23 August 2006

The Web
Business Today

iSoft’s partners: no “believable” date for software release

Matthew Vella

With the decision over Mater Dei’s IT system ever more imminent, sections of the Maltese press have touted troubled UK software firm iSoft as the bidder whose “proven and tested systems” in the UK national health service “should carry a lot of weight”, ignoring the serious financial troubles the company is in.
In a taster for the impending decision on the Mater Dei system, an anonymous article entitled A Bidder’s View carried in last week’s The Sunday Times ignored iSoft’s worsening share price and the revelations of a report by its contractors that iSoft’s Lorenzo software may miss already delayed release dates.
iSoft is among the final two bidders for a EUR30 million Integrated Health Information System for Mater Dei hospital. The other bidder is the AME consortium, which includes Italian firm Inso SpA, the current supplier of medical equipment at Mater Dei.
Playing off iSoft’s dominant position within the UK’s multi-billion National Programme for IT (NPfIT), which will link up the UK’s hospitals to a database of 30 million patients, the Sunday Times report ignored revelations that Sheffield’s NHS trust had abandoned plans to implement iSoft’s patient administration system after delays hampered the installation of the software.
The system was due to go live in June this year.
But it is concerns about iSoft’s centrepiece for the NPfIT, the Lorenzo software, which has put the beleaguered company under the spotlight once again, after a confidential report by its main contractors – Accenture and Computer Services Corporation – revealed there was no “believable plan” for the release of Lorenzo.

iSoft’s annus horribilis started in January with a profit warning that announced its delivery of Lorenzo had to be rescheduled. A month later, Accenture and CSC produced their own review of Lorenzo’s fitness.
The confidential review, leaked to The Observer, claims that beyond a basic version of Lorenzo, which has been tailored for GPs, “there is no well defined scope and therefore no believable plan for releases”.
iSoft had previously claimed in its annual report that Lorenzo was already “on the market” and had been “available” from early 2004.
The review says that a release date for 2008 had to be “viewed as ‘indicative’ at best and are likely to be highly optimistic”. In fact, no Lorenzo system has yet been installed in the UK.
According to The Guardian, iSoft has been working on an interim version, a repackaging of older software.
But while iSoft had been hailing Lorenzo as having received acclaim from the industry, the Accenture-CSC review has taken a different view. Breaking down the project into 39 colour-coded parts, it labelled 13 ‘red’ – “requiring more work”. Only five were coded ‘green’, which meant there was no problem. The rest were coded ‘amber’, suggesting potential risks.
Of concern is the fact that clinical safety, for example, is identified as ‘red’. The review notes that iSoft’s director of clinical safety could not articulate the time frames for establishing a clinical safety team given the current financial climate within iSoft – confirming the company’s financial problems which have caused its share price to collapse.
The Observer said the review was also extremely critical of iSoft’s ability to build a system to meet the NHS’s needs: “programme planning... is based on unrealistic assumptions that drive unachievable plans that ultimately fail to deliver on time.”
So far 90 NHS trusts have already implemented older versions of the software in anticipation of upgrading to the new system, leading to concerns they may have wasted millions of pounds.



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