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eDiscovery requests - are you ready?

Conclusion: Organisations that may be at risk of a discovery action should have strategies to minimise the impact of eDiscovery requests. They should have agreed processes in place and have implemented a comprehensive information and records management system that will enable rapid responses and minimise cost when responding to such requests. Poor electronic information management, particularly in the areas of email and collaboration tools are certain to create eDiscovery problems and expenses.

Think green IT: Think saving money

 Conclusion: CIOs and IT operations managers must avoid the risk of succumbing to green fatigue. Greenwashing is rampant, with every IT vendor promoting its products as "green." Most IT publications have at least one Green IT focused section. At the same time organisations are continuing their focus on cost reduction, often with IT under the magnifying glass. In these circumstances, it is easy for Green IT to be given lip service only while everybody gets on with the "real work". This must not happen. The biggest green issue for IT is how to reduce the energy consumption of the data centre. Organisations should first focus on reducing the energy consumption in their data centre: not only does it bring a significant green benefit but it saves money.

Automating test data generation

Conclusion: Automated software and system testing will never be the testing silver bullet. One of its components though, the automated generation of test data, is one of the powerful weapons in the software testing arsenal1 and its deployment can provide a strategic advantage in the testing battle. The key is when and how to automate test data generation and which of its features are most effective when deployed. Two of its most useful benefits are reducing risks by protecting personal details and lowering costs by significantly reducing the numbers of tests required.

A legal checklist before taking off into the cloud

Conclusion:Cloud computing is promoted as the next disruptive technology in the organisational use of IT. If this does happen, no matter what else changes there are some verities which must not change, in particular meeting legal requirements. There are at least seven areas where a move to cloud computing should not be contemplated unless the legal requirements can be demonstrably satisfied.

Cloud computing and the law - business implication

Conclusion: Cloud computing is not a new environment, merely the extension of a number of technologies that support IT outsourcing (bureaux, ASPs, SaaS, IaaS, PaaS). Cloud computing is technology-driven but will be and is likely to become “the next disruptive technology” in sourcing. Rightly or wrongly, many have been jumping on the cloud bandwagon because they’ve been driven to reduce costs. However, many potentially significant legal problems and their consequences have yet to be addressed. These legal issues extend beyond, and can be more complex than those that apply in traditional outsourcing agreements. Organisations considering outsourcing business applications to cloud computing must consider all relevant legal challenges at the same time as they explore the technologies.

Cloud computing and the law - data considerations

Conclusion:Privacy and data protection laws in Australia and NZ hold organisations, rather than their subcontractors, responsible for the activities of their subcontractors. Before committing to outsourcing any corporate data to a cloud computing vendor any organisation must ensure that all relevant legal constraints are agreed and in place so as to avoid any subsequent litigation. Ensuring and monitoring this may not be easy.

Cloud computing, you may need a parachute

Conclusion: There is still more hype in the media about cloud computing than uptake. Advocates promise dramatically improved ease of use, lowered costs driven by economies of scale, and much greater flexibility in sourcing and adapting to change. Nicholas Carr in his latest book2, predicts that cloud computing will put most IT departments out of business. "IT departments will have little left to do once the bulk of business computing shifts out of private data centres and into the cloud," Such arguments make it likely that organisations will increasingly place some or all of their IT supported services in “the cloud”. This makes these organisations dependent on the reliability of the vendor’s cloud offerings. If an organisation moves all or part of its IT services to a cloud environment it must first identify and understand the new risks it may be exposed to.

But can they read it?

Conclusion: Many technical, and systems related, documents are hard to read and authors run the risk only a fraction of their target audience read them. Those that do read them have difficulty reading them with understanding. The problems with hard to read technical documents are likely to exacerbate as an older age group remain in the workforce and they represent a challenge for workers whose primary language is not English.If we are to have an efficient and productive workforce, we must ensure that those who need to can both read our documentation and understand it.

Forget Green; think sustainable computing in 2009

Conclusion: The widely accepted definition of sustainability is the ability to provide for the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Sustainability is accepted as addressing the “triple bottom line” of meeting both environment requirements and society’s needs, while at the same time ensuring a viable economy.

As organisations plan for economically straightened times they may consider dropping “green IT” from their planning, not seeing it as directly contributing to keeping the business afloat. In this context, the term green IT may have passed its “use by” date. Instead, using the term sustainable IT may bring a more business-oriented focus on this key area.

