Editorial: Education Ministry gets low grades for IT

WARWICK RASMUSSEN - DEPUTY EDITOR
Last updated 12:00 19/10/2012

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OPINION: People generally don't like change, but many teachers who have fallen victim to a new, flawed payroll system at least deserve their change to add up to their correct pay.

In August, the Education Ministry unveiled its new payroll system, Novopay.

It soon became apparent that the system, which cost almost $30 million to install, had its problems. Then the nicknames "Novopain" and "Novovirus" followed.

The ministry has been at pains to point out the high success rate of the new system.

Correct payments were made to employees more than 95 per cent of the time.

But this isn't dealing with numbers on a spreadsheet. This is dealing with people's lives. They have power bills to pay, mortgages to service and mouths to feed.

The new system, as efficient and hi-tech as it may be, is failing thousands of people each pay cycle.

Two months in and people are still being highly over or underpaid. It's a huge headache for schools, particularly smaller ones, where administration staff and principals have to make amends for the ministry's blunders.

Implementing new computerised systems that haven't been field tested before they're unleashed is endemic; not just within Government departments, but across the board in private and public organisations.

The emphasis is often on how efficient and precise and cost-effective new systems are. Areas like usability and accuracy are now ironed out after the product has been installed or released.

In the past, that kind of testing was all done beforehand.

Now, there is so much pressure to have the best and newest that sometimes the practical applications can fall by the wayside.

More than 2300 people are on the new Novopay system in Manawatu and even this week there were errors.

In a week where computer systems at the Social Development Ministry were in the limelight for all the wrong reasons after a glaring security breach, the Education Ministry needs to improve its game.

It seems the days of underage drinkers at bars may be a thing of the past, now that some watering holes have decided to take a large technological leap. Scanning technology at the door allows staff to upload photo and identification data from drivers' licences and passports, so they know who's coming in and how many people are in. It may weed out the fake IDs and under-agers, but is it a leap too far when it comes to privacy?

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- Manawatu Standard

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