The road to successful recruitment is two-way
I read your Opinion column, "How to win the jobs game" (Computer Weekly, 12 July), with interest. I fully endorse Colin Christie's assertion that companies should always develop a working relationship with their agents.
We have been recruiting into our IT department for the past eight months and during this time have built up and refined an excellent working relationship with a small number of specialist IT recruitment agencies.
Successful recruitment is time consuming and expensive so the key for us is to ensure the agents know exactly what we are looking for in a candidate. Obviously we want someone with the right technical skills but non-technical skills are in many ways more significant.
Technical skills can be taught but finding someone who can communicate effectively with our business community as well as fit into the existing IT team is the challenge. Our company has a strong "style" and the wrong sort of person can easily upset the team dynamic.
We have found that the most successful relationships are those where the agency assigns a single point of contact who learns about our business, our structure and what we are trying to achieve. We do our bit too by making sure we stick to the timetable that we agree with each agency for each vacancy and provide constructive feedback on every CV reviewed and every interview conducted, successful or unsuccessful.
A transparent process and good two-way communication not only helps the candidate but also the agency, which gains more experience of our requirements as time goes on.
Recruiting staff can be all consuming, as the people involved in the recruitment process are invariably those driving IT projects forward and managing the teams. By viewing the relationship with each agency as a partnership rather than seeing them merely as a resource we have harnessed their skills and knowledge to our advantage.
Jeanette Crofts, IT director, Markel International
Shared services key to public sector targets
Your article, "London boroughs join forces to slash their stationery costs through online auction" (Computer Weekly, 12 July), highlights how local authorities are looking for guidance in achieving the government targets, as outlined in the Gershon report. They have no choice but to seek increasingly inventive methods to achieve the £20bn savings by 2007/8.
While online auctions and shared purchases are innovative and dynamic ways to cut costs, they are but one small example of the new methods and alternative approaches local authorities are embracing.
But it is not just about cutting incidental costs; whole back-office process changes will have to be undertaken - and these processes automated - in order for local authorities to significantly improve efficiency and generate year-on-year cost reduction. Shared services - for example, of back office processes and IT infrastructure - will instead help the public sector to collaborate and share resources, expertise, knowledge, risk and, of course, reward.
The ways in which the Gershon report targets can be met initially are many and varied; but it won't stop there. Year-on-year, sustainable cost savings and efficiency gains are what is really required, and shared services will prove the key to achieving these.
David Blundell, Netstore
Use belt and braces when multi-sourcing
Your article, "Private sector looks to multiple outsourcing suppliers" (Computer Weekly, 12 July), made interesting reading.
Evolving active relationships between a customer and an outsourcing supplier in order to deliver levels of flexibility is a welcome development.
However, the use of multiple suppliers must not mask a lack of governance within any one supplier, or indeed within the client organisation. The terms and conditions of a contract should allow space for review, but not at the cost of the protection and stability they offer customer and service provider alike.
All outsourcers are not created equal and using a mixed bag of suppliers exposes many organisations to the additional risk of having uneven services delivered to their staff, directors, or even their own customers.
No matter how many suppliers are used, they must be vetted thoroughly to ensure they come up to scratch. There are plenty of standards out there, like BS7799 and COPC, and serious companies go beyond these. Appropriate due diligence should sort out the risky from the safe.
Stuart Drew, HCL Technologies
Multi-sourcing benefits outweigh potential snags
I was interested to read your coverage of Computacenter's research into the trend towards multi-sourcing, (Computer Weekly, 12 July), as it reflected my own recent experiences.
Many of our customers are carriers and ISPs with increasing data storage and management requirements. The reason many of them are moving towards multi-sourcing is the level of control and flexibility it brings, which is often not possible with the large outsourcing providers.
Despite the benefits, there are just as many, if not more, pitfalls to the multi-supplier approach and we would encourage companies considering it to do their homework.
When considering multi-sourcing it is important to take stock of internal systems and resources before approaching any external companies. Multi-supplier relationships can involve more management time than single outsourced projects, although the benefits of increased control will more than compensate for this if done properly. We would expect our potential customers to have an understanding of the business requirement before approaching us, and to ask questions about our resources, management and security in relation to those requirements.
Businesses must not shy away from asking such robust questions of all suppliers and mapping them against clearly deliverable objectives, if they are to avoid the outsourcing mistakes of old.
Pete Morgan-Hare, Telehouse Europe
The argument against introducing ID cards
To counter Robert Collinson's negativity in relation to ID cards (Computer Weekly, 12 July), I can suggest a number of positives, particularly in relation to Collinson's last comment: "If you do not get a card then you do not have an automatic right to NHS treatment". Exactly. How much is lost to health tourism?
I don't think anyone can reasonably answer this as I doubt anyone has sufficient quantitative data. The cost of introduction will probably be recouped in what we currently lose to those not entitled to free UK healthcare.
Murphy's Law aside, this can be applied to all new technology as an excuse for not introducing it, the benefits to all outweigh the perceived doom-mongers' prophecies. Financial institutions, for example, would benefit almost immediately if credit and debit card transactions were combined with biometric identity cards. There are numerous examples to which this added security could be applied.
As for DNA information being used to identify and target groups of individuals, Collinson also provides an example not to accept this as an argument against ID cards. He cites The Sun's recent acquisition of data from an Indian call centre where ID cards are not in use - it happened anyway.
Looking to the NHS systems and the mess they are in, it would be easy for unscrupulous insurance bodies (or governments) to obtain the data now, irrespective of whether there are ID cards or not.
No, Collinson has trotted out the same trite reasons why citizens should not have ID cards and he is right: there is no valid comeback to a law-abiding society's reason not to adopt them.
Stuart Kelly, company data manager, LDV
The CIO's role within an organisation
I agree with Des Lee's assertion that, traditionally, the role of the CIO has been fraught with difficulties (Computer Weekly, 12 July). A huge part of this problem has obviously been the continuing gulf between IT and the business. Without a common language, making the transition between IT and the business, and vice versa, is far from easy.
Today, however, the corporate climate with an emphasis on IT indicates that the conditions are ripe for the CIO to move up the food chain. The advent of methodologies such as IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) can provide a real opportunity to break down previously insurmountable barriers. With common structures and definitions used to condense thousands of highly technical metrics to a few business-centric metrics, an organisation can now see exactly how it is served by the IT infrastructure.
And critically, that culture or philosophy can be ingrained at every level of the IT operation. Too often in the past, while senior management recognised the importance of key business services, the out of hours service engineer did not, resulting in poor prioritisation of problem resolution and a drop in service levels.
However, this new era of communication can help to transform IT's role within an organisation from cost centre to revenue generator, taking the CIO back to providing a valid voice on the board.
Dave Parker, ASG
ISPs' reaction to anti-terror proposals
I was very interested to see your article on compliance and disagree with Malcolm Hutty's comments (Computer Weekly, 19 July).
ISPs should not be wary of these proposals, but rather should be welcoming them. Datanet accepts that it has a corporate social responsibility and that, where required, and for the wellbeing of our clients and the public at large, this responsibility extends to retaining as much information as is reasonable.
As for the issue of cost for ISPs following this directive, the better informed ISPs will know that additional costs for storing such high volumes of data can be reclaimed from the Home Office (I refer to the HO letter dated 8 December 2004 to the ISPA). Other benefits will also come into play: in an effort to reduce unwanted data, ISPs will make a greater effort to reduce spam.
Conleth McCallan, MD, Datanet