Readers’ letters

The scope of solicitation

In my opinion your article ‘Marketing meltdown’ (Information Age, December2003) fails to address the full breadth of the [new] regulations [governing the distribution of spam]. For example the new law applies not just to email, mobile text messaging and the use of the Internet but also to phone calls and faxes. The key word here is ‘unsolicited’.

It also concentrates on the Data Protection element, which only applies to [the spamming of] individuals and sole traders, but the regulations apply to direct marketing aimed at organisations as well.

A definition of ‘direct marketing’, offered earlier by the Information Commissioner in relation to Data Protection, also indicates how broad the area covered is: “The communication (by whatever means) of any advertising or marketing material which is directed to particular individuals”.

It is the Commissioner’s view that ‘marketing’ in this context – based on the definitions adopted by the Council of Europe, the EU and the Federation of Direct Marketing – includes “not just the offer for sale of goods or services, but also the promotion of an organisation’s aims and ideals”.

The Commissioner adds: “This would include a charity or a political party making an appeal for funds or support and, for example, an organisation whose campaign is designed to encourage individuals to write to their MP on a particular matter or to attend a public meeting or rally.”

Clearly the regulations are aimed at the regular nuisance calls, but as usual other normally law abiding organisations have been caught in the net. They may not even realise it, as people tend to look at the phrase ‘direct marketing’ and assume that, as they don’t sell anything, it does not apply to them.

Peter Mead
Corporate information management officer
London Borough of Barking and Dagenham

Middle aware

Sharp and incisive as ever, your article on new [legacy application] integration technologies (‘Legacy salvation’, Information Age, November 2003) made interesting reading. But what about open source? The article’s author, Nicholas Enticknap, gave a first rate overview of the subject, but forgot to mention the probable impact that open source middleware technologies will have on the market.

Open source is creeping into the enterprise. And after the operating system (Linux) and web server (Apache), it is probable that the next market to feel the impact of open source will be middleware and application servers. At our company, MODCOMP, we have already installed Jboss application servers in production systems, and used Openadaptor in our own messaging middleware technology. These open source technologies are robust and well documented.

There are four reasons why companies will look at open source for middleware solutions – over and above the fact that the software is free: assets bin source summary_source tmp It is difficult to start small with middleware from the traditional vendors; assets bin source summary_source tmp It is difficult to arrange for a serious trial of proprietary software, to see if it does the job; assets bin source summary_source tmp IT teams want control of the middleware software they deploy – access to the source code gives them this; assets bin source summary_source tmp Tactical middleware solutions can be difficult to cost justify when the significant cost of proprietary middleware or application server software is taken into account.

It’s not for everyone, but open source middleware software will definitely be more widely deployed by this time next year.

Kevin Magee
Managing director

Spam sham

The anti-spam legislation, which came into force in the UK in Dec-ember, is a sham (see ‘Marketing meltdown’, Information Age, December 2003). While critics are quick to point out that this new legislation is diluted by the vast amounts of spam coming in from outside the European Union, most are missing the point that professional spammers in the UK will continue to find ways around the regulations.

Professional marketers are already guilty of this. According to the latest spam research, consumers are fed up with the level of spam they receive from companies that they thought they could trust, but instead, send them irrelevant content.

This form of junk mail, known as ‘second-degree spam’, is a loophole that the new law fails to take into consideration. Research shows that more than 50% of opt-in marketing emails are irrelevant and inappropriate.

Until the government develops a law that stops marketers from taking advantage of opt-in mailing lists and requires them to personalise opt-in marketing emails, the loss of hours and productivity to businesses will only continue to rise.

Martin Blackburn
Managing director

Call to Europe

In December, world leaders’ attention turned to the summit in Geneva addressing the threat of a growing digital divide. Much of the debate centred on consumer access to technology, but this issue extends much further, right into the heart of the business community.

Unless European business performs a fundamental shift in its attitude towards information communications technology (ICT), the region runs the risk of being left behind the US and Asia in productivity and profitability. In fact, research from the World Economic Forum shows that the gap between Europe and America is already widening, with the US using IT to boost economic growth more than any other country in the world. The gulf looks set to widen, unless Europe can shape up fast.

We are in the age of the digital networked economy, but many businesses have yet to truly wake up to this fact. The sooner Europe plc embraces ICT as a strategic imperative and an integral part of the business model rather than a risk, the sooner the region will generate efficiencies that will drive growth.

