Your shout: data spine outage story in full, new ERP approaches

Computer Weekly readers have their say

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Computer Weekly readers have their say

Data spine outage report doesn't tell the full story

I am writing with regard to the NHS story "Data spine out of action for 28 hours in a week" (Computer Weekly, 10 January).

Your report was based on statistics about the services provided by our suppliers - including the spine - that we publish on our website week in, week out, even if there are service issues, as has been the case recently. We are proud of this level of transparency.

The way we presented the statistics last week meant that, understandably, your story gave the wrong impression about the nature of the service difficulties experienced by our users. It may have seemed as if there was either one very long outage or a string of shorter outages when, in fact, there was only intermittent "below par" service on some aspects of the spine service and some applications that use it.

We worked co-operatively with BT and other suppliers to deal with the problem and restore normal service to our users. A full explanation of the issue can be found at www.connectingforhealth.nhs.uk/ news/update_service_issues

James Herbert, Connecting for Health


Computer Weekly replies

Our article was based on concern among readers about the poor service, confirmed by statistics on Connecting for Health's website. A table on the website included statistics on any outages of the spine in minutes and the number of outages. For the week ending

1 January 2006, the table showed one outage of 1,680 minutes, which is 28 hours. In our article we quoted Connecting for Health, including its comment that there had been intermittent interruptions with one part of the spine service.

 

Don't bite off more than you can chew with ERP

I am writing in response to your story "Firms failing to fully exploit ERP systems" (Computer Weekly, 17 January). We believe ERP projects require a new approach as customer demands and buying patterns have evolved over the past few years.

The most common reason that companies have struggled with ERP implementations is that they have tried to swallow too much in one go by deploying a full spectrum of software.

But today, companies can deploy software in components, get fast payback, and then undertake the next project. This is a much better approach for both the business and the IT department.

Furthermore, users should really consider whether customisation is necessary given the sophistication of the business processes in enterprise software. Not only does customisation often lead to project delays and costly implementations, but down the line it results in problematic upgrades and higher maintenance costs.

We would urge companies to consider the approach they are taking with enterprise software projects and look at a component-based strategy.

The demands of today's global economy require businesses to be more agile and have the ability to adapt to customer demands. By taking this new approach, businesses can maintain 100% focus on customers.

Alastair Sorbie, IFS UK

 

Hold your nerve on major ERP surgery

With regards to your article "Firms failing to fully exploit ERP systems" (Computer Weekly, 17 January), I would like to raise a few points.

The implementation of ERP systems should be looked upon as major surgery. They have to be handled with extreme care, diligence and effective change management to reduce business risk and achieve success.

However, where companies often go wrong is that they stop further investment after the initial implementation, thus preventing the real drive to value for such systems.

Our work with ERP systems proves that the companies that make best use of their initial ERP infrastructure are the ones that invest further to achieve targeted benefits such as reducing stocks, controlling price and achieving process efficiency gains.

Of course, the reason that some suspend investment is down to the initial costs of implementation. However, there are proven methods that can be used to reduce initial costs while maintaining a low risk profile.

The advice is simple: do not try to build in all the functional changes that emerge before the system is delivered. Hold your nerve because you will invariably find that many of these so called essential changes are not so important after all.

We would also advise that companies spend considerable effort looking at the change management aspects rather than focusing on the applications and technology. Major surgery requires effective management and strong methodologies, and employees must be treated with care and sensitivity.

Mike Davies, chief executive, Enabler

 

More mundane threats than Buncefield

In response to the story about the Buncefield disaster (Computer Weekly, 10 January), although the Buncefield blast has undoubtedly been a wake-up call for business continuity planning, it should not take a disaster to focus minds on the importance of having a robust data back-up and recovery system in place.

Far less dramatic occurrences can have equally catastrophic effects on business performance. While there may be sympathy over events such as Buncefield, it is unlikely that firms will be shown similar compassion should partners, suppliers, customers or staff be affected by inadequate provision for more "mundane" occurrences such as software and hardware failures.

Also, business continuity, by its very name, refers to ongoing business performance. Often, by re-appraising existing back-up and recovery plans, companies can improve front-line areas of their business by making better use of the data that they receive, create, process and store.

Brian Moroney, Hitachi Data Systems

 

Where's the campaign to sack the bureaucrats?

Well done for your continued reporting on the blunders of our civil service. From your description and comments, "Revenue red-faced as IT system wrongly fines 10,000 companies" (Computer Weekly, 17 January), these mistakes have cost the British taxpayer millions of pounds.

This is a failure in systems specification and design that stems from management incompetence. The bureaucrats who did this should be fired and they should lose their civil service pension. Why don't you campaign for that?

Ken Evans

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