Don't forget service in the rush to exploit IT
Colin Thompson is correct in his diagnosis of the main strategic IT issue facing organisations and their CIOs (Computer Weekly, 26 July). But his solution misses the mark. Many executives know that they are under-exploiting their IT investments - both existing and new. At the same time, the CIO and IT department are primarily concerned with, measured on and competent at managing IT service delivery.
The wrong answer is to attempt to shift the focus of the entire IT organisation from "IT management to IT exploitation". Firms need expertise in both.
Leading companies are already making the development of their competencies in IT exploitation the core focus of their IT strategy. But as part of executing this strategy, they are implementing organisational structures that recognise IT exploitation and IT service delivery as different sets of competencies and ensuring they have people who are specifically focused on either one or the other.
Rather than attempt to refocus the entire IT organisation away from the very thing they are good at, this is a much more effective and pragmatic solution to the strategic issue of IT exploitation.
The challenge for CIOs is to decide whether their own primary purpose is exploitation or service delivery, especially because they are often accountable for both. Their value to the company and relationships with the other executives will depend on which of these competencies they appear to primarily represent.
Chris Potts, director, Dominic Barrow
Beware putting all your eggs in one e-mail basket
On 26 July Computer Weekly reported that Microsoft has acquired FrontBridge Technologies, a provider of secure messaging services. The move will certainly see e-mail security and storage moving up the IT agenda.
But will this be the catalyst which sees businesses realising the importance of e-mail archiving, from a compliance point of view, or as another tool to add to their e-mail system?
Most organisations do not understand the full range of risks e-mail poses. They rarely have appropriate management procedures to handle e-mail in a manner befitting its increasingly critical and regulated role in the modern business - a trend Microsoft is picking up on.
However, should e-management be run in conjunction with the Exchange server as Microsoft suggests, or should such an important function be kept separate?
What happens if a virus takes down the Exchange server: can you still access your e-mail data? And is your e-mail secure, protected and audited?
Forensic e-mail compliance can only be authentic if it operates outside the mail server.
A true audit system provides a separate, secure environment for regulated data such as e-mail and instant messaging, allowing companies to fulfil subject access requests quickly, reduce e-mail abuse and protect employees' privacy in line with the Data Protection Act.
Attaching it to Exchange removes this independence.
If an organisation puts everything under Exchange it might as well cross its fingers and hope its basket with all the eggs in does not get dropped.
Michael Decker, managing director, Cryoserver
These cowboy stories are just works of fiction
With regard to your report "Employers warned to act now to avoid business IT skills shortage" (Computer Weekly, 19 July), as a contractor the problem is obvious: if you only look for technical experts, those with business skills do not get in. The shortage is created solely by extending the required skills list.
And as for the story "Recruiter warns employers to screen for 'cowboy' contractors" (12 July), as references can be faked or not truthful, different methods of checking need to be used.
For instance, the contractor company can be checked at Companies House, professional memberships investigated, or proof of indemnity insurance required.
As there are no new proposals from those quoted in the article, it all just sounds like bogeyman scare tactics.
It takes all sides to make a professional relationship work. As contractors we have to keep the agencies in the loop so that even a high-integrity contractor has to keep talking and reviewing options in case contracts are not renewed. This does not make us cowboys.
Thinking on outsourcing and skills doesn't add up
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? First we were told that jobs had to be outsourced offshore because of the alleged UK skills shortage. Now we are told that the outsourcing of jobs will result in a UK skills shortage. Meanwhile, there is much discussion about how to encourage women into IT careers that will not be there for much longer. Whatever happened to joined-up thinking? And can we please outsource some of our senior managers instead?
Real-time information reveals supply chain
I read with interest your article about Halfords' implementation of warehouse management software (Computer Weekly, 19 July). While the IT systems need to be effective, the data utilised must be too. Managing goods through manufacture and delivery needs more than a view of historical reports if we are to have an impact on productivity and operational efficiency.
Organisations lack the completeness of information required to understand the minute -by-minute performance of the supply chain. Many struggle to attain this since it resides across a number of platforms and different suppliers.
By using real-time technology to combine this information and presenting it in a usable format organisations can attain unprecedented visibility of the supply chain. This will support tactical decision making to identify problems while they are still manageable.
Nelson Smelker, managing director, Symon Communications