Computer Weekly Editor's Blog

July 10, 2013  1:00 PM

10 things men in IT can do to help get women into IT

Bryan Glick Bryan Glick Profile: Bryan Glick

We all know there is a problem getting women into the IT profession. I wrote last week that the only real solution to this problem lies with the men in IT – as the dominant group, the only way to improve the diversity and skills base of the sector is for the men that make most of the decisions to change their ways.

I’ve had a few people say to me since – that’s all well and good, but what can men in IT actually do to make a difference?

So, here are 10 top tips for things that men in IT can do to help attract more women into IT (in no particular order):

Be a mentor for women in IT

Experienced men in positions of influence can help women develop their careers by mentoring them, introducing them to your contact network, and providing coaching. Mentoring women also sends a message out to the rest of your organisation and your network about the importance of sharing your experience and cultivating diversity. It doesn’t have to be mentoring someone who works for you – what about “swapping” with peers at other employers to mentor each other’s female IT staff?

Offer work experience

Many firms already offer work experience for school or university students, but few will actively seek female candidates. It’s not about positive discrimination either – just make the effort to offer placements to girls as well as boys. It’s a target, not a quota. And when you do, offer the girls experience of work that will interest them and use their skills and capabilities. Don’t stereotype – but be aware that in some situations female students might have different interests, and offer skills in different areas, than men.

Specify a target for CVs from recruitment agencies

It’s easy to blame recruitment agencies when they send CVs through exclusively from men. Those agencies can justifiably point to a lack of women on their books – but that’s a chicken-and-egg situation that allows both sides to maintain the status quo. If you specify to agencies that you want a proportion of CVs from female candidates – 30% might be a good start – that puts pressure on the agencies to do more to sign up potential female recruits.

Review your HR policies

If you want to get more women into the IT workplace, it will mean adapting employment policies to suit. Things like flexible working hours, childcare vouchers, opportunities to work from home, job shares or part-time roles all make a difference. Don’t unconsciously rule women out of a job by making the role so fixed that many will find it difficult to comply.

Offer training for returners to work

Many women in IT take time out for children, and then find it difficult to get back into the workplace because technologies have moved on so fast – different programming languages, new versions of software, enhanced functionality, and so on. Offer schemes for women returning to the workplace to have training or special induction to get them up to speed. It needn’t cost more – a lot of women in such a situation realise they may initially be paid less while they re-acquire the skills and knowledge they need.

Improve your female contact network

So many jobs in business are filled through who you know, before they ever get as far as formal recruitment or agencies. Most senior male IT professionals have established peer networks, and those contacts are inevitably mostly male. Make an effort to increase the number of women in your contact network, and introduce them in turn to your peers. There is no harm in attending some of the many networking events targeted mostly at women – they will welcome men along too. Think how much of a forward-thinking boss you will appear to be by listening to the issues discussed at a mostly female event, and proactively making those sorts of contacts.

Review your skills profiles and person specifications

There’s an unconscious bias when it comes to describing the sort of people and skills you want in your team. We all tend to look for people like us. There are words and phrases that may put women off, without even realising it. Do you want an aggressive, self-starter willing to work long hours and proactively take the lead in managing tasks? Or would an assertive, team player who is able to collaborate with colleagues and focus on delivering the outcomes, achieve the same end? Seek expert help in how best to phrase your requirements to be more gender-neutral – subtle changes can make a big difference.

Speak at schools

There is no particular need, within the expectations of your job as an IT professional / manager, to help promote IT as a career to children, and especially school girls. But think about how much satisfaction and achievement you could gain by doing so. The lack of women in IT starts in school – girls think it is a nerdy subject learnt only by geeky boys. But you can bet all those girls are on their smartphones all day, using Facebook, searching the web, playing with mobile apps and so on. Their interest in the application of technology is there, but they don’t connect that with their career prospects. If you can go into schools and explain to children why IT is a great place to work – and even better, take along some of the female employees you’ve recruited – then it all helps to change those attitudes. Just think – the women you will want to recruit 10 years from now when you’re a CIO are still in school now.

Encourage more female speakers at IT events

Nearly every IT event or conference is the same: A line-up of male speakers, talking to an audience that is 85% men. We’ve been guilty of it too. There are some great female speakers around – Computer Weekly has run events featuring them. If you’re asked to speak at an event, encourage the organisers to find more female speakers. If you’re attending the event, question the organisers if they don’t have women on the agenda to talk. It’s all about doing what you can to challenge the way things have always been.

