Let’s not let the ABS off so lightly



Wow ABS what a disaster... Sorry I mean wow Australian Government.. let's add another feather to our bow of poorly managed IT projects. 

There have been a few posts floating around defending the ABS - which surprised me. I guess people are being balanced and polite.

One I read tonight likened the attacks, gibes and jeers of the Australian public to an attack on innovation and progress - an extension of our tall poppy syndrome... That we should not be so harsh because it would prevent people doing innovative things. 

What rubbish. 

This wasn't innovation - this was using a website to collect data. 

I would hazard a guess this disaster is the outcome of bad internal politics, mis-management and poor planning.

Ultimately it is a failure of leadership. 

I can even imagine the meetings where technical people in the know made warnings to people not in the know about risks or deficiencies only to be either ignored or overridden for a range of reasons. 

As Freelancer.com CEO Matt Barrie pointed out - it appears the ABS spent more on internal plants and greenery than they did on load testing. Whether that is true or not the chances are the focus was in the wrong place. 

I envisage an episode of Utopia playing out in all its glory.

"But IBM threw like an executive lunch and round table and assured us that everything would be fine - they wheeled out their Australian CEO!"...

The brief was really simple: on one day up to 16 million people were going to connect to a web server and provide some information. This needed to be secure and reliable. It would also possibly be a high profile target so preventing malicious intervention was a must. 

The likelihood is that a spike of activity would happen in a small space of time was almost guaranteed.

One might say very clear design parameters? By the way there was four years to plan and deliver the capability. 

Surprisingly the load experienced on the 9th of August is probably significantly less than what Netflix, Apple, Google or Amazon handle on any given moment.

One argument was that only certain providers could be used because of data protection and privacy laws restricting data to reside in Australia.

There are three major cloud providers who spring to mind that reside in Australia and provide the capability to handle this load. I think they would easily comply with security and privacy standards. 

With off the shelf capability it could have been designed in a scalable, on demand fashion to cope with the load. 

I know that a number of hard working technology professionals have carried the load and stress of the past 24 hours, stayed up all night to try and resolve problems. These individuals pride themselves on their skills and workmanship.

Those people should feel free to pat themselves on the back and should be celebrated because I suspect most of them probably aren't to directly blame.

The reality is that the disaster happened because the right people did not simply stop, think and not only seek the correct advice but also act on it properly.

People who actually needed to make smart decisions... Do we get the latest Single Origin for our coffee machine or do we engage some really smart people to ensure the single biggest thing we do in four years doesn't screw up royally. 

Hmmmmm single origin.

Anyway where was I? Oh yes - there are many industries and businesses that don't allow this scale of screw up to occur because they rely on great execution and smart thinking to survive in a global economy.

It also means their customers trust them. 

If Malcolm Turnbull is going to push the "Idea's Boom" - maybe the first cab off the rank is not allowing a Government to get basic technology implementations in the 21st century so wrong?

Images belong to their respective copyright holders - ABC Australia and BBC.