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Software fiasco in Anne Arundel

When are we going to learn that government can't procure custom-designed software the same way it procures plumbing supplies or paving stones?

Reading of the suspension of Anne Arundel County's multimillion-dollar emergency dispatch system due to "software problems," I couldn't help but shake my head ("Anne Arundel suspends use of new emergency dispatch system," Dec. 23").

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This was yet another example of a government bureaucracy that stubbornly insists that it can procure custom-designed software the same way it procures plumbing supplies or concrete for paving.

Just charter a committee of "contracting officials" with insufficient knowledge or experience of either software development or the real-world requirements of the software.

Have them draw up reams of convoluted documents and throw them over the wall to a distant, possibly offshore software team with no connection or communication with the men and women who will be putting their lives (and the lives of the public) on the line when the software is used.

Then expect that somehow a system that meets everyone's needs will miraculously appear.

We have been making this mistake for 40 years. When are we going to learn that software is different from bricks and mortar?

Developing a workable system requires less paperwork and fewer middle-man contractors, and more direct, constant communication and feedback between the software team and the people who rely on it to perform the way it's supposed to.

Tzadik Vanderhoof, Baltimore

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