“When a hardware or software supplier launches a new product, it is quick to trumpet it widely as an outstanding innovation. So much so, that the non-IT business professional might be fooled into believing that the bulk of IT innovation in the UK goes on within the supplier community.
In fact, this is far from the case: Of the 1.2 million IT professionals currently working in the UK, only around 40% of them work for IT suppliers, according to a recent survey published by E-skills UK, the public-private sector IT training partnership. The vast bulk, in fact, work within the IT departments of the UK’s businesses and public sector organisations – and many of them spend their time creating technology to address the shortcomings of commercially available IT products and services, or building bespoke technology that will give their organisation competitive edge.
As a result, IT departments are often the guardians of vast intellectual assets that might conceivably have considerable commercial value if taken outside of the organisation. So, if a group of managers quits an organisation in order to leverage the expertise, concepts – or even the products – they have developed within the ranks of the organisation, their employer is at risk of losing much of that hard-won competitive edge.
In this month’s cover feature, ‘Brain drain’, Rob Buckley examines this thorny problem, and asks the question: What rights does an employer have when trying to halt a transfer of intellectual assets away from their organisation?
Clearly, there are some skills and expertise that the IT department – and the wider organisation – simply cannot afford to lose. But elsewhere in this month’s Information Age, we look at how, when it comes to technology service delivery, the emphasis for many IT decision-makers is now on reducing the burden of day-to-day administrative tasks. One way of doing this is through increased automation of IT monitoring and management tasks, and in the feature ‘In service’, we look at how organisations are achieving this goal.
Another way of freeing up IT staff time to concentrate on higher level strategic tasks – as well as reducing administrative costs – is by handing the management of core applications and databases to a third-party service provider. In ‘Out of the box’, James Thompson finds that, while the application service provider model was unpopular in its early incarnations, many organisations are finding that the best team to run their core applications on a day-to-day basis is not an in-house team – it is a team owned and operated by the company that wrote the software or a third-party services specialist. As Tim Chou, president of the application outsourcing business at software giant Oracle, argues: “No-one can manage Oracle software better than Oracle.”
Whether or not you agree with that statement, we hope you will find this month’s Information Age a rich source of ideas about which skills are worth keeping close to the heart of your organisation, and which might be more cost-effective to relinquish.