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Conclusion: The dimming of IT kudos can be exemplified in a number of ways including: IT not being invited to the table when strategic business decisions are made, then being assigned project work post factum; having IT solutions predetermined by those outside IT, then having to implement them; having phalanxes of IT people brought into the organisation from one of the major systems integration firms to deliver a major project, then subsequently having to support it. Almost without exception the behaviour and performance of the CIO and the IT organisation are the root cause of these events.
Conclusion: Within the working environment, complexity is often introduced unwittingly. At times, expediency is to blame, when intended short term fixes (such as code or business process changes) get baked into the organisational DNA. Unchecked, layer upon layer of complexity can builds up, undermining efficiency and causing ambiguity that troubles staff and confuses clients. With economic gloom casting a shadow over IT budgets, a systematic approach to re-instituting simplicity is warranted. Though more time-consuming to implement than conventional IT savings measures (such as cutting back contractor numbers or reducing training costs) the cost saving and efficiency benefits should be longer lasting.
Conclusion: Whether in the private or public sector, the fundamental objective of a board should be “building long-term sustainable growth in shareholder value”1. Usually the intention to do this is expressed in an organisation's strategic plan. Increasingly, IT plays a significant part in these plans, yet many Directors remain shy of anything other than superficial discussions on IT, potentially diminishing IT's contribution to the organisation. Through exertion of appropriate influence and by carefully selecting which channels to use to gain board attention, an effective CIO can take a number of steps to correct this situation.
Conclusion: Bob Dylan’s enigmatic song ‘Changing of the Guards’ included these lyrics: “But Eden is burning, either brace yourself for elimination. Or else your hearts must have the courage for the changing of the guards.” This song could well refer to changes in IT that have been gathering force for over a decade. A new order is emerging: progressive CIOs are unseating their regressive counterparts bringing new meaning to IT enablement.
Unbelievably, Steve Jobs' passing made front page news in virtually every nation on earth. This is probably unprecedented for an 'IT guy' let alone one who dropped out of college before going on to establish Apple with Steve Wozniak in 1976. As most know, after the Jonathan Sculley / Steve Jobs power struggle of late 1985 Steve Jobs resigned from Apple, founding NeXT Computer. Subsequently in 1996, Apple acquired NeXT as sales of the Mac languished, leading ultimately to Jobs assuming the CEO role at Apple after a successful boardroom coup. During Jobs’ sabbatical from Apple he was also the driving force behind Pixar. In August 2011 Apple’s market capitalisation briefly surpassed market leader Exxon Mobil, remaining comfortably ahead of IBM and Microsoft.
Conclusion: Despite recent IT Shared Services (ITSS) failures in government, the global appetite for ITSS seems to continue unabated. Given evolving developments in the cloud, ITSS seems assured of longevity. It is thus important to understand its nuances, especially from a delivery perspective. Whilst tempting to think of ITSS initiatives merely as ambitious programs of work capable of delivering attractive savings, it seems that a scaled-backed, incremental delivery approach, though perhaps more costly and time-consuming than other methods, may result in more lasting and beneficial outcomes.
Conclusion: The instincts of greed and ambition can sometime blindside the architects of IT Shared Services (ITSS) initiatives. Thinking too grandiosely and without sufficient regard for the consequences of ITSS can doom such ventures from the outset. Conversely, taking more level-headed approaches, tempered by the honest counsel of those that aren’t necessarily management sycophants, can have the opposite effect.
Conclusion: There is a perception that public sector organisations experience higher failure rates with IT Shared Services (ITSS) ventures than their private sector counterparts. While no definitive studies have confirmed this, it remains true that both sectors have a chequered history of success with ITSS. However, perceptions are skewed by the sometimes massive and very public ITSS failures that have occurred locally in the public sector. Curiously, many of these failures could have been averted by following some simple steps.
Conclusion: Recent events1 have shown that IT shared services initiatives do not always live up to their promises. When benefits fail to materialise, emotional rather than logical thinking predominates. Naysayers engage in the fallacy of faulty generalisation, asserting that if one IT shared services venture is deemed to have failed, then the very notion of IT shared services is questionable.
Conclusion: There is a universality to many aspects of the roles performed by CIOs. Dictated by technology trends and strongly influenced by IT vendors, CIOs often find themselves following a pre-written script containing the initiatives they should pursue. Often they find themselves carrying out exactly the same types of projects as their colleagues in totally different business sectors. For some CIOs, this can be less than satisfying. Worse, despite their complicity (sometimes tacit) in IT initiatives, many senior executives are often underwhelmed by the value delivered by IT. CIOs can take a number of steps to overcome this impasse, achieving more job satisfaction whilst gaining higher profiles in their organisations.
