Tag Archives: IT

B of the BRICs in London

I was in London last week and I arranged an event in partnership with Intellect and UKTI (thank you to Nitin Dahad for doing most of the work in London) at the embassy of Brazil.

Titled ‘The B of the BRICs’ it was a chance for some experts – including me – to explore the two-way opportunities for business between the UK and Brazil in the hi-tech sector. We had speakers from UKTI, Intellect, and a case study from BT who are hiring extensively in Brazil.

The room at the embassy could take 80 and they ended up turning people away so it was a big success. I was really pleased to see some familiar faces – there were several people there that I have had meetings with in São Paulo – as well as some new people.

You can still view the speaker list and agenda here and I have attached some information below, including the PowerPoint slides that I used on the day for my own discussion… if you were there or if you are interested in the topic then please do connect to me on LinkedIn and let’s talk about Brazil!

B of the BRICs with UKTI and Intellect at the embassy of Brazil in London

A simple idea to prevent card fraud

I read about the German fraudster jailed in the UK recently. The BBC claimed his technology could remotely read card details allowing him to potentially earn up to £150m a year.

It makes me wonder why the UK, and other countries, do not adopt the very simple innovation most banks in Brazil use – though I believe it was initially pioneered by HSBC.

You put your card in the ATM and enter your PIN as usual, but then a new set of options, looking at bit like this is presented:

WXY              GHI

STU               JKL

ANC               MBO

DZF               PQR

The letters are in fact all randomised and different every time. Every customer not only has a four digit numeric PIN, but a three character password too. But you never type your actual password… in the collection of randomised characters you press the button closet to the character you want to type.

So, if your code is XYZ, even if someone watches or films you punching in the code, they cannot tell if you entered XYZ, YXF, XWD, WYF… simple, but very effective.
Ladybird on ATM

Communism finished in West Bengal

It was always an anachronism in India. West Bengal ruled by a communist party for the past thirty-four years and always trying to bend and flex the limits of communist ideology so they might embrace the real world. Now the communist rule is over.

I remember being in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) working on behalf of the West Bengal government a few years ago. They asked me to give a keynote speech at a conference and then do some consulting work focused on how to develop the local hi-tech services economy – IT and IT-enabled services.

I rose to speak to the conference knowing that the IT minister of West Bengal was going to speak immediately after me, but he had not briefed me on his speech and I had not been asked to brief him on mine.

My main thrust was that West Bengal should play to its strengths; the vibrant higher education community, the strong links between academia and industry, the sheer scale of educated young people…

I showed them that they have a unique proposition that is focused on highly trained resource. I explained that they should not try to ape other Indian states, such as Karnataka (where hi-tech Bangalore is located), and focus on offering low-cost labour into the growing call centre industry as it would not be a long-term opportunity for the region.

The minister stood up and the first image he presented described how much cheaper the labour is in West Bengal, compared to Karnataka, and how great this would be for call centres. The entire conference hall fell about laughing at him.

Embarrassing for me, and probably more so for him as it showed he was not really in tune with the business community and had not even taken the time to check what the speaker ahead of him was going to say.

But as I worked with the government there, one thing in particular intrigued me. The IT sector was declared a ‘special’ industry. The local government wanted to attract foreign investors so they decided that all the normal labour legislation would not apply to this one industry.

In West Bengal, strikes have always been common because workers often flex their muscles and refuse to work if they have a grievance with the management. In the IT sector, strikes were banned.

The minister smiled at me when he told me about this and declared that foreign investors have nothing to fear from the communist government, because of the ban on industrial action in the sectors they were trying to boost.

So I asked how the IT workers would get to work when the bus drivers were on strike, or how the computers would work when the power company workers were on strike, or how the workers could eat if the restaurant workers were on strike?

He couldn’t answer. He only gave some weasel words about IT staff sleeping in the office to avoid transport strikes, or companies bringing in food and using diesel generators to keep the lights on. None of it was a real solution and if I was a genuine foreign investor, I wouldn’t have been impressed because the government was trying to remain communist in spirit, yet also doing anything they could to attract foreign money to the region.

So the communists of West Bengal were never really communist in the sense of Plato’s Republic, they just liked the colour red. And Che Guevara T-shirts. West Bengal has joined the rest of us in the real world at last.

Jorasanko Mansion - Kolkata

Back to NASSCOM

Every year in February the Indian hi-tech trade association, NASSCOM, runs their big annual conference in Mumbai. It’s the big annual get-together of the great and good in IT, especially in India, but these days there are around 30 countries represented at the event.

Now that I live in Brazil, it’s a 23-hour journey to get from São Paulo to Mumbai, and that is just changing plane once in London. So I’m going to be dosing up on new films on the way, provided BA has something worth watching.

I’m going to be writing about political risk for Reuters, filing a daily ‘from the conference’ report for silicon.com, blogging about any interesting social media content for Computer Weekly, and anything related to Brazil and South America on IT Decisions, plus I am gathering research for a report I am writing for PA Consulting.

It’s going to be very busy as always, with meetings from breakfast until dinner and this year I am not staying in the conference hotel. It always helps if your room is just above where the conference is taking place, but never mind, I’m sure I’ll cope…

If you are going to be there then do get in touch. I am arriving in Mumbai on Monday and will be leaving very late on Thursday night… once the conference is over I will get dinner then go to the airport to catch the 02.45 flight to London.
NASSCOM Global Leadership Awards

India’s shame

I’ve visited India many times. I’ve spent time in hotels and offices that could be anywhere in the world, yet I have also seen how the slums sit cheek by jowl with the new hi-tech India. There is often a sense of chaos in India and a relaxed attitude to time reflected in the often-repeated joke that IST really means ‘Indian Stretchable Time.’

