Your shout! On the momentum of large IT projects

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On the momentum of large IT projects

In response to coverage of the National Audit Office's report on the NHS Choose and Book system (Computer Weekly, 25 January)

Your leader stated, "One of the biggest causes of IT project failure is that the project's sponsors fail to appreciate when things begin to go wrong. Inconvenient truths are ignored in the name of maintaining momentum."

This is so very true and yet these "sponsors" remain Teflon-coated as the IT professional is first up against the wall. May I add another "big cause"? "A project is doomed to fail when it cannot be stopped."

Jim Holder

On why suppliers should cut out the BPM hype

In response to "IT integration projects 'a challenge' says study", which said firms are investing in integration technology but are unhappy with its progress

In your article (computerweekly .com), the research claimed that one of the primary goals for 74% of companies was to achieve end-to-end processes, yet that just 2% of companies plan to use business process management (BPM) software to achieve this.

This is evidence of the misunderstanding about BPM and of the BPM industry's failure to explain and de-hype itself.

Cut through the polemics and the business bull. BPM is this: breaking down a process into its constituent parts and putting them together in a more efficient way. Companies that do not understand this have been badly served by the supplier industry.

It is time the BPM industry took a stand and stopped peddling lingo-laden silver bullets in favour of actually explaining what it does, why it does it and what its benefits are.

Peter Dinham, international product director, Plexus Software

On accurate, not negative, reporting

ln response to the article on the efficiency gains from Avis' new IT system (Computer Weekly, 18 January)

In an industry that is concerned with accuracy (for example, a missing full stop or a misplaced bracket can have serious consequences), I am shocked to read that Avis has reduced the time taken to check-in returned cars "fifteenfold."

This is a mathematical impossibility, unless you start going into negative time. Reducing 15 minutes by 15 times would result in minus 210 minutes. The actual reduction was 14 minutes out of 15 (93.333%).

I often hear this error made on the BBC, but please, not in Computer Weekly.

Neil Harvey, UK & Ireland Business Assurance, UK Service Delivery

On introducing new elements into mobile IT

ln response to Arif Mohamed's article about how technologies such as a methanol-powered fuel cell will be the future of mobile products (Computer Weekly, 18 January)

In this article it stated "The byproducts [of the fuel cell] are oxygen and waterÉ". Is this a revolution in chemistry? What happens to the carbon, and how does free oxygen come out of the reaction?

Perhaps the byproducts are carbon dioxide and water, by the following set of reactions:

Anode reaction: CH3OH + H2O => CO2 + 6H+ + 6e-

Cathode reaction: 3/2 O2 + 6 H+ + 6e- => 3 H2O

Overall cell reaction: CH3OH + 3/2 O2 => CO2 + 2 H2O

Michael Barnes

On helping tongue-tied IT directors

ln response to a survey, reported by Nick Huber, which found that IT directors hate public speaking more than anything else in their job (Computer Weekly, 18 January)

I thought I would bring to the attention of fellow Computer Weekly readers an organisation that I and other professionals have found very helpful, namely Toastmasters International.

There are about 70 Toastmasters clubs dedicated to helping members improve their public speaking and presentation skills in a safe and supportive environment.

Many people working in IT have already found this of benefit and in my own club, the Chiltern Speakers Club, more than a third of the membership are directly or indirectly working in IT, hence it is also a good way of networking with IT professionals.

Readers can find out more by visiting www.toastmasters.org and going to a meeting - it does not cost anything to go as a guest and you would be made most welcome.

Chetan Bhatt

Arguments against the software patents law

The article on the proposed EU software patents directive (Computer Weekly, 25 January), presented three arguments for and three against.

Although the three arguments against are hard to dispute (small suppliers lacking financial muscle for protracted legal assaults, a clear impact on open source development, and discouraging development by IT departments), all three arguments in favour are tenuous:

"Software patents will encourage innovation." There are strong arguments that patents will have the opposite effect by stifling small companies. Even simple applications depend on many facilities and have so many components that it is virtually impossible to write anything that is completely independent of every idea that has gone before.

