Readers’ letters

Planning for performance

I was interested to read your article in the September issue of Information Age on business process management (End to end, step by step). We agree the terminology is confusing and we have stopped using the BPM acronym. It can just as easily stand for business performance management, a very different initiative.

We also agree that business process management is not a ‘new killer app’ – even though you quite rightly state that a number of IT suppliers are only now waking up to the opportunities. We’ve been installing this at customer sites in the UK for the last six years, and have many customers reaping the benefits of improved workflows and processes, as well as XML-based process integration with their business partners.

Some software suppliers, including Siebel, have developed processes for customers and are now repackaging them. We too have offered packaged processes, which assisted some of our early adopters to appreciate the benefits that could be realised. But in our most recent experiences, customers invest to derive competitive edge, which you can’t do with out-of-the-box processes. Some companies do want to adopt standard best practice processes at a macro process level, but it is the flexibility and ability to model software to meet their unique operational processes that really drives their advantage.

Companies should not be scared of analysing their processes. One of our recent installations involved a customer having just one ‘away day’ where they gathered all department heads to review their current processes and agree how they could be improved. The time investment of just one day produces remarkable, ‘eye-opening’ results and is critical to the next stage – the delivery of competitive edge.

Alastair Middleton
Marketing director
Geac System21 Aurora

IT matters, but costs matter more

The Harvard Review ‘IT Doesn’t Matter’ article as discussed by Andrew Lawrence in July/August’s edition of Information Age highlights an issue that is close to my heart. The way in which organisations have invested in, and managed, IT over the past three decades means that technology can get in the way of good business practice. IT has become a headache for organisations who often wish that it would just disappear.

Like electricity, software should be a utility that powers the enterprise rather than an obstacle that impedes a company from getting on with its real business. The second coming of application service provision is making this a reality for many companies who now pay a fixed monthly sum to be relieved of the IT headache. But just because IT is becoming invisible does not mean that it does not matter. It is essential that companies choose a supplier carefully, one that can deliver mission-critical applications seamlessly and with no down time.

So I argue that IT will become invisible and cost is the issue. But I agree with Andrew Lawrence that abandoning the idea that the application of IT can add value to a business and deliver competitive advantage is a very risky road to take.

Colin Boag
Managing director
JBS Computer Systems

E-learning is not a panacea

I enjoyed reading your article on Employee Empowerment in the recent Business Briefing on the Real-Time Enterprise. We are seeing a big move in the marketplace towards e-learning and employee self-service and we are seeing the leading-edge companies, such as Microsoft, add performance management to their learning initiatives, in order to align their people, their jobs, their competencies and their knowledge to the overall company goals.

However, I think that it is important to emphasise that there is a balance to be struck here. E-learning is just one part of the total learning mix, and self-service is just one method an employee can use to access learning. Every company will therefore, have to find out how much e-learning and self-service is appropriate, given their own unique business requirements and goals. There is no ‘one-size fits all’ when it comes to learning, and e-learning is not a panacea for the knowledge age.

Dave Thomson
Marketing Director, EMEA


Well there you go – one airport trial and one police force trial and facial recognition is a write off (see, Facial recognition software flops in US trials,, 4 September 2003). This just amazes me. From their own evidence at Boston’s Logan Airport, the software succeeded in 61% of cases. Have they gone back to human recognition? If so, I also wonder what percentage the fallible human achieves?

No they move on to the next ‘fashion’ – flash your retina at this please. I agree that the computer industry is often the victim of its own hype – it always has been and, amazingly, continues to be incapable of managing its customers’ expectations so we all need to do a little mea culpa – but the whole of this, including the reporting is just so fantastic.

I remember the ‘card in, card out’ days when business was happy to buy time on Leo, the world’s first business computer, switched on in 1951, and indeed to purchase a system outright (e.g. Ferranti Pegasus) because they achieved 80% positive results. That left the humans with only 20% to sort out and reduced the workload by 80%.

Please can we have some more positive reporting, at least showing surprise that Logan and Virginia Police are moving up one ‘fashion level’ instead of soldiering on with facial recognition.

Richard Norman

A tale of two Elizabeths

It was interested to read your (Crib sheet) section relating to Business gurus in the September 2003 edition of Information Age, especially the keynotes.

I assume then that the inclusion of Elizabeth Ross Kanter in the ‘also in the premier league’ players was specifically to catch out bluffers. Or is Elizabeth Ross Kanter related to the famous American professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter?

John Morrision

Editor’s reply: No John, a slip of the tongue that got through the subs. Thanks for pointing it out.

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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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