14 August 2007

Team IT challenges for managers

Every human being enjoys a pat-on-the-back and the role of manager is know when and where to give it precisely. Consider a Saturday morning meeting as an opportunity to thank the employee who sacrificed his weekend to complete an urgent task.
Most companies investing on IT systems and dependant of the services have a dedicated IT department to provide information supporting the organisation's business requirements. The significance of the role of this department has been steadily growing and now most corporate have a designation titled Chief Information Officer (CIO) directly reporting to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

Challenges faced

The CIO has several challenges facing him. Ensuring business continuity, provision of information to the right person, at the right time and in the right format are on the top of his list. As a custodian of information as well as IT assets of the organisation he needs to ensure adequate security mechanism being put in place.

Due to the volatile nature of the IT manpower pool, he is constantly under pressure to hire the right person for the task on hand. Even if this is accomplished, he then continues to be pressurised to take measures to retain his staff.As a leader with a vision and mission he now counts upon his staff as a collective dynamic and responsive team.

In managing his team, technology solves only part of the problems leaving the rest of social systems to be handled carefully. For example having an email system for communication within the office must be controlled in terms of non-abusive usage. The manager or the CIO himself must have the professional discipline of responding to emails and do the needful to avoid email bounce-backs caused by mailbox-overflow. Back on IT manpower, with several ongoing projects, deadlines including penalty clauses and a focused technical backdrop, the need to retain the skilled staff stands paramount.

Profile of IT staff

The demand for technology based solutions and the dependence on IT systems is escalating, no matter what the core business is. This has made the IT manpower market very volatile. From technicians to analysts, programmers and project managers are very much in demand and the ones with relevant industry experience are the most wanted and highly paid. With this volatility comes the major task of motivating the employees on projects with incentives both monetary and fringe benefits.

While salaries make bulk of the return to IT employees, there is a need to find innovative ways to reward performance. This is because competitors are willing to hike the salaries over night to snatch the prospective candidate. Most IT teams average between 5 and 50 in numbers within an average business venture. This community is well networked and this must be utilised to the best advantage. Most recruitment processes refer to technical expertise quoted in resumes but the test of time is the on-the-job performance. The most recent deliverables and achievements are more relevant to this market as several IT experts have switched from other streams of expertise.

Rewards and incentives

Technology itself is evolving and this complicates the project technical experience more heavily. This has to be addressed with frequent training programmes being offered to all employees and the more prestigious offerings to the top-notch performers. Every human being enjoys a pat-on-the-back and the role of manager is know when and where to give it precisely. Consider a Saturday morning meeting as an opportunity to thank the employee who sacrificed his weekend to complete an urgent task.How about sending a mass email to all staff congratulating a colleague who has topped a certain exam or won a technical competition? Pretty easy stuff that doesn't cost anything to the budget can be implemented instantly. On a grander scale company's stock options, performance bonuses, family holiday sponsorships, educational supplements are also other incentives to be considered.

Back-up plan B

On the cautionary note, CIOs and IT managers need to create a hierarchical staffing structure within each department and projects. This will enable better team building and give senior members of the team an opportunity to mentor the freshmen. For critical projects, a back-up member must work in parallel so that he/she is ready to take the lead if required. Organise periodical project status reviews with the presence of a wider audience from the team which will keep all members aware of ongoing projects. This exercise could also bring in synergic effect due to voluntary support or even suggestions.


It is paramount to create project documents that explain the charter, team structure, roles and responsibilities and status reports. Most important meetings must be transcribed and circulated preferably electronically. Official contacts can be electronically archived into a common pool accessible to all staff.

Digital Oman has given suggestions to the IT managers and CIOs to retain their expert staff and nothing is complete unless and until these are put into practice within the organisation for which one will have to harness the support of the senior management. It is time to prepare a strategic report on this, highlighting the knowledge, skills and accomplishments of the staff and suggest ways to retain them collectively and individually.

Computing gets wearable more comfortably

WEARABLE Computing is transforming the way people interact, take care of their health, entertain themselves and do more. With miniaturisation of computers and omnipotent capabilities of phones of the modern era, it is possible to wear technology gadgets just like garments or accessories.

Such devices necessarily must not disturb human activity but act and interact with humans for functionality. This is the concept of wearable computing which aims to simplify interactions between humans and computers like in the case of mobile phones, laptops and PDAs. For a better understanding of this concept take the connection of computing devices within a networked office. Thet share and communicate with each other. In the same way, body network or personal area network (PAN) with several devices worn by the user network and communicate even remotely.

To monitor an aged patient at home, wearable computing makes it possible to measure the pulse rate through the wrist watch or bracelet and transmit the signal through her mobile phone to her clinic which continuously plots this data for monitoring. Through programming an abnormal variation in the pulse rate generates alarms at the clinic which enables the paramedics to reach the patient at the earliest for treatment. In the case of gaming head mounted units with microphones simulate visual screens in front of the eye with voice activated operations.

Imagine moving your arm to simulate playing a tennis stroke and the motion sensor pad recognises the motion and translates it into digital form required for a game scenario. This would make gaming more natural and interactive with more precision without keypads or joysticks. In computing, artificial intelligence attempts to emulate human intelligence and progress in this direction has been quite limited for practical applications. Wearable computing attempts to synergise human intelligence and computing power, making it more practical for real life applications.

Wearable computing has certain basic features: l These devices fit on to the human body and are non-obstructive to activity.l They are always on and do not require interactions to activate.l The computing part happens while the humans are active performing normally to augment the intellect or the senses.l Depending on the programming they can either jam outside signals or permit them to act as filters.l It is possible to maintain a higher level of security in computing as identification can be based on any biometric measure thus increasing privacy.

Devices are generally prosthetic so that the users adapt to its just like and extension of body and after some time they even forget that they are wearing it.l These devices are unrestrictive to the user and are connected cable-free so they can be mobile and do other things while using them.l The devices are attentive to changes in the environment, responsive to user’s controls and are also communicative with other devices in the system.The most fundamental issue in wearable computing is that the wearer is empowered through technology that is a personalised, customisable information space, owned, operated, and controlled by them. In the future many more sensors will be built with chips to make wearable computing more sophisticated and less intrusive to humans.