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On spending more on printing than security
In response to an IDC report that revealed that companies spend more on printers that security (computerweekly.com, 30 April)
The figures are no surprise considering the amount of money companies unnecessarily overspend on printing facilities. I take the article's point about the "artificially high" cartridge prices being partly to blame, but the truth is that many organisations do not monitor their print facilities closely enough to control costs effectively.
A failure to manage print and copy facilities means that businesses regularly under-use multifunctional devices (MFDs), allowing users to send jobs to print on desktop devices, thereby negating the purpose of the MFD.
If manufacturers spent more time educating businesses as to how they can make better use of their existing MFD technology to reduce the cost of printing, the figures that IDC has reported would show security spend to be significantly greater than that of print expenditure.
Richard De Lay, head of marketing, Ricoh UK
Why jobseekers are treated so badly
In response to David Pye who, answering a Next Move question about why jobseekers are treated so badly, advised readers to only use reputable agencies (Computer Weekly, 4 May)
The response given is, in my experience, a Utopian answer that does not apply in the cold light of day.
The truth is that many job agencies do not reply or acknowledge receipt of your application. If you try to make contact with the relevant person, they are "in meetings", "on another call", or "away from their desk" and you are promised that they will contact you. They very rarely do.
It is all very time-consuming and very frustrating. And, in my experience, the "reputable" agencies are no different from any of the other agencies.
The truth is clear. You send your CV to the agency in the vain hope that the person who looks at it makes enough connections between the client's requirement and your CV to think it relevant to contact you. Then heaven and hell are moved until you are tracked down. Otherwise you are avoided like the plague. Even then, once the client has rejected your application, you may not be informed of this and only find out when you try to speak to the agent again and discover that they are "away from their desk", "in a meeting", or "on another call".
Let's face it. The recruitment agent does not want to waste time on you that will not result in them meeting their targets or bringing in revenue. That's business - plain and simple.
Stuart McCulloch, systems manager, Weekenders UK
UK firms failing to implement SLAs for IT
In response to a survey that revealed that 40% of UK firms do not use service level agreements to check the performance of IT systems (Computer Weekly, 4 May)
The fact that more than 40% of UK companies do not implement service level agreements for their IT systems may not be such bad news, considering the lack of value existing SLAs provide.
Research commissioned by Managed Objects and YouGov found that more than half of UK IT directors operate without meaningful SLAs. This means they are wasting precious resources on agreements that do not properly meet their needs.
Businesses are right to insist on setting SLAs, but current tools restrict the effectiveness of this initiative. Not because it is impossible but merely due to a lack of awareness of existing tools. What is needed are business service level agreements, which focus on automating SLAs by implementing a powerful diagnostic and quality improvement tool that allows companies to reduce IT operational costs and improve service levels in real time.
Sean Larner, general manager, Managed Objects
Independent testing is key to project success
The report by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the British Computer Society is right to point out the appalling success rate of IT projects (Computer Weekly, 27 April) but it is incorrect in its assumption that ensuring project managers are qualified IT professionals or engineers is the answer.
Instead, what is needed is access to sufficient client-side IT expertise and independent experts to carry out early IT testing and optimisation.
IT testing has traditionally been used towards the end of a project when, in fact, it should take place much earlier, when potential problems can be identified and corrected with less cost in time and money.
On several successful projects during the past 18 months, managers have stressed the need for a comprehensive testing strategy. If their contemporaries are serious about improving the success of IT projects, they must learn as much from the industry's successes as from its failures and adopt independent testing as an integral part of project management.
Neil Goodall, European managing director, Tescom
Invest in people and reap the rewards
I am writing to register my disgust and disbelief of Robin Laidlaw's solution to the problem posed by the strategy clinic in your 11 May issue .
His tactic of sacking the worst-performing 25% of the IT department to motivate the rest sums up everything that is wrong in corporate business.
The nice side effect of this measure is that it saves the company money and the manager looks good on paper. The reality is, however, different.
A former employer of mine carried out a similar culling of staff early in 2003. Having released a number of "non-essential" employees through "redundancy" it found that the rest of the talented individuals, now even more overworked and underpaid, started to look elsewhere for jobs.
Good IT people will always find work, and this was the case. Key personnel left the company like rats abandoning a sinking ship, leaving the company with inexperienced 20-year-olds (who needed experience on their CVs before they could jump ship).
As the original staff were made redundant, replacing them was always going to be a task for an experienced personnel manager, but of course she left too, disgusted and disillusioned with the lack of morality within the company.
People are the key to any company and everyone has motivation and enthusiasm. The role of a good manager is to harness this and use it in the business process.
There is always a reason why intelligent people are not motivated or enthusiastic. Find out why and you are half way there. Sack them and the remainder will be unenthusiastic and demotivated within hours.
Although I am not afraid to use strong tactics when necessary, the right-wing rhetoric of this captain of industry leaves me saddened at a time when jobs are being lost to outsourcing. My words of wisdom for Laidlaw are invest in your people and reap the rewards.
Colin Young, network administrator, Speirs and Jeffrey Stockbrokers
Sacking bottom 25% will destroy staff morale
Robin Laidlaw is confusing efficiency with morale (Computer Weekly, 11 May). You do not motivate people by threatening them - in fact, this is likely to have the reverse effect. If I were a member of a company sacking people to scare the remaining staff, I would want to leave immediately, regardless of whether my job was under threat.
I initially thought Laidlaw's comments must be a joke or that he is playing Devil's advocate, but I do not see the motivation to do this in a closed discussion. It is a sad reflection on a working environment, and particularly the management style, if this threatening attitude is adopted without any real insight into what the problems with staff motivation are.
Such action would inevitably heighten tension, confusion and stress while reducing confidence in the stability and loyalty of the company. Loyalty, after all, should not be a one-way street.
Daniel Lingham, technology development engineer, Derby
Robin Laidlaw is talking 'utter nonsense'
I have worked in IT for 35 years from one-man-and-his-dog companies to major international corporations. Sacking the bottom performing 25% of staff, as advocated by Robin Laidlaw (Computer Weekly, 11 May), is complete and utter nonsense.
First, it assumes the quick performance assessments done by a new manager are accurate. They will not be. I have never met a senior manager who can do a sensible and accurate performance assessment. I have learnt far more about my performance by letting staff who report directly to me do my assessment than I have ever learnt from my manager.
Second, all you will succeed in doing is creating a climate of fear - and your top 25% will be out the door before you know it.
Management by fear went out with high stools, starched collars and quill pens. It is sad to see the president of the CW500 Club advocating a management technique that is at least 100 years of out date. An improvement in morale (which is what Laidlaw was asked to supply) is the very last thing such action would achieve.
Roger Tilbury, senior IT consultant
Do you remember the Eduputer?
On the subject of the IBM 360 mainframe family (Computer Weekly, 6 April), how many of your readers have heard of the Eduputer?
This mock 360/30 computer looked like the real thing, but inside was a projector and a massive carousel of slides. Equipped with instruction booklets, cassettes and your Green Card, you could emulate real scenarios - IPL, display ROS, interrogate the PSW and patch the core stack if necessary, all by reading the binary light displays.
This type of intense training was a real pleasure to undertake. And it came in useful when I got my hands on the real thing.
Nigel Watson, Congleton, Cheshire