Encourage your children to consider science and technology

Pink stinks” as they say – the assumption that girls will only want pink versions of anything that boys like. Challenge assumptions – surely you want that for your children too. If you have daughters, you are in the best position to help them to enjoy science and technology subjects, and to see IT as a career they want to pursue. Society talks about boys following in their father’s footsteps – why not girls too?

July 5, 2013  12:10 PM

There is only one solution to the issue of ‘women in IT’ – it’s men in IT

Bryan Glick Bryan Glick Profile: Bryan Glick
Careers, CIO, IT leadership, it management, IT skills, recruitment

This time last year, after Computer Weekly announced the first of our now-annual list of the 25 most influential women in IT, I wrote in this blog about why we don’t want to have to write about the issue of women in IT anymore.

Simply put, if we had a workforce in IT that reflected the diversity of the audience that the IT industry seeks to serve, we would no longer need to. And as long as that remains a failing, it’s an issue we will continue to highlight, and we will continue to recognise the female role models who are at the forefront of making a change.

This year’s list of those women is a reflection of that goal.

Fifteen years ago we were writing about how it was an embarrassment for the tech sector to have less than 20% of its workforce female. Today, that figure has still not changed.

So there is clearly a bigger problem to be tackled, and it is this: What to do about the men in IT.

Men remain the primary decision-makers in IT recruitment and career development. And while many of those men will genuinely express their hope to see more women in the technology workplace, very few actually do anything about it.

As a male-dominated profession, it is only really the men who can change things. Successful, talented women will always do well – but they are too much of an exception to be able to make a difference across the whole sector. They can – and do – change the situation when they can. But to effect widespread change – sorry guys, that’s entirely up to you.

To reiterate an important point – this is not about recruiting women for the sake of recruiting women. It is simply unsustainable for the UK technology scene to take its rightful place in the economy without the broadest range of skills available, and the diversity that demands.

What will it take for men to take the issue of “women in IT” seriously? That’s a tough one to answer – and we would be very keen to hear from anyone who has any suggestions. Nobody has found the solution yet.

Our challenge at Computer Weekly is to make our event next year to celebrate the most influential women in UK IT one that appeals equally to men and women, with an audience that reflects the diversity we all hope to see in future.

But meanwhile – to all men in IT: the lack of women in IT is your problem to solve. Only you can bring about the change needed.

June 28, 2013  2:09 PM

IT leaders need to pressure cloud providers for open standards

Bryan Glick Bryan Glick Profile: Bryan Glick
AWS, Azure, cloud, Google, Interoperability, OpenStack, standards

If there is one area more than any other that the IT industry has consistently let its customers down, it is standards.

The old adage says that the great thing about standards is there are so many of them. But the history of IT suppliers agreeing to open and interoperable standards is pathetically poor, despite the vast array of standards-setting bodies that spring up.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, there were extensive attempts to agree open standards across the whole technology stack – the so-called seven-layer model. Those discussions took so long that users eventually ignored them and jumped on whatever technologies they found easiest to use, and they became de facto standards.

That’s a reason why TCP/IP is the dominant networking protocol, and also contributed to why Windows became the common platform for PCs.

We are seeing the whole problem start to repeat itself today in the cloud. The chief of the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) – the guardians of web interoperability – this week slammed the cloud industry for making such poor progress on standards.

Early adopters of cloud say the one piece of advice they would give to IT leaders moving into the cloud now is to make sure you have a way out. Once your data is in a cloud, getting it out and into someone else’s cloud is far too difficult. Try getting interoperability between cloud apps from one supplier, and cloud apps from another – good luck, you’ll need it.

There are initiatives such as Openstack, the open source cloud project started by Rackspace and Nasa, but these are more about creating standards within an ecosystem than standards that unify competing ecosystems. Just because something is open source, does not necessarily mean it will be open in terms of interoperability.

Even Amazon Web Services (AWS) – the most likely platform to become a de facto cloud standard – is still essentially a closed environment. Unless rivals start to produce Amazon clones, it is likely to stay that way.

It’s easy to imagine a future where you have a choice between AWS, Openstack, Google Compute Engine and Microsoft Azure, but with little or no interoperability between them. Once you commit to one cloud, you’re locked-in.

