THE awful pictures from the catastrophic fire which destroyed the Grenfell Tower in West London provide a grim reminder of the need for joined-up and coordinated working. The 24-storeyed, 200-feet building presented a terrible sight, reminiscent of the 9/11 disaster in New York.
So far, 79 deaths have been confirmed. Quite remarkably for a building used for public housing in a densely populated city, and which contained 127 apartments and 227 bedrooms, with a capacity for housing 600 people, the confirmed casualty figures are surprisingly low. One can only imagine that those numbers may rise further.
The live pictures of the event, apparently caused by a faulty fridge-freezer, showed an alarming speed and intensity of the fire. The cladding recently applied during a multi-million dollar renovation of the building was soon suspect, and tests later showed a failure of its fire-retardation properties, causing similar buildings in the UK and Germany to be evacuated due to safety concerns.
A particularly sad observation from the live TV footage and other iconic photos showed that water sprayed by the fire department could barely reach the middle of the burning building. That building was doomed for many reasons, including:
*) Inability of fire-fighting equipment to control the fire;
*) Inattention to prior reports of near-miss fire events; and
*) Failure of the approval and safety processes for undertaking renovation.
Our own history of Castries fires, and the related risk from an attitude of working in silos without coordination, should prompt us into action. From an ICT perspective, it is not uncommon for different departments within the same organization to be doing similar activities but in an uncoordinated manner. Unfortunately, these gaps represent the fault lines where problems may occur. Worse, ICT-related projects have a historically high failure rate. How do we prevent such problems and failures?
Here are a few ways:
1) Ensure that decisions are taken by a multi-representative team with input from the beneficiaries;
2) Hold regular review meetings to identify and resolve any creeping problems;
3) Regularly review the end-to-end quality of the product;
4) Use a formalized (non-bureaucratic) change-management procedure;
5) Maintain a log of what went well, or not, for learning future lessons.
You may recognize these steps as part of a project-management approach. It is not rocket science and should allow greater control and visibility of the progress of your project, especially those experienced in ICT circles. Looking beyond our own small circle of responsibility provides us all with a greater degree of safety and security.
To share your views, contact the author at: www.datashore.net or via The VOICE.
About the Author
Dr.Lyndell St. Ville is an ICT Consultant based in Saint Lucia. His expertise includes systems analysis, design, and security strengthening.