Whitehall Still Runs on Access and Excel – No Wonder it is Failing

Yesterday I saw a consultancy job to migrate the governments major projects database from access to SQL server express (free) and to link it to another access based solution. You would think that if the government took project management and project controls seriously and employed qualified PMO staff it would run on P6 with an Oracle back end so that it had complete and live tracking of all project controls. Now going with a free solution if the database grew over 2GB it would simply fail to import new data. If you want a free solution go with Postgres with a Tableau dashboard.

The same thing seems to have happened with the governments Covid testing database. They were importing data from CSV to Excel and as Lachlan Anderson Frank on Twitter commented

Looks like someone was importing CSV files into Excel and didn’t realise that if they’re over 256k lines they’ll get clipped down to that in the import

Cummings is right that the Civil Service has weak project management skills. But his overall ideological dogmatism and unnecessary war on the civil service has blinded him to how to fix it. His unnecessary war on EU procurement riles doesn’t mean things getting done better and faster but sleasier and more costly and not done at all.

I found it very interesting that in the two places in the North of England with the lowest household formation and some of the highest unemployment were Barrow in Furness and West Cumbria, had many small business teaching P6 skills to locals. Acquiring PM certification was the best way out and much needed. All because of their association with Nuclear Submarines and Nuclear Power. If The government was serious about leveling up it would move the major project agency and civil service college to Whitehaven on the site proposed for a carbon spewing new coal mine and force all fast track civil servants (including local apprentices) to spend there first year retooling their skills blunted by useless PPE degrees to real world project management, agile, statistical quality and operational research skills. That would be leveling up.