litany of stupidity and failure we’ve seen before with INCIS, IBIS etc etc.

          I wonder if there were any significant penalty clauses in the contract with Talent2 – I suspect not although you’d think that with all the crown law people knocking about that could sue the parent company into insolvency.

          The government should have run a mile when they found out talent2 was the old Morgan and Banks people rebranded who were among the biggest ever bullshit artists in the HR arena.

          • CV - Real Labour 10.1.1.1.1

            +1 looks like you’ve seen similar projects as I have. Deja vu yet again.

          • Tim 10.1.1.1.2

            Agree. What I meant above though was WHY TF we KEEP repeating the same mistakes. Absolutely agree with 1,2,3 & 4 above. Perhaps there’s an overall “5” too: mates and the insularity of the IT sector – and even a “6”: Non-technical people trying to make technical decisions and changing the rules midway thru’ the game.

            • McFlock 10.1.1.1.2.1

              I reckon to some degree it’s a case of “you never hear about the successes to the same degree”, but there’s also the possibility that some projects are poisoned by committees for everything, rather than “one person with the job of managing it”. Second-guessing requirements, failing to make the decision to delay implementation based on shite testing results, that’s where you need one person in charge whose job objectives are A)make sure the project is successful and B)get money back off an incompetent contractor, with interest.

  11. burt 11

    talk to independent working programmers

    Yeah, because programmers have no vested interest in having the system dumped so they can all work on a new one !!!!!

  12. Afewknowthetruth 12

    National haven’t fixed anything whilst in office. All they have done is apply Sellotape and rubber bands. Mr Fixit is a misnomer.

  13. burt 13

    Perhaps if teachers had individual contracts with their school they wouldn’t need 1,000 different allowances to compensate them for the things they actually do that are not covered in the one size fits all collective that makes life easy for the union.

    • Tiresias 13.1

      So we fix a system that can’t cope with “the one size fits all collective that makes life easy for the union” by getting it to cope with every teacher having an individualised contract?

      Lordy! You’re not the guy who put together the ‘we can do it better for less” presentation that sold NovaPay to the Ministry, are you? If you are it would explain much.

      Of course your apparent belief that everyone in the education system is on the same basic scale is utterly wrong. In addition to full-time teachers, who generally are, you probably have as many part-time teachers, relief teachers, teacher’s aides, secretaries, handimen, groundsmen, cleaners, librarians, even IT staff in some of the biggest schools, all of whom are on individual contracts and paid through NovaPay.

      • burt 13.1.1

        by getting it to cope with every teacher having an individualised contract?

        Yes it works for all sorts of professionals – It would be interesting to count how many contract IT consultants, policy analysts, project managers, maintenance workers and cleaning staff are working throughout all of government and compare their remuneration stuff up’s to the Teachers.

        I wonder what complicated remuneration systems all these places have in place to process the one invoice a month these people normally submit.

    • mike e vipe e 13.2

      burt you are one dumb mf how many pay rates would their be then!

      • burt 13.2.1

        How many pay rates…

        Each Teachers has one – is that too complicated to comprehend. They already each have an IRD number and need to be separately accounted for… a rate.. hourly/daily/weekly/monthly … That’s not rocket science.

        Hey mike e vipe e, you’re not thinking that this NovaPay ting only needs to pay everyone teh same are you? You do know they all get an individual pay calculation of some sort eh? A personal leave balance, sick leave balance, tax paid balance – tat sort of thing ?

        Once a year, they negotiate a rate, then they get paid it … It’s not that tricky …. Lots of places do it – really they do….

        • McFlock 13.2.1.1

          Right up until a teacher has two part time roles at the same school, or gets higher duties allowance for filling for the hod, or has different jobs at different schools, or a pay rise through the year, or changes roles, or anything else that isn’t on your or Novopay’s employment slide rule.

          • burt 13.2.1.1.1

            Imagine it… A teacher might need to send more than 1 invoice per month… Oh the hardship…
            They might need to negotiate a different rate if they change rolls – oh that’s just ridiculous….

            No much better if they are all on the same rate and we have 1,000 different allowances that they may get, sometimes get etc….

            Get over it – the one size fits none – that is why the system is so complicated and why it’s failing to manage the insane complications caused only by the flawed concept that a collective (with 1,000 exceptions) works better than individual pay negotiations…..

    • millsy 13.3

      Probably the end game in the Novopay crisis.

      Make the payroll system implementation so disastorous, that the government has an excuse to bring back bulk funding.

      • burt 13.3.1

        I hope so, it’s hard to retain good teachers when their pay is constrained by the outdated notion that they are all the same and it’s not fair to recognise them as professional individuals.

  14. Peter 14

    Indeed. It would not surprise me in the least if it emerged that there were senior National party connections to Talent2, that would be revealed if they got dumped and the system returned to Datacom.

    • Tazireviper 14.1

      Not sure that would eventuate as Labour instigated the initial RFP and acceptance, in good faith

      • tracey 14.1.1

        I dont think novopay would have objected to waiting until it was actually ready to roll out… would have been less messy

  15. tracey 15

    I think it’s great that all it takes is a chat with one principal and Joyce knows exactly what’s needed….

  16. Elizabeth Bourchier Real Labour 16

    All systems are a good as the people around them. I suspect there is a people and team problem that has not been addressed properly.
    I also suspect that Joyce has the skills to sort out the people part. Parata would have made them worse.?

  17. Scintilla 17

    You can tell novopay was the cheap option simply by comparing payslips. The old datacom ones had much more detail – such things as the exact dates and hours worked – important to keep track of when you’re a reliever, because they vary week to week. A fortnightly payslip no longer states what day and what hours were worked that day, it simply presents total hours worked calculated to a weird formula that does not equate with actual hours worked. Confused? Yep, so am I and it’s only a great school pay clerk who’s right onto the problems and a supportive school that has seen me through. Also, one must check that the actual amount on yr payslip is the same going into the bank – they get this wrong too.

    Because of their calculation formulas not equating with days/dates it is also impossible to see whether they have paid allowances correctly. A fortnight is a long time in school – there is so much happening that yesterday’s errors quickly get smothered by the avalanche of things to do. Every reliever in the country will be having fortnightly sessions with the pay clerk to ensure they are paid correctly. Mistakes with my pay go back to October 2012 and still aren’t fixed.

    Oh, and if you’re lucky enough to have a permanent job and at the high end of the pay scale, your school might be reluctant to make up the difference if you’ve been underpaid. Some schools are seriously in debt and others who fancy going charter or just want to change their school culture see a chance to pressure teachers out of a job.

    • PlanetOrphan 17.1

      My point at the top of the post exaclty.
      They should be entering hours worked against the role worked in.
      Simple to describe, but no hours worked on the Front End will always means some bullshit calc on the server to estimate the real hours.

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