Have your say at computerweekly.com
On how to successfully develop applications
In response to Bola Rotibi's opinion article on the secrets of successful application development (Computer Weekly, 19 October)
Bola Rotibi raised some interesting points but missed a fundamental one that could ensure the success of the software development lifecycle.
Although companies such as IBM and Microsoft are making the development process more robust, predictable and capable of delivering quality through new initiatives and products, these are simply automated tools that are getting the job done quicker. This is a good start but the crucial element to the software development process is in testing and quality assurance, which are essential to keep the process moving forward.
As Rotibi mentions, core principles such as well-defined processes and methodology are often overlooked in favour of faster deployment.
In my experience, most application developers feel that testing should take place during the last stages of development, when most of their work is over. This "sloppy" approach often leads to poor-quality systems that are embedded with defects that could easily have been avoided.
The presence of a thorough testing and management plan entrenched from the start of the development lifecycle would not only greatly improve the quality, but also save development costs and fill the gap between strategy and delivery.
On why so many software projects fail
In response to the article "Professor blames limited training for high level of software failures" (Computer Weekly, 19 October)
John Knight is correct in declaring that lack of training in basic software development is one of the roots of software failure. I would add that an equally important factor is lack of experience.
No amount of training, however good, will drive a lesson home more quickly than being "bitten in the bum" by a problem that seems insoluble. In these cases we learn a lot, both from our own attempts to solve the problem and from the collective experience of those around us.
Dave Knight, managing director, Igence
On ageism and skills shortages in IT
In response to warnings that ageist attitudes could lead to future skills shortages in the IT industry (Computer Weekly, 19 October)
Is the IT industry ageist? No. Is there a skills shortage? Again, no. At the age of 51 I was made redundant from my post as an IT manager. My employer paid for me to meet with an employment counsellor. This was a huge stroke of fortune.
I listened to his every word. Inside three months I had a new and better job in IT.
Sadly, after three years, as a result of a head office move conflicting with family responsibilities I had to give up my job. I found work in IT again. The pay was much less and the job not nearly so interesting - I had stepped several rungs down the ladder, but I was working.
I was fortunate in that a succession of employers, at their expense, furthered my education. I have certificates indicating competence in everything from production control systems to health and safety and programming.
I have also been pushy enough to involve myself in projects that were strictly none of my business - everything from office refurbishment to user groups.
I have profound sympathy for those people like George Romney (Letters, 26 October) who work so hard writing fruitless letters. But there is no luck or magic trick in the process of gaining employment.
If all the people with IT skills stopped trying to sell themselves as technicians and concentrated on telling potential employers that they can add value to a business, the skills shortage would largely disappear.
Learn to live with the instant messaging genie
I read with interest the article on instant messaging (Computer Weekly, 19 October). Despite the problems instant messaging can create, such as staff leaking commercially confidential information outside an organisation, it would be dangerous and short-sighted to conclude that instant messaging should be banned from commercial use.
Gartner statistics show that 80% of businesses already use instant messaging , and suggest that instant messaging will overtake e-mail traffic by 2006.
It will prove impossible to sweep instant messaging under the carpet if these statistics are true. The answer is not to ban it completely, but to legitimise it. Instant messaging can be a powerful and efficient business tool, if used wisely, as it eliminates long voice and e-mail trails and makes an immediate response more likely if you know your correspondent is at their desk. A good instant messaging system can be controlled, and tied in with an organisation's document management system, in order to comply with legislative and regulatory demands.
By all means restrict user access to sites offering free instant messaging downloads - in fact that is a must - but do not write it off completely. Instant messaging is here to stay, and it is up to us to find a way of managing it.
There are still better options than insourcing
There are numerous examples of the catastrophes that can happen when companies have failed to choose their outsourcing partners wisely (Computer Weekly, 19 October).
But is a return to insourcing really the best option? What the article on bringing IT back in-house did not discuss was the option for a less wholesale approach to outsourcing. Outsourcing should not be an all-or-nothing service and does not have to mean that a business loses intellectual property and control. By selective outsourcing, IT directors can offload the pressures of operational tasks and concentrate on strategy.
IT directors are under huge pressure to reduce costs, maintain reliable, stable systems and deliver value to the business. The more they get dragged into fire-fighting and daily IT maintenance, the less time they have to make IT strategy successful, develop their role and make headway towards the boardroom. Outsourcing is far from out of favour. If anyone tries to take outsourcing away from IT directors now, they may have a revolution on their hands.
George Williams, head of marketing and communications, Synstar
Compliance cloud has a silver lining
The International Financial Reporting Standards regulations should not be seen as a painful imposition or a tedious draw on the time and resources for IT departments over the next three months.
The silver lining to the compliance cloud is that although standards/regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley and Basel 2 all differ in structure and impact, there is a common trend emerging in that businesses are required to understand, manage, and control business processes to a greater extent than they have previously.
Furthermore, the implications and repercussions of them not managing their processes appropriately are becoming increasingly severe for company and individual alike.
Once businesses start to implement internal controls to meet regulations, the benefits of organisational agility and visibility will become apparent and the panic of meeting compliance deadlines will no longer make headline news.
Welcome to the adult world of regulations
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act is not the only piece of legislation that IT has to comply with. There are strict regulations in the pharmaceutical, aviation, and nuclear industries. In the US there is the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act, which increasingly targets IT, eg 21CFR11, and in the European Union there is European Directive 2003/94/EC.
Simply put, it means that if a business does not comply with such regulations it is not allowed to manufacture or distribute products. No products equals no sales, no sales equals no business.
It seems that now the financial aspects of business are forced to comply, someone has hit the panic button. I welcome the Sarbanes-Oxley Act because it means that the rest of the IT industry has to grow up and work to the same levels of quality standards that small pockets of us have been working to for years.
The industry has to accept that the "seat of the pants operation" days are over.
Graeme Blundell, Altaãr Technology, Strasbourg