Information Age readers’ letters – December 2003

Blocking tactics

Meta Group analyst Ashim Pal is entirely correct in identifying employee use of instant messaging [IM] as a growing business risk (Expert Advice: IM Archiving, Information Age, October 2003).

In highly-regulated industries, like capital markets and pharmaceuticals, there is a real danger that the speed, informality and ephemerality of IM communications will lead to legal and regulatory compliance breaches, whether deliberate or accidental. However, amongst all of the article’s excellent recommendations about instant message archiving, readers may have missed a crucial point which Mr Pal only mentions in passing: how do you prevent non-compliant messages being sent in the first place?

Halting an inappropriate message before it leaves the sender’s desktop is worth a thousand times more than the ability to retrieve that message when the SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission] or FSA [Financial Services Authority] come knocking.

Companies in those highly-regulated sectors would do well to implement a dual policy management strategy, combining active intervention at the desktop with the comprehensive archiving and storage approach outlined by Mr Pal. Only by locking the stable door before the horse has bolted can companies avoid the kind of embarrassment and negative publicity occasioned by the Frank Quattrones and Jo Moores of this world.

Peter B Malcolm
Chief executive officer

Email alert

I read with interest your article ‘Mail order’, on the email management nightmare that is affecting business (Information Age, October 2003). I agree that companies should be looking to technologies that help fight the onslaught of email traffic, however it is also vital that these organisations take proper ownership of the email management issue – and senior management needs to lead the way!

Just at today’s minimum wage, if 100 employees spend 20 minutes a day on non-work related email, the cost to a business, a government department or a local authority would be £32,000 per annum.

Yet because email is seen as an IT issue, no-one is prepared to take real ownership of email management, which often results in a classic buck-passing exercise from IT to HR to the board and back again.

To enable effective email management, IT must provide easy-to-use tools to business managers, allowing them to have the necessary reporting information available at their fingertips. Companies must foster a new culture for email usage that is driven from the top, with responsibility shared by all.

This can save business thousands of pounds, increase staff productivity, lessen the risk of email-related legal threats, make the IT infrastructure more efficient, and, in doing so, add to the company’s bottom line.

Richard Kolodynski
General manager, EMEA
Waterford Technologies

Right to justify

I found your article ‘Going Public’ , (Information Age, November 2003) most interesting. Having worked in both private and public sectors myself I appreciate the different drivers and challenges in both sectors.

The point I especially found interesting was the sidebar on the ‘pros and cons’ of being a government CIO. Listed amongst the cons [identified by Gartner] was the “required documentation of important projects for justification and prioritisation”.

Given the recognised high failure rate of projects, across all sectors, it is surprising that a disciplined approach, such as justifying the reasons for a project, is seen as being a negative. A key aspect of any project and IT development is to ensure that it meets business requirements and to avoid performing a project in the absence of corporate priority. Surely the requirement to justify a project should be something to be pursued, not viewed as being a negative of a government position.

Malcolm Beach
AMTEC Consulting

Innovator’s dilemma

Nicholas Carr’s ‘IT Doesn’t Matter’ article for Harvard Business Review has stirred up much debate [Influencer, Information Age, October 2003]. But a viewpoint yet to be raised is IT’s contribution to business success and that different types of technology will support the business in different ways.

There are two distinct types of technology: one which supports the running of a business (call it infrastructure IT), and one which supports business differentiation (innovation IT). Infrastructure IT – everything from workstations to networks – keeps the business functioning and is indeed becoming a commodity as more of this infrastructure is being outsourced.

Innovation IT is application software that runs across the infrastructure and accelerates the speed and transparency of the processes that define the business. This technology directly affects how the business serves customers, earns revenues and maximises profits. It gives a competitive edge simply because its competitors cannot duplicate the same combination of business processes.

The trick is to identify which parts of the business constitutes infrastructure IT and what constitutes innovation IT in your business. The distinction is not always that obvious, and can vary widely by company type. Infrastructure IT should be outsourced where possible, with innovation IT managed for return on opportunity and ability to contribute to profits.

Steve Semelsberger
EMEA Director
Motive Communications

True measure

Information Age‘s monthly tracking of the IT industry’s fortunes through its Infoconomy Index is the best available anywhere.

As a business analyst for a large IT services group, it is my job to give the company’s European directors an accurate picture of the health (or not) of the sector. We used to employ an investment bank to do this (at some considerable cost), but now rely on your Index.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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