Although "creating a level playing field across European countries" might be an admirable goal, that level could just as well be to continue to outlaw software patents, rather than permitting them.

Finally, stating that the directive will not be "introducing major changes" is naive in the extreme as at the moment software patents cannot be obtained and after the directive they can be obtained - how is that not a major change?

Software is already subject to copyright. Allowing that software patents benefit nobody except patent offices, lawyers and large companies, at the expense of smaller companies, open source developers and IT departments, it is hard to conceive of a single advantage, as your article (perhaps unintentionally) demonstrated.

Richard Blundell

Banks must wake up to phishing scams

Despite the increasing frequency of phishing attacks, some banks are still behaving in a reckless manner and inviting fraud. Many banks have stated that "they will never ask you to confirm your personal information by e-mail", but some do exactly the opposite.

Every month my bank sends me an e-mail saying my statement is available to view online. It provides a link directly to the log-in screen of its website. This is just waiting to be abused by a phisher. A phishing e-mail simply needs to be based on a copy of a legitimate bank e-mail, but with the link going to a bogus website. It would simply gather log-in details then give a message saying the system is unavailable and to try again later. In the meantime, the phisher can log into the account.

I e-mailed my bank about this glaring hole in its security policy, but was sent a stock e-mail suggesting I keep my anti-virus software up to date. I wonder how many accounts a phisher could empty before anyone noticed? This is a major security incident waiting to happen.

David Townsend, director, Avisoft


Mobile working need not be more expensive

According to your article "Control in a mobile world" (Computer Weekly, 11 January), weighing up the cost benefit of using mobile technology is a tricky conundrum. If analyst firm Forrester is to be believed, the costs of supporting such workers is up to three times greater than "tethered" users.

Firms should not be put off mobile products as they are here to stay. But, for many, not having access to e-mail out of the office is unacceptable. However, it does not have to be like this.

The first thing to do is assess your mobile workers' needs - not everyone needs access to e-mail on the move. And, although mobile e-mail may be the most obvious use of the technology, products that integrate with line-of-business processes and applications are more likely to deliver business benefits. Building a proof-of-concept model is one way of assessing this requirement and getting budget-holders on board.

Finally, cut the total cost of ownership by standardising platforms. Debate on mobile technology is often narrowed down to a set of particular devices. Standardising on one platform makes it easier to synchronise devices, set preferences and carry out checks.

Alun Rogers, principal consultant, Lynx Technology

NHS should consult GPs more widely on new IT

I was not surprised to read that 60% of family doctors were more or less hostile to the idea of the NHS Choose and Book system (Computerweekly.com, 19 January). I would be too if a new IT system was thrust upon me with little or no consultation about how it might best work. Yet again it appears that the most basic lessons about consultation before implementation have not been heeded. It is no surprise that users do not trust new IT.

Organisational change on any level requires management. Government bodies should be taking this more seriously, learning from past experience and making sure they engage those people who are going to be affected by the initiatives. Otherwise, they will find that people continue to resist the changes and, more importantly, that the public's money continues to go down the drain.

Mark Williamson, director, Partners for Change


A little exam pain can be good for you

In response to Phil Collins, who wrote that the UK is the only European country to impose a time limit on how long students study for the European computer driving licence (Letters, 25 January). I read his comments with empathy , but has Collins asked or assumed the BCS has imposed a time limit on completing the ECDL? Maybe the BCS has imposed "pain" on the process because it has been directed.

I support ECDL learners through a local further education college. The qualification consists of eight modules and is split into two parts at academic level one (30 hours of study) and level two (57.5 hours). Students are given a whole academic year to achieve both levels. One can deduce that student commitment to the qualification is not huge.

Collins does not state what the time constraint is, so we do not know how "unreasonable" it might be. The imposition of a constraint is the inevitable reaction to progress. If we gave students no time limit, they could take 10 years to complete the ECDL. What use would the qualification be after that?

Cliff Way, distance learning support tutor

This was last published in January 2005

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