Your Shout: public service IT; tech tallk in the boardroom

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Computer Weekly readers' give their views

Building a broader vision for public services IT

The statement with which you credit me in your article "Whitehall calls shots on local IT" (Computer Weekly, 28 February) is misleading. I did not say that local councils had "announced plans for 130 shared services centres", but that across the whole of central government and the wider public sector, we knew of proposals which, if they were all to be implemented in their current form, would produce an additional 130 shared services centres. This looks like an overcrowded scene to me.

My point is that public service bodies need to look beyond their own organisations at existing shared services options before contemplating setting up their own. We are certainly not dictating a particular solution from central government. But we certainly are saying to all public sector bodies that we believe there are benefits to be had from a shared service approach, and that the one option that isn't really open is for organisations to choose to do nothing.

John Oughton, chief executive, OGC


Ban tech talk in the boardroom for good of IT

In response to the piece "IT still struggles with image in the boardroom" (Computer Weekly, 7 March), the discrepancy between IT and the boardroom has always been a difficult one to bridge. Traditionally it has been tricky for senior executives to understand IT and what it's trying to achieve, and difficult for IT professionals to visualise IT from a business perspective. The perceived complexity of IT can mean the board views it as an ambiguous, unpredictable area of their business.

Much of IT will always remain a techy, back room process. But IT needs that business translation in order to get board buy in. Many of the issues and misconceptions around IT in the boardroom are created between those speaking in tech speak and those who don't understand it. Too many people still talk about technology in terms of the products and protocols, rather than the business needs and benefits.

Personally, I would ban the use of technology-related terms and force my board to discuss the business requirements - let the IT director worry about the technology and justify their chosen direction in business benefits.

Adam Ripley, IS Integration


The need for planning is too often neglected

Bola Rotibi rightly identifies the lack of joined-up thinking between IT and the boardroom, regarding the creation and delivery of the overall IT strategy (Computer Weekly, 28 February).

The absence of a "committed IT champion at board level" is an all too common problem, and Rotibi's point that businesses focus on immediacy and neglect IT's need for planning is spot on. Every IT director will sympathise with the scenario of ever increasing time pressures and budget constraints. Being forced to operate in a break-fix mode makes it unrealistic to take the vital step back to review how IT systems align with business goals, and deliver a supporting, benefit-focused, IT framework.

However, whether it be lack of exposure to corporate goals or lack of business acumen, IT departments are often oblivious to how a well integrated IT strategy can have a significant positive impact on business performance.

Karen Smith, 81G


Negotiate and monitor to avoid arbitration

Arbitration and litigation as an alternative means with which to end an outsourcing contract that has gone wrong should really be viewed as a worst case scenario (Computer Weekly 28 February). These are extreme, unnecessary measures that could be avoided if contracts are negotiated properly from the outset and appropriately monitored.

Achieving an excellent business process outsourcing agreement is not just about sound contract negotiation, but this is an important starting point. Ensuring the contract retains its successful perception throughout the business long-term requires a proactive approach to managing the relationship between the business and service provider.

If organisations are to maximise their relationship with a BPO service provider or even just make sure they stay "on track", then other key factors such as price performance, customer satisfaction, levels of innovation and continuous improvement, risk management and end-user satisfaction need to be identified, monitored and actively managed against.

Making this broader performance management a fundamental component of contract governance will be a key factor in eliminating the need for contract termination, arbitration and litigation.

Simon Lindley, Orbys Consulting


CRM cannot work if data is wrong or out of date

I found Eric Doyle's article (Computer Weekly, 7 March) to be a well presented case for considering CRM as a service.

But so important to consider in any CRM investment, is the means by which you will ensure the quality of your customer data behind the system. Bad data is most often cited as the reason for the failure of CRM investments. According to analysts, each month 2% of customer data records change, and 25%-30% of customer data held by companies is wrong.

Regardless of whether you choose to rent CRM as a service or host on site, the business value of this investment will be utterly undermined if the data is riddled with duplicates, multiple records for the same customer, or missing information.

Ed Wrazen, Harte-Hanks Trillium Software


Datawarehouses must cope with change

Deloitte's Mark Douglas is right to advise restraint in heralding business intelligence as a panacea for business performance (Letters, 14 February). But the failed data warehousing investments of which he speaks cannot only be attributed to over-inflated expectations.

Many firms attempt to self-build datawarehouses without a real understanding of the difficulties involved. Large businesses change at an incredible rate and most datawarehouses just aren't able to cope. In many cases, once the datawarehouse project is deemed "complete" it's almost redundant because the business has changed so much. Thus the maintenance costs of keeping a datawarehouse current far outweigh those of the initial set up, leading to this negative perception and the high percentage of failures.

A successful datawarehouse accepts change as a constant and takes a federated approach, breaking down the project into bite-sized chunks.

Andy Hayler, Kalido

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