Examining Computer Aided Despatch System Failure Information Technology Essay

1. Introduction

Many organizations in the world have their own project to be done. Sometimes project can be success but sometime it also can be failed. Many cause of project failure, such as late of delivering the project, over budget, wrong product, mismanagement of the stakeholder expectation, etc. LASCAD (London Ambulance Service Computer-Aided Despatch) is a London Ambulance Service which attempt to use the computer-aided system into their old system, but there are some failure happen inside the system which cause the flooded call on the LAS operator screen so that it generated many calls to ambulance had not been acknowledge, in the end 20-30 people may have died as the result of the late arriving of the ambulance. This is the example of the project failure.

2. Characterizing LASCAD Failure

London Ambulance Computer Aided Despatch System project is the most frequently quoted of the information system failure (P.Beynon-Davies, Information systems ‘failure’: the case of the London ambulance service’s computer aided despatch system, European Journal of Information Systems 4 (1995) 171-184.)

London Ambulance Service was attempting to put a new system called computer-aided dispatch which will help the ambulance service to provide many system functions, such as: call taking, resource identification, resource mobilization, resource management, and management information. (D. Page, P. Williams, D. Boyd, Report of the public inquiry into the London ambulance service, South West RHA, 1993.)

Paul Beynon-Davies study about LASCAD state that the new computerised system which is established at the HQ of the LAS seems to be failed. There is a result of losing 20-30 peoples lives because of the system failure. It is not only the system who affects the failure but, there are still many factors that cause the project to be failed. The other factors regarding LASCAD failure are the human activity with the system, the people who give support for the organisation, the stakeholder, the environment, and some issues. (Paul Beynon-Davies Study Case, Interacting with Computers)

“Information System can only really be understood and analysed in relation to the human activity system that is support” (P. Checkland, Systems Thinking, Systems Practice, Wiley, Chichester, 1987.)

Human activity is the most important part in the LASCAD, because in order to use the computer aided system, there must have the human interaction with the system. The computer aided system is program that use to help the London Ambulance Service in receiving message from the patient who need the ambulance. If the system did not fail, so that’s means that the human behind the system do some failure which cause the system to be failed as well. The system only did what it had been designed to do, but still design having a fatal flaws that lead into the system failure.(Paul Beynon-Davies Study Case, Interacting with Computers)

McDonnell Douglas as the supplier of the LASCAD project was under pressure in completing the system as his less experience on handling this system. The managing directors of a competing software house state that LAS management in june and july 1991 as a totally and fatally flawed. (Computing, LAS bosses ignored warnings, 5th Nov. 1992, p. 1.).

Stakeholder takes important part in the project. Stakeholder helps to give support for the project. But there are still lacks of opportunity that the stakeholder gave for the project, such as different opinion and perceptions between each stakeholder which will cause the project to be failed.

Paul Beynon-Davies study about the LASCAD state that some stakeholder groups may have a definite negative interest in the success of a given project. Apparently it is true that in LASCAD problem, there are different perspective between the LAS management and the HQ and the ambulance staff.

Many stakeholders group said that LASCAD failure is not a technical failure but it is categorized as an expectation failure. The reasons is when LASCAD was attempting to put a new system called Computer Aided Despatch, they re-constructed the system and the result, they have not lost any support from the stakeholders groups, so they intend to use the provisional budget of 13.5million, to deliver the CAS system for the LAS. Each stage was successfully reached the completion for the final result.

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Another issue concern about the LASCAD failure is where public said that there were many problems in the communication system such as; ambulance crew press the wrong button, or maybe the ambulance radio is in the black spots so that they cannot receive any message from the HQ. This cause increasing number of ambulance information that being recorded by the system. As the result, the system is being overloaded with the unimportant information.

As the message that come to the HQ is increasing, it slow down the system, because as the number of message increasing, the staffs are not able to respond to all of the message because it being replace with the new message, At the final, the increasing number of call which handles by the slow system and insufficient staff to handle all the problems, this will cause more delays for the patients. The company who supplying all the software that the LASCAD use will be reported as the inexperienced organisation in building the despatch system for the ambulance services.

