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Software supplier woes


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One of my workplaces uses two separate Electronic Healthcare Records (EHR) systems (basically big databases).  The EHR suppliers are called TPP and EMIS. Both are rubbish, with TPP's SystmOne software in particular keeping Windows 3.1-levels of performance alive in the 21st century. The market seems to be too difficult for anyone else to break into so I don't expect improvements anytime soon.

Just to see whether there was any hope on the horizon, I had a read of EMIS's annual report.  It says 45% of employees are dedicated to software and product development.  Only 45% of a software co’s employees do software and product development?  Is this normal?

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Probably a lot of the software development/upgrading is done offshore to save money. The business analysts and project managers who control it all are probably here. Then you have the systems admins and testing teams - again they may be overseas or possibly still home based. So 45% doesnt seem so bad.

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My experience is that software just doesn't work any more. Not enough competent programmers working in the field, and those who are no longer really care after two years of The Covid and all the 'woke' nonsense.

Even in the fields which have well-established software that works, you have lots of new developers who want to keep changing things to justify their jobs. Gotta move the menu items around or remove them or rename them just because.

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Not really sure, but even with that 45%, I don't think there will be many software developers.

 

I work in I.T., the work place pyramid seems do be inverted, with the largest layers being something to do with management, and the smallest layers being software development or something genuinely technical.

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On 30/03/2022 at 14:44, reddog said:

Not really sure, but even with that 45%, I don't think there will be many software developers.

 

I work in I.T., the work place pyramid seems do be inverted, with the largest layers being something to do with management, and the smallest layers being software development or something genuinely technical.

Maybe it's lots of sales people, since they "bring in the business".  I was wondering whether there was some correlation between number / percentage of developers and quality of product, but perhaps it's not that simple.

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 29/03/2022 at 01:48, MarkG said:

My experience is that software just doesn't work any more. Not enough competent programmers working in the field, and those who are no longer really care after two years of The Covid and all the 'woke' nonsense.

Even in the fields which have well-established software that works, you have lots of new developers who want to keep changing things to justify their jobs. Gotta move the menu items around or remove them or rename them just because.

 

I think a lot of the problem is also the distributed nature of systems today, coupled with virtualisation and noisy neighbour issues - and of course genuine bad code.

Essentially the business logic sits on one system, the database on another and everything is presented via web services from another machine/cluster - to a bunch clients sat remotely over rubbish domestic internet.

Even the servers are connected via wet string, i.e. crappy networks, particularly when sat in a cloud service requiring multiple hops between racks or even datacentres. Of course the whole network thing won't work without decent DNS and other protocols - and often enough these fail in their own right or due to hacks.

Really any business relying solely on cloud could be heading for disaster, as there is a lot of evidence of corner cutting and cost saving by the big cloud vendors now. They keep trying to squeeze that extra ounce of margin and in doing so eventually end up delivering a P&O grade service. I think cloud has now reached that tipping point. It is all well and good architecting apps for high availability, but that is no good if you are sat on creaky infrastructure or if everyone else's failover kicks in all at once.

 

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Yes. Over the last twenty years or so there's been a massive increase in the demand for software as companies want to shove computers into what were previously entirely hard-wired or manual tech, and a decrease in the number of competent people who want to work in the field.

Plus the number of bugs is generally a function of the programming language and number of lines of code, so as software gets larger and larger the number of bugs keeps rising. Combine them with bugs in compilers, operating systems and hardware, and it's a surprise that anything still works.

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^Quality in living people is slowly declining/stagnating, while the quality of computer hardware and most software is going through the roof too rapidly (with moribund megacorps and governments are cutting corners).

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Complexity...works fine when you have surplus energy and capital to throw at the hard problems, in more constrained times you can't even maintain what you already have let alone add additional layers on top.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

See 'The Collapse of Complex Societies' by Joseph Tainter. He was already writing an academic book about this in the eighties.

Societies grow more complex until the cost of adding more complexity is greater than the benefits.

Then they collapse because there's nothing else they can do.

Back more on the original topic, I wasted a few hours at work this week because Microsoft reported that my work cellphone was jailbroken and I started getting emails about it. Then the next day the Microsoft app decided that actually it wasn't jailbroken after all.

Complete garbage forced on us by the same people who think it's a good idea to log us out from work websites after ten minutes of inactivity so we're constantly wasting time logging in again and hunting for our phones so we can find the secret authentication code to type each time we log in.

Edited by MarkG
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On 28/05/2022 at 04:05, MarkG said:

See 'The Collapse of Complex Societies' by Joseph Tainter. He was already writing an academic book about this in the eighties.

Societies grow more complex until the cost of adding more complexity is greater than the benefits.

Then they collapse because there's nothing else they can do.

Back more on the original topic, I wasted a few hours at work this week because Microsoft reported that my work cellphone was jailbroken and I started getting emails about it. Then the next day the Microsoft app decided that actually it wasn't jailbroken after all.

