Lloyds TSB keeps on offshoring

August 9th, 2007

I may have to rethink my last post about UK banks not being evil, after reading that Lloyds TSB subsidiary, C & G (formerly Cheltenham & Gloucester Building Society), is shifting 210 IT jobs to offshore centres.

Lloyds has a history of progressively off-shoring IT, call centre, and back office jobs to India, so one can only presume that they know what they are doing and understand the full impact of off-shoring.

I just hope they are doing it for the right reasons and not just to save cost.

What frustrates me most is that we have the means to be so much more efficient in our own country without having to ship jobs to distant, remote locations. Perhaps the problem is one of misguided management, and management turnover, combined with pressures to report results in ever shorter cycles.  If I was a middle manager in a bank, and was targeted with short term cost savings, knowing that in two years I will be in a different job, so my third year measures won’t count against me, then I guess I would take a short term view too.

UK Banks are not as evil as you might think

August 7th, 2007

When you work in an industry as highly regulated as financial services (and I have worked there both directly, and indirectly) you come to expect the odd scandal.  Pensions mis-selling, current account charges, ATM usage fees are just a handful of the recent uproars from financial services customers in the UK.

The latest decent sized revolt has been over “unfair” bank charges imposed on customers whose accounts have gone beyond their borrowing limits.

There is a danger of victimless crime syndrome here.  People who say “the Government should pay for our rubbish to be recycled” conveniently ignoring the fact that the Government is funded by us, the taxpayers.  People who make bogus insurance claims believing that “the insurance company has loads of cash and can afford it”, conveniently ignoring the fact that if everyone took that view, then the insurance industry would implode, meanwhile the do-gooders suffer ever increasing premiums.

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IT – supplier or partner?

August 6th, 2007

I read Todd Biske for a balanced view of enterprise architecture and a particular focus on Service Oriented Architecture (SOA).   His recent post titled Is a competition model good for IT? got me thinking.  Todd wonders if the IT department should be a supplier to the business, and compete against outsourced providers and vendors, or be a “partner, not a supplier”.

Those of us in the blogosphere come from many backgrounds and we all have different roles to play.  My view on this topic is obviously influenced by my role as part of the vendor community but I hope that will not put you off hearing me out. Read the rest of this entry »

Pillow 2.0

August 2nd, 2007

I am putting a business plan together at the moment.  The current draft is labelled Version 1.2.  I fully intend to publish it at version 2.0 so as to gain speedy approval.

If you don’t already read Jeff Nolan you should.  His recent posts on “Bubble 2.0 got me smiling.  Bubble 2.0?  Try Bubble 144.0, (I am trying not to be gross).

Technology is not new – it has been around since man.  Investing is not new either.  As long as there has been a means of trading intangible “promises” such as stocks and futures (and in my country this goes back to at least the 16th century but apparently there is some evidence of commodities futures trading in China 6,000 years ago), there has been the prospect of a decent bubble, driven by human greed, and a propensity to follow the pack.

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IBM employees, empowered or restricted?

July 31st, 2007

Roo Reynold’s post IBM virtual world guidelines outlines the recently launched “code of conduct for IBMers in virtual worlds”.  This adds to previously published guidelines for blogging and general business conduct.

Obviously, as an employee, Roo is bound by these new rules to take a positive stance on them isn’t he?  Maybe?  Maybe not.

It’s easy to knock the gorillas and I often do, but on this occasion I think IBM has got it about right.  The very fact that a code of conduct exists acknowledges that IBM:

a) is encouraging its employees to participate online for the corporate good; and

b) acknowledges that in such a large organisation there has to be some control (but not too much restraint).

In our small company, anyone who wants to participate in online worlds, blog, or commentate, and purport to represent Blue Prism can do so, because they can speak directly to a director if in any doubt.  But there needs to be some guidelines surely?

Do you remember when the inimitable Dale Carnegie said “dress for the job you want tomorrow, not the one you had yesterday”?  Of course “dress” was a proxy for the way you think, and the way you act in all respects.  One of our consultants once asked me what our dress code was.  I told him that, when on customer site, he should dress as well as the best dressed customer rep (but not better).  This is also a proxy for fitting in with our customers and business partners in all regards and as a simple principle is easily understood, if a tad primitive.  I think this extrapolates well into a “code of conduct” for online behaviour too.

IBM’s rules do cover well this principle of being respectful and protective of the brand but also appropriate to the environment of the virtual world.

