Computer Weekly readers have their say
New skills needed for outsourced IT projects
Your report on the Forrester survey highlighting the needs for new skills when IT staff are transferred to an outsourcing supplier (Computer Weekly, 11 October), is a welcome piece of reporting that throws a spotlight on what many in the British IT industry know, but cannot describe in convincing detail.
Working for a service provider is very different to being on an in-house team, and as IT becomes a more commoditised corporate service, the number of IT staff working on-site via a supplier, rather than directly for their employer, will only increase.
The problem you highlight needs some joined-up thinking from the government, the unions and strong leadership from the IT trade bodies.
Mark Kobayashi-Hillary, global technologies research director, Commonwealth Business Council
Save as PDF? So what's new in the office?
Microsoft is presenting the proposed "save as PDF" feature as an innovation in Office 12 (Computer Weekly, 11 October). However, for those who cannot wait until the November 2006 release date for Office 12, it is worth bearing in mind that this feature is already available on the free office suite Openoffice.
And if Microsoft is truly concerned about ensuring that Office 12 documents can be accessed on multiple platforms, it should include support for the Oasis Opendocument format, so users can exchange editable documents between Office and systems such as Openoffice.
John Halton, associate, Cripps Harries Hall LLP
Offshore testing must meet UK standards
It was good to see Marks & Spencer taking the lead in software quality assurance and using the Testing Maturity Model (Computer Weekly, 4 October). Developing and implementing such best practices is certainly a step in the right direction and the pay-offs are clear.
However, the mention of using offshore suppliers for testing and development work raises some issues. Firstly, companies should make sure they are outsourcing the application development and testing phases to different organisations to ensure that the quality of the application is independently validated, otherwise it is rather like letting a child mark their own homework. Secondly, as customer data is often used during the quality assurance process, businesses using outsourcing suppliers must carefully consider data protection legislation.
The Data Protection Act states that only countries with similar levels of privacy protection to the UK may be used to process customer data. In addition, it says customer data should only be used for the purpose it was collected for - I cannot think of many organisations that collect data specifically for application testing. Organisations must take note of this and ensure they disguise data before it is given to outsourcing suppliers to be used in the application testing process, otherwise they could find that they are not only breaking data privacy legislation, but that customer data is compromised.
Sarah Salzman, solutions manager, Compuware
Collaborate to combat failure of IT projects
Ian Watmore's article on problem IT projects (Computer Weekly, 4 October) raises interesting issues around the failure of IT projects to meet their original objectives. This point of view backs up research from The Standish Group, which found that 66% of software projects worldwide are considered failures, more than 50% exceed budget, and 84% suffer overruns.
Many IT projects are abandoned, but as Watmore correctly points out, effective requirements management can help mitigate such problems. With many businesses employing antiquated requirements management systems (Word documents for example) and the emerging trend for offshoring developments adding further timezone and language complications, effective project management tools are more important than ever before in ensuring more projects succeed in meeting their original objectives.
A new, more collaborative approach is required to make IT expenditure succeed, where companies use high-level business process models and change management tools to automate the flow of tasks and decisions that need to be made, particularly within software development. It is essential that CIOs can keep track of developments, particularly when stakeholders are increasingly spread out all over the world.
Chris Purrington, managing director, Borland Software
Staff can undermine the best technical defences
One of the greatest corporate myths is that technology-based defences will protect the business community and that a security culture is in existence.
If we look beneath the technology shields, 80% of all security breaches are caused by staff, and yet the levels of background checking undertaken by employers is woefully inadequate.
A survey we commissioned into 1,200 UK companies found that only 2% of employers command more than the most cursory checks before appointing new staff to positions of trust. With near-full employment in some areas, employers are desperate to get people on board and are therefore conceding on quality. Too much responsibility is being left to hard-pressed personnel people and interview panels that often include those who are relatively inexperienced.
According to the survey, oversight is not confined to low-level staff. Of 10,000 people employed in financial services and IT posts, 25% had lied or exaggerated when applying for a job. Many inappropriate candidates rely on prospective employers not checking up on their resume, an approach that is becoming increasingly common.
There is an interesting debate as to where the best returns are gained from spending on security. Is it from building global, technology-based defences or simply improving the quality of the staff being employed to work inside these shields? The answer must surely be in taking a more balanced approach to both of these areas.
Steve Bailey, RwC