IT managers must measure up or lose out
I was interested to read the articles "Many IT teams failing to measure up" and "Gartner: time to stop compulsive outsourcing" (Computer Weekly, 15 November).
The former stated that IT managers are failing to measure their own performance, and the latter quoted Gartner urging businesses to follow the Sainsbury's, JP Morgan and Prudential examples and bring IT services back in-house because so many outsourcing projects are doomed to failure.
Would it be too presumptuous to make a link between these pieces? While I would argue that the major outsourcers have historically overstated the benefits of outsourcing IT services, causing disappointment further down the line, the average IT manager does not help him or herself by failing to measure financial performance.
It is not surprising, in the absence of any performance metrics, that senior managers choose to outsource instead. This is absolutely the wrong reason for outsourcing, and it is perhaps only now we are starting to see the fall-out. IT managers beware: start measuring up or lose out.
IT team should educate on continuity plans
Jonathan Wittmann's advice on business continuity planning was all the more compelling for its emphasis on the less dramatic threats facing firms (Computer Weekly, 8 November).
While bird flu and natural disasters may make for better headlines, the real causes of downtime are less glamorous but no less dangerous: 44% of the data loss scenarios we deal with are caused by simple hardware malfunctions.
If anything needs to be added to Wittmann's advice, it is that contingency plans need to be communicated to every layer of an organisation. Does every member of staff know what to do when they cannot access business-critical data? We see cases of data loss acutely aggravated by DIY attempts at recovery every day.
Clearly the IT team is central to business continuity planning, but in many companies it is the non-technical staff that require education in this area. Given its day-to-day involvement in the prevention of, and preparation for, disasters, the IT department is ideally placed to provide it.
The straightforward answer to data recovery
Group IT manager, Coda
I was pleased to see Gary Eastwood's article on automation for e-mail compliance (Computer Weekly, 1 November).
It is indeed a massive issue for any organisation that conducts most of its business electronically. I was disappointed, however, that he suggested no single supplier can provide the full functionality.
I recently implemented Hewlett-Packard's Information Lifecycle Management product, RISS, and I would argue that it covers all the areas mentioned in the article.
In fact, it has been the catalyst for our company's development of an electronic information policy document designed to minimise risk associated with e-mail.
The sheer scale of the tasks involved with ensuring repeatable, auditable regulatory compliance requires the support of automated systems. Information archiving is an important component. RISS captures and archives incoming and outgoing electronic communications in a tamperproof environment. We can now retrieve critical information in minutes rather than hours or even days.
Organisations of all sizes are beginning to realise the importance of corporate governance. Compliance with regulatory requirements is just the tip of the iceberg and unless companies have the systems and processes in place to manage business information, they will struggle to meet the high standards that stakeholders have come to expect.
Profit centre concept belongs in the archives
I had hoped we had buried the obsolete concept of "profit centres" but Glen Martin of Cazenove (Computer Weekly, 18 November) obviously has not heard that.
By suggesting CIOs try to position IT as a profit centre he perpetuates the idea that leads to them being unfairly targeted for cost-cutting when times get tough. There are no profit centres inside commercial organisations. Every part of the organisation is a cost centre, including the IT and sales departments. Customers are the only profit centres.
Too many organisations give privileges to certain departments because they subscribe to the notion they are a profit centre and therefore something special.
Every part of a commercial organisation must earn its keep by making more than it costs to run. IT does not have any special right to be considered a profit centre, but neither should it be labelled a cost centre, as if other departments are not.
Bury the concept of profit and cost centres and integrate management of IT with management of every other part of the organisation, as an equal.
'Safe harbour' must not extend beyond ISPs
Senior legal counsel
Federation Against Software Theft
The Department of Trade & Industry has issued a consultation on the E-Commerce Directive, which limits ISPs' responsibility when it comes to traffic on their networks.
ISPs are not liable unless they are told about infringing material passing through their systems - a principle that has allowed the internet industry to flourish.
The consultation seeks views as to whether this limitation, known as "mere conduit", should be extended to providers of hyperlinks, location tools and content aggregation services.
The trouble is that extending the safe harbour will create a legal loophole and make providers of hyperlinks, location tools and content aggregation services completely devoid of liability when it comes to any unscrupulous activity.
For every user found to be using or distributing pirated software, the support and IP information provided by their ISPs contributes to the evidence packs compiled by the Federation Against Software Theft to ultimately land them in court.
If the mere conduit limitation was extended to providers of hyperlinks, location tools and content aggregation services, this could lead to thieves taking advantage of a legal loophole to mushroom infringing content on the internet, leaving software developers open to climbing a piracy proliferation mountain.
A reduction in illegal software from 27% to 17% would create 40,000 additional jobs and contribute £2bn to UK tax revenue (BSA, 2003). But this is going to be increasingly difficult to achieve if we do not all start pulling together.