In our corner of society, if we want our and future generations to enjoy a healthy, equitable, and prosperous Earth, then we must address the way we use and exploit IT in our day to day activities. This means continuing the move to sustainable computing practices in 2009.

eLearning for upskilling: Making it work for you

Conclusion: eLearning is re-emerging as a solution for effective delivery of online, hybrid, and synchronous learning regardless of physical location, time of day or distribution device type. eLearning can be used by the whole organisation for ensuring staff have and maintain the skills they need to deliver top organisational performance. Pending financial constraints provide an ideal stimulus to consider the increased use of eLearning in organisations.

Best Practice in Disaster Recovery Planning for IT

Conclusion: The International Standards Organisation has just released a new International Standard that focuses on Disaster Planning for IT1. This new standard reflects the changed/outsourced IT world. It provides guidelines for information technology disaster recovery services as part of business continuity management that apply to both “in-house” and “outsourced” ICT environments. This new approach for Disaster Recovery (DR) Standards should stimulate organisations to re-examine their IT DR plans to ensure that they meet current best practice and that the processes they are using to maintain their DR planning are satisfactory.

SaaS Implications for the CIO

Conclusion: Business departments not getting the services they want from their IT departments see Software as a Service (SaaS) as a very attractive alternative to get applications currently not being provided or to replace unsatisfactory or poorly supported applications. CIOs must be prepared to find (possibly renegade) SaaS applications in use in their organisations. They must set in place the relevant support and appropriately skilled staff to manage this potentially disruptive technology.

Implementing ICT Governance

Conclusion: Standards Australia has developed and published the Australian Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Governance Standard1, the first government driven ICT Governance Standard in the world. This provides an opportunity for ICT dependent organisations to revisit their ICT governance and confirm it meets agreed good practice. It is also a useful template for any organisation that is setting up or re-examining its ICT governance, policies, and procedures. It should be used by company directors, owners of small businesses, and other organisations to recognise and accept their ICT responsibilities and to set in place processes that ensure that ICT meets these obligations.

Open Source Software in Government

Conclusion: Open Source software is demonstrably successful in specific business and government areas (think of all those Linux and Apache servers humming away!). However, apart from these, MySQL and a few exceptions from, for example, the Mozilla stable, Open Source systems have not yet had a significant impact in the mainstream world of business IT. The one exception is in Government where there is a world-wide trend to espouse Open Source Software. Government agencies are reporting what they see as compelling arguments for adopting Open Source. Those in the Government arena who have not yet considered this option may wish to re-examine their stand.

Last Word: Is that your data centre in the car park?

A number of vendors and thinkers have been promoting the idea of putting the entire data centre in a shipping container. These pre-assembled mobile data centres can come complete with pre-installed networking, power and cooling systems and can be transported by truck and quickly made operational. The approach is touted when temporary, mobile data centres need to be set up, such as in disaster-recovery situations. It is also being promoted as viable as organisations struggle with providing adequate IT resources for their IT dependant operations.

Using the Analytical Hierarchy Process to improve option evaluation

Conclusion: Too often corporate decision making is not a rational and well structured process.. The team charged with making the decision often accumulates a lot of information, probably biased by their own values, then goes into a room and emerges with a decision. This approach is a poor basis for making complex or important decisions  

Getting the vendor information you need

Conclusion: Strong vendor management is essential in the successful delivery of critical IT-centric services. Before developing a business relationship or entering into a contract for goods or services it is essential that you have a complete understanding of any proposed supplier. A key part in any formal purchase of goods and services is a detailed understanding of the vendor, its ability to supply and support you, and the processes and resources it will use.

Use Earned Value for better project management and monitoring

Conclusion: Many organisations continue to have trouble having projects complete within budget, on time, and meeting user requirements. This is in spite of a plethora of project monitoring metrics and methodologies designed to prevent this happening.

Legal considerations that apply in cloud computing

Conclusion: Before any organisation outsources any of its operations to a cloud computing provider it must be fully cognizant of, and have addressed to its satisfaction, the many potential legal problems and their consequences. These extend beyond, and can be more complex, than those that apply in traditional outsourcing agreements. Organisation must ensure that all legal issues have been addressed before committing any core systems to a cloud environment.

