London On-line Local Authorities

Haringey Stategic Study & ITT

The Strategic Study

In 1967 the London Borough of Haringey undertook a strategic information systems study to determine it’s future information processing requirements.

The study was undertaken by the London Boroughs Management Services Unit (LBMSU) with a team including Martin Jackson, Philip Gorin, Steve Monksfield and Peter Evans. LBMSU was located at Buckingham Gate in Victoria.

The report, called the London Borough of Haringey Long Term Computer Project 1, was published in January 1969. It was known in short as the Yellow Report on account of the colour of the cover. It required over 10 man-years work. 2

At that time, Haringey was a member of the North East London Computer Scheme (NELCS) along with the boroughs of Hackney and Tower Hamlets. NELCS was managed by the LBMSU.

NELCS had emerged in 1966 out of the London Boroughs Joint Computer Committee’s (LBJCC) that was formed in 1962 and had developed systems running on a LEO III computer installed at John Humphries House in Greenwich. NELC continued to run its systems on its own LEO III based in Southgate Road, London N1.

Haringey’s Proposed System

Haringey’s Yellow Report proposed an ambitious on-line real-time management information system underpin by a database system and connect to visual displays. It also envisaged the data being a central repository for aiding executive decisions and policy-making.

The report recommend an initial Nucleus phase followed by an Extensions phase. The Nucleus would create the key Property & People databases that would underpin all future developments and ultimately provide a 360 degree view of all citizens relationship with their local authority.

It was thought that the hardware would cost circa £1m (in 1969 prices – about £14m in 2020 value) and that the development of the Nucleus would require 80 man-years effort 2.

The expected costs were such that the report recommend at least 4, and ideally up to 6 partners. The report was widely circulated and discussions held with interested London boroughs.

Invitation to Tender (ITT)

The Yellow Report was followed in 1969 by an ITT. Preliminary discussions had been held with 6 computer suppliers 6:

Only IBM offered online & database package software. It offered the BATS online software, IMS for databases and FASTER for enquiry response. The other suppliers proposed such software would be jointly developed.

The chosen supplier was IBM who proposed a model 360/50 and their new Information Management System (IMS) software. IMS provided support for both on-line transaction based data communications (DC) and real-time database management (DB).

IMS had been developed by Rockwell and Caterpillar starting in 1966 for the Apollo program 4 and the first application went live on August 14, 1968. IMS was first sold commercially by IBM in 1969 and LOLA was one of the first UK users of IMS along with Standard Life in Edinburgh. [It must have been also one of the first worldwide].

LOLA is Created

In the event Haringey did not secure interest from the ideal 5 or 6 partners. Initially Hackney and Tower Hamlets signed up and Haringey hoped their commitment would entice others. And indeed later Hillingdon joined as well.

The initial development staffing proposed was 13 software programmers, 20 systems analysts/programmers and seven maintenance programmers 5. Additional, existing LEO operations staff were also transferred.

LOLA’s own staff were supplemented by staff from IBM UK, though the IMS product was so new that both sets of staff had to learn from the early draft and poorly written documentation. Plus experience of developing DC/DB systems was very limited.

Staff were initially employed by LBMSU and worked from their offices in Buckingham Gate, Victoria in central London.

In late 1970 the partnership became independent organisation called London On-line Local Authorities (LOLA) with Schartau as its Director. LOLA rented modern offices of 18,500 sq.ft. (1,850 sq.m) in Sydney Road, Enfield.

References

  1. Report on the Initial Study, Long Term Computer Project for the London Borough of Haringey [The Yellow Report], H. J. Dive, Director, London Borough's Management Services Unit, January 1969, ISBN 0902603000. View here [⇗]   

  2. Experiences in Using IMS 2, A.J.O'Brien, PATRAC Conference, 1973-03-22. View here [⇗]   

  3. London boroughs 'on-line' by D Schartau, Municipal and Public Services Journal, 1972-12-29 View here [⇗]   

  4. IBM Information Management System [⇗]   

  5. See item 1 View here [⇗]

  6. See item 1, Appendix 6: Notes on Computer Manufacturers. View here [⇗]