VSJ – September 2003 – Work in Progress

Not so much a work in progress this month as a couple of thoughts that might lead to some. Progress, that is.

Policy Documents

The IT business moves fast and expects everybody to keep up. That’s a big enough issue for professionals but, these days, pretty much everyone else is affected by changes that seem to flash by like telegraph poles past a TGV.

What triggered this – admittedly not very deep – thought was a recent report that somewhere around half of all emails are now Spam and, worse, companies estimate that their employees are spending upwards of half an hour a day dealing with it. Now I am the unwilling recipient of about as much Spam as anyone, I guess, but I’d be surprised if it takes me more than 2 minutes a day to expunge it and that’s without using an anti-Spam application. So why the discrepancy? Well, maybe people are diligently following the ‘unsubscribe’ instructions on each Spam message. Now we all know that all that does is to confirm to the spammer that he (or she – but we always think of spammers as male, don’t we?) has hit a live address. But why should Buggins in Accounts know that? Unless, of course, we tell him. And that’s the point of this rather long-winded preamble. There’s a need for policy documents that cover a dizzying range of areas – virus protection, attachment use, contracts, defamation, encryption, off-site security, software piracy, relationships with outsourced functions, personal use of company equipment/ software/ bandwidth and so on.

So we’ve been thinking about how the IAP could help its members in formulating their IT policies. What we’re not going to do is tell you how it’s done. The source of best practice is out there with you, the practitioners. In this context, we see ourselves as reflecting what you already, collectively, have in place. So if you have a policy document that works well for you, why not email us a copy? We’ll maintain a library of such documents, appropriately attributed, as a resource for members. Obviously what works for one company is unlikely to be ideal, without modification, for another. But it will provide a starting point and may enable people to save time by not having to reinvent the wheel or, at least, the foundations.

Consultants’ Register Entries

You’ll probably have noticed that the Consultants’ Register has been up on the Web site for about six months now. I update the master file on demand and upload it every quarter so it’s a lot quicker than it used to be to get your entry included or updated. It’s also a lot easier. The simplest way is to email me (Robin Jones, eo@iap.org.uk) with a request for a Consultants’ Register entry form. I’ll email a copy to you. You complete it and email it back. Simple!

There are some things to consider in making sure your entry has the maximum effect, though. Lately, I’ve dealt with a number of queries from companies looking for consultants and I thought it might be helpful to feed back what I’ve gleaned from doing so.

1.        Keep your ‘mini-CV’ short and to the point. I know we ask you to limit your entry to 100 words anyway but the most effective notes are significantly shorter. People do not like to read much text when they are confronted by a large number of options. They home in on the entries they can assimilate quickly.

2.        Bear in mind that the file can be searched on any sub-string within the CV field. So make sure that any term you use is in a form that the searcher will most likely use. For instance, if you claim expertise in Windows 95/98/NT, you will not be bothered by anybody looking for an NT specialist. Why? Because no one will search on ‘NT’ alone. If they do, they’ll get numerous spurious hits on ‘international’, ‘Internet’ and, for all I know, ‘orthodontia’. (Well, I suppose someone might be advertising some very old copies of Dr Dobbs’ Journal…)

3.        For similar reasons, if you want to refer to C in the context of programming languages, enclose it in single quotes. Obviously, C++ and C# do not suffer from the same problem.

4.        Enquirers are often looking for consultants in their geographical area. They’ll choose to sort by county or postcode. If you’ve left, say, the county field blank on the not unreasonable grounds that everyone knows that Worcester is in Worcestershire, your record won’t appear where they’re expecting it.

If all this sounds as though I’m trying to teach Granny to suck eggs, I’m sorry. But it has to be remembered that many of the existing records date back to a time when the Consultants’ Register was issued as a printed document and so it wasn’t necessary to think about search criteria. Anyway, why don’t you take this opportunity to check your entry and see if it can be better targeted?

[Interesting project or development? Let us know at eo@iap.org.uk!]

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