Is there really a threat to physical security?
I read with interest Pete Simpson's opinion piece "Don't fear the e-terror hype" (Computer Weekly, 26 April). Simpson claims that the threat of e-terrorism is surrounded by hyperbole, because the probability of a successful cyber terror attack depends upon both access to and insider knowledge of the target, which are rarely available in combination, as well as a motive.
He poses, but does not offer to answer, the question, "Why have we not witnessed a massively damaging physical attack against communications infrastructures", which are, by comparison, easy and often undefended targets?
Certainly there have been scares, "threats" and both military and civilian pre-emptive preparations and responses as well as innumerable laws, provisions and measures taken by our government to "protect" us from such threats.
But, to my knowledge, the media has not reported a single successful and bona fide terrorist attack in mainland UK of any kind, in any proportion, by any Middle-Eastern (or other) terrorist group since September 2001.
Perhaps this is the result of wonderfully effective government security measures, or perhaps the answer to Simpson's unanswered question is that it is not only the threat of cyber terrorism that has been grossly exaggerated.
Scaremongers invalidate benefits of outsourcing
Your analysis, "Outsourcing 'backlash' highlights need for IT leaders to sharpen management skills"(Computer Weekly, 3 May) assiduously aimed to balance the alarmist reporting from Deloitte Consulting; however, I feel it could have gone further to address the positive impact from larger organisations' experience, both good and bad, in IT outsourcing.
As your article pointed out, the conclusion we can draw from the termination of major outsourcing deals is that outsourcing per se is often not the culprit for failed cost savings, below expectation efficiency gains and unachieved business objectives.
Rather, the problem lies at the inception of the outsourcing contract when users engage a third party as a tactical solution to a strategic issue.
It is no great surprise that large organisations who failed to comprehensively review IT strategy, internal processes and systems before signing up an external supplier, discover they could have done a better job themselves.
With the benefit of hindsight and a degree of separation from a third-party supplier, these organisations can now clearly see the flaws in their operations, which outsourcing service providers have had the misfortune to inherit. The decision to bring IT back in-house has forced a crystallisation of IT strategy for these businesses.
IT leaders do indeed need to sharpen their management skills. However, this would be more effective as a starting point rather than an end point for decision-making in IT outsourcing.
Outsourcing is and can be a viable, effective option for many UK businesses, but only if executed against the imperative of proper strategic analysis, planning and management by users.
Tim McLucas, show director, OutsourceWorld
Flexibility is key to a successful relationship
Your article on Gartner's Outsourcing Summit, "Call the shots on outsourcing, users urged" (Computer Weekly, 3 May), was most interesting, particularly Barclays urging businesses to forge more flexible partnerships with their IT suppliers and Gartner's observation that if organisations continue to focus on cost alone this soon leads to the need for contract renegotiation.
Indeed, at Fujitsu we have already seen that businesses are beginning to take a more pragmatic and flexible approach to IT, avoiding the straitjacket deals which limit flexibility, and are looking beyond basic cost. We are seeing this in the way that companies approach new outsourcing deals. Instead of just paying for a supplier to meet a service level agreement (SLA), companies are working towards business value agreements with suppliers.
The key to ensure that a supplier is meeting the needs of the business is to think of them as a partner and ensure that the contract is beneficial to both parties. At the outset, expectations must be matched between both parties, which should pay close attention to the delivery of business value through IT, incorporating and going beyond the usual delivery of SLAs. Openness on behaviour and information from both sides is key, and the essential measurement and monitoring of projects through the life of the contract must recognise this.
By beginning the partnership in this way, the chances of failure later are greatly reduced. It's a trend that has already begun, but it is the responsibility of all of us in the IT industry to ensure that it becomes the norm.
