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Those of you who have taken the time in the past to read my ramblings on these pages will be aware that the business for which I work has gone through some tough times recently, with a number of significantly bad construction projects contributing to a loss of some magnitude a couple of years ago. This has led to a business re-engineering exercise which has resulted in a restructure of the business including changes to the Corporate Services function which includes Information Technology.

As I mentioned last month this company has procured preferred contractor status on the $2.2 billion North South Bypass project, tunneling under the Brisbane River. We tendered for this project with another leading construction company in a 50/50 joint venture partnership. This is not unusual in the construction industry where, these days, most of the larger infrastructure projects are undertaken by Joint Ventures, Consortiums or Alliances allowing a consolidation of the different skills various partner companies can bring to a project. We have had considerable success in these areas delivering a number

Twelve months ago I wrote about the issues that were facing the Optus InCITE Construction Trading Exchange due to its successful adoption and the associated unanticipated large volumes of transactions. At that time I concluded that “once the technology platform has been stabilised the on-going success of the exchange is virtually assured.”

It is imperative, when going to the market for any kind of enterprise software solution, that the tender document includes an IT Enterprise Architectural Blueprint to which a prospective supplier’s solution must conform. This ensures adherence to the technology standards which underpin the enterprise IT business solutions, greatly facilitating the development, implementation and support functions.

In April 2006 I discussed the turn around in this company’s fortunes due to the unprecedented resources boom1 and the significant increase in large infrastructure upgrade projects. This growth is rapidly increasing and we are currently winning an average of one project a week. The latest large Joint Venture project to come our way is the $1.88 billion Gateway Bridge Duplication in Brisbane. There are other large road projects in Queensland to be awarded over the next month, following closely on Peter Beattie’s win at the recent State Election. Our chances of winning a good proportion of this work are very high.

Last month I discussed the issues we are experiencing with the unprecedented growth of the business and the challenges of servicing this growth efficiently. In the short period of time since that article we have been faced with serious infrastructure problems.

As the company has grown a need for more transparency and accountability for IT costs has been identified. Consequently we have revisited our recovery model and made the decision to alter the charge from a fixed percentage of project turn over to a monthly fee per computer. The decision was also made, in line with the new IT Strategy for the Leighton Contractors Group, that ownership and life cycle management of all IT Assets would be the responsibility of the Corporate Information Systems Department and that the monthly charge should apply to all business units.

The challenge going forward is to implement the IT Strategic Plan over the next three to five years while continuing to service the business both from an operational point of view, and through the delivery of the appropriate business systems. A particular issue is how to balance the introduction of a new IT architecture based on a services orientated model, while delivering application systems which may not comply with this architecture but are perceived by the business to meet their requirements.

While sophisticated Knowledge Management Systems have proved to date to be a bridge too far for many organisations the use of Document Management and Collaboration Systems can provide an acceptable alternative.


Conclusion: Mentoring key IT staff when they may be feeling insecure during tough economic times is of the utmost importance. With the proper mentoring key staff will remain motivated and be positive about their contribution as the business slows.

It is important that organisations hold onto their best staff and the temptation to reduce costs by offloading well remunerated IT staff is a short term solution only and should be avoided. This will ensure that the IT department will be in a strong position to properly service the organisation when the business grows again.

Recent research has concluded that Australia is far removed from the popularly held view of a casual, laid back sunburned country with a “she’ll be right” attitude to business and life in general. Now it appears that Australians are the second hardest working nation in the world with 22% of the labour force working in excess of 50 hours a week and 30% regularly working weekends.

I was recently involved with a small business which had some very ambitious growth plans. The CEO of this organisation was an unashamed disciple of Jim Collins the author of the book, “Good to Great” and is enthusiastically following its philosophies as he grows his organisation. The book examines businesses which had been returning mediocre to good results over a period of time, and how they transformed themselves into great companies returning superior levels of performance.

To maximise the chances for a successful implementation of significant business application software projects involving third party vendors, the preparation and publication of a well structured and detailed Request for Proposal (RFP) is essential. The difference between the success or failure of these projects can often depend on the quality and completeness of this document.

An Enterprise Content Management System is an important part of the IT architectural model in supporting common processes across an organisation for the management of information. However the selection and implementation of a whole of business solution can involve significant cultural change which must be managed carefully. It may be that an organisation would be better served by implementing a number of point solutions rather than a fully configured whole of business system.

Organisations which are in the market for telecommunications services should not limit submissions to solely tier-one vendors. Inviting submissions from tier-two, and even tier-three vendors broadens the choice and can result in cost savings.

