Clinical Informatics

Information System Failures and the NHS


  1. Introduction and Context of Information Systems Failure at large and in the NHS

  2. The Definition of Information System Failure

  3. The causes of Information System Failure

    1. Pre-implementation
    2. During Implementation
    3. Post-implementation

  4. Managing Individual and Organisational Change

  5. Conclusions

  6. References

The causes of Information System Failure During Implementation

Poor communications:

Good communication is essential (11) and often, it needs to be done via different media in order to ensure that it reaches all levels of the organisation.

It serves to communicate the vision of the project, as well as allowing feedback from staff on the progress and any unintended consequences that may have arisen as a result of the changes.

In addition, one must always remember that " action speaks louder than words". This means that the actions of the leadership and management must be consistent with the messages that they are espousing.

Lack of a powerful guiding coalition:

For successful change to occur, the leadership must include strong line-leadership who are committed to the success of the project. They must work together with other stakeholders in order to achieve lasting change (11). Full support and commitment of the top-leaders have been found to be an essential factor for success.

Lack of change management:

Project management is important to ensure that the project is adequately staffed, funded and coordinated. However, even more important is the management of change within the organisation (12).

Human nature prefers the status quo; so often, the response to change is either fight or flight. Neither would benefit the change process. Individuals who can motivate and inspire their peers and fellow workers are essential in this aspect (11, 17).

Lack of short-term wins:

As most Information Systems implementation takes many months if not years, there needs to be planned achievable short-term goals built into the process every 6 to 18 months.

These small "celebrations" allows the renewals of motivation among all staff and also serve to remind them that the final goal is achievable and is one step closer to fruition. This would also allow them to re-focus their efforts and attention on the project(11).

Designing short-term goals into the process naturally leads to an incremental implementation process overall, which is much more likely of success than prolonged "big-bang" approaches (13).


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Page Updated: 17 May, 2017

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