But in all my experience of India, I have found that world-class companies offering first-rate goods and services really do exist. And why not? India is one of the BRICs… the countries that will lead the 21st century. So who can explain the disaster of the build up to the Commonwealth Games?

Teams are arriving to find they can’t live in the accommodation provided because it’s flooded or unfinished. The bridge linking the main stadium to a car park just collapsed, seriously injuring several labourers. Athletes are already pulling out citing security risks.

India can do far better than this in the world of business, where Indian companies compete with the best. So is the failure to organise the games because of endemic corruption and favouritism in the political classes? The local media in Delhi is reporting that vast sums of money allocated to the games has just vanished.

Where did it all go? Who is going to answer for the chaos? And when will India allow competence to rise above nepotism when managing major events such as this?

One look back at China in 2008 shows how a major athletics meeting can be run with precision and efficiency – I expect London 2012 to be a bit more relaxed than China, but if I was Indian today I’d be filled with shame because the world is watching and waiting as disaster reigns.
Ellora caves, Maharashtra, India

I’m in Malta all week

I’m working in Malta all this week as part of a research team that includes Ovum and eCode. We are working directly for the Maltese government with the aim of producing some new information for people interested in doing business in Malta.

The focus is on the IT, call centre, and general BPO industries – so we are just focused on IT and hi-tech services. My focus is BPO, so I am exploring engineering firms, accountants, and other professional services.

If anyone has any good links to Malta or knows someone I must see during this week then do ping me on Twitter. I have quite a packed schedule, but it may be possible to arrange something.

Ryanair in Malta

Leaving the BCS ELITE…

I’ve been on the the main committee of the BCS ELITE group for the past couple of years, but I just resigned my position.

I do like the BCS, I think they have a role in helping people map out a career in IT. I know a lot of people in the industry think the BCS is pointless and detached from reality, but I’ve loyally been a member since the 1980s even when it meant nothing to me, though in the past few years the management of the BCS has started focusing on helping people to build an IT career.

The BCS itself is more relevant than ever and after the recent drama of an emergency general meeting, where some members were questioning the agenda of the society, I think the society is now through the storm and ready to start making a real difference.

To those who don’t know anything of ELITE, it “is the UK lead forum for IT Directors and Senior Managers to exchange experiences, views and expectations on how information systems should be managed to achieve business objectives.”

In short, it’s a group for BCS members who are of IT director level or above – the senior management of the British IT industry. I was elected onto the committee with a mandate to offer a few modern ideas, get some new research published, and influence the events that ELITE runs… getting real industry leaders available for debate.

But things never really worked out like that – though I tried. ELITE is like a gentleman’s club for people who work in IT. Events are a success if they break even – rather than if they add to the body of management knowledge – and publications are torturously slow to materialise. In an era where companies need to be planning for every quarter and using modern-day communication systems to ensure rapid decision making, the ELITE culture of cigars in Pall Mall clubs grates somewhat… and how annoying is it to find a committee of IT experts who cannot use any scheduling tools (beyond mass emailing) to arrange meetings?

Take a look here at the forthcoming events organised by ELITE. Well, actually as you can see there are none. And even those that you can see arranged in the past hardly have any appeal for any CIO level management I have worked with. The last management level event that was organised was an audience with Michael Dell back in April 2009. That’s if I’m not including the dinners in Pall Mall clubs that are so important in setting the future strategy of the British IT industry.

Even then, does anyone really want to pay to listen to Dell anymore? Perhaps back in the mid-nineties yes, but what would a present-day CIO get from listening to former industry greats, apart from hearing some old war stories? When I once suggested getting Jimmy Wales to talk about Wikipedia, I had to explain to the committee who he actually is.

Or how about the management publications? You can see them here… A report from three years ago and a survey from five years ago. Cutting edge stuff…

Surely a group priding itself on independence and access to senior level IT managers should consider why it exists? Why should the group exist in the first place? If it is for producing independent research and comment, and offering high-level events and networking opportunities, then why not schedule some of those reports or events? It seems logical.

Instead, the meetings are dominated by a dogmatic adherence to committee politics that are reminiscent of ‘Wolfie’ Smith organising politics in Tooting. Some committees need structure and rules, but when the structure and process becomes the main topic of meetings then there is something seriously wrong. The events and publications timetable speak for themselves anyway.

I’m not detaching myself from the BCS in general. I’m still a member, and I’m cooking up some ideas with the head office in Swindon, for some work that should help promote the BCS and stimulate debate on IT careers in the future – I think the BCS does have a lot to offer. And I think the current management team have a clearer view than ever of what the BCS can achieve – there is a bright future ahead for the society.

It’s just a shame there is not more that the BCS offers to the thousands of senior IT executives in this country. There are already some people out there working with this community. The Computer Weekly CW500 club does a great job with monthly events always featuring a CIO speaker and regular publications, CIO Connect has a regular magazine and events… the IT management community is busy, but there must be room for the BCS to be doing something that addresses their needs to constantly be learning about their own industry.
Global Services: Moving to a Level Playing Field