Conclusion: When it comes to craving what we desire, we’re often our own worst enemies. Sometimes the steps that are taken to achieve an outcome result in the antithesis of the desired effect. Many of the attempts CIOs make to gain CEO attention may be misread, causing the relationship to distance rather than strengthen. However, there are some steps all CIOs can take to properly position IT in the mind of the CEO, building strong CIO/CEO connections and heightening CIO job satisfaction.
Conclusion: They usually begin with starry-eyed stakeholders. Too often they end in tears. After several years of fiscal restraint, blockbuster projects are back on the agenda. Many will fail. Others will fall well short of organisational expectations.
Conclusion: More than almost any other factor in a CIO’s armoury, having good people within IT is a mainstay of continued success. Building good teams starts with staff selection. While some use search firms for senior roles, most CIOs use traditional recruitment methods: profile the role, advertise it, shortlist candidates, interview them, check references, then appoint. In difficult employment markets it is tempting to make staff selection compromises purely for the sake of filling a vacant role and relieving a stress-point.
Conclusion: Establishing, or re-launching, a Program Management Office (PMO) using a text-book driven, ‘cookie cutter’ approach is not likely to bring about improvements in the performance of individual projects, IT programs or even a portfolio of projects. While some initial improvements may be observed as a consequence of closer management scrutiny, it is rare for formula-based approaches to work effectively on a sustained basis.
Acquiring enterprise applications: Don't wish too hard for what you want or you might get it (Part 1)
Conclusion: Many organisations use flawed approaches for selecting enterprise applications. In short, they buy the wrong software for the wrong reasons. With many enterprise applications continuing in existence for 10 or even 20 years, this is a long time to live with a bad decision.
Acquiring enterprise applications: Do not wish too hard for what you want or you might get it (Part 2)
Conclusion: Many enterprise applications remain in existence for 10 or 15 years, or even longer. The magnitude of their total lifetime costs usually mark enterprise applications as being in the top decile of all IT investments. Despite these factors, many of those involved in selecting candidate products choose the wrong products for the wrong reasons. A more structured approach is necessitated in which the traditional focus on detailed functional requirements is de-emphasised and balanced against other factors essential to making a sound, long term IT investment.
Reviewing one of the many new Christmas/New Year film releases, David Stratton, probably Australia’s best known film critic remarked: “It’s surprising how many A-grade actors it takes to make a B-grade movie these days......”.
Conclusion: Effective IT Strategic Plans (ITSPs) are blueprints. They path future directions, provide rationale, explain benefits and can offer a rallying-point for staff. Yet many ITSPs become shelf-ware. Some become disused as initiatives enacted diverge from those in the plan, thereby undermining their credibility. Other ITSPs simply lack sparkle – the ‘Ah Hah’ factor that signals to stakeholders that the strategies will propel IT and the organisation into exciting, yet well-considered, new directions.
Conclusion: As the post-GFC economic thaw continues, organisations are seeking to become more resourceful and adventurous. They are rediscovering their innovatory DNA whilst remaining focused on staff productivity and cost control.
Conclusion: During the GFC many organisations lost their innovation mojo. As economic rationalism reigned, organisational cultures became stale, research and development budgets were cut and fresh ideas stopped flowing.
Conclusion: Many an incoming CIO stumbles between acceptance of an employment offer and the first few months in the job. Often for the CIO it seems that there is so much to do it’s difficult to know where to turn and what to focus on. Coupled with this, the incoming CIO usually has an overwhelming sense of desire to do a good job and achieve recognition.
Conclusion: Recent Standish Group research1 has shown that project failure rates for IT-based projects have risen since from 19% in 2006 to 24% in 2009. Running projects successfully has become more challenging in recent times as the lingering effects of the GFC tempt project participants to cut corners. Strengthening methodology observance and project governance arrangements may result in some improvements in success rates. However, IBRS believes that greater benefit can be achieved by transcending such mechanistic approaches. We advise a holistic re-examination of candidate projects using our 6C2 approach, then re-configuring those projects where necessary to improve their chances of success.
Conclusion: Failed projects are newsworthy again. The most recent report from the Standish Group, which has studied over 70,000 IT-based projects since 1985, indicates that project failure levels reached new heights during the GFC. Prima facie, this is counterintuitive. Additional controls (such as closer scrutiny and reduced tolerance levels on spending) and cautionary approaches have typified executive responses to the GFC. However, cost-cutting to meet agreed targets and attempting to hasten project delivery in an already resource-lean environment will have contributed to this result.