Andy Green
BT Global Services

Integration trauma

I was interested to read the article ‘Open Text joins ECM feeding frenzy’ in the November 2003 issue of Information Age. I do indeed agree that many analysts will see 2003 as the year when the enterprise content management (ECM) sector finally left its adolescence behind. But at what cost?

You mention that this change has resulted in a great amount of trauma for end users of content management software. Shouldn’t vendors offer solutions that do not require the wholesale replacing of existing products, and help to ease the trauma for their customers through easy integration? Content management solutions should be integrated with the software customers are currently using, rather than phasing out or consolidating existing services.

In your article, you state that customers now face “enforced product migration or at least a dwindling of commitment on the part of the new owner”. We all know that end users are often resistant to product migration or new owners enforcing their own products – mainly because this complicates their lives, and has a negative impact on their ability to do their jobs.

Users want to be able to capture, manage, store and deliver diverse documents, reports and images – in any format from any source. Product migration is a complex, expensive process that will disrupt operations for a significant period of time.

By integrating content management solutions with existing IT infrastructure, users can continue to work with the products that they’ve become accustomed to, but now with necessary new enhancements. The key is to look to solutions that can access content on disparately located sources – third-party repositories, databases, e-mail applications or file systems – and link all of these through a single user interface.

Companies involved in recent merger and acquisition activities would like us to believe that a fully integrated vendor is better placed to provide a fully integrated solution. But as Gartner points out in your article, these vendors face significant challenges integrating their multiple products. Independent, best-of-breed vendors with healthy track records have already demonstrated greater integration.

Some have recognised that the average large company has six or more different content repositories and have developed integration capabilities that provide access to multiple, disparate repositories from a single user interface, eliminating the need for costly, disruptive migrations. This approach puts the real needs of the working environment in the equation – making it possible to achieve integration while maintaining usability.

The cobbled-together solutions that are now appearing in the ECM market don’t necessarily offer the simplest and most cost effective method of managing disparate content repositories.

Karry Kleeman
Senior VP and MD, EMEA
Mobius Management Systems

Supply chain

I loved the quotes from Dell CIO Randy Mott in Information Age December’s article ‘Active intelligence’: “Working with an active data warehouse can drive huge efficiency into the supply chain …Knowing that some product is selling out gives you a chance to get some more on the truck and out before the door closes.”

I wonder what his comments would be with regard to it taking six weeks to deliver me a rack server at the end of 2003, and why the two desktops I ordered on 4 December have still not arrived [at the time of writing]!

The fact that in my experience Dell has the worst admin of anyone we deal with bemuses me as to why they don’t spend some money on sorting out the admin issues as opposed to more money on the data warehousing.

Matthew Maltby
Company details supplied

  • Information Age asked Dell if it would like to respond: We have since investigated the details behind the case thoroughly and apologised directly for the delays.

    In the case of the rack server, the delay was caused by a worldwide parts shortage. However, the two Dimension desktop computers were late in delivery due to human error when the order was placed. However, we are pleased that in both cases the units have now been successfully delivered.

    Sarbox-ing clever

    I am writing in response to the article ‘Payback time’ in Business Briefing (December 2003) that looked at the economics of business process management (BPM). I agree that few technologies offer a clearer return on investment than BPM. As a piece of legislation, the focus of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act is on financial reporting, but as a practical piece of reality, the act is really about process management.

    CFOs have been tasked with the responsibility of ensuring compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley within most companies, which makes sense from the perspective that they, along with CEOs, are the ones most personally at risk by the legislation. The reality, though, is that CFOs must be supported by others on the senior executive team who maintain a more comprehensive, process view of the enterprise.

    In order for compliance to be truly ingrained within an organisation, it can’t be limited to a single department or division. As Gartner has noted, “compliance should be an enterprise-wide discipline, and should be managed and supported by others on the senior executive team who maintain a more comprehensive, process view of the enterprise.”

    Corporations now have to implement a comprehensive system of internal controls. Business process management solutions can provide fully automated controls that make it easier for large companies to accurately report financial results with, for example, automated auditing tools. By leveraging these solutions into existing systems, complying with Sarbanes-Oxley suddenly becomes cost effective, as opposed to a burden.

    So, BPM not only provides real-time access to accurate, assured and audited financial information, it also provides the opportunity to turn the cost of compliance into operational process improvement, with savings of approximately 10%-20%.

    Neil McMullan
    Managing Director, EMEA

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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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