Videoconferencing is now a serious business tool
I agree very strongly with John McGhee (Letters, 6 March) concerning the value of videoconferencing technology.
During my tenure at my previous employer, I saw videoconferencing turn from a novelty into a serious business tool. Costs savings varied, but were estimated to be no less than £20,000 in 2001, and rose to £45,000 a year within three years.
At my current employer we have installed a newer IP-based system of much higher quality. The initial response has been very positive, and we expect savings in the UK alone of about £40,000 this financial year, rising to £70,000 next year, by reducing travelling and associated costs with a one-off expenditure of less than £10,000.
In our overseas offices the potential savings are even greater. It is also estimated that we will save 80 to 100 work days that would otherwise be lost in travelling.
This is also significantly reducing our carbon footprint - something the CEO is keen to see happen and probably an item that we may use in our discussions with suppliers and customers. It has been made available to all departments, which is also encouraging the various teams to work more collaboratively. This will reduce some of the time delays and improve the attitude between workers at the different sites.
The company now views this as a major business tool - something that after only six months is already indispensable.
Tony Sutcliffe, IT manager, Bott
Graduate and contractor are not comparable roles
You report that IT directors would prefer to hire and train graduates rather than hire contractors (Computer Weekly, 13 March). As a graduate and a contractor, I am puzzled by this false comparison.
Graduate recruits and contractors fulfil different roles, so why would you choose between them? A good contractor brings a breadth of experience and valuable specialist skills that may be lacking within an organisation in response to short-term needs. A good graduate recruit provides fresh blood to ensure the quality of permanent staff in the longer term.
As for Paul Spencer's claim that graduates are more willing to "work in new ways" than contractors, perhaps experienced staff know better than to fall for the latest quick-fix IT fads so enthusiastically embraced by management? How do most contractors make a living, if not by constantly extending their skills and experience, often at their own expense? And we have all seen organisations that suffer from the "not invented here" syndrome, precisely because their permanent staff or managers are reluctant to "work in new ways".
Meanwhile, the sad reality is that too many British IT directors are interested in hiring neither British graduates nor contractors, but prefer to import cheap staff from abroad or move the work offshore altogether.
Perhaps that is why many contractors have left the industry and why growing numbers of IT graduates have been unable to find work in recent years. This lack of commitment by British employers to their own staff might also explain why our IT industry has suffered from a self-inflicted "skills crisis" for much of the past 20 years.
Time for IT directors to put up or shut up?
IT must be seen as the nexus of business change
New technology implementations are once again highlighted as the last consideration for CEOs and senior business managers when planning a new strategy or future direction (Computer Weekly, 6 March).
Perhaps this is due, in part, to the ubiquity of technology - within the business world it is either ignored if it seamlessly works or cursed if it does not. As such, many business leaders fail to regard IT as the positive force that it so often is. Another problem is that technology implementations can be perceived as expensive and risky. Having seen how big IT projects can make - or all too often break - the reputation of their peers, CEOs are understandably risk averse.
Technology may well be loved and loathed in equal measure, and badly planned implementations can be a gamble, but this is all the more reason why it is ever more critical to ensure that IT is seen as the nexus of any business change.
This demands a radical shift in attitude across the organisation, but CEOs, more than most, need to set aside any residual prejudice and combat poor experience to provide IT with the strategic direction it requires to provide the business with the technological innovations it is capable of delivering.
Joanna Sedley-Burke, Sovereign Business Integration
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