The gorillas don’t have the luxury of our much looser “common sense” interpretation, and I think IBM is more empowering its employees than restricting them with this code of conduct.

Office space in the enterprise

July 31st, 2007

It’s interesting to note how different enterprises treat their staff in respect of the office space they provide.

I was at a large UK retailer for a meeting, yesterday.  Retailers are not renowned for overpaying their staff or providing luxurious facilities.  However there has to be an understanding that, if you want your staff to be the smiling face of your company you better treat them with respect.

From the outside the building looked like a massive tin shed with porthole sized windows.  From the inside the floor plan was huge and lacked natural light.  However, there was smart furniture, well laid out with sound deadening screens where required.  There was air conditioning.  IT facilities looked excellent on the face of it.  An abundance of meeting rooms was supplemented by clever (and cheap) refreshment areas.  I thought they had made every effort to make the best of a difficult environment.  The staff seemed mostly upbeat and good humoured as far as I could tell.

On the walk back to the car park I passed the adjacent building which, although identical in architecture, contained a different company, a gambling operation that has been around for donkey’s years.  Without even going into the building I could see the difference.  Windows and doors were wide open as staff struggled in the heat.  The people I saw moping in and out of the building looked bored.  There were no external recreation areas.  The reception was small and uninviting.

I am not sure if this is about the (internet driven) resurgence in parts of the retailing sector and a decline in old gambling formats causing affordability issues, or whether it’s a reflection of two differing management styles.  Either way, I know which company I would rather work for – it’s not just about wages.

On business cases

July 26th, 2007

Amongst the SOA buzz around the blogosphere and traditional media, there is a recurring theme of how to promote SOA and gain acceptance within the user community.  How to justify SOA.  How to demonstrate its worth.  How to measure its success.  How to cost justify its use.

I think this all rather misses the point.  SOA to me, is just a tool for delivering business value.  There are many tools in one’s kitbag.  Promoting SOA for its own sake is just wrong.  It is a great idea that should be used only where appropriate.

Like any other investment decision I have a simple rule.  If the business case is not blindingly obvious, if you have to scratch around inventing new ways of measuring intangible benefits, if the financial ROI is hard to pin down, then you are probably on to a loser.  Focus your attention on something that does offer a compelling and obvious business case.  Find a winner.

Navel Gazing

July 25th, 2007

I just read  Why I Blog by the Agile Elephant (Jordan Haberfield).  I’ve noticed a few other blogs become introspective recently, must be the holiday season.  This week I’ve been looking in the mirror too.

The last few months have been really hard work in my day job and I’ve not had time to do much, other than work.  In particular, my physical exercise has been almost non-existent.  I admit to being a little overweight but throughout my life I have always kept reasonably fit.  Not so in the last 6 months.  I like Steven Covey’s thoughts on this.  Habit 7 – Sharpen the Saw.  It’s really important, so my mid-year resolution is to exercise more and (hopefully) lose a few pounds, and boost my energy levels.

I have also been thinking about blogging.  I started this blog in February of 2007.  I had been running an internal blog at Blue Prism and figured that there was nothing very secretive so why not share my thoughts more widely.

There was also a commercial element since firstly, people who read this blog are more likely to encounter Blue Prism and secondly, I can explore some concepts that are helpful, or interesting to us (e.g. the Rogue IT Survey).  Having said that I absolutely reserve the right to write about what interests me and that frequently has no relation to my employers.

So, for the record, here’s a few things you may or may not want to know about me and why I blog:

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IT project failure is widespread in Europe

July 24th, 2007

Here’s some stunning research reported by the BBC that I’ve only just found.  A European study by HP and The Economist found depressingly few IT projects being delivered on time with the major culprits being:

a)  outsourcing
b)  changing priorities
c)  poor co-ordination between managers

Further depression emerges in the lack of accountability.  IT people are reportedly not being charged with taking responsibility for the late delivery.

My first reaction was that this smacks of mis-management in IT.  But then I wondered if the responsibility should be jointly held between IT and the business.  Every IT project is there to serve a business end in some way.  Therefore IT can only provide what the business users want and if they change their mind, then the project slips.

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“New” mashup platforms taking over the enterprise? Not yet.

July 23rd, 2007

Wow, Dion Hinchcliffe at ZDNet has looked at the enterprise mashup space in much more depth than I did a couple of months ago.

He raises some interesting issues, though, about why some of these tools are struggling to gain acceptance in the enterprise.  I believe that there are some unique features that need to be addressed to meet enterprise requirements:

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