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The information and communications technologies market is emerging from its torpor. After the spending excesses of Y2K, then the GST, followed by the bursting of the dotcom bubble and the demise of some major consulting practices, the past four years have been positively somnolent for an industry that has always enjoyed double-digit growth.

Conclusion: System erosion concerns the run down state that systems decline into when improperly tended by management, users and IT staff. Whilst there are many characteristics that describe eroded systems, the common theme is that these systems fail to provide the value originally ascribed to them when the business case to develop them was prepared.

Conclusion: Putting forward arguments for IT business/process improvement can sometimes bring about eye-glazed responses from senior executives. ISO/IEC1 15288:2002 ‘Systems Engineering – System lifecycle processes’, hereafter ISO 15288, can be an ally in terms of providing an authoritative source of reference when putting forward a case for change. It is a comprehensive standard that covers all system life cycle processes from Stakeholder Requirements Definition through to System Disposal as well as providing guidance on essential governance matters.

Conclusion: As executive management become more cynical about technology’s ability to deliver change, they continue to depend upon it as an enabler whilst keeping a closer rein than ever on the IT spending component of change programs. This places enormous pressure on the IT Executive. However, change programs are not just about technology. The problem is that the IT component is usually the most visible, and often the most expensive part of a change program. In my experience, if an IT-based project fails to deliver, though the Project Sponsor may nominally be responsible, the technology is often blamed and it is the IT Executive who may well be brought to account by association.

Conclusion: The mid-1990s was a gold rush for ERP vendors. The ERP concept of integrating disparate corporate applications was right for its time and was superbly promoted by major players such as SAP who ran saturation campaigns directed at CXOs. I experienced it first hand, being one of them at the time! The gold rush continued through the decade. Drivers included the market momentum the ERP storm had generated coupled with corporate anxiety about legacy system’s likely inability to meet Year 2000 compliance requirements.

Conclusion: At the big end of town some remarkable process improvement breakthroughs are being achieved with a combination of Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma philosophies. However, the benefits that can be realised from these techniques can also be enjoyed by medium sized enterprises. Using recent work carried out by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) through its Commway initiative, this article briefly charts their journey to date and provides advice for those who wish to embark on similar journeys.

Conclusion: When a CIO is appointed he or she becomes the centre of attention in their new IT ecosystem. Major demands will be placed on the CIO’s time by those seeking to espouse their views on IT and effective judgement will be needed to filter essential input from dross. Being visible and accessible within the organisation is important at this time. Drawn from broadly-based stakeholder input, a principle-based framework needs to be established setting out the new IT leader’s agenda. This should be followed through with decisive action. Adjust the plan quarterly to ensure continued relevance.

For the federal government, the forthcoming sale of Telstra has taken the Industrial Relations debate off the front page of our newspapers. This must provide some relief at a time when they were faring poorly in the public relations debate with the union movement. Whilst the legislation is still being drafted and is not expected to be available until late October, the central proposition is to deregulate the labour market.

Conclusion: Manyfirst-generation outsourcing arrangements have reached or are approaching their end dates. Users are taking fresh approaches to outsourcing with past lessons learnt being encapsulated into new deals.

What are the major lessons learnt? How will next generation outsourcing deals be constructed? What should be done differently this time around? Where to start?

Conclusion: A new age for business applications is unfolding. Arguably, in 2008 applications are at a tipping point akin to that experienced in the early to mid-1990s, which was marked by the emergence of mature ERP technology and subsequent explosive sales growth. CIOs are urged to put applications firmly on their radar and begin acting upon their application portfolios as well as the methodologies and governance approaches that underpin them.

Conclusion: Manywho have outsourced their Service Desk complain that in doing so they lost touch with the pulse of their organisation. Bringing the Service Desk back in-house allows customer and IT intimacy to be re-established.

Conclusion: With the increasing sophistication of application software, it seems inconceivable in 2005 for any organisation to have data quality problems. Yet it is a problem that does occur more frequently than many recognise.

Conclusion: The end of the calendar year is always a time of soul-searching and reflection. What has been nagging you this year that you know can be improved upon next year? Before 2006 begins in earnest, think about some of the aspects of CIO life that could be changed for the better.

Conclusion: There is an increasing trend for the IT function to become decentralised. Feedback from IBRS clients indicates that more than 60% of organisations have elected to adopt some form of decentralised IT responsibility. Our observation is that this figure is increasing, driven by:

The media was replete in November of reports that Telstra would be replacing and decommissioning approximately 1200 legacy systems. For instance, Mike Sainsbury in the Australian Business Section on 17 November, compared the systems to a ‘bowl of spaghetti’ on the assumption they were entwined and it would take a mammoth job to untangle them.

2006 marks a significant 50 year anniversary for computing in Australia. On July 4th 1956 it is claimed that the first program was run on SILLIAC, a valve computer that was assembled and housed at the Physics Department of the University of Sydney. Over the years much political mileage has been made on both sides of politics, about how Australians have often been at the forefront in pioneering new technologies, but have been slow in exploiting and commercialising them. However, these assertions need to be tested, certainly as far as information technology is concerned.

