The prospects for IT in the wake of the great Atkins debacle
Last year’s crash in consultant Atkins’ share value because of problems with its software demonstrated how vitally important IT is to a firm’s success. Implementation problems with the new system meant Atkins couldn’t bill its clients, bringing the firm to its knees.

Ironically, part of the reason for Atkins’ fall was that it realised the importance of IT. Perhaps the main lesson others will draw from the fiasco is that it is better to spend money on existing systems then trying to implement big bang solutions.

One area in which there is likely to be significant expansion in 2003 is the use of project collaboration extranets as firms roll out them out company-wide. And an upgrade of Microsoft’s document management and collaboration package Sharepoint means it will be easier for firms to provide collaboration services. It also means some firms will set up their own in-house collaboration packages, integrated with their internal systems.

£25m What Atkins spent on its new IT system
£75m What Atkins lost because of its new IT system
400 Number of jobs lost as a result

There will be the usual crop of new gizmos, most of which will prove to be five-minute wonders. However, a few of the innovations will prove to be genuinely useful and may include developments to make devices easier to use on site, such as better voice recognition software.

On the software side, packages will become progressively more interoperable. People will slowly move over to 3D CAD systems but this will be hindered by budget cuts. Development of the holy grail of 3D CAD, object-orientated technology will be slow as people look on sceptically to determine if any of the fundamental problems have been solved.