Editorial: Signs of discontent

The project deadline swoops like a cruise missile over the horizon. It's targeted at your arse, but you know it will be shot down well before it gets that far. Key personnel are in place and trained up. Detailed plans are being expertly implemented. Things look so much on track that you can plan to take off to New Zealand for a week and a half during the upcoming school holidays.

Ouch. Over the next two weeks, both a key staffer and a highly valued, up-and-coming developer inform you of their imminent departure for better jobs. One gives three weeks notice, the other five. They cannot be convinced to stay.

You would hardly be in the minority if this manager's headache sounds familiar. Last year, IDC estimated staff turnover in Australian IT departments at a worrying 27 per cent. Obviously there's no easy answer. Staff retention as an issue requires attack from a number of angles: - recruitment rigour which employs ‘behavioural interviewing' to clearly ascertain candidates' aspirations, attitude and capabilities; and implementing excellent human resource policies for new hires and current employees. These holistic career management policies would pay careful attention to training, mentoring, and performance indicators. While your company may or may not have the resources or time for such blue-chip people policies (which do pay dividends), as a manager you certainly should aim to head off unnecessary departures by being alert to warning signs of discontent. These signs, as Sue Bushell reveals on page 18, include lessening motivation levels, a particular interest in project time frames, and a ‘don't care any more' attitude to job training issues and growth opportunities within your organisation.

The end of the world as you know it?

Reaction from Australian IT managers to the proposed breakup of Microsoft into Windows operating system and application companies is divided. Naturally enough, many are comfortable with the current situation and would be concerned about having one more key supplier to deal with. They believe a split could bring standards problems and associated integration issues. Others predict that such an imposed change would slow Microsoft and ‘hamper' its ability to innovate. Others see benefits in pricing and innovation flowing from a more competitive software applications market. Microsoft would be less of a gatekeeper for other companies' innovation within the divided scenario.

Clearly each of the proposed two Microsofts would be formidable and likely to dominate their respective market spaces for the foreseeable future. Any breakup would follow a lengthy legal appeals process and prove a painful and boring distraction from the main game of building e-enabled enterprises. A position of imposing restrictions on offending business practices would be a better result for the IT user community.

David_Beynon@idg.com.au

Editor in chief

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