Based on the Perrow’s concepts (C. Perrow, Normal Accidents: Living with High-risk Technologies, Basic Books, New York, 1984.) LASCAD failure is categorized into the normal accident which means the accidents that are particularly hard to be understood in detail because the failure that LASCAD have is also involve the failure in several parts of a system that are often linked in complex ways.

Paul Beynon-Davies study about LASCAD in his article about Interacting with Computers, give us a vision where Perrow’s concepts is acceptable. LASCAD failure is categorized as Correspondence failure, where we can see there is lack of correspondence between the objective and evaluation of the stakeholder, and interaction failure, where the interaction between the human with the system is not quiet well.

3. PMBOK Area

“The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) is a collection of processes and knowledge areas generally accepted as best practice within the project management discipline.” (Project Management Body of Knowledge, http://www.projectsmart.co.uk/pmbok.html, access on 22 April 2009)

As we have recognized the LASCAD failure, now we can know more detail on the failure of the LASCAD project by doing the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK).

Project Management Body of Knowledge consists of 9 knowledge area

Project Integration Management

“It is coordinating all of the other project management knowledge area through a project life

These processes include the project charter, project scope, management plan, directing and managing the project, monitoring and controlling the project, provide integrated change control, and closing the project.” (Kathy Schwalbe, Information Technology Project Management, fourth edition, page no 165)

LASCAD project was coordinated by many people, who involve to the project but there are also peoples who not directly related to the project but they also involve to the project. Project management is the person that coordinates the entire project, start from making the project charter, project scope, the management plan, directing and managing the project, and monitoring and controlling the project. Stakeholders are the example of the person who involve behind the project or the person who support the project to be work.

LASCAD project can be done with the failure in term of the Integration Management if the project manager cannot manage all the project charter, the project manager did not understand the scope of the project that being done, the project manager cannot manage all the planning for the project, project manager rarely have monitoring and controlling the project, and also the project manager did not know how to closing the project.

Project Scope Management

“The process which involved in defining and controlling which is involved and which is not involved in the project.” (Kathy Schwalbe, Information Technology Project Management, fourth edition, page no 198)

The scope of the project is needed for the project manager in order to achieve a good result for the project. The project manager need to make a planning for the scope and then define it and control all the area of the scope, and differentiate all of them whether it involves into the project or not, then verify the scope so that later it can be control by the project manager.

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LASCAD project can get the failure in term of scope management if the scope definition is different to the organisation goals, and also when the project manager get wrong on differentiated the scope area where the area which supposed to be outside the scope is become inside the scope, and vice versa.

Project Time Management

“Estimating how long will the projects to be done, by developing the project schedule, and ensure the completion time for the project.” (Kathy Schwalbe, Information Technology Project Management, fourth edition, page no 11)

Project manager must have estimation for their project schedule. They must estimate the time for their project to be done in the correct time, otherwise it will increase the project budget. There is a connection between the budget with the time, where when the time is already being scheduled, the budget that needed is already being record, but when the time is out of schedule, they must have an extra budget to maintain the project to be still worked.

LASCAD project seems to have many delays at the beginning of each phase. It is stated from the Paul Beynon-Davies study of LASCAD that in January 1992 phase one and two of the project began live trials, but in March 1992 phase two of the trials was being suspended because of the system errors that’s come from the union NUPE claims. Another time delay happen when the third phase of the project was being terminated because of the chaos that happens for two days.

Project Cost Management

“Preparing and managing the budget for the project.” (Kathy Schwalbe, Information Technology Project Management, fourth edition, page no 11)

LASCAD project was using a very high budget for the construction of the basic. From the Paul Beynon-Davies study about LASCAD, he stated that the LASCAD Company has won a contract for their system for £1.1 million in June 1991, but in October 1990, they previously cancel a BT contribution of IAL development at a cost of £7.5 million. Even though this project has already get a lot of budget to start, but there is a report said that this project was have been late starting in may 1987 which cause a delay for 1 year.

