Have your say at computerweekly.com
On ageism contributing to the skills shortage
In response to Next Move (Computer Weekly, 15 March) where the question was whether 37 is too old to be a network engineer
Thirty-seven is definitely not too old for a career in IT. I am 50 and last November I took a job as a network administrator on my doorstep, earning relatively as much as I would in a major city without the encumbering cost or stress of travel.
What is the world coming to when mature adults are being told they are over the hill? Don't give up. Experience is worth a lot. If we do have an IT skills shortage, I wonder why?
On the cost benefits of utility computing
In response to Iain Davie (ComputerWeekly, 22 March) who said IT should take control when moving the business to on-demand computing
Pay-as-you-go IT is more of a reality than Davie allowed for in his article. Businesses are already taking the lead with on-demand financing options for their IT investments.
Industries including customer relationship management, education and financial services are already using the on-demand model for their IT needs. And it is not just the big players such as IBM, Sun Microsystems and Oracle offering on-demand. Smaller companies are also successfully delivering utility-style financing options for their hardware, software and services.
As their end-users adopt the utility-style payment model for a growing variety of purchases such as mobile phones or satellite TV, they are realising the benefits of this model for IT purchases and starting to demand this option. In a recent report, analyst firm IDC Group predicted that by July 2005, "60% of customers will expect to have the option of spreading the cost of their software purchases."
In addition to avoiding the large up front costs associated with IT purchases, this "utility-style" trend ultimately translates to real cost savings for end-users, allowing them to pay monthly for technology, upgrading and adding further users to their IT requirement as needed.
On-demand IT helps suppliers stay ahead of global competitors by providing a better way for software acquisition to those who demand a more flexible, cost-efficient arrangement. This relationship brings customer and supplier closer together as they seek to decrease costs and increase efficiencies.
Suki Gallagher, CCL
On how RFID will mark the end of stocktaking
In response to Nick Huber, who reported on how smartcard and RFID are set to revolutionise retail
I agree that radio frequency identification (RFID) will transform the payments market (Computer Weekly, 15 March).
Using this technology, a customer's goods can be automatically scanned and a registered payment card debited - there is no need for staff interaction.
For retailers, this enables check-out staff to be redeployed to ensure well-stocked shelves and more customer service. For the customer there is no scanning, no queuing and the process is fast and accurate. And this is only two years away.
RFID technology has already delivered huge benefits through the supply chain as retailers and manufacturers leverage the ability to track pallets of goods from factory to shop to enhance efficiency and drive down costs. But RFID tags remain too expensive and large to be viable on individual items.
However, customers are already accepting the concept of self-scanning. Scanning via RFID is the natural extension.
Meanwhile, the introduction of RFID will mark the end of the stock count and dramatic improvements in inventory management. In the past, retailers compared shop floor stock counts to inventory reports either manually or via handheld mobile devices.
With RFID, the retailer knows at all times the exact quantity and location of all stock items, making the stock count process redundant.
Doug Hargrove, managing director, Anker Systems
Software patents can stifle small businesses
Thank you for a remarkably well-informed and balanced view of the software patents debate (Computer Weekly, 15 March). Few journalists have such a good handle on the subtleties of the arguments and the European Union's process.
However, it was pointed out that the European Patent Office grants many kinds of patents, but the UK Patent Office grants fewer. It would have been useful to point out that the UK is right at the pro-software patents end of the patent office spectrum in Europe (apart from the European Patent Office itself). There are several European patent offices that do not grant any software patents at all (Poland being the most consistent example).
This is important because people have said the directive will not change anything. That is arguably true in the UK and possibly Germany, but is demonstrably false in much of the rest of Europe.
I am strongly against software patents as I see them as a huge waste of time and money with the potential to ruin small business. Software authors should have the right to express their own ideas and to write software compatible with other people's ideas.
Wookey, Aleph One, Cambridge
US muddle would be emulated by EU patents
Mark Ellse (Letters, 22 March) was right for entirely different reasons than those intended in his letter. The US Patent Office has been so sloppy in allowing patents that single patents can claim entire swathes of business areas - just look at the list on the Electronic Frontier Foundation's website (www.eff.org/patent/wanted/).
Software patents in the US are a shambles and lawyers make lots of money. There are several companies founded expressly for the purpose of buying up patents and then extracting licence fees through legal demands. It can cost several million dollars to contest a patent in the US, so most small companies cave in when demands for licence fees are made.
This is the crux of the matter. Companies holding large numbers of software patents (almost entirely US and Japanese firms, very few European) are keen for the EU to allow software patents so they can cash in. It is not about innovation - we have lots of innovation. It is about extorting money from European companies.
Ellse said "there might be areas of software development that rely on huge amounts of investment and where protection would be a stimulus to software development".
But we have all the protection we need with copyright and trademarks. We are innovative now. Should software patents come along, developers will have one arm tied behind their backs for fear of legal proceedings or financial extortion.
Readers involved in e-commerce should look at http://webshop.ffii.org/ and see exactly which European patents already granted will become enforceable if the EU patent directive is passed. It will shock you.
Why IT spending may not deliver compliance
The necessity for compliance with legislation and regulation is uppermost in the minds of all IT directors and finance directors, as the financial mismanagement of projects could leave senior management legally exposed.
However, the requirements of Sarbanes-Oxley, Basel 2 and the new regulations from the Financial Services Authority could result in another Y2K for IT users. Millions of pounds are being spent on systems projects to tighten up and secure financial controls and formalise document and information management.
Deadlines for compliance are randomly scattered throughout the coming months, like underwater mines waiting to catch the unwary. Navigating a way through to a safe haven calls for far more than just applying basic project management skill sets and techniques.
Companies need to ask three fundamental questions before throwing money at a compliance project. First, do they have the right tools and management practices to scope the project, and define its deliverables and the desired measures of success?
Next, do they have systems that can accurately capture and record all the time and resources spent on this preparation, as well as the actions that must follow? And last, are they able to collate and deliver all this information in a clear and concise manner so that it is transparent to all stakeholders?
Without this approach, companies will waste significant time and money on projects which have a low probability of completion on time and within budget, and which expose senior management to court action.
Tony Hurst, SharpOwl
Release the list of government IT projects
I support Computer Weekly's efforts to increase the visibility of government IT projects. It has long been claimed that the Office of Government Commerce has compiled an IT project database (see the link on www.ogc.gov.uk/ index.asp?id=147).
The general public is denied access to this database (no longer available but maintained as an archive resource "restricted to users of the Government Secure Intranet", according to the Office of Government Commerce). But such information should be reported at least in an aggregated format to the public on a regular basis. It would certainly be in the public interest to know how much and how well public money is being spent on IT projects.
Angus G Yu, University of Stirling
Skewed priorities in public service IT?
Further to your website news report "Government warned about delay risk in police national intelligence system (computerweekly.com), is it not ironic that we are not able to create a good enough computer system to protect our children from the likes of Soham murderer Ian Huntley, yet we have a perfectly good and efficient IT system that can detect speeding cars and send out summonses with monotonous regularity.