Cloud is undoubtedly the future for commoditised provision of computing resources, and IT managers will expect and need to see interoperability standards before they make a significant commitment.

But so far, they can have little confidence in their suppliers to comply. CIOs need to pressure the cloud industry now to force them to agree standards before history repeats itself yet again.

June 21, 2013  11:58 AM

Smart CIOs understand the distinction between digital and IT

Bryan Glick Bryan Glick Profile: Bryan Glick
CIO, cloud, digital, Mobile, Skills, Software, Software development, Strategy

Language has always been a barrier between business and IT. For years, technical jargon protected the IT department because their business colleagues assumed they needed these well-paid experts to understand all this complexity.

More recently, that jargon has been understandably used as a stick to beat the IT team, and to justify outsourcing or reducing the influence of the department.

So history shows there can be interesting insights to be gleaned from listening to how language changes in the conversations around technology in business.

As such, there’s one linguistic nuance that has become prevalent in recent months – the distinction between digital and IT.

When business leaders talk about IT now, they tend to mean the back-office stuff – the traditional, keeping the lights on, operational technology.

But when they talk about digital, the conversation is about engaging with the mobile- and cloud-enabled digital customer; about how to be competitive in a digital world; or how can digital make us a better business.

Of course, you can’t do digital without the technology to support it – but the danger is that IT folk become increasingly excluded from the digital conversation.

There are plenty of smart CIOs who get this, and can combine the role of digital business leader and operational IT manager. These are the ones who will prosper.

But we’re also seeing the creation of a new role – chief digital officer – to structuralise the difference between IT and digital in the organisation. This, for many IT leaders, is a concern.

We’ve seen government taking a lead in this move – slowly eliminating the CIO role in preference of digital leaders supported by chief technology officers.

In many respects, this is great for the IT team – it recognises the central role of technology in being successful in a digital world.

But it’s also an obvious indictment that too many IT departments are not perceived as having the necessary skills and business/digital awareness to lead on such a company-critical task.

The digital drive is good for certain skills sets – the realisation that software is both your sales rep and your showroom means that developers are back in demand. But it’s no longer unusual for business functions to be recruiting them – and for IT budgets to be located with those digitally aware business leaders, instead of the traditional IT manager.

From a corporate perspective, all this matters little, as long as the organisation is able to move with the digital world. But for many IT managers, unable or unwilling to adapt, to evolve their skill sets, and to talk the language of digital business, it’s a serious threat.

But then again, for any IT managers who can’t make the transition, it’s an opportunity for others. Digital is the future of IT in business, and of the successful IT leader.

June 19, 2013  11:29 AM

Bringing IT leaders and tech startups together

Bryan Glick Bryan Glick Profile: Bryan Glick
CIO, innovation, Startups

There’s a lot of buzz around the technology startup scene and the Tech City area in east London. There are great strides being made in Bristol, Manchester, Cardiff and Newcastle, where technology startup hubs are developing new organisations.

But mostly, we hear about consumer-focused startups building apps for mobile and social media.

That’s why Computer Weekly has started to look at the technology startup scene from the CIO’s perspective.

You can download our special digital magazine issue on tech startups here, or read all the content we’ve produced on the topic online here.

At the best of times, innovating with technology is a challenge for IT leaders and even more so in a sluggish economy, when much of the focus is on cost control. It’s hard for many decision-makers to find the time to research technology startups and identify the creative small companies with innovative ideas that could add value to corporate IT.

That’s why so many IT managers end up relying on their incumbent suppliers, many of whom remain in the slow lane when it comes to genuine innovation.

With the growth of cloud, startups now have access to computing facilities and software tools that would have been beyond their reach only a few years ago.

And they are putting it to good use – there are plenty of emerging startups, focused on business technology and the needs of CIOs, who just need an introduction to IT buyers who recognise the innovation that can come from taking a different approach.

Similarly, those CIOs need a better way to find out more about how to find and work with startups.

We hope we can help.

Over the coming months, Computer Weekly will publish profiles of a wide range of business-focused technology startups, introducing the innovations they bring to IT leaders. If you’re a startup looking to push your products to a corporate IT market, get in touch – we are keen to talk to you.

IT managers looking for new ideas and fresh thinking would benefit from taking the time to reach out to startups and find out how they can help deliver innovation for your organisation.

