Alan Hansell

Alan Hansell

Alan Hansell is an IBRS advisor who focuses on IT and business management. Alan is able to critique and comment on IT and business management trends, ways to justify and maximise the benefits from IT-related investment, IS management development and the role of the CIO. Alan has extensive experience in IT management, consulting and advising senior managers in matters related to IT investment. He was a Director in Gartner's Executive program and adviser to over 50 CIOs and business managers and before joining Gartner a consultant with DMR Group. He also worked as an IS professional, manager and industry consultant for IBM for nearly 30 years. Alan is a CPA and Associate of Governance Institute of Australia.

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I have observed that many organisations operate with limited knowledge of the costs, structures and competitive initiatives planned by their competitors or of comparable agencies in other jurisdictions.

Rarely does management know which system solutions have been acquired, deals concluded with suppliers such as software licence pricing, or whether their online competitors are operating profitably or not.

In the private sector lack of understanding of the competitive landscape breeds management paranoia and in the public sector fear of being disbanded if the services are not critical to government or costs are high. When fear is pervasive management is internally focussed and preoccupied with survival. To counter the fear management seek quantitative and qualitative data.


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Conclusion: Whilst senior management recognise continued investment in IT is critical for business success there is increasing evidence of dissatisfaction with IT management’s performance. It is critical IT managers identify reasons for the dissatisfaction and take remedial action. If not, credible survey data indicates they will be replaced.


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Conclusion: Equitably allocating IT resources to competing proposals can be simplified by conducting a business systems portfolio assessment in advance with stakeholders. Without the assessment, management will find it hard to reach consensus on where to best allocate their IT investment and skilled resources.


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Conclusion: Organisations that do not upgrade their major assets to reflect new technologies and practices quickly fall by the wayside. Similarly, organisations that do not critically review the effectiveness of their ERP solution, and either replace it or reinvigorate it, are failing their stakeholders.


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Conclusion: CIOs have a pivotal role in ensuring business and IT transformation and major change initiatives succeed. As they are both disruptive to business and IT operations and typically involve retraining staff while implementing new information systems, CIOs must be innovative and exercise a strategic leadership role. If they do not, project failure is almost inevitable.


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Conclusion: CIOs must create a flexible workplace combined with astute people management practices to achieve service related productivity improvements and reduce IT costs. Creating the workplace and expecting that the benefits will accrue without astute team management is naïve. It is analogous to giving a new programmer complex specifications and, without supervision, expecting, error free code when first tested.


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Conclusion: CIOs must avoid being swept up by the hype concerning SaaS (Software as a Service) and approach each business case on its merits. While the immediate net benefits may be appealing, it is important to evaluate whether the long-term benefits are sustainable and the risks manageable before entering into a service contract.


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Conclusion: IT managers, who aspire to become CIOs, must not only work hard but actively support business projects in order to succeed. Having a track record of successfully completing projects and winning the respect of peers will go a long way towards convincing senior management of fitness for the CIO role.


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Conclusion: CIOs who align their forward work program with their IT workforce competency assessments so they can assign the right people to the right roles have a higher probability of successful services delivery than those who rely on intuition alone to make the assignment.


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Synopsis: In the previous millennium some CIOs claimed they could reduce their IT costs by not producing printed reports for business managers and only recommencing them if the manager complained. If they said nothing the application software and documentation were put on the back burner in case they were needed and after a decent period given a ‘quiet burial’.

In this millennium the approach above will not work as business professionals and managers can access their data and prepare management reports online when needed. This begs the question, how can CIOs reduce their costs in 2013 while managing risks?


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Conclusion: Withouthonest and informed feedback from clients on the effectiveness of the services delivered, IT management must rely on their intuition to devise ways to enhance services and measure the department’s performance.

The ideal way to obtain the insights needed to enhance IT services and measure performance is to conduct an IT Service Effectiveness, or Customer Satisfaction Survey, on a regular basis and act on the findings. Actions might include, for instance, justifying an increase in the IT Expense budget or acquiring extra computing resources to improve online systems performance.


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Conclusion: Reports on the findings from CIO surveysconsistently highlight management’s imperative to transform stored business data into wisdom. What the survey reports do not make clear though is how wisdom, or the Eureka moment, can be recognised. Also missing from the reports is an explanation of how skilled IT and business professionals can achieve the transformation, so management can act on the wisdom.


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Conclusion: The war for talented IT professionals and managers is ongoing. To attract and keep talented people, senior IT and HR managers must continually ask whether their job-hiring and staff retention strategies are working. If the strategies do not create a flexible working environment with access to new technologies to meet the aspirations of talented people they risk losing their organisation’s competitive advantage.


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Conclusion: Senior IT managers will in future look back on 2013 as the year their priorities changed from applying new technologies to enhancing client services in order to enable the organisation to achieve its business objectives. Put simply business management, which was paying the piper, decided it was time to change the tune.


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