Summer is the worst time of the year for IT departments to attempt major project work but it is a good time for testing, upgrades and reviews.

With many staff on holiday and a general slowdown in the IT supplier industry two-thirds of’s 12-strong CIO Jury user panel said good planning is key to avoiding major IT implementations over the quiet summer months.

Availability of key people is one of the single biggest factors that can hit IT projects in summer. Richard Steele, CIO at the London Borough of Newham, said: “The work doesn’t go away but you can’t get to speak to anyone when you need them, and problems always occur when the key resources are on holiday.”

Tapping up key contacts and resources in the IT supplier community can also be a problem over the summer. Peter Birley, IT director at law firm Browne Jacobson, said: “It is a bad time not only from an IT resource point of view but also suppliers and end users whose availability may be key. It is a good idea to plan for this but it is not always possible and can create challenges if the project is not to slip.”

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Kevin Fitzpatrick, CIO at Sodexho UK, said plans are often made irrespective of the fact so many key people will be away. But he added: “It can, conversely, be a good time to handle some upgrades, especially technical ones where the business may be at its quietest.”

Summer can also be a good time to clear some of the other work that has been building up over the year. Nicholas Bellenberg, IT director at publisher Hachette Filipacchi UK, said: “It’s a good time to attend to admin, system building and back office infrastructure.”

Nick Masterson-Jones, IT director at payments body Voca, said: “With the general slowdown, it is actually a time when we can get things done with fewer distractions – when we aren’t on holiday too of course.”

In the academic community, however, the summer holidays is the only time to do critical infrastructure upgrades ahead of the new term and is the busiest time of the year for the IT department, according to Paul Hopkins, IT director at the University of Newcastle.

He said: “Summer is the time when we refresh or replace much of our infrastructure and introduce new services and technologies for next year’s students. Then we drop our financial year end in the middle of it – 31 July – just to add to the fun and we also get many of our top managers either leaving or joining at the same time. Oh and then, in mid-September, 40 per cent of our customers arrive in the same week as freshers. Roll on October.”

But Russell Altendorff, IT director at the London Business School, said even that summer window of opportunity in universities to do critical IT infrastructure work is now being squeezed.

He said: “We have found that the great dependence on online marketing, admissions, donations and other forms of e-business has made the ‘summer break’ virtually non-existent. This is driving the investment in non-stop infrastructure, and for us co-location is the next natural step.”

James Findlay, head of ICT at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, said the 24/7 nature of many organisations today means it is increasingly difficult to plan major IT projects. “In today’s business environment there is rarely an ideal time to carry out major works or projects but when you do it should be at the time that has least impact to your customers,” he said.

Today’s CIO Jury was…

Russell Altendorff, IT director, London Business School
Nicholas Bellenberg, IT director, Hachette Filipacchi UK
Peter Birley, IT director, Browne Jacobson
Chris Broad, head of IM and technology, UK Atomic Energy Authority
James Findlay, head of ICT, Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Kevin Fitzpatrick, CIO, Sodexho UK
Paul Hopkins, IT director, University of Newcastle
Jane Kimberlin, IT director, Domino’s Pizza
Nick Masterson-Jones, IT director, Voca
Richard Steel, CIO, London Borough of Newham
Richard Storey, head of IT, Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Hostpital Trust
Steve Williams, head of ICT, Sunderland City Council

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