Though he doesn’t claim to have studied every facet of the London traffic congestion scheme, Richard Heeks, senior lecturer in IS at the University of Manchester, has seen a number of British public-sector IT projects gone wrong. Heeks, editor of Reinventing Government in the Information Age: International Practice in IT-Enabled Public Sector Reform, notes that the London traffic project’s managers were guided by three principles: a narrowly focused goal, getting vendor partnerships right and testing.
“The partnership between Capita and Transport for London has clearly worked well, and worked in a way that hasn’t in other big government IT projects,” Heeks says.
Compared to some other government IT projects—modernizing the Royal Mail or reinventing the U.K. Passport Service, to name two—the London traffic project “is a pretty simple and relatively focused project with very clear objectives. In contrast, many of those failing government projects have involved human elements, and they have had unclear objectives,” he says.
Lastly, an emphasis on testing was crucial. “They really, really tried it out before the go-live date. They had thought about what could go wrong, tested it and sorted out any issues beforehand,” says Heeks.