The Next Perfect IT Storm: The Red Shift, Utility Computing.

Conclusion: A perfect IT storm is looming, driven by merging category 4 storms such as Utility (or cloud) computing, and the Red Shift growth in massive computing. The force of the storm will be exacerbated by rising energy costs and their impact on the data centre energy budget. As a consequence, in a few years many mid to large organisations have at least all their non-differentiating applications running on remote shared SaaS-like sites. This will have a significant impact on the IT department and it’s CIO.

Managing through the Looming Data Centre Power Crisis

Conclusion: Dramatically increasing energy costs means that organisations must explore and implement approaches that ensure they reduce or contain the energy demands of their data centres. While ostensibly long term green driven, the short term real drivers will are economic.

Last word: Applying the Rule of Three in tough IT times

The rule of three is a principle that suggests that things that come in threes are inherently more memorable and attractive to us than other numbers of things.

Trusted Computing - coming to a system near you

Conclusion: Trusted Computing is a family of open specifications whose stated goal is to make personal computers more secure by using dedicated hardware. Critics, including academics, security experts, and users of free and open source software, contend, however, that the overall effect (and perhaps intent) of Trusted Computing is to impose unreasonable restrictions on how people can use their computers1.

Marketing your MIS Department

Conclusion: IT/MIS within an organisation can be thought of as a business and, like any business, should have an active marketing plan in place. Such a plan helps the CIO and key members of the MIS group actively promote to all parts of the organisation the value of the services delivered by the MIS Department. The plan should be couched in business terms understood by each user community and not in “IT-speak”.

Now it's called Business Continuity Management

Conclusion: Large companies can expect a significant business crisis once every four to five years and, if the disruption is significant, the organisation will be seriously affected or may never recover sufficiently to resume business.

The focus on what were once considered separate activities, business continuity, and disaster recovery, has changed and both are now considered an integral part of corporate governance. This integrated approach is now called Business Continuity Management (BCM) and should be the lynch pin in any organisation’s risk management.

Project Self Examination - Catch a malignant project before you need a projectectomy

Conclusion: Organisations, especially in the public sector, are increasingly sensitive to the possible, potentially visible and embarrassing, failure of large IT projects. It is now customary to include independent quality assurance (IQA) of the project management for such projects as an added insurance to prevent failure. Lesser projects may not be able to justify such IQA and the PMO may be too involved with the projects to be able to give an objective view.

What IT projects do we stop now that we have less money?

Conclusion:The recession has brought the prophets of gloom out in force, all predicting massive cuts in the IT budget, with many of them also telling us how to address this. Their solutions are often facile and naïve, most boiling down to “do this to be more efficient”, ignoring the fact that most good IT shops have already made themselves highly cost-effective and have little room to move to reduce costs. Other commentators have recognised this and are predicting that the major savings in many IT shops will be by stopping or deferring projects.

Most IT shops have a range of projects on the go at any time, all with committed teams and management support. Determining which projects should be stopped or deferred may require the judgement of Solomon, and like Solomon, the IT manager should not be the one to make the decision. The projects are all, presumably, business focussed and the business should make the decisions.

Are your business requirements a case for COTS?

Conclusion:Rather than developing their own systems, many Australasian organisations are adopting commercial off-the-shelf software (COTS) to implement or enhance their business applications. So strong are the perceived COTS benefits that US government agencies (including Defence agencies), in line with the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996, are now mandating COTS to take advantage of the significant procurement, implementation, and maintenance cost savings they offer.

While a COTS approach can bring many benefits, it can also bring many problems. Organisations considering using COTS as a way of improving their IT support of business operations must consider carefully the costs, benefits and risks.

What do you mean - Our BCP didn't work?

Conclusions:When an organisation needs to trigger its Business Continuity Plan (BCP), and: it does not exist, or is untested, or is non viable, or it fails when activated..... the results are likely to be catastrophic. It is probable that its operations will not recover smoothly, if at all, and the business will be severely impacted, possibly unable to continue operations.

BCM - How mature are you, and is it enough?