Complete garbage forced on us by the same people who think it's a good idea to log us out from work websites after ten minutes of inactivity so we're constantly wasting time logging in again and hunting for our phones so we can find the secret authentication code to type each time we log in.

I see you posted a few times about (poor) software experiences and yes it has got worse again I think.  I'm not sure why but there's an decrease of thinking about the user experience and what the product is ultimately for etc, and an increase in tools and processes that make it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Another issue I see when working with new programmers is that while my generation grew up programming their Sinclair and BBC micros after school for fun, most of the new guys did little to no programming before they took whatever degree they took. They just don't know how things work the way we do.

With reference to my previous post here, this morning the Microsoft software told me my passcode didn't meet the company requirements, because it had to be at least four characters (it's six) and at least one number (it's all numbers). Turns out what it really meant was that it wanted me to change the passcode.

And, of course, it happened when I was trying to get into a teleconference with customers in Europe.

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On 29/05/2022 at 12:02, nightowl said:

I see you posted a few times about (poor) software experiences and yes it has got worse again I think.  I'm not sure why but there's an decrease of thinking about the user experience and what the product is ultimately for etc, and an increase in tools and processes that make it.

Yes, to be honest a lot of systems were faster to use and more productive back in the days of Green Screens/VT320 type terminals into a VAX , IBM Mainframe or Unix. A lot was just types into fixed fields and then tabbed between fields.

Whilst these were all legacy when I started University/work, if you could do the keyboard shortcuts they were really quick.

Today a lot of systems run over crappy web browsers, over congested networks and users get continuously interrupted by tools like Slack, Teams and also Social media.

I'd say productivity has gone down rather than being improved in most cases.

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There are very interesting employment tribunals, reviews on Glassdoor, and posts on reddit that might give you some insight into TPP.

The EHR systems you describe are essentially duopolies in the NHS AFAIK. 

I think when software grows to such a size (either in terms of records/users/complexity) a lot of development becomes reactionary as the software is hopelessly complex (not procedurally but on an a systems level).

I think there might be a shakeup in this area... Oxford hospitals are integrating some amount of records with Apple HealthKit (e.g. prescription information) so this will necessitate improvement to EHRs. AFAIK companies like TPP are more focussed on selling their products to emerging markets at the moment, rather than NHS. Why improve core product when you can earn more elsewhere?

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On 12/06/2022 at 19:26, Notting Hell said:

The EHR systems you describe are essentially duopolies in the NHS AFAIK. 

I think when software grows to such a size (either in terms of records/users/complexity) a lot of development becomes reactionary as the software is hopelessly complex (not procedurally but on an a systems level).

I think there might be a shakeup in this area... Oxford hospitals are integrating some amount of records with Apple HealthKit (e.g. prescription information) so this will necessitate improvement to EHRs. AFAIK companies like TPP are more focussed on selling their products to emerging markets at the moment, rather than NHS. Why improve core product when you can earn more elsewhere?

I'm trying to find out more about this:

https://uhsdigital.co.uk

I've recently made a very, very simple database for some research data with PostgresSQL.  Obviously a whole electronic healthcare record is much more complicated, but learning a bit about databases has shown me a bit more about how rubbish SystmOne and EMIS are.

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On 11/06/2022 at 18:29, Mikhail Liebenstein said:

Yes, to be honest a lot of systems were faster to use and more productive back in the days of Green Screens/VT320 type terminals into a VAX , IBM Mainframe or Unix. A lot was just types into fixed fields and then tabbed between fields.

Whilst these were all legacy when I started University/work, if you could do the keyboard shortcuts they were really quick.

Today a lot of systems run over crappy web browsers, over congested networks and users get continuously interrupted by tools like Slack, Teams and also Social media.

I'd say productivity has gone down rather than being improved in most cases.

True.

But don't get me started on where is the folder "my documents" theses days. 🙄

Using onedrive, Msteams, SharePoint and different versions of windows, my documents vs documents and settings vs my images etc means just saving and opening things is nothing is where you thought it was😔. It's all an incoherent mess these days.

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2 hours ago, nightowl said:

True.

But don't get me started on where is the folder "my documents" theses days. 🙄

Using onedrive, Msteams, SharePoint and different versions of windows, my documents vs documents and settings vs my images etc means just saving and opening things is nothing is where you thought it was😔. It's all an incoherent mess these days.

 

Agree 100%.
 

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21 hours ago, nightowl said:

True.

But don't get me started on where is the folder "my documents" theses days. 🙄

Using onedrive, Msteams, SharePoint and different versions of windows, my documents vs documents and settings vs my images etc means just saving and opening things is nothing is where you thought it was😔. It's all an incoherent mess these days.

Maybe so, but at least we get large amounts of free backup storage. Used to cost a fair bit to buy storage devices a while ago.

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