Before we dive into “Asking the lamp lit questions”, we need to tell the story. The story goes, apocryphal perhaps, but applicable especially in healthcare and within the ugly (complex) system purchasing environment that is complex and multi-facetted.

In the age of trains and cars, but before automatic crossing gates, the incidence of trains and cars intersecting at the railroad crossing often delivered disastrous results. Cars never seem to see the train coming. The continued disruption with trains and cars brought forth the creation of the crossing guard position. The crossing guard was in a shack by the railroad crossing 24/7, with the train schedule, a lantern and the task of being on the road, at the crossing, waving a lantern to warn cars that a train was coming through.


One dark and stormy night, even with a crossing guard on duty, another tragic crash occurred. A lawsuit was filed by the aggrieved party (car). Who was at fault in this tragedy? Was it the car? Train? Crossing guard?

As the lawsuit proceeded in court, the judge begins his line of questioning to the crossing guard, “Were you there that night?”
Under oath the crossing guard replies, “Yes.”
Continuing with his line of questioning, the judge continues, “Did you have your train schedule?”
To which the crossing guard replies, “Yes.”
“Were you standing in the road at the appropriate time waving your lantern?” asks the judge.
“Yes,” replies the crossing guard.

The judge rules and finds in favor of the railroad, no damages and they were not liable for the tragedy. Upon leaving the courtroom, a spectator hears the crossing guard say, “Whew, sure am glad they didn’t ask whether the lamp was lit.” Moral to the story, don’t forget to ask if the lamp was lit. The judge asked the crossing guard all kinds of questions, but he did not ask the obvious, “Was the lamp lit?” In healthcare today, when buying an ugly system make sure you work with a knowledgeable vendor that has asked all the “lamp lit” questions. In addition, have they spent time and do they have experience standing at the crossing consistently protecting all the parties from disastrous results.

In the multi-faceted world of complex hardware and software integration there are A LOT of questions that need to be asked, addressed and uncovered. Additionally, there are a lot of ugly systems vendors competing for your business. Make sure your vendor not only has the knowledge and experience to ask the lamp lit questions for you but has the integrity to always do the right thing. When it comes to complex integration on systems and infrastructure, our company has asked the “lamp lit” questions and we continue to uncover and get better because as an experienced integrator we know the various landscapes and know how to navigate and ask, “lamp lit" questions.

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