Your shout: IT investment, terms of reference, skills investment, and ID cards

Readers comment on issues including IT investment stratagy, contract negotiations using terms of reference documents, the lack of willingness to invest training in IT graduates, and criticism in the press of the ID card scheme.

IT investment strategies demand sophistication

Chris Potts

The question of how much IT investment businesses should focus on maintenance rather than value creation is more sophisticated than the orthodox ratio Cliff Saran repeats in his Web 2.0 article Saran says the ratio needs to shift from 70% spending on maintaining legacy systems to 70% on new developments.

A better strategy is to split investment into these two categories, handle them separately and not worry too much about the total or the ratio. For “maintaining” investment (risk mitigation) our aim is to minimise the investment in exchange for a given level of risk.

Value-creating investment should be zero-based and limitless – we will invest what is worthwhile given our performance.

It is vital that we apply some of the proven principles to investment strategy. The ratio Saran quotes is a good eye-opener, but it needs to be superseded by a robust strategy.

IT industry must adopt Terms of Reference

Don Manning

I agree with Justin Richards’ suggestion that IT can learn a lot from the building industry in the art of contract negotiation

In engineering, a Terms of Reference (Tor) document will be drafted; this will include the basic details of the house, such as how many bedrooms it contains. Then the architect will draw up the plans; the plans will include stress calculations, standards to be used, wood, bricks etc. Then finally the client signs off the plan after any changes have been made.

The client may be offered a quotation showing several costs: the base building may be on fixed cost, the foundation on cost plus a percentage (as the nature of the sub soil is unknown). All the client-requested changes will be estimated and charged for.

In IT, though, a Tor is a rarity. The architect is an undefined factor because business and recruitment cannot differentiate between an architect and a bricklayer. It also gets confused between an application (solution) architect and a system (infrastructure) architect, so change control is normally not reflected in the plan.

Compounding this is the fact that the architect is often not customer-facing, as the project manager will take clients’ comments and pass them to brick layers to make the change.
If you were building a house who would you ask for a change in design? In IT, as in engineering, it should be the architect.

Companies are failing to invest in raw IT graduates

Name and address withheld

I read with great interest Bill Goodwin’s “Recruiters will have to go global to meet IT skills”

I have an HNC in computing, a diploma from the Open University, a DipHE in computing, and I have just completed my BSc Hons in computing. I have covered such topics as database design, scripting languages such as PHP, XML, Javascript and MySQL, to name but a few, and have just completed my final project on Ajax.

So, can I get a job in IT? Not a chance. Oh, I forgot to mention that I am 48. Raw graduates will never get the skills required because companies will not invest in training people. They are instigating their own misfortune, unless it is an excuse to bring in foreign developers and pay them minimum wage.

Skills shortage my backside – who are they trying to kid?

Media makes openness impossible for the OGC

Jim Blair

I understand and to a degree share your frustration with the Office for Government Commerce (OGC) in its attempt to avoid publishing Gateway reviews on ID cards But I also sympathise with the OGC’s wishes to avoid releasing these reports to the British press.

Until commentators are prepared to commend attempts to improve rather than just criticise existing errors of design, I will come down on the side of keeping this information confidential. It is too easy for the press to offer worthless criticism.

If you want to change the attitude of the OGC perhaps you should offer to participate in the review under Chatham House rules and take proper responsibility for the outcome.

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