Computer Weekly readers have their say
Government should make much more of Prince 2
You publish many pieces on ID cards and government-run projects. These all strike the same chord with me, and match in with your campaigns on the tax system and all the other projects that the government sets up and runs until it gets bored. It seems not to be able to manage projects for nuts, although it is excellent at setting up inquiries once the things go bad. If only it had trained project managers.
What I find particularly wondrous is that Prince 2 is a UK government procedure of managing a "Project In a Controlled Environment" owned by our Office of Government Commerce, and it ought to be a defined requirement right from the outset for any UK government-sponsored project.
The management of the building of the Holyrood parliament building was a high-profile example of how not to manage projects when it failed to define the scope of the project, failed to list costs in advance, failed to plan what deliverable achievements would mark success points all the way through and (presumably) failed to get such a list signed off by the clients. Frequent clear and useful reporting through the life of the project should have brought howls from worried stakeholders in time to fix many problems. The end result should have been signed off by the buyers too.
I find it close to impossible to understand why the year-long Fraser Inquiry into why that one went pear-shaped did not produce a short, sharp report within a week showing the baseline project report as signed off in advance, and the comparison of this with what actually happened. Names of all stakeholders would have been clear, fault easily apportioned, and anything that might have gone wrong would have been seen early enough to be dealt with and limited in its effect!
I have seen much in your columns about IT-related projects going awry, much about exposing or keeping secret Gateway reports. Prince 2 is not a panacea, but it certainly promotes good project management. Why is more not made of it?
Jonathan McColl, Dingwall, Rossshire
Focus shift required to tackle project failure
Socitm makes an interesting point that the public sector must shift its focus from technology if it is to tackle the problem of project failureÊ(Computer Weekly, 25 October). Although I would argue that there is still a clear need for IT tools, technology alone is pointless if employees are uninspired and unmotivated from the outset.
It is vital that senior management has full visibility into projects, made possible by today's technology, but some seem oblivious to the need to engage with both staff and customers. A more collaborative approach must be adopted in order for project management to succeed.
David Oates, Primavera Systems
Maths A-levels give a head start for IT studies
Rob Cunniffe (Letters, 11 October) suggests that studying computer science A-level gives students a head start when they go on to study this subject at degree level. On the contrary, I suspect that those studying A-level maths walk away with top honours and this might explain why universities prefer to recruit mathematicians.
Besides, studying maths develops a systematic approach to problem solving - a useful attribute for someone working in software development.
Mike Follows, Open University
Aliases offer a logical solution for NHS e-mail
Your correspondent (Letters, 1 November) highlights the problem of personal e-mail addresses in the NHS system not indicating location or job function.
The obvious, and common, solution to this is to overlay aliases on the system. If you wish to e-mail the holder of a particular job, or all those with a particular function, you use the alias address, and the system forwards your e-mail to the correct personal e-mail address(es). When the personnel move, the aliases are changed to reflect the new structure.
If none of the people implementing this multimillion-pound system have thought of that, then we really should be worried!
Common sense view for a just licensing world
Although I would not advocate that anyone break the law, I think that the situation outlined in the article on second-hand software (Computer Weekly, 11 October) illustrates why users do not always respect the attitudes of software providers.
If a manufacturing firm produces a piece of hardware it has to devote resources to each and every item manufactured - materials, labour and power in varying proportions. When it sells the machine, the purchaser will use it until it is of no further use to them and then dispose of it for whatever price they can obtain.
Both hardware and software are subject to obsolescence, but hardware also suffers wear with use. Software becomes unsuitable for new generations of hardware.
Both hardware and software have to be designed before they can be mass-produced and the designer of hardware is protected against others blatantly copying his design by copyright. If he is truly inventive the ideas he produces may be covered by patents. Apart from the intellectual rights attached to the design, the inventor and manufacturer will expect no further income from their product once it is sold.
Why should a firm that produces software which it sells for a fair price expect an income stream forever?
In a common sense world the purchaser should buy the rights to one copy of the software to be used on one device for as long as that device operates.
If the device is scrapped they should be able to use the software on a replacement device. If the software supplier provides updates they should be able to charge for them - providing the update isn't to correct a flaw in the original. If they provide the services of a help desk then they would of course charge for that under whatever contract was agreed.
The above description is not that far removed from what happens in practice - with programs being replaced as new and usually more powerful hardware is introduced. Sometimes the old version software is used on old hardware to introduce the program to a new generation of potential users. Is that a bad thing?
If some people produce unauthorised copies of software to sell, then they are guilty of theft - a crime which should be dealt with by catching and prosecuting the criminals. The rest of us should be allowed to get on with using the programs for which we have paid.
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