Feature

Your shout: Boardroom bafflement, council services, NHS IT

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Computer Weekly readers give their views on the week's news

The root of boardroom bafflement lies within IT

Having spent 30 years in the IT industry, and now some six years outside it, I read the article "Banish bafflement in the boardroom" (Computer Weekly, 4 July) with interest and some amazement at how little has actually changed within the industry over all those years. In particular the subject of IT representation in the boardroom keeps raising its head.

How many column inches over the years have been devoted to this sacred cow of the IT department? And how much progress has been made in that time frame?

The underlying problem is not the lack of IT representation in the boardroom; it is the IT department's lack of understanding of its place within the business. It is not that the boardroom does not understand IT; it is that IT does not fully appreciate the business.

IT is a functional department of a business, along with multiple others - it is a tool to help the business, it is not the business.

An over-inflated opinion of its own importance brought the centralised mainframe-dominated IT department into disrepute with the business functions in the 1980s and early 1990s, and yet the same posturing of departmental over-importance is still being presented.

Surveys continue to highlight the problems of aligning the business and IT. Most of these surveys, however, are conducted among IT people and therefore can be interpreted as the IT department's lack of understanding of its true function within the business.

OK, probably not a point of view that many IT professionals would agree with, but look at the reality. Large scale IT representation in the boardroom has not happened after years of self-promotion by the IT industry. The probability is that it is unlikely to happen (and rightly so). Get over it, time to move on.

Chris Bee

 

Better council services should boost efficiency

I was interested in your report on local authorities' relatively low IT spend (Computer Weekly, 4 July). With an increasingly challenging financial environment, tight funding from central government and the pressure to keep council tax rises to a minimum, maintaining the delivery of efficiency savings will become more difficult.

But as well as achieving cost reductions through more efficient procurement, for example, it is essential that councils continue to invest for the longer term efficiencies that require more fundamental change.

Achieving efficiency goes hand in hand with one of the key priorities of all local councils - improving customer experience and satisfaction. If executed correctly, efficiency should be achieved as a by-product of improving services to customers and back-office processes.

James Thompson, Local government strategist, CAPS Solutions

 

NHS IT needs a healthy dose of end-user support

Following your encouraging case studies in praise of public sector IT projects (Computer Weekly, 13 June), I was disappointed to see the National Audit Office report on the NHS national IT programme.

In particular the Choose and Book hospital appointments system is destined to remain unproductive simply because the very people it was designed for are not using it.

Usability has a massive effect on the take-up of any IT system and is essential in generating user confidence. The knock-on effect of a poor usability experience in this case has resulted in only 15% of 9.5 million outpatient bookings being made through Choose and Book.

The project seems to have been technology led, rather than concentrating on the needs of the end-users, ie, the doctors and nurses who were supposed to welcome the system. Project managers need to wake up to the fact that unless end-users are consulted throughout, then the initiative is quite likely set to fail.

The target market should be embraced, consulted and tested from the outset. If you want people to buy into a product or service then give them what they want, how they want it - rather than what you think they want.

Catriona Campbell, Foviance

 

PSUs are hot property, so let's make them work

Les Oswald's letter about the heat generated by power supply units such as phone chargers (Computer Weekly, 4 July) actually contains the logical solution in its last sentence, where he describes a PSU as "gently warming the room".

We should stop thinking of this as wasted heat and simply incorporate it into the ways we meet our overall heating needs. My studio/office contains several PCs with CRT displays and numerous PSU-powered peripherals. I only need to heat this room in the absolute depths of winter.

Roger Thomas

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This was first published in July 2006

 

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