Novopay 'failure' reduced risk hopes

Software specialist Prof Stephen MacDonell hopes the ''failure'' of the Novopay school payroll system will reduce the risk of similar problems being repeated.

Prof MacDonell is a University of Otago graduate who recently returned from Auckland to Dunedin to become professor of information science at the Otago School of Business.

''We've got to get better at doing this,'' he said recently. Prof MacDonell has already undertaken some research on Novopay with former colleagues at AUT University in Auckland.

The internet-based payroll system for New Zealand schools was implemented in August last year by Australian human resources firm Talent2, after seven years' planning and development.

Thousands of teachers later received the wrong pay, and there were often lengthy delays in resolving problems.

Prof MacDonell is building an Otago research group, which aims to better understand how to turn ''challenged software systems projects'' into successes.

And he has already discussed the widespread problems with Novopay with his Otago information and communications students this year.

''We are looking to reduce the likelihood of these sorts of problems,'' Prof MacDonell said.

The wave of Novopay payroll mistakes had also led to a ''significant emotional impact'' on affected school staff.

This was not essentially ''a failure of technology'' but reflected much wider problems involving people and management, with several other parties, and not just Talent2, involved.

Such new systems were ''highly complicated undertakings'' and the ''fairly big-bang approach'' which had been adopted in introducing Novopay throughout the country had been likely to lead to problems, Prof MacDonell said.

But this move had been made in response to time pressures and other factors.

Certain principles of ''better process'' were clear, particularly that of trialling any new system on a smaller scale, such as in one locality, before going nationwide, he said.

- john.gibb@odt.co.nz

 

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