Conclusion: In the best-selling 1982 publication "In Search of Excellence"1Tom Peters introduced the concept of MBWA or Managing By Wandering Around. His hypothesis, which remains valid today, is that to gain perspective senior executives should periodically distance themselves from usual management activities to see their organisations differently.
Conclusion: It would be unusual to find a C-level executive who doesn’t have at least a glancing admiration for companies such as Apple, Google, Amazon and Intel1. All are highly successful and all are known for their innovative cultures.
Conclusion: As a CIO enmeshed in day to day activities, it is easy to think myopically of a world bounded only by what is closest to hand: IT clients, staff and suppliers. But to do so can be delusional. Effective CIOs are first and foremost good strategic thinkers constantly focused on delivering better business outcomes. As such, they take the time to survey the world beyond their immediate boundaries, reflecting on and gaining inspiration from the manifold influences that can shape their future plans and indeed over which the CIO may exert affect. Such a world, quite distant from daily routine but subtly connected to it, may be thought of as the CIO’s role as seen from space.
Conclusion: Many CIOs seek to be seen as visionaries in their organisations. Usually bestowed with higher than average intellect and with unique insight into the workings of their organisation and its role within its ecosystem and society, they are well-placed to make a significant contribution toward organisational growth and innovation. Yet curiously, this rarely happens.
Conclusion: ‘Adventure is just bad planning’ observed Roald Amundsen, renowned Norwegian explorer. Good strategic planning processes aim to avoid unintended consequences. They have a firm focus on seeking appropriate destinations then getting there with surety.
Conclusion: In Australasia in 2009, admittedly in the thrall of the GFC, an unprecedentedly high number of CIOs lost their jobs. A broad spectrum of CIOs were involved: some were high profile industry figures, a few had been promoted from within whilst others with seemingly well-credentialed backgrounds had been in their roles for a matter of months.
Conclusion: Interviewing CXOs during consulting assignments over the past eighteen months has revealed significant dissatisfaction about their ERPs. Many contend their ERP investment has significantly eroded since originally implemented, and, given the need to maintain a reasonable degree of release currency, their ERPs are now providing negative returns on capital invested.
Conclusion: When establishing or enhancing an IT governance framework, one size does not fit all. For full effect, governance practices need to reflect an organisation’s ethos. Time can be the enemy of good governance practice; what works well at the outset may need to be tailored and progressively refined to suit evolving organisational maturity, changes in personnel and the interest of executives in contributing to the IT agenda. In essence, a multi-factorial, time-phased approach is recommended for instilling and maintaining effective IT governance.
Conclusion: From adversity springs creativity. History shows straitened economic times can serve as a greenhouse, rapidly germinating seeds of ideas that may otherwise have taken longer to establish themselves. Six clear trends have emerged from the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) providing business advantage to early adopters. The common thread is their potential to deliver organisational efficiencies, savings, or both. IBRS believe these trends are likely to deserve a place in the IT firmament for a considerable time. CIOs should defensively review these trends; the outcome may be selective adoption or deferral, but their potency cannot be ignored.
Conclusion: The terms “IT” and “governance” are frequently coupled, sometimes glibly and often inappropriately. Indeed, IT governance seems to have a multiplicity of meanings but is generally seen by IT people as a “white knight” in which business user engagement, properly executed, will overcome a troubled IT situation.
Conclusion: Consistent with its belief that the global financial crisis has heralded a new era in IT, IBRS has identified a series of management maxims to serve as a source of reference for IT executives navigating economic uncertainty.
Conclusion: IBRS believes the global financial crisis has heralded a new era in IT. Cost sensitivity will remain a key theme; cautious behaviour will predominate and the margin for error allowed by senior management in key areas such as IT project and service delivery will drop to unprecedented lows. To assist the CIO and others responsible for managing IT, IBRS has identified a series of maxims to serve as a source of reference to IT executives navigating through economic uncertainty.
Conclusion: Organisations with existing Business Continuity Plans (BCPs) may find them to be a poor fit when dealing with the unique circumstances surrounding a pandemic. The chief characteristic is massively depleted numbers of available workers, with as many as 25-40% of staff absent throughout the entire government and business eco-system. Those without effective plans face the prospect of severe disablement that may take many months of recovery. For them, urgent action is required to draft pandemic-specific BCPs or to modify, then test, existing BCPs.