So the conclusion that big budget always give a big chance for the project to be perfect or to be done on time, sometimes big budget can cause a big problems such as there were some miscalculation on calculating the budget that the project need so they need to borrow some money from the other organisation. LASCAD itself have not received any help from any other organisation but the project still not finish on time because of the budget.

Project Quality Management

“Ensure that the project will satisfy the stated or implied needs for which it was undertaken.”

(Kathy Schwalbe, Information Technology Project Management, fourth edition, page no 11)

The quality of the project will help the project manager to gain many stakeholder to support their project, because when all the stakeholder see that this project will have a good opportunity in advance, they will believe to put their support to the project otherwise they will not put any support on it.

On the LASCAD problems, all the stakeholders believe on the LAS project quality which re-embedded then new system called computer-aided system into their old system will work properly, but LASCAD itself has faced the problems such as the system itself work as what it suppose to be work but the human resource who used the system has a bad quality which does not satisfy the needs of the system.

Another factor which cause the quality of the system to be bad that when the system cannot hold a big number of message that come to the HQ then make the system become very slow to work, and also there is no way how to troubleshoot this kind of problem, in the final it give us a vision about the person who make the system having a very bad quality.

Project Human Resource Management

“Making effective use of people involved in the project.”

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(Kathy Schwalbe, Information Technology Project Management, fourth edition, page no 11)

People inside the project were chosen by the project manager to done perfect things so that the project will go for the good result. The quality of the person that being chose by the project manager must have a good quality that can give much idea for the project.

LASCAD itself can be fail in term of human resources if the project manager of the LASCAD was not capable to find the people that can give a good contribution to the project. All the stakeholder, sponsors, and all project member must capable to achieve the project goal otherwise it just spend a lot of money to search some people who cannot do any work for the project which later will cause a failure for the project itself.

Project Communications Management

“Generating, collecting, disseminating, and storing all of the project information”

(Kathy Schwalbe, Information Technology Project Management, fourth edition, page no 11)

The most important things in project between all the participants are communication. Without communication there will be many obstacles happen with every participants of the project. The way to generate, collecting all the information related to the project, and also how to storing all the information that have been gathered into the useful information is the most important skill that will be needed for the project manager.

LASCAD project can be fail in term of Communications Management when the information that have been generated or being collected is not relevant or maybe it is late to be generated then it will cause the lack of the information for the project manager of LASCAD, so that it will cause some failure inside the project.

Project Risk Management

“Identifying, analyzing, and responding to risks related to the project.”

(Kathy Schwalbe, Information Technology Project Management, fourth edition, page no 11)

As a project manager, identifying all the risk that will happen when the project working is the important part, so that the project manager can analyzing all the risk to find the answer to the problem then they can respond quickly to the risk related to the project.

In LASCAD project, there are lot of risk happen inside the project. There are a fatal flaws happen inside the system, where the system got a big number of message that keep coming into the system and make all the old system become wiped out with the new system then cause a very serious damage to the system so that it working very slow, and at the final it cause of losing 20-30 people lives.

Project Procurement Management

“Acquiring or procuring goods and services for a project from outside the performing organisation.”

(Kathy Schwalbe, Information Technology Project Management, fourth edition, page no 11)

The goods and services that the project manager use in order to get a good performing in their project is also important, because the services that the stakeholder and other supporter give to the project will help the project manager easy to handle the risk that happen inside the project.

LASCAD itself must have a good services in the treatment of their system, because when the system was being treated unwell, then it will give a result of bad result where the system will not capable to do the job clearly and will result in failure.


For the conclusion, we discuss many important things of how project can fails which can be caused by many factor starts from the human error, the risk, etc.

In this paper, we have presented a case where the big project in London called LASCAD (London Ambulance Service Computer-Aided Despatch) get a failure on their system. The cause of the failure is caused by many factors such as the human error on the system where the human are not capable to use the system, the system itself which cannot handle the technical problem because there is no way to troubleshoot the problem.

The PMBOK also being discussed in this paper, because PMBOK help the project manager to define all the aspect of the project start from how to define the project until how to closing the project.

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