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Talentless Too, No Pay

Entry 1467, on 2012-11-24 at 21:54:30 (Rating 4, Politics)

About a month ago, in a blog entry titled "Make PowerPoint Illegal", I discussed IT disasters, specifically what I referred to as the "Ministry of Social Development public computer kiosk security fiasco" and the "Ministry of Education payroll disaster".

Since then the payroll disaster has just carried on getting worse and worse. There haven't necessarily been more errors - although it's possible there have been more but the facts aren't totally clear - it's more that many errors don't get fixed even though there are assurances they have been, and new types of errors keep appearing.

The company which created the Novopay "system" is called Talent2. The title of this blog entry represents most people's real thoughts on this company and their products: Talentless Too, No Pay. I also considered "Novopray" because by this time many teachers are probably offering prayers that they will be paid.

The ministry and Talent2 say the problems are being fixed and the vast majority of teachers are now being paid properly. I doubt it. According to principals' representatives 90% of schools and still reporting errors and I suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg. For example my wife, who is a teacher, can't get reliable payslips. At various times they come through blank, or with a couple of random lines, or with half the required details. We can't tell if they're right or wrong but we've never officially complained about it so we wouldn't be counted in the stats.

I'm sure many people would blame the ministry for the problems because that's just so easy, but I think the company, Talent2, is primarily to blame. They are the ones who were supposed to have created this system. They are the (alleged) professionals. They are one ones being paid over $100 million to create and maintain the system.

And despite their assurances their payroll systems in other organisations really aren't that great. My friend Fred reports that a Talent2 system is also used in the organisation he works for and it's a bit of a joke. He does admit that it usually gets the pay right but many features were never implemented and the ones that do work look like the user-interface was designed by a programmer from the 1970s. It really is that primitive.

No one is saying that producing a payroll on this scale is easy but Talent2 supposedly specialise in this sort of work, they have 150 people on the team, they have charged tens of millions for the work, and they have spent at least 2 extra years working on it. Plus they paid another company (presumably equally incompetent and corrupt) almost a million dollars to test the system. What did we get of that money? What did that other company do for a million dollars? Absolutely nothing as far as I can see. The whole thing must be close to being fraud.

I think a lot of the problem is caused by the distorted view people have of big "professional" corporations. They think that because those corporations have fancy office buildings and their staff always wear expensive suits that they are true professionals. Well they may look professional on the surface but the quality of their products and services don't seem to be great value for money in my opinion. And when you consider that some New Zealand companies were also part of the tender process you really have to wonder why these clowns got the work.

Hopefully the system will eventually work but I suspect a major debacle is looming for the Christmas payroll. Just the time when teachers really don't want "no pay" from a system created by a "talentless" company!

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Comment 1 (3390) by Anonymous on 2012-12-06 at 16:25:45:

Maybe you think that creating a payroll of this complexity is easy?

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Comment 2 (3392) by OJB on 2012-12-07 at 09:47:17:

As a programmer (and one who has written a small payroll system in the past) I completely understand that this is a difficult task. But something costing $100 million should have been resourced sufficiently to make sure it worked.

It's really difficult to see why a system like that couldn't have been done really well for about a tenth the price (20 programmers and other specialists at 200,000 each for 2 years). The way I see it is that the current outcome is just the result of standard corporate greed and incompetence.

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