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On how no employee can be indispensable
With regard to the Strategy Clinic "No one has the skills to be my replacement" (Computer Weekly, 29 June), where an IT manager was having trouble finding a competent replacement for when he retired
I would like to say the following to the person who asked the question:
- Don't delude yourself. Nobody is that critical to any organisation that they cannot be replaced
- If you feel no one is good enough, perhaps that shows bad planning on your part not to have invested in your staff
- If you really want to know how important you are, place your hand in a bucket of water and then remove it. The hole left behind is how much you will be missed.
Applications development manager
On realising the costs of IT before the savings
In response to a book profile of "What business really wants from IT" (Computer Weekly, 6 July), where the author explained how to automate a staff leave request form to save admin and staff time
I have not actually read "What business really wants from IT" but I hope the brief article did not do it justice.
The example only gave half the argument - namely the benefits - and failed to address any of the costs. You cannot propose an IT solution without considering both sides of the equation.
Also, the metrics employed in the example were very dubious: the savings were so marginal (21 minutes per employee per year), that if the employee has to log on to the intranet specifically to use the application, I would not be surprised if all the theoretical savings were consumed in log-on waiting time.
If that is really what the book is offering to teach me, I will save my money (and my time).
On how information will change a blame culture
In response to Lindsay Clark's article, where he reported on a survey that found that one third of IT managers were working an extra two days a week without pay (Computer Weekly, 6 July)
With regard to "Top IT staff 'exploited'", the enormous stress levels IT managers are under reflects the ever-increasing complexity of the technology infrastructure in many organisations.
One of the main causes of this stress is an unproductive blame culture when things go wrong. Our research has indicated that IT managers and a large proportion of their team are often required to solve an issue that could have been prevented if they had complete visibility of how the systems worked and the issues that were developing.
For this problem to be resolved it is essential the finger pointing stops and that IT staff take a more constructive approach to problem solving. Proper processes along with technology which allows them to identify a problem and its source before it becomes critical will give IT managers the ability to control and reduce stress levels caused by issues with their IT systems.
Director, marketing and alliances,Wily Technology
On who has the first managed VoIP service?
In response to Cliff Saran's report on Cable & Wireless' claim that it has introduced the first fully managed voice over IP service in the UKfor business users (Computer Weekly, 6 July)
I read with interest, and some incredulity, the claims by Cable & Wireless.
We have been successfully rolling out Voice+, our own fully managed VoIP service for some months to customers including the English National Opera and Endemol.
For the record, Simon Croyden, Endemol's head of IT, told me just the other day that he is "delighted to see that Voice+ is living up to all of your (hSo's) claims. We are seeing improved service levels and saving money". Proof of the pudding and all that.
Managing director, hSo
Gateway reviews and freedom of information
Tony Collins' report on Gateway reviews pressed for all parties to include provision in their manifestos for Gateway reviews to be published (Computer Weekly, 13 July).
It may well be that government departments have decided to keep these reviews secret, but surely, under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act which comes into force in January 2005, they will have no choice but to reveal the information if requested to do so?
Exemptions from cover of the Act are very limited indeed and, outside the security and defence area, it is difficult to see how ministers will resist the requirements of the Act to provide information on request.
I T manager, Wales Tourist Board
Privatising public sector IT is the only hope
I certainly agree with Chris Britton (Letters, 13 July) that a systematic problem with public sector IT projects is a reliance on outdated waterfall development methods that induce analysis paralysis.
Shielded as it is from economic reality, the public sector inherently breeds the illusion that risk, productivity and urgency are not issues that concern them. Consequently, the modern agile programming methods Britton mentioned that embrace change and risk are quite foreign to the way the public sector thinks.
This underlines a more fundamental problem, that public sector projects fail because they are public sector projects. Because public sector bodies do not face competition, they have no incentive to be efficient. Nor, because they are not guided by the need to make a profit by satisfying customers, do they have any idea of how to measure efficiency. Furthermore, failure is not punished by bankruptcy, as they cannot go bankrupt.
You cannot simply legislate success as the Treasury hopes. The only hope is to introduce market forces by a wholesale outsourcing of public sector IT. This need not be to foreign companies, but could be to new British companies formed largely from present public sector IT departments.
This will retain knowledge and confidentiality and introduce proper organisation, motivation and a more open accountability.
IT ignorance sidelines compliance projects
I am not surprised that the KPMG research into compliance projects found that finance departments are not spending enough time and money on IT (Computer Weekly, 6 July).
Many companies have contracted an army of auditors and believe they can solve compliance purely with documentation.
There is a general ignorance as to the range of compliance products and services and the importance of combining IT with financial reporting. This lack of awareness could damage the important progress we have made in corporate governance.
The ability to determine what constitutes risk and how to manage it represents a form of corporate power. It is tantamount to gaining control over a chunk of the corporate agenda. Any time one person or a group attempts to measure and report on risk, it will cause political infighting.
It is not reasonable to expect that such an important activity is going to be managed by the IT department. However, it is very much in the interest of certain parties to maintain an environment of mis-information as to the role of IT in compliance, therefore, it is essential that IT directors are brought to the decision-making table.
Director of international marketing, TruSecure
Legal music downloads can clog the network too
Frank Coggrave (Computer Weekly, 6 July) is right in warning IT directors to watch out for illegal music downloads on corporate networks. However, they should also beware of legal downloads.
With the growing success of the legal online music industry, corporate networks could be congested and even gridlocked if bandwidth-hungry downloads are not monitored and managed.
Many people already find it quicker and more convenient to download tracks on their iPod or other MP3 players over the corporate network during lunch or coffee breaks.
Network managers must be warned that this additional hit on corporate internet traffic will have an impact on the performance of business-critical applications, whether the download is legitimate or not.
If 50 staff download just 10 tracks a month, this would be enough to completely fill a 512kbps line for 10 hours a month, effectively putting a halt to all business applications during the download process.
Not knowing how much recreational traffic there is on a network and failing to control it is not an excuse when the board asks why key business applications are not running properly.
Mobile use is driven by business, not coders
After reading "I'm mobile, fly me" (Computer Weekly, 6 July), I had to check the date on the front cover twice to make sure I hadn't fallen backwards into a space-time continuum.
I am certainly not accusing the author of getting anything wrong - on the contrary, there are some systems not geared to what the modern user wants or needs - but I am suggesting that the interviewees' industry experience may have been lacking somewhat and did not reflect the real picture of today's mobile market.
Mobile solutions facilitate the creation of the application running on a personal digital assistant without recourse to coding. By allowing designers to create applications based on job types and business rules, systems can be up and running within weeks rather than months. Most importantly, they can be driven by business needs rather than the developers' workload.
The case studies also seemed to come from some other age - there are numerous systems that more than adequately cope with many thousands of live users.
Commercial director, Idesta