Case studies

Case Study: Driver and Vehicle Licensing

Centralisation of licence records


Quote from Parliamentary Accounts Committee report:

Chairman "Does the estimate of 347 million... still hold good?"

Sir Idwal Pugh "Yes, 350 million"

(PAC, 1975)

Case study: Liberal Party Nova Scotia

Spring 1992, the Canadian political party held a convention. Any delegate could vote from home using a touch-tone telephone.

Maritime Tel & Tel persuaded the convention organisers that a paper-based backup ballot was unnecessary.

The system turned out to be too slow to handle the volume of calls, so a great many votes were not recorded. Voting was suspended, resumed and the deadline extended - twice.

A week later they tried again. This time they made Maritime post a $350,000 performance bond. They also made available paper ballots - but they weren't needed.

(Wiener, 1993)

Case study: Stock Exchange "Big Bang"

On 27 October 1986, the Stock Exchange Automated Quotation system was launched in a blaze of publicity in the so-called "Big Bang".

Developed at a cost of 80m, it was the centrepiece of the new structure for London's Stock Exchange.

At 8:29 am the display sub-system broke down and SEAQ was suspended for over an hour. Breakdowns and suspensions continued intermittently throughout the week and into the next month.

This very public blunder was caused by a misunderstanding of the volume of use (100% increase the first day), partly from users logging on out of curiosity, partly from users repeatedly calling up the same stock value while waiting for the price to change. They also misunderstood the timing, as dealers want to get their prices on the system in the mornings.

(Willcocks & Mason, 1987)

Case study: Financial futures (LIFFE)

London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange

The 2m City system had to be switched off on its first day due to "unacceptable performance levels".

The market was particularly active, with traders doing twice the normal volume of business.

(Green-Armytage, 1996)

Post script: In 1998 the replacement system went live. During the live launch by a senior cabinet minister, the screen behind him gradually turned red as prices dropped across the board. Apart from this minor embarrassment, the new system worked smoothly.

Case study: Wessex RHA RISP

The Regional Information Systems Plan aimed to link every hospital ward, GP surgery and district nurse in Dorset, Wiltshire, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

An IBM employee on secondment recommended buying an IBM mainframe for 3.3m. It lay unused in its original packaging for 18 months, by which time it was worth 2.3m. Interest for this period was 580k.

By the time it was installed it was worth only 750k.

(Collins, 1992; Beynon-Davies, 1995)

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