Have your say at computerweekly.com
On ageism in the UK's ITjobs market
In response to the report on computerweekly.com about the need to broaden IT recruitment to avoid a potential skills shortage
I am an IT professional with more than 20 years' experience in technical disciplines, service and quality management. I am also over 40.
I was unemployed for nearly six months. Ageism is a real problem in the UK market. Because so many places have to be seen to pay lip service to the notion of diversity, I also felt sure that there was discrimination against me as a male and from a non-ethnic background.
The recruitment consultants need to open their minds. I have first-hand experience of recruiters who spend no more than 15 seconds reviewing a CV. If they do not see the right keywords within the first five or six lines of a CV, it will be binned.
The result is that I now live and work in France because UK employers and recruitment agencies are too narrow-minded to look at the full range of skills and competencies that someone aged over 40 has to offer.
I believe this attitude is a symptom of the quick-fix, short-termist culture that exists in the UK IT industry. Why? You only have to look at a typical IT department that spends more money fixing badly designed systems or all those notorious failed projects.
On open source and the cost of ownership issue
In response to the articles and letters debating the total cost of ownership of open source software (Computer Weekly, 28 September)
Nine times out of 10, it seems that writers assume open source is merely another phrase for Linux. This is far from the truth.
I was delighted to see that many of your letter writers commented on the amazing variety of open source products available. This can be very important in reducing total costs while improving performance.
The purpose and point of computers is to run applications not operating systems. Applications, not operating systems, are the real point of open source software and can save you money whatever operating system you run.
Don't be fooled into thinking it is merely a question of Windows or Linux. It isn't. It is a question of what gets the job done as efficiently and as cheaply as possible. That means an open source product.
Look at what your organisation needs and visit an open source archive to see what is available. I think you would be pleasantly surprised and much better off.
On private sector's lack of long-term vision
In response to Rene Cheront's letter on the private sector's ability to limit project failure (Computer Weekly, 21 September)
With little measure of success much beyond the annual profit statement, private-sector markets often give huge rewards to directors who produce short-term profit without questioning longer-term efficiency and productivity movements.
How many quoted companies from 50 years ago are still around or are more competitive now than they were then?
The current M&S board is being publicly judged by the City and the media on their performance over the past 10 weeks and so are unlikely to be thinking much beyond next week's headlines. Those companies that are run for the long-term benefit of all their interest groups face a tough time in today's soundbite culture.
One of the many fundamental differences between the private and public sectors is that pricing mechanisms help measure productivity, efficiency and quality for the private sector but are of limited value in assessing the far more complex outputs required of the public sector.
Good management and governance produces good results in both sectors; short-termist and self-seeking people produce problems in both.
Adrian Rutter, chartered management accountant
The high price of ITsystems for GPs
As an ex-nurse - now a network manager - and husband to a practice nurse, I have been following the articles regarding IT in the NHS and GP practices with some interest (Computer Weekly, 14 September).
Although Emis is the most used IT system within the practices, it is not the only one. Torex Medical is the most common one that I have come across. The reality is that if users do not want to change, it is not necessarily because they like the system they have but because they see little benefit in changing.
Furthermore, the purchase of computer systems comes down to the individual practice managers and senior GPs within that practice. This means that the support contract must be with each practice whose staff frequently lack detailed IT knowledge and purchasing skills.
It will only be when regional primary care trusts provide the computer systems to the local practices as a service and centralise facilities and support that better terms can be negotiated. Software companies are entitled to charge an economic fee for the service they provide. When that fee is charged to each practice separately, the multiplication factor inflates the figures enormously. IT is only one cost each practice has to pay from its budget.
Practice managers are expected to be buyers, accountants, HR managers and now IT managers. There are few who can cover all roles well.
Calculating usage costs could be a waste of time
On the matter of charging for network usage (Computer Weekly, 28 September). Although knowing how much resources are being consumed by different departments can obviously be useful for efficiency, the amount of extra infrastructure necessary is probably prohibitive and, frankly, not worth the effort.
When 120Gbyte hard drives can be bought for £60, is it really worth quibbling that a user is taking up 200Mbytes of storage, worth a mere 10p?
Similarly, unless a user is downloading gigabytes of data, are they really costing the company sums of money worth worrying about?
Downloading MP3 files should be stopped by preventing end-users installing software on their machines for illegal purposes, and by managers paying attention to whether their staff are actually working.
That should cut out 99% of the bandwidth excess. Worrying about the rest almost certainly isn't worth it.
Andrew Ducker, analyst/developer, Standard Life
Recruitment initiatives work for both sexes
The letter decrying the initiative to recruit more female staff into IT (Computer Weekly, 28 September) asked why there was no initiative for more men to work as primary school teachers.
In fact, a male applicant would have a better chance than a female applicant of similar academic background owing to the shortage of male teachers at this level. Post-graduate trainees in education are also paid while they learn, with further financial incentives for shortage subjects such as IT and maths.
The comments about the refuse collection and street cleaning were unnecessary - these are not highly skilled jobs and so cannot be compared to IT.
Qualifications are no silver bullet for success
I was disappointed that the article on the BCS' project management guide made no reference to the established project management professional bodies and their initiatives to improve professionalism and to introduce qualifications to the industry (Computer Weekly, 7 September).
For example, as a member of the Project Management Institute, I - along with thousands of others - have attained project management professional status through a combination of accredited experience and study and examination.
But the education and qualification of professionals is not a silver bullet. Most projects have to contend with so many external factors that impact on the project that it is impossible to meet original deadlines or budgets.
A good project manager will continually adjust the expected budget, quality and timescale and maintain a healthy dialogue with their stakeholders to enable them to make the big decisions, for example to cancel the project, accept new budget, timescale or scope, or restructure the project.
Project managers must also be allowed to actively manage all aspects of a project, which many customers will see as bureaucratic procedure and rail against. Although employing educated and qualified project managers will improve the project's probability of success, it will not guarantee it.
Bernie Doeser, senior project manager, Shell
Listen to end-users at the procurement stage
The Libra criminal justice project article (Computer Weekly, 21 September) raises an important issue that is not considered enough when it comes to successfully delivering new IT projects: the direct impact these projects have on the lives of staff.
Although the modernisation of government seems to revolve around large IT deals, a vital factor in making projects work is to listen and act on the concerns of existing employees to ensure that new IT systems will fit in, particularly where there has been a history of past failed implementations stimulating inevitable resistance to change.
Your report highlighted the concerns of employees of magistrates courts who feel that technology is simply papering over the cracks between more than 380 facets of the justice system at present. The organisation must be fully prepared first to prevent the risk of employees rejecting the new technology.
The best way to avoid running before you can walk is to install new systems as part of a larger change management process. This should be worked out at procurement stage with your supplier, that listens, communicates and acts on the service needs of employees that use the desktop support, or the call centre workers that use the CRM solution.
Peter White, senior business consultant, Steria
This was first published in October 2004