June 10, 2013  4:39 PM

Morality and ethics – the ‘next big thing’ for IT suppliers

Bryan Glick Bryan Glick Profile: Bryan Glick
Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, NSA, Prism, privacy, snooping, trust

Nobody in the IT profession can be disappointed that technology has become such a central part of the way we all live and work.

For anyone who has been in the industry for 10 or more years, it is fantastic to see IT taking its central place in business and society; for technology to become cool at last; and for IT experts to no longer be dismissed as the geeks in the basement.

IT is enabling so many positive things – changing our world in the biggest social and business revolution since the industrial age.

But with that greater influence, comes greater responsibility. It is inevitable there would be a backlash, and that backlash is well and truly underway.

IT was at the heart of the global boom in financial services. Today it stands accused of enabling the behaviours of bankers that crippled Western economies.

Facebook and social media have transformed personal communications, enabled new communities and improved information sharing for all. But at what cost for privacy of our personal information.

Google and Amazon have made it easy to find information, to buy quickly and cheaply, opening up new knowledge and commercial opportunities. And they are pilloried as arrogant tax avoiders.

But the biggest example of the dark side of technology so far is dominating front pages and web pages alike around the world – the US National Security Agency (NSA) monitoring of electronic communications, and the allegations of complicity on the part of the global internet giants that provide that data.

Look at all the great things the web allows us to do – and look at how easy that makes it to create a surveillance society. As someone said recently, if you could give George Orwell one Tweet from beyond the grave, he would write: “I told you so #Prism”.

This backlash is an inevitable stage in the progress of technology and the digital revolution, but of course it presents challenges on a scale that the world has never before had to comprehend.

Today we call people who resist the tide of technological change Luddites, but the textile workers who gained that name when they destroyed the mechanised looms that threatened their livelihoods in the industrial revolution were simply examples of the 19th century version of the backlash that technology will have to go through in the 21st.

The immediate aftermath of the NSA Prism revelations will see greater demands from governments for Google Facebook, Microsoft et al to establish local datacentres for their cloud services that ensure data is not shipped into leaky US-hosted servers, and subject instead to local laws and oversight. (Not that locally stored data would be any less surveilled by those governments, of course).

We will see more “walled gardens” created, often to the horror of internet evangelists who rightly say the strength of the web is its openness and collaborative nature. More people will want to know that their web activity is actively protected, and will use the open web only for less sensitive information.

But what we will also see, eventually, is morality and ethics becoming one of the ways in which technology companies of all kinds are judged.

Post-industrial revolution employers who embraced trade unionism were revered and grew their business through their acknowledgement of the new relationship between company and workers.

In the same way, tech firms of tomorrow will need to demonstrate they are able to manage the increasingly fine line between opportunity and responsibility that the digital world creates.

Protecting privacy will be a badge of honour, not a 50,000-word statement of terms and conditions. A transparent recognition of the needs of the intelligence services and how that affects users will engender trust. Even more likely will be the rise of services that put personal data back where it belongs – in the hands of web users, not web providers.

The whole nature of the relationship between technology firms and their users – both consumer and corporate – is going to change before the digital revolution is complete.

But before that happens, the dark side of technology is going to dominate the headlines. For smart IT suppliers looking for a new way to differentiate themselves, trust, morality and ethics are the next big thing.

June 6, 2013  5:05 PM

DCMS land-grab is a threat to IT’s political and economic future

Bryan Glick Bryan Glick Profile: Bryan Glick
DCMS, economy, government, IT skills

The IT industry’s vital role in the UK economy is under threat from what appears to be a desperate attempt by a Whitehall department to avoid being cut back or even scrapped in chancellor George Osborne’s forthcoming spending review.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has quietly issued a consultation on a seemingly very dry and uninteresting topic – the industrial and occupational classifications that determine what constitutes a creative profession.

This is all about SIC codes and their ilk – the standard classifications used by government and other agencies to pigeon-hole job roles and companies into the right sector for statistical analysis by the likes of the Office for National Statistics.

So far, so dull.

But in a bizarre land-grab to redefine whole sections of the economy as being “creative industries”, the consultation proposes to reclassify more than half of the IT industry as “creative”, thereby reducing the remainder of the official classification of the IT and telecoms sector to less than half its current size – and hence half its current economic contribution.

Thanks to e-Skills UK, the tech sector skills council whose briefing paper brought this issue to Computer Weekly’s attention.

