Your shout: outsourcing benefits and blade server needs

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On the true savings of outsourced IT projects

In response to the Deutsche Bank's claim that companies can halve their IT costs by outsourcing to India  (Computer Weekly, 5 April)

The Indian model for outsourcing evidently works and provides significant savings for the standard infrastructure IT in banks. But the story does not end there. The exact costs of the savings are often unclear because UK staff invariably still need to work on the outsourced projects.

The next chapter in the story, which some banks are already working on, has to be: what happens to the difficult, non-standard part of the project? What happens when distance makes the management overhead high, or the domain knowledge is not matched by cultural and sector understanding?

The global financial services sector will always need to balance cost, location, culture and risk to gain competitive advantage with IT outsourcing projects and avoid putting all its eggs into one basket with a single geographic location. So it is not just a question of expensive UK or cheap India, but a smart combination of all the options.

Chuck Richards, GFT

On how outsourcing can benefit smaller firms

In response to a study by Deloitte Consulting which found that many large organisations are bringing outsourced IT back in house (Computer Weekly, 26 April)

The Deloitte Consulting survey raises several issues regarding the IT outsourcing experiences of large organisations. However, I feel we should recognise that the outsourcing experience is not entirely negative for all firms.

The Deloitte survey highlights two key areas for the potential failure of outsourcing projects, where suppliers fail to meet the expectations of their clients. Cost and complexity are identified as crucial to a project - any misunderstanding around them has the potential to end an outsourcing relationship.

However, if these two areas are clarified, the potential also exists for a mutually beneficial relationship, particularly in the case of small and medium-sized businesses. When the process is handled in the correct manner and a common goal is agreed by both parties, outsourcing can provide a real opportunity for smaller businesses to access technology that would otherwise be inaccessible to them.

On-demand services provide a platform for all small and medium businesses to gain the full benefits of enterprise-level solutions without the risk of huge investment. SMEs often have limited availability to invest and little IT resource. Combined with the increasing complexity of technology, these are driving forces for smaller businesses to seek ways in which to equalise the technology playing field.

However, it is the supplier's responsibility to ensure they meet the firm's expectations, fulfilling its requirements and giving a cost-effective service. This requires a constant cycle of feedback and improvement. This is the only way to ensure the relationship is successful.

Bill Henry, chief executive, Star

On the power and cooling needs of blade servers

In response to the article "Blades could help councils at the sharp end" (Computer Weekly, 12 April)

Your article on blade server computing touches on some good points, but misses key issues inherent in the technology.

True, the small footprint offered is appealing for managing resources. However, without knowing the extent of the power and cooling problems of blade servers, any enterprise network manager would come unstuck.

A single rack of blade servers demands up to 15 kilowatts of electricity. That equates to more BTUs (British thermal units) per square foot than a typical household oven demands, and requires a cooling capacity sufficient to air-condition two homes.

Although the benefits of blade servers are well known, to make the most of your investment, make sure they are managed in the right environment.

Christian Eckley, Globix

Skilled staff are being thrown onto scrapheap

I agree with Andrew Pickersgill (Letters, 19 April), that too many employers are looking for people with skills that are simply not around. I am 28 with 10 years' experience working for software houses providing programming and support services to clients, and cannot find employment because I don't have "commercial" experience even though I am familiar with and SQL Server.

I wonder if this is due to agencies' or employers' preference, or the fact the jobs don't really exist. Perhaps this is why there is a "skills shortage" in IT when skilled - and highly and expensively trained - people are thrown onto the scrapheap just for the sake of a trial period or a few weeks on the job retraining in the new position.

As Pickersgill rightly asks, where are the junior positions for new entrants into the IT market? In 10 years there will be no IT industry in the UK despite government action, simply because the people with the skills will have retired or left the industry, and there will be few new people to take their place.

Thomas Kent 

Businesses should take control of recruitment

I read with interest Philip Virgo's article "IT employers need to grow their own skills to stave off shortages" (Computer Weekly, 19 April) and agree that a validation system would be a useful tool for vetting IT professionals. But I disagree that the IT industry is entering another skills crisis.

For many years in the 1990s, we tried to recruit IT staff using agencies and found the process expensive and unreliable. Eventually we saw no alternative than to build our own in-house recruiting operation.

Subsequently, we have grown a division in our company that not only feeds our consulting, support and service management business with IT staff, but also provides selected clients with a recruitment service that actually works. Our approach is simple but effective: every shortlisted candidate we deal with is routinely interviewed and technically tested by our own technical staff. Admittedly, this takes a couple of hours per candidate, but it saves us and our clients an enormous amount of potential disruption and cost.

Our experience tells us there are a lot of good-quality candidates out there, but they are lost in a sea of mediocrity. The challenge for businesses is how to identify these people. Too much of the recruitment industry does little more than CV "churning", which adds to the impression of a skills shortage. Often, businesses promote this sloppy approach by putting agencies head-to-head on a first- come-first-served basis, which encourages speed rather than quality.

The only way the situation will improve is if businesses take control by demanding candidates are thoroughly screened, tested and, ideally, validated.

Richard Forkan, head of recruitment services, Plan-Net

Mobile technology needs efficient management

The fact that mobile technology is the fastest-growing area of IT expenditure, according to Gartner (Computer Weekly, 19 April) is hardly a surprise. But with the rapid adoption of wireless networks across the business, many organisations are struggling to apply the operational and infrastructure management techniques of the past to this new mobile environment.

With senior management increasingly reliant on mobile devices such as the Blackberry, and operations exploiting wireless local area networks and wide area networks to facilitate internal roaming and hot desking, monitoring and managing application performance across the business has become a more complex challenge.

Security, bandwidth and throughput are the three major issues for wireless connectivity; and organisations need to put in place tools that can manage and report on throughput, detect usage and highlight unknown or unauthorised access to applications and data.

To use this technology successfully, organisations must be able to incorporate wireless management tools into the existing infrastructure. Without sophisticated tools to monitor performance, check network capacity and manage remote administration, it is difficult to achieve a return on investment from wireless implementations.

Brian Anderson, ASG

Cultural changes must be managed properly

Another week, another government IT disaster ("Staff entered false data to get around CSA controls", Computer Weekly, 12 April). But this time there is a new story: we are moving on at last from the usual failure to consult, as seen in the NHS booking failure, for example.

At least staff at the CSA were briefed and appeared happy with the proposed changes. However, somewhere along the line, bad practices and behaviour were allowed to flourish. The cultural changes running alongside the IT implementation were not managed appropriately.

What we should we take away from the CSA debacle is that any significant change - especially one that has deep implications for culture - must be carefully managed to ensure staff can see the benefit to them, their organisation and therefore their clients. We can only hope that is the lesson e-government officials take away from this episode.

Mark Williamson, Diagonal Consulting

Making a mockery of chip and Pin security

With all the publicity over the banking security improvements offered by "chip and Pin", I was not reassured on a visit to one big-name supermarket.

When the person before me at the checkout came to pay, he got his Pin wrong on the first two attempts. The cashier warned him that if he got it wrong again, his card would be "locked".

After the third failure, she then asked for his card, and without calling a supervisor, simply "swiped" the card in the pre-chip way, and asked the customer to sign the receipt. No request was made for another card, or additional proof of identity.

Great customer service, but a mockery of the security system.

Keith Appleyard

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