There can be significant gains in efficiencies and cost savings as well as environmental benefits through implementing managed print services. Because managed print services can have a significant affect on existing work practices IT management must be fully involved with key end users in the service evaluation process to ensure their understanding is sound and acceptance is reached with the minimum incident.

To enhance the relationship between the clients and the IT Department it is important that IT’s contribution is marketed successfully internally. Encouraging and implementing a service mentality within the IT department, constantly delivering a high level of service and support, and ensuring the transparency of IT through constant, good quality communication to IT users are important factors in marketing IT internally.

When choosing a telecommunications supplier a prospective customer is currently almost spoiled for choice with a number of suppliers positioning themselves to offer whole of business or best of breed solutions. Where a telecommunications contract is due for renewal, there are real benefits, in going to the market to look for the optimum solution. Even if the outcome is not to transition all or some of the services from the incumbent supplier there could be significant further benefits to be gained by going through the process of calling for proposals. Key users of telecommunications services within a client organisation should be heavily involved in the selection of the Telecommunications Supplier Transitioning costs and the benefits, or otherwise, of a one provider solution are important considerations when choosing to change from an existing supplier.

With a growing emphasis on company accountability organisations need to consider the implementation of the appropriate document management systems to facilitate the capture and retrieval of both electronic and hard copy documentation. Also the growth and power of the Internet has presented opportunities for collaboration across communities of interest which are geographically dispersed.

Regularly reviewing the quality and maturity of the IT service management processes in an organisation through a comparison with a comprehensive set of consolidated best practices provided by the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) will provide an understanding of where improvements can be implemented and where investments can be made which will achieve an appropriate return. Acting positively on the outcomes from these reviews and, by so doing, providing a measurable incremental improvement, will enhance the relationship between business users in an organisation and the IT Department. Such a review should be undertaken at least annually and preferably by an independent third party.

As IT becomes more strategic and essential in organisations, it is important that business management understands the “business of IT”. The “business of IT can be defined as the organisational structure required to deliver IT services, what IT services are to be delivered through that structure, the resources required and the business plan to ensure the delivery. It is imperative that IT costs are totally transparent and that IT performance can be measured and reported regularly to business management to enable informed decision making. Better understanding by clients of the “business of IT” is critical for the creation and maintenance of a productive relationship between IT and the business.

IT departments who start putting together their 2009-10 budgets early, plan carefully, fully engage with the user and understand, and show that they understand the implications of the economic downturn on the organisation will create better opportunities for the negotiation of a satisfactory outcome with their organisation’s senior management.

It is essential that IT develops the agility to keep pace with business as it changes and that IT is seen to be making a positive contribution to business success. This can be achieved through the establishment, publication and continual review and enhancement of an Enterprise IT Architecture Model. Organisations should undertake a review of the state of their current Enterprise IT Architecture, identify any gaps between the current and desired architecture, and develop a roadmap to implement the desired architecture.

While it is commonly accepted that the success of an IT department is very much dependent upon its people, processes and the relationship between IT management, IT staff and their clients, an important relationship which is often overlooked is that between CIOs and the executives to whom they directly report. It is critical to the delivery of an efficient IT service within an organisation that a strong and mutually beneficial relationship is established between the CIO and their manager. CIOs must work continually towards maintaining this relationship.

It may seem that recognition of the risks associated with a reliance on legacy application software systems and the need to migrate these systems should be obvious to an organisation. However there is often a reluctance among business users to move away from the familiarity of deeply entrenched systems that are seen to be delivering the required outcomes. To mitigate these risks it is necessary for the IT department to work with the business to promote an understanding of the risks and costs associated with running legacy systems and to migrate them into a fully supported and up to date technical environment This exercise should not be driven by horror stories of impending disaster which can lead to hasty, inappropriate decisions but must be approached in the manner of any software applications system implementation, with the appropriate governance and management.

We first investigated the benefits of video conferencing in late 1996. The main driver for the initiative came from Leighton Holdings’ major shareholder Hochtief, based in Essen in Germany. Their objective was to have access to a more efficient form of communication between themselves and Sydney and thus reduce the amount of travel that board members and other executives had to undertake.

As an organisation’s dependence on a fully functioning and secure IT Network delivering an IT environment enabling business to be conducted successfully grows, it is important that the integrity of that network is protected to the highest degree possible. While there are many software and hardware products available in the market to help to ensure this protection it is also important that, at the human level policies and procedures are put in place to protect the network from misuse by its users. As an important part of IT governance organisations must compile, publish, maintain and enforce IT Network Policies to help ensure the integrity of the IT Network.

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