According to DCMS, the proposal is justified because, “The ‘creative intensity’ approach leads to the introduction of a number of software and IT industries since the ‘digital creative’ parts of these sectors can now be better identified… Adoption of the ‘creative intensity’ approach provides a rationale for their inclusion and the current view supported by industry and partners is that these activities are vital to the Creative Industries.”

The split would produce some absurd anomalies. For example, IT directors would be reclassified as a creative occupation. But the IT managers, project managers and technical staff that work for them would remain classified under IT.

Business analysts, architects and software developers would also become creative professions, not IT jobs.

Such a move would take 445,000 people out of the official designation of the UK IT profession, reducing the size and influence of the official IT occupation, as follows:

As e-Skills points out, the DCMS proposals could also lead to some ridiculous reclassifications of IT companies.

For example, Microsoft or Oracle – as software suppliers – presumably become part of the creative industries instead. While Dell or Cisco – predominantly hardware – stay as IT.

What about IBM – a major software producer and a large hardware company. IT or creative? Or do half its employees move into creative and the rest stay in IT?

It’s a completely ludicrous situation, so why would DCMS even consider it?

It can only be an attempt at a land-grab to protect or increase the department’s budget. The bigger the “creative industries”, the more cash (and the less austerity cuts) goes to DCMS.

There are even rumours around Whitehall that the future of DCMS is in question – it may be scrapped and its functions merged into other departments as part of the spending review cuts.

Of course, if you can show that the creative industries for which you are responsible are growing so quickly and a much bigger part of the economy than you realised – thanks to those dull but lovely SIC codes – it makes it harder to justify that decision.

Does it really matter though, for people and companies in IT? Well, yes.

A much-reduced rump of workers and businesses classified as IT makes a much-reduced contribution to GDP. It becomes less strategic to UK economic recovery, receives less focus, less cash, less ministerial and political attention all round.

Meanwhile, those employees and employers now reclassified as “creative” get affected by policies that are designed to support actual creative industries, such as music, movies, arts and crafts, architects, town planners, dancers and choreographers.

It’s all very well to say that IT directors need to be more creative, it’s not the same to classify them as such. Only 3% of IT professionals actually work in the UK creative industries today. But at least in future those reclassified CIOs would benefit from any new tax breaks on ballet shoes.

Computer Weekly has pointed out the government’s ignorance of IT, technology and digital and its fundamental role in the future of how we live and work. It’s bad enough that so little is done to give strong economic and political support to the UK IT profession, but cleaving the sector in two will guarantee its dismissal to the margins of government policy.

The DCMS consultation concludes on Friday 14th June – if you agree that this proposal is the huge threat to the IT sector that it first appears, please respond to that consultation while you can.

May 30, 2013  4:59 PM

Which IT suppliers have not yet seen the cliff approaching?

Bryan Glick Bryan Glick Profile: Bryan Glick
AWS, Big Data, Cloud Computing, Dell, digital, Google, HP, Open source, PC

Watching the IT industry at the moment is a little like reading a good crime novel. There are pieces of evidence appearing, from various sources, often apparently unconnected, but which all point to one inescapable conclusion.

The difference in IT is that this is not a question of “Who done it?” but of “Who hasn’t done it?”

One of the recurring themes I’ve been writing about on this blog is the nature of the disruptive change underway in the IT sector, and the notion that the current change is not gradual and evolutionary, but a path to a cliff, and once you’re over that cliff there’s no going back.

It’s the case in the PC market, with Dell and HP bound to the past by inertia and old business models as PC sales suffer record declines.

It’s happening in business too, with retailers like HMV, Comet and Blockbuster failing to spot the dramatic shift to digital.

And another area the cliff is going to appear suddenly in front of a lot of suppliers is the cloud – and here is the latest clue to how this one is going to play out.

This time, research from Morgan Stanley has predicted a dramatic increase in revenue to Amazon Web Services, the web giant’s cloud computing operation.

The firm forecasts that as much as 17% of current IT spending in some technology sectors will move to cloud-based services within five years, with Amazon the primary beneficiary. Morgan Stanley warns that suppliers of server and storage technology are likely to suffer as a result.

The only argument seems to be over just how big AWS will become, and how quickly. According to this article at GigaOm, Morgan Stanley says AWS will reach $24bn in sales by 2022, compared with an estimated $2bn now.

