The simple benefits of training
The continuing problem of companies refusing to train their technical staff is a prime contributor to the widespread view outside our industry that the term "IT management" is an oxymoron.
The argument that there is no point in training people because they will then be poached is another way of saying, "the only way we keep our staff is by making sure they are not good enough for anyone else to want". It is also bizarre that training user staff when a new system is implemented is regarded as essential, but training the people who develop the system itself is seen as unnecessary.
It seems quite clear that there are significant benefits to the employer from ensuring proper training. Firstly, training produces more effective people more quickly. If the difference between the productivity of an experienced programmer can be 10 times that of an inexperienced one - the reason why every recruiter demands experience - then appropriate training can dramatically reduce the amount of experience needed to become proficient.
Secondly, the provision of training, particularly in the context of a professional career development programme, is a major incentive to staff to stay where they are. Thirdly, the promise of training will help attract the best candidates. Compared with the value of increased effectiveness gained from training, the costs involved are negligible; it is only in IT that this still has to be argued.
I suspect there is a strong correlation between IT managers who won't support training their staff and managers who have had no management training themselves.
The experience shortage
We have been hearing about the IT skills shortage for quite some time now. In your article headed IT teaching slated (PC Week, 6 October) you point out that schools and colleges do not teach the correct skills to match business needs.
As I recently came through those institutions, I would have to agree - at that time, they did not teach us anything about networking and so on. But this has now been rectified to some extent as some courses have been updated to cover this problem.
The "skills shortage" is, in my opinion, wrongly named. It should be "experience shortage" as it is very difficult to get any experience after training. There are masses of people out there who have skills in IT but cannot get work without experience. I was lucky and was given a start with no experience which led on to another job and then to where I am now.
Try to get a start without experience or a first class honours degree and you will need a lot of luck as most of the larger companies want a degree, even though an HND is more practical. Companies should be made to hire on merit not on qualification or age.
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Saving on technology
I was inspired by last week's Postcard from America, about the importance of technology to the modern business. In 1984, on one of my first major projects, I came across a sceptical attitude towards IT spending for the first time. I wrote a short memo to the directors entitled Information is a growth resource.
The project was approved shortly afterwards and #20,000 of expenditure yielded #250,000 of annual savings. I was amazed that there was such a lack of imagination applied to the decision.
The memo stated that with information, we could make more accurate management decisions, we could be faster than our competitors, we could give improved customer service and we could better control our costs. A lack of information meant that we did all of these things worse than our competitors. There is also a caveat; competitors will always endeavour to catch up, so managers can't rest on their laurels. We must always be looking for new ideas to stay that one step ahead. That's what the rest of our colleagues want, although they may not relate that to IT spending.
I have always tried to work to the above principles. Our industry is exciting and innovative and there is no shortage of ideas for the way to gain an edge over the competition. Selling those ideas to sceptical management is the hardest part and even if IT managers succeed in this, colleagues in other disciplines slow the process of change until they see the light. IT managers need to sell themselves as deliverers of the tools for business growth and not just the spenders of exorbitant budgets.
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Helping dyslexics on the Web
It is not true of Tony Flaherty to say that Keystone and Dragon Dictate are old technologies and the only combination system which has proved to be of use for dyslexics - although it is certainly one valid approach (PC Week Letters, 13 October).
Many dyslexic people are using the newer, more powerful and more convenient continuous speech systems, and these are even, arguably, sometimes better for children. There is a comparison of the different systems, from the point of view of dyslexia, on our Web site at www.dyslexic.com/dictcomp.htm. But there is a lot to learn. As specialists in technology support for dyslexia, we at iANSYST Dyslectech are keen to research what helps people most, and to give advice based on this research. BECTA (British Educational Communications and Technology Agency - used to be NCET), in particular are researching its use with children in a number of different projects, testing a number of different approaches.
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Missing the whole picture
David Guest's predictions in his Outside Edge column last week that suppliers will find a way of forcing an upgrade of digital TV tech are already borne out by the way they're forcing us to upgrade to digital technology in the first place. I, too, have a 1985 TV and since last year I find that 90% of BBC programmes are irritatingly difficult to watch, as they're all in a format wider than my screen: the time remaining on football matches, the first digits of quiz show scores and the initials on credits are all off screen. So what now? Buy a new TV to see the missing 5% of the picture?
Not a happy shopper
Attaching current tax laws to Ecommerce (PC Week, 13 October) is just a lazy and cheap way for the government to make a lot of money. It's wrong, as electronic trade operates on different principles, while the lack of borders demands a fresh and less labyrinthine solutionto online taxation.
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A 17in monitor weekly
Roll up for your chance to win a stunning 17in Taxan ErgoVision 730 TCO95 monitor every week! PC Week will be giving you the chance to walk away with a 17in FST monitor, worth #349, and all you have to do is write a letter. Each week we'll be giving away a monitor to the best, or most relevant, letter we receive. Letters should be about something that has been covered in PC Week and relating to some aspect of the industry that you feel strongly about. So next time you have an opinion on what's happening out there - serious or amusing - write to us and put yourself in with a chance to win. Send your Emails to [email protected], or your letters by post to: PC Week, Letters, VNU Business Publications, 32-34 Broadwick St, London WIA 2HG.
The ErgoVision 730 TCO95
The monitor has a horizontal dot pitch of 0.27mm and a top resolution of 1280 x 1024 with a refresh rate of up to 64Hz - it also runs at 1024 x 768 at up to 86Hz. The front control panel allows users to easily control features such as on-screen functions, colour, brightness, degauss, adjust and contrast among others. The monitor measures 411(w) x 424(h) x 462(d)mm and weighs in at 18Kg. The ErgoVision is also compliant with TCO95, CE Mark, TUV GS and Ergo, NUTEK and Energy Star.
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