Your shout: Service oriented architecture; NHS complexity; RFID

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Computer Weekly readers' give their views

Extend SOA beyond four walls to gain true value

The report that 84% of IT leaders do not believe their CEOs or finance directors understand service oriented architecture (Computer Weekly, 4 April) suggests that IT directors are struggling to make a clear business case for SOA in the boardroom.

The real benefit SOA can bring to an organisation is by enabling more effective, flexible and cohesive working with partner companies within the external community. The re-usability and agility of platform-agnostic business processes will deliver greater benefit for business in the space between enterprises.

Although SOA undoubtedly offers the ability to move enterprise integration to a more flexible and agile model, it is only by extending that service oriented approach beyond the four walls of the business that maximum value and competitive advantage can be derived.

If IT leaders can get this point across in the boardroom, I am certain that board-level buy-in to SOA is achievable; indeed, the promised benefits make the business case irrefutable.

Chris Hayes, solutions manager, Sterling Commerce


One system does not fit all for complex NHS

I very much endorse the call for an independent audit of the national programme for IT in the NHS (Computer Weekly, 11 April). It strikes me that the objective is laudable, but the overarching structure that appears to be the architecture of the system is almost certain to lead to problems.

Part of the issue is the level of patient data that has to be maintained. For example, a GP surgery needs full patient data on each record. However, they do not need to pull it down when a patient goes into a surgery with a cold. The NHS is a very complicated organisation that has fairly simple drivers. One system does not fit all.

Douglas McGregor, Denham Associates


NHS IT needs to re-engage with users

I agree with the calls for the need to audit the NHS IT programme. I have seen programmes of this nature fail, though not on this scale. Some years ago Forrester Research stated that 23% of IT projects fail, and 65% experience issues related to timescales and budget. This was commonly linked to poor scoping, release management and expectation management. It is about time that we learned from these stats.

The NHS programme could be experiencing problems and not delivering because there is a dogmatic approach to planning and associated communication.

Being a government initiative, I suspect that there is also a lot of spin on the facts before anything reaches publications such as Computer Weekly.

Sometimes the leaders of such projects will not acknowledge the need to re-plan because this might involve re-scoping. This is not failure as such, since the need to re-plan and re-scope is a reality. A plan, after all, is only a plan based on a perception of what should happen. And the plan needs to remain in line with the objectives supporting the strategy. Sometimes these things change, especially if a programme is running late, as is the case with the NHS IT programme.

The other issue is the disenfranchised user community. There needs to be a concerted effort to bring these people back on board, although in some cases I imagine this will be hard to achieve. If people have lost faith in the programme's viability, what is Connecting for Health doing?

Yes, there needs to be an audit; yes, it needs to be independent; and, yes, it needs to be repeated regularly. In the long run, this should benefit everyone.

Danny Dixon


Legal implications of RFID cannot be ignored

You are right to point out the vastly increased role of radio frequency identification tags in the supply chain (Computer Weekly, 4 April), and it is clear that RFID is going to play a major part in the future of retailing.

However, it is vital to point out the legal implications that such a technology can produce. The decision by Wal-Mart to mandate the use of RFID has generated complaints from suppliers about who pays and who benefits. Therefore, it is vital to get the contract right. The use of RFID will change the way retailers work so dramatically that it is naive for retailers to think they can run their business in the same way as before.

Retailers must take care to manage all the legal risks of RFID implementation. They should ensure that the contract with the RFID service provider includes appropriate incentives for the service provider to deliver the required level of performance in the contract, address the key commercial objectives for the RFID implementation, address systems integration issues and provide for adequate legal remedies if the project fails to deliver expected benefits.

A key issue for the retailer is to identify and map likely systems and process integration issues, for example, whether old and new databases link and whether there is sufficient resource to handle large volumes of data generated by the new technology. This involves careful negotiation of contracts between a number of different parties. Strict service level agreements should be inserted to ensure that each party keeps up to schedule and delivers the necessary services.

Vinod Bange, associate, Addleshaw Goddard


Protecting your network from remote workers

In your article "Where are they and what are they doing" (Computer Weekly, 4 April), Nick McQuire at Yankee Group was right to point out that mobile devices should be supported like IT assets to give administrators clear visibility of what hardware and software the company owns.

An important consideration for any IT manager supporting a remote workforce should be security. Protecting a network from remote workers is often an afterthought for many IT departments.

One way that IT managers can solve this issue is to implement quarantine technology. This will alert administrators to those users who have contracted a new virus and do not have the correct protection in place. Non-compliant machines will be quarantined away from the network until they have been provided with the necessary patch or virus, preventing infected files from affecting the rest of the network.

If firms continue to ignore the potential security implications surrounding remote workforces, they risk exposing sensitive corporate data to hackers, who will always welcome new ways into the network.

Paul Butler, principal services consultant, Altiris

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