The article also says that Macquarie Capital predicts AWS will hit $38bn revenue in five years, taking up 53% of all cloud spending.

One of my favourite industry commentators, Simon Wardley, has written about a “punctuated equilibrium” where some markets – such as cloud – go through an accelerated, exponential growth, which takes incumbents by surprise.

Wardley has extrapolated Amazon’s growth to suggest it is possible AWS revenue will be the equivalent of 50% of current global server sales in just five years. That’s a big cliff with a long drop for some.

It’s not just Amazon, of course – although the company has a major head start on its rivals.

Google is gaining growing credibility as an enterprise supplier, and while its corporate revenues are relatively small today, there’s every chance they will go through a similar boom in coming years. It will mean IT departments getting used to doing things differently – “We were trying to put a consumer product into a traditional enterprise and we have grown up together,” said an IT leader at Rentokil, an early adopter of Google Apps.

But Google will be a threat in many sectors of corporate IT.  

Commodity open source tools similarly promise to cause a shake-up in business intelligence, information management and data warehousing, as cloud-based big data services disrupt the existing players.

The other difference between IT and a crime novel is that all this is entirely predictable, and you don’t need to read the final page of the book to know what’s going to happen. We’ll find out “who hasn’t done it” when those suppliers fall off the cliff.

May 24, 2013  1:16 PM

Is this the most remarkable government statement on IT yet?

Bryan Glick Bryan Glick Profile: Bryan Glick
CTO, DECC, Government IT, lock-in, oligopoly, Outsourcing, Whitehall

If any of the big, incumbent Whitehall IT suppliers have not yet done so, they really need to read this web page.

It’s part of the new Government Service Design Manual, launched earlier this week by Whitehall CTO Liam Maxwell – it is effectively a guide for how to select, purchase, design and run IT across government.

It’s not an IT strategy – there have been numerous of those in the past that failed entirely. It is instead a set of guidelines that state, among other things, how government IT buyers should engage with IT suppliers from now on.

The page, “Creating a culture that supports change“, is, frankly, a scathingly public critique of the cosy relationships forged by the so-called oligopoly of system integrators and big software firms that have dominated Whitehall IT spending for many years.

It also reflects the denial that many of those suppliers maintain as reformers led by Maxwell try to drastically reduce or even eliminate the comfortable, ongoing, large revenue streams that have poured in from the public purse through long-term outsourcing contracts.

Take some of these excerpts from the official government manual as examples:

“It may be necessary and more cost-effective to write-off previous financial investments, so you will need courage and conviction to stop spending on old, legacy systems.”

“Your existing supplier base will tend to resist change – and the more successful a supplier has been working under the old model, and the more entrenched it is, the greater this resistance is likely to be. The changes needed will often be more successfully initiated and delivered by those not encumbered by past success – new market entrants and those traditionally closed-out from government business, such as small or medium-sized businesses.”

And these paragraphs are perhaps the most remarkable public statement of intent from any government IT leader:

“If you have incumbent suppliers, it is important that you understand and anticipate their likely reaction as they struggle to maintain the status quo and resist change.

“Incumbent suppliers will have data that reflects the past success of their business models and the way their business worked. They will be less certain about the future and may be concerned about the weakening of their market share and their exposure to genuine, open competition.

“The rewards and culture of these companies are likely to be built on their current business model. That will reinforce their internal resistance to change. It is difficult for them to persuade shareholders and financial investors to replace a well-understood, if obsolete, business model with an approach that favours the treatment of some IT products as commodities.”

That is a direct challenge to every major incumbent supplier; practically a determination to break the existing relationships – one that may even tread dangerously close to breaking competition law as it could be interpreted as a specific bias against such incumbents.

But the document doesn’t spare old attitudes in Whitehall either:

“You will also see similar resistance in-house, where many staff may have long grown accustomed to old ways of working… Some may have become dependent on external suppliers’ advice. Some may even have built their career on accreditation in a single supplier’s technologies.”

These statements are, of course, precisely what critics of government IT have been saying for a very long time – and what reformers have been saying privately for the past couple of years. But to see them in a formal government document is really remarkable.

There was a notable moment in Maxwell’s interview with Computer Weekly to coincide with the launch of the Service Design Manual. Our reporter, Kathleen Hall, asked him if the manual would help departments who have big outsourcing contracts coming up for renewal in the next two years (of which there are many).

