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More than a governor, we need systems managers when information technology rules the day

Regarding “Patrick’s troubles” (Op-ed, Feb. 21), I agree with Scot Lehigh’s premise that never have so many state-agency systems revealed themselves so nakedly for the failures they are. But the real reason for this is not Governor Patrick, who, in his last year, will not suddenly “blossom into a better administrator” and take “a proactive approach toward predictable problem areas.”

Everything is a problem area, and managing the complex governmental systems of a state has little to do with the traditional concepts that Lehigh ticks off, such as continuous oversight and honesty in confronting problems. Nearly all of the state’s recently revealed problems amount to one thing: human systems whose dysfunction is mirrored by their information technology systems.

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Lehigh is right when he concedes that “the next governor must find a way to identify which companies are actually able to deliver on complex IT projects” — not this governor, the next one. And good luck finding those companies.

If you’re going to bet everything on IT, you must have a ruthless IT skeptic-genius at your side, every day, taking direct responsibility, and you must install a team of IT heroes at each agency to ensure that training is carried out correctly and humanely, and that the inevitable bugs and miscalculations are identified and overcome. This is the minimum that is required if we are to stand a chance of receiving the benefit of the government’s investment in non-human information technology.

Lehigh refers to our governor as Mr. Magoo, but if he wishes to make his point through a cartoon character, he should check out the Globe’s own funny pages and learn from someone who understands the nature of system dysfunction and IT mismanagement in the 21st century, and nails it every day: Scott Adams, and his crew in “Dilbert.”

Robert A. Booth Jr.


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