Staff benefit from early exposure to new products working for IT companies

It is a pleasure here at Computer Weekly to profile the IT departments that have made it on to our shortlist of the Best Places...

It is a pleasure here at Computer Weekly to profile the IT departments that have made it on to our shortlist of the Best Places to Work in IT 2003. Through feedback from IT managers and their staff, our aim is to celebrate the best employers of IT professionals and highlight best practice for other IT departments to follow. This week we profile the high achievers in the IT hardware, software and services sector.

Computer Associates

Number of IT staff: 35

Annual staff turnover: 3%

IT training budget per head: £1,571

Amount of new development work: 30%

Annual holiday: 20-25 days

The IT Team at Computer Associates has access to a lot of new technologies. One staff member said, "We are lucky to be working for a computer firm. This means we are able to learn our own products besides third-party products. The result is a good understanding of how the different products work with each other."

The department has been involved in implementing San technology, Active Directory across the global network, and has upgraded to Exchange 2000. It is currently evaluating wireless Lans and Windows Server 2003.

Another member of the IT department stressed the close-knit nature of the team. He said, "In our IT organisation, we work closely with each other. At the helpdesk, where I work, we discuss technical issues and we are constantly helping our peers to solve IT problems. We share knowledge and experience every day. This applies to other teams and across teams. If I am dealing with a network issue, for example, I know I can count on the network team to help me find a solution.

"As a result, my knowledge improves and the network technicians benefit from the outcome of my previous troubleshooting."

Testimonies from IT team members reveal an environment where career progression and planning are encouraged. One IT professional pointed to the fact that the IT team is made up of people from different parts of the business as a sign of the job fluidity that exists within CA. He said, " People have moved into the IT team from distribution, sales and even senior management.

"We are a global company and there are opportunities to work abroad. A list of career path options for every role is also being developed. CA is holding onto its people. It is better for them and for the company."

Compuware Corporation

Number of IT staff: 11

Annual staff turnover: 0%

IT training budget per head: n/a

Amount of new development work: 20%

Annual holiday: 25 days upwards

Jonathan Oliver, IS manager at Compuware UK, is particularly proud of recent work carried out on a wide area network to support the firm’s distributed workforce. Using a VPN overlay on broadband Oliver said his team was able to lower the cost of running the network and improve quality of service.

Oliver also highlighted an initiative called "Walking in Their Shoes" which has helped the IT team to get a better feel for how other parts of the business work. The scheme encouraged people from the IT department to shadow someone from the business and get a first-hand idea of what their job entails.

"It is a really good way of finding out what is going on in the business. It is amazing how many ideas people come up with once they have done it," said Oliver.

Each member of the team is given an account management role for a particular part of the business. This enables them

to become familiar with the issues and personalities in one area and makes them more able to service specific requirements. It has also raised the profile of the IT team, said Oliver, as IT staff are out and about supporting the business proactively.

The emphasis on communication has coloured Oliver’s approach to recruitment. He said, "I do not aim to go out and find the best techies when recruiting. I am more interested in finding people with good interpersonal skills. We can bring them up to speed on the technology if needs be.

"I want people who will actively engage with their colleagues in other parts of the business to find out how they can make their jobs easier. Many people in the business would not get on with a hardcore tech-head."

Oliver said employees are encouraged to move about so they have a rounded view of the company. "This also enables them to become more rounded in themselves," he said.

Mastercare PCServiceCall

Number of IT staff: 38

Annual staff turnover: 0%

IT training budget per head: £2,000

Amount of new development work: 80%

Annual holiday: Up to 26 days

Mastercare PCServiceCall, part of the Dixons Group, has been recognised by its parent company as being at the forefront of the group’s use of new technology. The IT department has a dedicated test environment to try new products, and has agreements with both Microsoft and Novell for beta tests.

One member of the IT team said, "We maintain a strong relationship with suppliers to ensure we are kept up to date with new technologies, and spend time keeping abreast of industry publications. We also invest in training time for team members to learn new technology and trial it.

"We are fortunate that our IT manager understands the benefits of new technology and is interested in it. Our users trust us to recommend the best, most cost-effective solution. The best thing we do is give our development teams time to trial new technology and assess how useful it would be."

Another employee said, "Each area within the department interacts with others to ensure customer satisfaction and is constantly inviting feedback on how to improve our service. Each member is empowered to achieve their own goals, and there is a training mentality to help everyone improve their skills. We have a close relationship with our customers, which leads to a productive and open environment.

"The reason why this department is such a good one to work in is the positive and happy atmosphere. Even when deadlines are tight, there is a great team spirit where everyone pulls together to get the job done. Everyone is approachable and willing to help even when they have their own issues.

"The department manager is always available for help and support, and there are always social activities. New members to the team are welcomed and allowed time to adjust and fit in. The benefits package the company provides is excellent and makes us feel valued."

IT services sponsor

Computer Futures Solutions is one of Europe's leading IT staffing solutions providers. It places IT staff in permanent and contract roles throughout Europe, and has enjoyed unparalleled success since 1986.

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