Conclusion: Some of the lessons from corporate management literature can be applied to the successful running of an IT shop. This article contains insights gained from studies of some of the world’s most admired companies and provides new ways to think about planning for the future through the application of the ‘three horizons’ technique.

Conclusion: The CIO organisation can be considered as the CEO organisation in microcosm. Both domains encounter similar issues: strategy, market penetration and credibility, cost reductions and so on.

As with last month’s article, this one draws on insights gained from studies of major corporations and is intended to provide inspiration to CIOs keen to improve practices and lift performance within their domain.

Conclusion: Stories of late and failed projects are legion within information technology. Whilst there are may be many reasons for project failure, a key root cause, largely overlooked in the literature, is failure to correctly enunciate user requirements. A less than satisfactory outcome at the requirements definition stage can only become magnified as the project proceeds.

Conclusion: In the early 1990s software vendors spoke lyrically of capturing the corporate memory through use of the new products they were launching into the then emerging Knowledge Management (KM) market. Fuelled by success with document and image management solutions, then later by collaboration software such as Lotus Notes, vendors considered KM as the next blockbuster application.

Conclusion: Knowledge Management (KM) is often thought of as a dark art. It’s not. Many organisations can benefit in tangible ways (e.g. quick access to a problem database in a Help Desk context) by harvesting the knowledge that already exists within them.

The last article on KM concerned explicit knowledge management, being knowledge that has already been articulated in some form within an organisation. This article is focused on tacit or implicit knowledge which is concerned with the experiences of individuals.

Conclusion: Due to their scale of operation and the massive databases they need to manage, Australia’s major banks often act as a bellwether for other IT users. This is certainly the case at present as a number of banks commit to Master Data Management (MDM) in an effort to bring their management reporting into order.

It was also evident that a number of business and IT staff (some quite senior) who had been involved throughout the acquisition and specification process had growing concerns about the process and the path that the project was taking. However, these people had chosen to remain silent, largely it would seem in deference to Mr. H’s ebullient and fearsome style.

Conclusion: Initially oriented towards IT auditors and control professionals, COBIT1 has matured into a broadly-based governance framework capable of being used by board members and C level executives, such as COOs and CFOs, when seeking to understand and effectively harness IT capabilities. Importantly however, in its new form COBIT also provides a valuable reference guide for the CIO and his or her staff, when wanting to establish a sound framework upon which to improve IT performance at all levels.

Since IT began as a profession, within many organisations there seems to have been some degree of tension between IT and Finance.

Conclusion: Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) has been reborn, albeit in a new form. After achieving cult-like status for a number of years in the 1990s following publication of the book “Reengineering the Corporation”, authored by Michael Hammer and James Champy, BPR seemed to disappear from the corporate radar.

Conclusion: Irrespective of organisational size or business sector there is an extraordinary sameness to many of the activities carried out by IT Departments. Interviewing CIOs in a variety of organisations bears this out. In 2006, some of the common threads of activity include:

Conclusion: Organisations striving to reduce their cost base may choose to investigate shared services strategies in areas such as Finance, Human Resources and IT. Changing past practices, and more importantly delivering bottom line benefits, can be challenging, particularly in IT. Whilst the stakes may be high, the organisational risk can also be high and resistance is likely to be encountered from those who fear their futures threatened by any planned changes.

Conclusion: Shared services commenced as a movement in the early 1990s and rapidly became a worldwide trend in both the private and public sectors. Conceptually the prospect of doing of more with less is appealing. However, anecdotally, there have been just as many failures as successes, especially in the delivery of IT shared services.

Conclusion: In politics it is generally considered that the first 100 days of office are critical for a new leader to assert his or her authority. Insightful and visible actions taken during that time instil confidence in the new leadership and set the right tone for the future. Arguably, a similar dictum applies to IT leadership.

Conclusion: Last month’s article on this topic was triggered by a January 2006 McKinsey & Co. survey1 on the IT spending patterns of 37 retail and wholesale banks. In essence, it showed that the lowest spenders were judged as delivering the greatest business value from their investment in IT.

Conclusion: To gain insight into C-level executive intentions with information management, Accenture carried out a global survey2 in 2007. Whilst the majority of respondents had well-developed views on the power of Business Intelligence (BI) as a strategic differentiator, the report unearthed an underlying frustration in achieving their vision of an organisation-wide BI capability. This echoes our experiences in the ANZ market in which we observe many CIOs struggling to bring their complete BI visions to reality.

Conclusion: A McKinsey & Co. survey1 of the spending patterns of 37 retail and wholesale banks, published in January 2006 revealed a startling paradox. Those banks judged as delivering the greatest business value from their investment in IT, were also among the lowest spenders.