Conclusion: In recessionary economies, as in war, values and behaviours change in response to the times. Formerly valued business success factors may no longer apply; management thinking once considered outmoded may now have new relevance. At an organisational level, focus is likely to be on the lower strata of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs1. Indeed, C-level executives will be appraised on their ability to contribute to meeting these needs.
Conclusion: Australian taxpayers should applaud the Rudd government for adopting in full, all the recommendations of the Gershon Report.1 As a consequence, IT savings of an estimated $1 billion are planned for realisation over the next 10 years. However, will the government be able to bank all these savings? The answer is probably no. Intentionally or otherwise, what Gershon proposes is nothing more or less than a wide-scale, transformational change program. These unfortunately, rarely meet with complete success2.
Conclusion: Many organisations have made a major commitment to ITIL to lift their IT service delivery1 capabilities. ITIL is valuable in providing a lingua franca for IT service delivery professionals and is an excellent frame of reference for process improvement. However, a single-minded focus on ITIL to improve service delivery is akin to taking vitamins as the only strategy for improving our health. Extending that analogy, establishing an effective IT service delivery strategy first requires a general medical examination. Then, using the results obtained, a holistic and targeted program can be developed aimed at improving overall health outcomes.
Conclusion: In our experience many Business Intelligence (BI) initiatives end up well short of their original objectives. But all is not lost. Sometimes it helps to learn from the experiences of others. For those:
- Intending to embark on a new BI initiative
- Working to remediate a BI strategy that had lost momentum.
This research paper examines some case studies and examples which reference breakthrough approaches and reflect the sometimes arduous travails involved in dealing with the many challenges presented by BI projects.
Managing IT in economic downturns; so much more than just slashing and burning Part 1: Setting the scene
Conclusion: Economic downturns alter organisational dynamics and can herald changes in the executive power hierarchy. IT can be particularly vulnerable if seen as a cost centre and order taker. As economic forecasts darken, a common scenario is for the balance of power to swing to the CFO. Then, an economic austerity agenda is usually pursued, characterised by a program of across-the-board cost cuts that have Chief Executive imprimatur.
Conclusion: In March 2001 the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published a management brief1 addressing problems in implementing large IT projects in the public and private sectors. Observations in this report included “...budgets are exceeded, deadlines are over-run and often the quality of the new system is far below the standard agreed when the project was undertaken”.
Conclusion: Effective IT strategic planning is more relevant than ever in 2005 as IT budgets continue to be straitened and IT units remain under pressure to prove their corporate worth. Whilst there are many approaches to developing an IT Strategic Plan, a zero-based approach is more likely to resonate with business stakeholders and provide successful outcomes than other approaches.
Conclusion: In business and government, the subject of risk continues to be a hot topic. It’s covered regularly by the commerce and technology-oriented sections of the media and is increasingly being discussed and actioned at Board and executive levels. Because of the corporate appetite for risk methodologies and tools, a burgeoning IT industry has developed providing risk management software.
Conclusion: Delivering real business improvement in Workforce Automation & Management practices has proven elusive for many organisations. Two principal factors seem to have been at play. Firstly, a piecemeal approach seems to have been taken with a focus on rostering rather than on the entire process chain (see diagram). Secondly, the organisational change management effort seems to have been underestimated. With so few opportunities available to businesses to deliver bottom line savings from application software initiatives, it is now timely to revisit this area. Further, increasing safety-awareness in sectors such as mining, construction and transportation, have highlighted the need to achieve success with WAM initiatives, in some cases driven by the need to comply with fatigue management standards for rostered staff.
Conclusion: BI technology platforms have been available in various guises for over two decades. Indeed, certain BI terms, such as ‘drill down’ have become embedded into business parlance.
The technology itself is mature and capable and many organisations have harnessed it to their advantage. However, some of our recent dealings with both IT and business executives reveal an underlying dissatisfaction with their BI implementations. Complaints include costly implementations, poor acceptance of the technology, particularly by middle management, and concerns with data quality and integrity.
Conclusion: Last month I wrote advising IT practitioners to learn the language of risk management, particularly in the context of ANZ/NZS 4360:2004. The article also contained advice to ensure that IT has a place at the decision-making table when considering the implementation of corporate risk management software.
An assumption was made in the article that in your organisation some corporate risk management initiatives were already under consideration. However, suppose this is not the case. How can the IT practitioner pitch a case for an Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) project as a strategic system? This article provides a guide for doing so, allowing the IT practitioner to assert leadership in a burgeoning area of corporate practice.