Before she could event complete her sentence, Maxwell interrupted to correct her: “No. A lot of departments are having contracts FINISHED in the next couple of years.”

It is certainly the case that some suppliers have yet to grasp this reality.

Computer Weekly wrote a story recently revealing that the Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC) is the only Whitehall department unable to adopt cloud computing yet, because of a lock-in with system integrator Fujitsu.

The DECC press office confirmed this in a statement: “Nearly all of DECC’s IT services are currently outsourced to Fujitsu as part of a contract that expires on 31 March 2014. There are significant cost implications in moving to cloud services in advance of this contract expiring. Therefore DECC has planned the introduction of cloud services to coincide with the end of the Fujitsu contract, meaning DECC will adopt a range of ICT cloud services starting on 1 April 2014.”

Fujitsu responded to us, claiming the story was inaccurate, and politely suggesting we remove it.

Needless to say we disagreed – backed up by the strength of the DECC statement. Lock-in is not only technical or contractual – having your budget tied up by a major outsourcing deal is just as much of a lock-in to any supplier or technology solution.

As the Service Design Manual defines elsewhere:

“Technology lock-in happens when previous decisions regarding technology limit future decisions, possibly so that only one real choice exists.”

It continues:

“In general, you should avoid making long-term commitments to any particular technology, product or supplier until you fully understand the problem you’re trying to solve – and even then, you should ensure you maximise your future development options.”

It’s important to add that there is nothing in the Fujitsu contract that specifically restricts DECC’s ability to use cloud – it is purely a budgetary decision from DECC that it cannot do so while that contract is in place. And I’m using Fujitsu purely as an example – this is not meant as a specific criticism of that company, which continues to work closely with DECC on its current contract and commitments.

But it seems likely that several major outsourcers are yet to fully accept that the landscape is changing and their relationship with their government customers will be very different when their contracts expire.

As the Service Design Manual states:

“Your existing supplier base will tend to resist change – and the more successful a supplier has been working under the old model, and the more entrenched it is, the greater this resistance is likely to be.”

There will be a lot of big suppliers resisting change in the next two years, hoping that the 2015 General Election will sweep away the reformers. Their chances of success in t hat resistance are receding rapidly.

May 23, 2013  3:35 PM

If the PC is dead nobody told Lenovo

Bryan Glick Bryan Glick Profile: Bryan Glick
Dell, Desktop, HP, laptop, lenovo, PC, Tablet

Apparently we are in the post-PC era. The PC is dead. Deceased. Pining for the ffjords. Ceased to be. An ex-market.

But nobody seems to have told Lenovo. Look at the latest quarterly sales figures.

PC revenues in Western Europe fell 16% in the first quarter of 2013. PC sales at HP fell 20%. At Dell, profits from its PC business were down 60%.

Yet here’s Lenovo – sales up 15% to $34bn, profits up 34%, European shipments up 11% and market share in the region up 12%.

The Chinese giant is doing something right, something that the fading PC giants of HP and Dell seem unable to do.

There’s no disagreement that the PC market is in decline, and will have to share buyers’ cash with tablets and high-end smartphones. But there is still money to be made, and will be for some time, for those suppliers who have the necessary focus and customer understanding.

And yes, that’s a not-even-vaguely-disguised criticism of Dell and HP, both of whom have taken their eye so far off the ball that you have to wonder if they can feasibly turn around their PC businesses. Michael Dell clearly doesn’t think so, given his attempts to buy back the company and transform into an infrastructure supplier.

Lenovo also points to an early move into tablets as a factor in its growth – and it still seems incredible that neither HP nor Dell have produced a genuinely competitive product for the tablet buyer.

The IT market is rapidly diverging. It is going to be increasingly difficult to be a broad-based, do-a-bit-of-everything supplier. You will need focus, specialisation, agility – staying close to IT decision-makers and understanding their needs. Obvious, really, you’d have thought.

Dell’s future is being decided in investor arguments about whether or not to leave the stock market – a distraction the firm could do without.

HP’s future is being decided, well, slowly. CEO Meg Whitman’s “multiyear turnaround plan” is being given generous scope by investors, but it seems customers are losing patience.

The industry is reshaping itself, more big names will fall by the wayside, and the suppliers that IT leaders turn to will be very different by the end of this decade.

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