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The demise of the extranet?
In response to Alec Milton, who wrote that extranets could be obsolete within five years (Computer Weekly, 11 May)
There is a strong counter-argument to Alec Milton's views, which is:
- Extranet suppliers are adapting their service offerings and cost models to be more flexible and competitive.
- Peer-to-peer, as advocated, does not address the issue of project assurance, which a well-implemented electronic document management system embedded within an extranet can address.
- Peer-to-peer does not address the issue of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, which is hugely relevant to public bodies.
- Most people seek a simple, cost-effective solution for collaboration. Integrated Office and Outlook only provide a partial solution - and Microsoft is by no means the only player in town.
- Extranets are becoming more powerful, with integrated functionality providing collaboration over a number of different levels, not just document management and storage.
There is more, but even these points show that the article in question was written to an agenda, rather than as an objective look at the subject.
I am not, as may be inferred by the above, connected with any supplier of extranets, nor do I promote any given extranet solution.
On IT employers having to raise salaries
In response to news that employers are under growing pressure to increase salaries as the IT jobs market recovers (Computer Weekly, 18 May)
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development's predictions for job market buoyancy should put pressure on employers across all industries to make salaries more competitive. But the article forgot to take into account how important other lifestyle-friendly benefits are becoming.
As a good work/life balance becomes more important to many of us in this industry, I would suggest that employers would be missing a trick if they did not offer flexible working policies for staff.ÊÊ
Recruiting and keeping the right staff can be particularly tough for small and mid-size companies which cannot match the salaries offered by their larger peers. For SMEs, flexible working - particularly if it supports more effective rostering of staff - is an asset that larger companies may not be agile enough to offer.Ê
The comms technology is ready, willing and able to support remote, mobile and flexible working practices. It is about time employment policies caught up.
Duncan Miller, marketing manager, Inter-Tel
Is money being wasted by failing to scrap projects?
Last month's IT Directors' Forum was told that large firms waste £13m a year each by failing to scrap failing projects (Computer Weekly, 18 May)
I don't believe it: 500 IT directors at a conference to discuss waste, and they hold the conference on the cruiseship Aurora. Who do they think they are kidding?
Also, why do the authors of the research think everything goes one way? They say that more than £13m is wasted by not scrapping 4% of projects. Do they have any figures for how much money is wasted because they have scrapped projects that should have been allowed to run to completion?
How to tackle teenage hackers
Having read your article concerning teenage hackers (Computer Weekly, 18 May), I came up with an idea to gainfully employ the talents of such people.
I noticed in the article that Microsoft was offering a reward for £250,000 for information leading to the arrest of the author of the Sasser worm. If this sort of money is available to apprehend hackers, perhaps companies should band together and launch a site/server that can be used for a "worm/hacking competition", with people invited to try to infiltrate the security system of said server.
A league table could be made available for general viewing to show how far the hackers got. Prize money and notoriety would be the reward for the successful. The benefit of this to firms would be that they would be at the forefront of hacking knowledge and therefore be better able to design anti-hacking measures.
Job agencies with no time for the disabled
I would like to add my own take to the ongoing discussion about seeking jobs through agencies. I am deaf and cannot use the telephone - something which I found to be a severe setback during my recent search for a new job.
I have often found that an agent who responds to my online application loses interest very quickly when I explain that I am unable to hold a "normal" phone call with them. The fact that alternative forms of communication - online messaging, Typetalk, and so on - are available, does not seem to register. An agent is only likely to be interested in someone who will return their phone call as quickly as possible, by phone.
There are lots of disabled IT professionals out there, but I wonder how many are missing out on career opportunities because of the way many agencies operate. These agencies appear to be able to get away with avoiding their obligations under disability discrimination laws, and they will continue to do so.
My advice to anyone with a disability who is looking for a new job is to restrict your search to organisations that recruit directly. The majority of employers are willing and able to give a fair hearing to a disabled applicant, and to make any necessary adjustments to their recruitment procedures to ensure that the applicant is not at a disadvantage. You may still not get the job you want, but at least you won't fall at the first hurdle.
Paul Reynolds, information analyst, EDS
Confusion over Freedom of Information Act
Further to the your article on the implications of the Freedom of Information Act for local government (Computer Weekly, 11 May), I offer some general clarifications.
The article referred solely to local authorities. All public bodies, and there are hundreds of them, have to comply with this legislation - including the NHS, armed forces, Potato Marketing Board and the well-known Drainage Council for Northern Ireland.
I did not see any reference to paper records, but there was a reference to "IT departments being prepared". No matter what format the record is in, it will be up for grabs, and finding an electronic record will, I suggest, be far easier than searching through manual records. And the legislation is no respecter of time - no matter how old a document is, if you hold it you must disclose it. IT is just part of the picture.
The article also said, "The public will be able to request any information a local authority maintains on them." The Freedom of Information Act should not be confused with data protection legislation. Under the Act, the public (anywhere in the world) can ask for any information except personal data. There will be exempt information, but the thrust of the Act is towards total openness for all public bodies.
Stewart Smith, information security manager, Conwy and Denbighshire NHS Trust
Staff migration could undermine recovery
I read with interest your report on the British Computer Society's career development services (Computer Weekly, 18 May), which highlighted the importance of tracking the skills of individual staff and identifying skills gaps in an organisation.
Following several extremely difficult years, the IT industry is showing signs of recovery and the forecasted increase in business volumes is the most positive for some time. But this increase in commercial confidence is prompting a large number of employees to re-evaluate current jobs and there is now a danger of major personnel shifts throughout the industry.
A wholesale shift of staff could seriously undermine the potential upturn. The cost to an organisation of losing key members of staff - in operational experience, skills and customer knowledge - is significant. Add in the cost of recruitment, training and time taken for new employees to become productive and such costs can rapidly destabilise profitable new customer opportunities.
If the IT industry is to successfully work its way out of the economic slump, organisations need to have a better approach to staff development and enable individuals to progress without repeatedly changing employer. This requires managers to recognise and appreciate the aspirations and career expectations of staff and manage the day-to-day work experience of personnel to enable them to achieve their goals.
By providing such proactive career management, organisations can harness skills while avoiding overextending to recruit and train new staff - even assuming those people are still available in the market. Without this proactive approach to leveraging this key corporate asset, the fragile new business opportunities may be hard to sustain.
Len Palmer, managing director, SharpOWL
Accountants do not understand R&D
I was encouraged to read Peter Denison-Pender urging organisations to "use IT to exploit research and development and cash in on tax credits" (Computer Weekly, 11 May). However, my experience is that even firms that are aware of their tax relief entitlements are struggling to recoup all the money available to them.
Many innovators are reliant on accountants to submit their claims, but accountants rarely have a grounding in technology and science, which is critical when understanding what qualifies as R&D.
The UK tax relief system should look towards the highly successful Canadian model, which states that all claims must contain an engineer's report on the new technology. Focusing on technology first and tax second is crucial to prove true innovation and therefore maximise tax relief.
Accountancy firms rarely have the technology expertise to maximise claims and often offer to handle a firm's R&D tax relief as a way to try to get other work from technology companies. Technology developers therefore need to shop around for advisers that give equal resources to understanding tax and technology.
Michael Cradock, founder and managing director, R&D Credits