Standby for INCIS II… pfzzzt

Written By: - Date published: 7:32 am, July 7th, 2010 - 18 comments
Categories: accountability, culture, heritage, history, national, public services - Tags: , , ,

For some time now National has been quietly making plans to subsume Archives New Zealand and the National Library within the Department of Internal Affairs. That’s a dangerous plan for all sorts of constitutional and accountability reasons that can’t be justified by any imaginary, vague and as yet uncosted “synergies and efficiencies”. But let’s face it, Key’s government has never demonstrated much respect for the constitutional instruments of our democracy, and god knows this is one government that would stand to benefit from imperfect historical records of its time in power.

But if that doesn’t sound foolhardy enough, it turns out this grand utopian merger is based on the development of a new IT “super platform” to carry all the records of Archives NZ, the National Library and the Department of Internal Affairs. If the history of NZ’s Think Big projects, let alone IT Think Big projects, are anything to go by, we should be heading for a right royal mess. Not a mess that’s contained in just one government department, but a mess that stands to screw access to the records of DIA, National Library and Archives NZ all at once, possibly irreparably.

That is both a sad and dangerous thing for our history and democracy, especially when its an ideologically based decision wrapped in a very thin imaginary veneer of false economies of scale. The fact is that like the “Super City”, the new “IT Super Platform” for our national records and documentary taonga is of unknown and likely dubious benefit, while the likelihood and consequences of its failure are huge. This will be another mess National creates that will take decades to clean up afterwards, at enormous cost and enormous, avoidable loss.

Not only is it irresponsible and penny-wise pound-foolish naiveté, it’s also outright vandalism.

So, are there any MPs out there with enough foresight to appreciate the implications of this folly?

18 comments on “Standby for INCIS II… pfzzzt”

    • SHG 1.1


      I can’t wait for the news that IBM has won the contract for this disaster.

    • burt 1.2

      Who are the idiots lprent?

      The people who think they can run a significant govt IT project in an election year without interference and foul play for political point scoring or do you actually think there is a fault in what they are wanting to do ?

      • lprent 1.2.1

        Actually I was referring to trying to merge several different styles of data and process and expecting to get a IT synergy out of it. I’m assuming that they will be either writing the packages or modifying off-the-shelf.

        Anyone around the IT industry knows what that leads to – either a lowest common solution (designed by committee) or a dominant partner trying to stuff other data into a inappropriate model. In either case you can expect data loss and widespread dissatisfaction by the users. You can also expect interminable ‘discussions’ between people that really have no idea what the others ‘industry’ is. Bad enough getting analysts talking to customers. Really a pain in the arse when customers are trying to talk past each other.

        Merge the platforms by all means, but the software? Even at a cursory glance I can’t see a synergy….

        • Rex Widerstrom

          A 1 person “helpdesk” armed with a copy of “Databases for Dummies” perhaps? 😀

          • Bored

            The 1 person Helpdesk under contract from IBM and staffed out of India by Tech Mahindra at a whopping great margin perhaps??????

  1. Bored 2

    Idiots indeed, there is also a process underway from within Internal Affairs that seeks to control procurement of IT services and supplies to all government departments. The rationale as I understand it is that economies of scale apply etc etc…and vast amount of cash will be saved. Nice theory.

    The reality is that price will go up as the only people who get on the list of suppliers are those with the marketing and political clout (IBM, HP, Genii), who are well known as expensive options, and as INCIS proved not very safe options at that.

  2. Dave 3

    Hmm, have they updated the windows server 2008 licenses? It should work just fine then, on a fundamental level if you take into account the increased ‘synergies’ we should be able to catch Australia by 2025!!

    Sorry, just working on my johnberish haha

  3. burt 4

    The Sprout

    So INCIS was a failure ? Tell me more about this IT disaster…

    Do you know what you are talking about or did you just read the MSM reports of the time?

    • My Post 4.1

      INCIS was abandoned after ten years of work and more than $100m spending on it.

      I’d say that’s a failure.

      • Daveosaurus 4.1.1

        My recollection is that bits of the wreckage were cannibalised and used as part of the Land On Line system. Which itself was a complete dog for its first few years (and even now, anyone who relies on Land On Line data without going back to the original surveys and titles is a complete mug. Of course, there’s only two branch offices in the country now, so if you aren’t in Christchurch or Hamilton then you’re up a certain creek without a paddle).

    • burt 4.2

      “abandoned ” was it… Do you always believe everything you read in the papers or only the things that already fit your world view ?

  4. My Post 5

    Elements of INCIS remain but the project as whole was abandoned. Written off. There was a ministerial enquiry into it. It is widely regarded as an ambitious failure.

    I get none of this from “papers” or the MSM.

    • burt 5.1

      Remain… today… 11 years after it was abandoned… wow what a failure…. How long are most successful IT projects around for ?

      • the sprout 5.1.1

        sure parts remain burt :lol:, but it never achieved intended purpose and when you look at the functionality per dollar it was a colossal waste of money.
        a resounding failure on multiple counts.

  5. INCIS was an embarrassment to IBM but they were subjected to continually changing requirements and the resulting system, while useful, only does 1/2 what was promised.

    Integration of disparate systems with decades of customisations and bug fixes has to be a huge project, timeframes of several years and slow migration is the safest way to do it. Private companies (banks, airlines) see no reason to upgrade from their 30, 40 year old tech when it is functioning perfectly well, so there better be a compelling reason for this grand DIA merger.

    Note that National has canned the igov initiative (or GLS or whatever it was called), an integrated authentication for online services across gov departments. Maybe this is its spiritual successor?

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