Computer Weekly readers' give their views
How to ensure good practice in outsourcing
Jim Leduc's letter on outsourcing (Computer Weekly, 17 January) touches on some key mistakes made by those entering outsourcing deals without fully understanding what they are letting themselves in for.
To put in place good practice in outsourcing, it is crucial that companies do not depend solely on outsourcing. And while profit may be an underlying motive, a good outsourcing deal is undertaken with more than just financial gain in mind.
It is vital not to outsource the core competencies of one's business. By keeping key knowledge and skills in-house, a company is not completely dependent on the outsourcing element to make the business profitable. However, getting a specialist supplier to complete work that is not at the core of the business can make practical as well as financial sense.
It is crucial to build a good relationship between supplier and end-user in order to generate both knowledge and interest in the end-user's business by the supplier.
As for outsourcing having a short shelf life, the first examples the National Outsourcing Association knows about were the Egyptians outsourcing their battles to mercenaries 4,000 years ago. We do not think it is going away.
Martyn Hart, Chairman, National Outsourcing Association
Plan for outsourcing divorce proceedings
In Helen Beckett's article on offshoring (Computer Weekly, 24 January), she mentions the need for a prenuptial agreement. I would go further than that. In any outsourcing contract negotiations, there should be careful planning for the divorce proceedings, even if it never comes to that unhappy event.
Right from the start there must be clear agreement in the contract as to how the tasks, assets and records will be transferred back to your organisation in the event of a full or partial termination. Part of that agreement should be that appropriately skilled personnel and resource levels are assigned by the supplier to perform the reversion within a given time frame. There should be penalties in the event of a failed reversion.
During normal business activities between clients and suppliers, there is usually no need to refer to the contractual conditions. Those conditions provide a safety net in case circumstances change or one side fails to deliver.
There is no reason why it should be any different for outsourcing or offshoring. Sadly, I have seen several initial outsource contract proposals where such arrangements have not been documented.
Charles Smith, Director, Oaksys Tech
NPfIT is out of touch with grass roots GPs
From my position as a busy GP I must disagree with David Oates' letter (Computer Weekly, 24 January). The results of the Medix survey on NHS IT do not surprise me one bit.
GPs have led the way in IT within the NHS and are definitely not resistant to progress in our IT systems. My practice has invested heavily in its IT system and is paperless, apart from the mountains of paper that arrive from other health providers. Their paper documents get scanned into our clinical IT system and coded.
Projects such as the electronic transfer of records between GPs pre-date the national programme for IT and GPs have been crying out for them to be implemented. We have to turn our electronic record back into paper to pass it on to the next GP the patient registers with. The electronic transfer of prescriptions could save me time if it was implemented within our clinical system. Finally I would be able to throw away my pen.
Choose and Book is another matter. This is a politically driven part of the NPfIT that has been meddled with since its conception and now requires the Department of Health to coerce GPs into using it.
The idea that you can turn a GP into a glorified travel agent in the middle of a busy surgery that is already under great time pressures is totally ill conceived.
Glossy ads in the health journals indicate to me that the NPfIT is completely out of touch with grass roots GPs. What a waste. My experience of the NPfIT Best Practice Process Design groups suggests that the designers of the systems need to get out of their offices and on to the shop floor.
I use my IT systems because they make my life easier and benefit the health of my patients. Choose and Book does neither of those. To have to pay me to use it must be an admission that it was never designed to improve my working life.
David Matthews, Giggs Hill Surgery
Linux flaw should carry same weight as Windows
I stumbled across your report about a major flaw in the Linux KDE environment (Computer Weekly, 31 January). I say stumble because it was a 22-line report in the bottom left-hand corner of page 16.
Am I wrong in thinking that a similar flaw in Windows would have been splashed across the front page, with various follow-up articles inside?
I agree that Microsoft has its problems and deserves to be unpopular in some areas. Neither am I a Linux hater; I have been happily developing on Unix systems for many years. Indeed I have Suse Linux installed on my home PC and apart from the sorry peripheral support it is great. But it would be nice to think there was a little equality in your reporting.
The Germans know how to do it in eight minutes
I agree with Computer Weekly's campaign to get Sir Humphrey to disclose the results of the ID cards trial - although anyone with tuppence worth of knowledge of the IT industry could have told the mandarins who run the Home Office that the specification for a UK card was undeliverable with existing technology.
The Germans have already successfully produced an ID card which delivers everything the Home Office wants.ÊGuess how long it will take to be verified?ÊOnly eight minutes per person!
Is it just me, or is the PM really after a job in IT?
The haste with which the current Government wants to put through the ID cards bill makes me wonder if the outgoing prime minister wants to grease some palms before he goes.
Maybe the real reason why things are clouded in secrecy is so that there won't be an uproar when the public learns that he has become a non-executive director, some years down the line, of a company providing a service for the ID card infrastructure. Or am I being cynical?
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