Process before technology

A rant against edicts (and idiots)

I recently posted a rant on LinkedIn about a story I saw on the BBC News Site. At the time of writing, my post has been viewed 692 times. The reason for my irritation? The story purports to be about technology, but in fact, it’s about a political idiot issuing a political edict for purely political gains.

The story is about the use of Fax machines within the NHS and the Secretary of State’s instruction that they should be replaced with ‘new technology’.

Brilliant!  I’m all in favour of new technology – that’s how I’ve made my living for the last 34-years. Except this decision is stupid. And here’s why.

Picture - Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health

Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health, is (in my opinion) ditching fax machines without understanding how they are used.

Half the story

The Secretary of State (Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP) is reacting to half information. He doesn’t know what these fax machines are doing or being used for. He just wants them thrown away and replaced with something new.

He isn’t aware (for example) that they were used as an emergency back-up by the Blood Transfusion Service during the WannaCry cyber attack on the NHS in 2017. He doesn’t know how simple it is to transfer hand-written notes between hospitals and locations compared to a computerised ‘scanning’ system. He hasn’t thought about how quickly a fax machine can transfer information between two teams working with systems that are not compatible or not fully integrated. He has forgotten that in the NHS, staff are massively over-burdened with work and need a simple, reliable solution, or that time savings can be measured in lives.

And for those reasons, he doesn’t know what they should be replaced with. He just knows they are old technology and is embarrassed that the NHS is the UK’s biggest user of fax machines. And he has therefore added in a vote-driven rush yet another example of half-baked government stupidity that will implement unnecessary technology badly.

Process before technology

I’ve been writing case studies and articles about technology for 26-years. Coupled with my experience as a technician and technical author, it is obvious to me that technology in itself has never ever made anything better and never once improved someone’s life. But what DOES make things better is the way that technology is used and applied to specific problems.

In other words, analyse the problem, design a solution for that problem and THEN go out an look for technology that will help you implement that solution.

Computers came about because people were trying to solve specific problems. Later, various types of computer application came about because there was a problem that could be solved in a way that a more generalised computer could enable. But none of them came about because of the computer itself. The same applies to telecommunications. And to digital printing and scanning. And even to the fax machine.

And this is exactly the case in the day-to-day operations of the NHS. Fax machines were introduced to solve a problem that already existed. So if the Secretary of State wishes to replace them he should first find out what they are used for and what can solve that problem as simply and elegantly.

I would be very interested to hear what you think about this story, this issue, or even this Secretary of State for Health. Please contact us via email to or call 07432 189 149.

Chris has spent nearly 30 years managing in-house and agency PR teams creating highly successful communications campaigns. With a little help from friends, Chris created Precision PR in the spring of 2017. Chris has held senior communications roles at CODA, Hyperion, CSI, Qualys and Epson, and has worked in several mid-level and senior agency roles gaining a range of strategic and hands-on skills with clients and business partners that include; Alcatel-Lucent, Adaptsys, BHA Software, IBM, Microsoft, PeopleSoft, QAD, Qlik,, SAP, SDRC and Yokogawa. Our associates have worked with many others.

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