Data recording increases pressure on councils
Your article "Councils are doing their best with limited funds" (Computer Weekly, 2 August) highlighted an area that is often overlooked. The government's drive for councils to deliver electronic data recording has increased pressure on them to concentrate on areas identified as key performance indicators and consequently the route to winning stars and high ratings.
The government encourages council policies that remove elements of competition from school sports and games for reasons of equality and diversity, yet it expects the same councils to compete with each other in the workplace to win more stars than their rivals.
After a career in the private sector I am currently working on a contract for a large council. Having upgraded its technical infrastructure, it is now pushing through a training programme to increase employees' IT skills to reap the benefits of the electronic social care record.
A huge effort by council employees is needed to achieve this. They must carefully balance the caring side of their job with the added task of data recording and keeping clients' records up to date.
Whereas bad investment and failed projects in large firms is often absorbed internally, any mistake made by county councils gets hammered by the media as a waste of taxpayers' money. It is commendable that councils are managing to invest their IT funds so wisely, and in most cases without the resource of top-grade IT professionals enjoyed by the private sector.
Not enough IT job roles match employees' skills
I was interested to read that IT workers have a greater understanding of their employers' strategies than those in other sectors, according to your article "IT departments tuned in to business strategy" (Computer Weekly, 9 August).
But I think the research's most important finding was played down: that so many IT staff felt undervalued by their employers and that so many more felt their job did not reflect their skills.
Clearly these problems are not unrelated. When employees feel they are not using their skills it leads to dissatisfaction and disillusionment. When they can exercise their talents every day, they not only feel more valued, it also benefits the organisation as a whole in terms of efficiency.
This is another example of businesses failing to fix what they see as the small problem of disparity between the job roles and skills of their workforce, resulting in lower productivity.
Compliance a barrier to tight asset management
The opinion article by Vaughan Smith of Microsoft (Computer Weekly, 9 August) gives the impression that tight asset management in itself is some kind of high strategy. In fact, it is a routine task, which should be part of any IT department's daily activities and due diligence.
Smith's main argument is that with good asset management, we can be sure we are paying for the right number of software licences and maintenance, and that we can know we are getting good value for our investment. He cites a couple of companies that saved a few million by such practices.
However, the reason asset management is now so difficult to get right is because of the complex demands and different licensing regimes of companies like Microsoft, which have added the chore of compliance with variable and incomprehensible licensing arrangements to the important issues of the day, such as making a difference to the company's performance.
Compliance in itself has no added value to the furtherance of any IT strategy and is only difficult to get right because the software companies have chosen to make it so.
Car control technology has a long way to travel
The article on road congestion charging (Computer Weekly, 9 August) looked at using technology to control how a car behaves and questioned whether such control could match human intelligence in making decisions according to context.
Would the driver be able to quickly override the automatic controls to avoid a hazardous situation? The current answer is no. In a recent televised road test, an expensive Japanese car was fitted with technology to control the space between it and the car in front. However, it kept applying the brakes as the driver accelerated to overtake the car in front. This repeatedly put the tester in a hazardous situation.
The other issue is, if the technology took over from the human driver and caused an accident, who would be to blame and how would you prove it? I suspect it will be a long time before drivers entrust their own and their families' lives to this technology.
Information systems manager
Ultra Electronics PMES
Why IT must be truly an integral part of business
I read with interest your article "Eliminating the 'us and them' approach" (Computer Weekly, 2 August). I find it a concern that many companies still do not clearly map IT to business objectives, which means they may still be falling short of target.
IT is not a separate "techie" thing any more. It is an integral part of a business and should be measured on its contribution to the overall business strategy, whether that is reducing costs or increasing efficiencies.
Moreover, IT infrastructure should be so well designed and implemented that it is indistinguishable from the rest of the business, so companies should not need to think about eliminating the "us and them" approach as it should not be an issue to begin with.
Technology can either make or break a business, and when applied correctly can help a company to grow and realise its true potential. IT should always serve a specific purpose and to be successful it cannot be regarded as separate.
Until this situation is reconciled, companies will continue to struggle in today's environment where IT is still a standalone area rather than a cornerstone of a business.