Conclusions: While there is now an increasing emphasis on Business Continuity Management (BCM), many organisations still focus on disaster recovery planning. Unwisely they restrict their focus to restoring IT infrastructure, giving only a “cursory nod” towards a more holistic business orientation that focuses on all critical business operations. Some create an artificial air of confidence by developing their business continuity plans and then not proving them. Others have little appreciation of the quality of their Business Continuity Plans (BCP) and whether or not they meet good practice. In all these cases there can be no assurance that the BCPs will be of any practical use if and when they are needed. The outcome will be, at least, serious and could be catastrophic.

Greening your ICT purchases

Conclusion: The increased focus on the environmental impact of ICT activities makes it essential that organisations making ICT purchasing decisions focus on the virtuous triple bottom line of economic viability, social responsibility, and environmental impact. Purchase agreements or tender requests for ICT goods and services should explicitly require vendors to demonstrate how and where their products meet the buyer's environmental requirements.

Can Resource Processing Outsourcing help solve your ICT skills requirements?

Conclusion: Organisations are moving to minimise their IT staffing problems by contracting much of their planned IT recruitment process to specialised HR outsourcing agencies. This trend, Resource (or Recruitment) Processing Outsourcing (RPO), brings significant benefits including having the right people available at the right time, reducing placement costs, and saving hiring managers time and stress. This RPO approach is even more potent when coupled with Panel Supply contracts. Its value is not limited to ICT recruitment and can be applied across as much of the organisation as will benefit.

Last Word: Is open source for the goose open sauce for the gander?

In 2003, the UK Office of Government Commerce (OGC) established and coordinated “Proof of Concept” trials of Open Source Software (OSS) in a range of public bodies in conjunction with IBM and Sun Microsystems. The OGC report that summarised the key findings from the trials also included information obtained from other public sector activity in OSS planning and deployment in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.

Sustainable Computing or, How Green is my (Computing) Valley? With apologies to Richard Llewellyn

Conclusion: Environmental issues and conservation are now mainstream in almost all areas of commerce and an increasing focus in computing, driven in part by economic and energy considerations. Governments, ICT vendors, providers and consumers must focus on sustainable computing as part of their quest for good citizenship. All participants in the ICT industry will have to respond by adopting and demonstrating sustainable computing principles, whether they want to or not.

VoIP in the organisation - wither the PBX

Conclusion: Voice over IP is having, and will continue to have, a significant impact on the telephony and PBX market. Telephony is becoming increasingly software based and is taking advantage of software-related economics. The popularity of services such as Skype1 and Babble2, and Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)3, 4 VoIP applications demonstrates this. Microsoft’s recent release5 of its SIP based Office Communications Server (OCS 2007) will have a major impact on the telephony expectations and applications on organisations, irrespective of their size.

Digital Rights Management - Who cares?

Conclusion: Until recently, Digital Rights Management (DRM) has been viewed primarily as an antipiracy technology. The recent advances in DRM and digital media management technology now mean that DRM is able to provide significant and new revenue generating opportunities for suppliers of existing or new digital products.

Testing times

Conclusion: Any successful software testing regime uses a judicious mix of manual and automated testing. Manual testing is best in those areas that need spontaneity and creativity. Automated testing lends itself to explicit and repetitive testing and to scenario, performance, load and stress testing. While not all tests can be automated, given good tools there is no reason why much testing and test data generation and test management cannot be automated.

Green IT trends in 2008

Conclusion: A survey warns that the IT industry's carbon footprint is skyrocketing and could soon surpass that of the aviation industry. On a per capita basis Australia and New Zealand are clearly up among the big players in the greenhouse gases emission stakes1. IT and how businesses use their IT, will increasingly come under the spotlight as governments and corporate boards seek to meet carbon-cutting commitments.

Building your Green IT strategy

Conclusion: IBRS and other key IT industry commentators are reporting that Green Computing will be one of the areas receiving increased attention from senior management in 20081. The senior IT team should anticipate this increased attention and have a Green IT strategy agreed with senior management, in place, and active. This means that they will already be focused on their organisation’s strategic Green issues for instead of hastily adopting ad hoc and less than optimal green IT measures.

Consolidation: Contraception for Servers

Conclusion: Server consolidation has become widespread as budget pressure is maintained and corporate mergers and reorganisations continue. Although the overwhelming majority of consolidation projects are viewed as successful (at least in terms of the reduction in number of servers) when failures occur it is usually because of poor planning. Vendor endorsed programs often appear very attractive, but unless the full implications of your particular environment are taken into account the only goal that will be met is the vendor’s revenue target.

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