Conclusion: Of growing interest to senior IT executives is the effective practice of vendor management. Because this is where many client/vendor relationships commence, IT procurement lies at the very heart of vendor management. This is the second in a series of two articles that highlights the critical nature of IT procurement and some of the steps that can be taken in order to gain effective and timely outcomes.

Conclusion: Most major IT procurement activity is oriented around acquiring software or services, the impacts of which are likely to have profound, organisation-wide consequences. As such, the cost of making mistakes, or indeed making poor choices, can be extremely high. Some of the consequences may include one or more of the following: 

  • Business benefits not being realised;

  • Budgets being exceeded;

  • Project execution times being extended; and

  • Organisational reputation being damaged.

Conclusion: Most major IT implementations such as ERP roll-outs, do not fully realise their original objectives. One symptom is that planned functionality is not utilised by staff to the fullest extent. Another is a tendency for staff to fall back to their comfort zones, using manually-maintained records, spreadsheets and the like. The root cause is that insufficient attention is paid to dealing with the human aspects of change. Knock-on effects are largely financial. If additional resources need to be brought in to effect lasting change, this action dilutes the strength of the original business case, not only in terms of outright cost but in the time taken to achieve desired outcomes. If left untreated, the full benefits may never be realised.

Conclusion: At the start of the year a resurgence of interest in Identity Management was heralded as one of a series of IBRS technology predictions for 2007. Subsequent vendor activity1 has borne this out and more market activity is likely to follow.

Conclusion: In 2008, corporate databases reached unprecedented sizes. Yet despite the abundance and diversity of data, many organisations remain challenged by Business Intelligence (BI) initiatives. They buy on vendor promise, but many have difficulty fulfilling it. Against this backdrop, and in a confusing post-acquisition market, BI vendors continue to release increasingly sophisticated and capable products.

Conclusion: Unless CIOs are able to provide business with a balanced and accurate picture of IT performance, it is likely that IT will be treated as ‘just another supplier’ in the minds of senior business executives. Moving IT up the value chain to become trusted and strategic business partners requires more than concerted efforts in delivering projects and keeping the IT lights on. It requires effective marketing and good communication. One of the ways of improving IT credibility is to develop an effective IT scorecard that highlights precisely how IT’s performance supports and indeed, adds value to the business. Further, providing scorecarding data to IT management and staff is likely to provide an incentive for them to lift IT performance levels.

Conclusion: Through the 1990s many organisations established Project Management Offices (PMOs). Also known as Project Offices and sometimes as Strategic Project Offices, these were generally set up within the IT organisation and were driven by the desire to take a more focused, financially responsible and standardised (read template-driven) approach to project delivery.

Conclusion: Establishing a Portfolio Management competency is now commonly regarded as best practice for organisations seeking to gain maximum benefit from their investment in IT. Whilst there is growing interest in this practice, many who attempt it are likely to fail, or at the very least find that it won’t deliver the expected outcomes.

Conclusion: Effective and responsible management of IT security should concern executives at the highest levels of management. Leading practice suggests, but does not mandate, separation of the IT security function from the IT management function. One of the ways that this can be achieved is with the appointment of a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) with total accountability for all IT security matters within the organisation. A pro forma Position Description for the CISO role is provided herein.

This article is indebted to the Monty Python team and their infamous sketch on the Ministry of Silly Walks, which remains a cross-generational favourite with comedy audiences worldwide some 37 years after it was first broadcast.

Conclusion: Two previous articles on this topic were triggered by a January 2006 McKinsey & Co. survey1 on the IT spending patterns of 37 retail and wholesale banks. In essence, it showed that the lowest spenders were judged as delivering the greatest business value from their investment in IT.

Conclusion: ‘May you live in interesting times’ is reputedly a Chinese curse. It is also a phrase that will resonate with CIOs, who in 2008 are challenged by their organisations to concurrently act as:

  • One of the drivers of corporate innovation,

  • A generator of cost-savings; whilst

  • Contributing to the corporate green agenda.

Conclusion: Organisations with immature IT governance processes push many of the decisions that need to be made by the business, back to IT. This creates a downward spiral, often characterised by IT making poor decisions about business/IT investments (due to insufficient business context), consequential failure by IT to deliver business value, then loss of confidence in the IT function, sometimes resulting in the CIO losing his or her job.

Conclusion: Three previous articles on this topic were triggered by a January 2006 McKinsey & Co. survey1 on the IT spending patterns of 37 retail and wholesale banks. The survey revealed a surprising paradox. Those that were the lowest spenders were judged as delivering the greatest business value from their investment in IT.

Conclusion: From the moment a new CIO is appointed, the clock starts ticking as organisational scrutiny commences. Generally, a new CIO has 100 days to prove his or her worth. However, from the new CIO’s point of view, the clock should start ticking 20 days earlier. This is when savvy incoming CIOs can carry out due diligence on their new organisation and begin planning to ensure the strongest possible impression is made in the vital 100 days. In addition, the new CIO needs to carefully select the most appropriate driving modalities that best characterise the major themes the new IT leader will pursue. Failure to act as outlined may prove career limiting.

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