Jack Noble, head of core services, Fujitsu Services
Smartcard registration will enhance NHS
In response to the article "NHS smartcard registration will erode time available for patients" (Computer Weekly, 10 May), surely Tony Collins is missing the point. While it may take between 12 and 20 minutes to complete a registration in order to obtain a smartcard, this is a one-off process which, once successful, will not have to be repeated.
Second, a "delay of 40 seconds" for first access to a patient's files seems a small price to pay to avoid the need for the army of clerical and administrative staff to handle a paper record and to co-ordinate its arrival with patient and doctor at the point of consultation.
This is where the real savings are going to be made, and if I were this impatient clinician you mention in your article, I would contemplate these changes more on the basis of the overall efficiencies which will be obtained, rather than on the apparently selfish basis that your article suggests. YOUR SHOUT
On making sense of the recruitment market, part 1
David Lambert's piece on recruitment (Recruitment in disarray?, 10 May) is, in the main, balanced and well thought out, and I wholeheartedly agree that we need more common sense introduced to the recruitment market. It is time we gained some realism. There is normally a three-way relationship: recruiters, clients and candidates.
Recruiters get a bad reputation due to their position in the middle. We get bundled in with life assurance salesmen, estate agents and double glazing salesmen as facilitators who by definition are evil, useless and money grabbing. However, houses, jobs, pensions and double glazing are all viewed as necessary, useful and objects or careers we can be proud of.
Clients provide recruiters with specifications and best-fit profiles. In recent history, I have had clients ask for five years' .net and 15 years' Java experience, and more alarmingly stipulated less than 30 years old. Indeed, the same organisation rejected a supremely qualified 54-year-old on the basis of team fit.
In today's market that 54-year-old is likely to remain for (company survival permitting) 11 years, which has to represent great value. As a recruiter, with an IT background, my role is to educate and re-educate clients who are not only ageist but technologically and market-wise unaware.
A local council recently advertised for an IT support specialist with over five years' experience of XP, NT, 2000, C, C++, Java, Unix, Citrix, RPG400 and System 32 all for the princely sum of £15,000. Bearing in mind the breadth of experience, the only individuals who could possible apply would be of the more mature generation, but they may be put off by the remuneration.
Lastly applicants. Unfortunately, all applicants see are black holes. Their CVs disappear into them. Targeted recruiters have no time to advise them that those CVs may be badly written, badly laid out or emphasised incorrectly so, as David points out, they have to become independently savvy. Things have changed in the last 15 years. In 1990, if your CV read 'Bob PL1 programmer', some motivated agent would get you an interview. Not any more. You need to stay positive and keep applying.
The solution? Relationships. Maintain them. When an agent gets an applicant a job, reward them by ensuring your new employer continues to keep them informed of future developments or do so yourself. Applicants normally forget their agent's name the second they start work.
Agents: continue to educate clients, inform them when they are talking rubbish and reward their new realism with prompt CVs and well-prepared interviewees.
Clients: stop looking to save money, pay decent fees; develop long-term relationships with agents, but try new ones from time to time to keep people on their toes. Remember to listen to advice.
Colin Christie, managing director, Christie's Recruitment
On making sense of the recruitment market, part 2
Further to David Lambert, I would like to point out that most companies looking for people have never considered part-time, shared jobs or other permutations.
My experience has been that part-time workers have much higher productivity than their full-time counterparts. All their personal business tends to be transacted outside of working hours. They are usually focussed on work completion within their restricted time at work. My experience has also been that if part-time workers are sick they make time up, so it is not 'lost' time.
When considering all of this I can see many advantages for the part-time worker, at most technical levels. If we consider many technical roles, particularly with specialists and the project environment, the technologist could be working on several projects at any one time. Surely this is a form of part-time working, so if the amount of time available is restricted then the only difference is the number of concurrent projects that can be managed.
Keeping all this in mind, I do not understand the skills shortage/crisis when there are so many technologists available but under different terms and conditions to the current norm. Why don't these companies rethink what their requirement actually is, and recruitment companies step up to matching the people available to company requirements?