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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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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Conclusion: Clients will see fewer IT services providers responding to requests for work in 2013 as many have been forced to reduce staff to stay profitable. To attract respondents and get competitive pricing, clients must convince both struggling and viable providers they have a greater than 30% chance of success and no-one has the ‘inside running’ to win the business.


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Conclusion: Strange things happen in the labour market when there is economic uncertainty. IT staff turnover drops and IT contractors quickly accept offers made by recruitment agencies. The prolonged downturn, which started with the Global Financial Crisis in 2008, will continue to make permanent employment attractive to contractors. As the tide has turned employers need to seize the moment and make offers to contractors whose knowledge and wherewithal they want to keep.


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Conclusion: Assuming surveys indicating global IT spending is declining hold true in Australian and New Zealand, CIOs are in for a tough time in the next budget cycle. To arrest the decline CIOs have to go on the front foot and highlight the business benefits IT has helped secure and explain why each one is at risk if the IT budget is reduced.


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I was surprised when a CIO that had engaged an external services provider told me the firm was not delivering the project management services it had contracted to provide. I had earlier conducted due diligence on the provider and been impressed with its track record. The CIO stated the provider had not assigned an activist project manager and problems were not identified in advance and solved. The client subsequently terminated the contract.


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Conclusion: Whilst SaaS (Software as a Service) using Cloud computing has helped commoditise IT, it is not always the ideal replacement for in-house application development. Instead the axiom ‘look before you leap’ applies, and SaaS assessed on a case-by-case basis (including not only potential benefits but also the hidden costs, such as contract breakage should the SaaS solution be unable to meet changing business requirements).


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With financial and economic commentators warning of difficulttimes ahead, CIOs must be prepared and have arguments at their fingertips to justify continued IT investment in corridor conversations or at the Executive (or Board) when all operating budgets arelikely to be under the microscope.

It might be argued that business managers should present the casefor increased IT investment in their business systems, that is as owners or sponsors. However the reality is an increasing numberof information systems cross organisational boundaries and the CIO is often the only manager able to grasp the ramifications of and need for enterprise-wide investment in IT.


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Conclusion: Organisations which reach outside to acquire application systems solutions need to manage their risks well and be commercially astute while selecting the right vendor. To select the right vendor the tender document needs to be complete, reviewed thoroughly to avoid mistakes and based on an awareness of what the market will offer. Premature release could lead to the wrong vendor being selected.


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Conclusion: It is tempting for the Executive when the IT Department’s processes are failing or systems are not being implemented on time to direct the CIO to engage an external provider. Whilst the need to act might be urgent CIOs must avoid making hasty decisions which could lead to the types of mistakes, set out below, occurring.


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Conclusion: One of the functions of a board1 is to minimise business risks to the shareholders. As signing a major contract with a managed services provider involves significant risks such as the failure to deliver critical IT services, boards need to be convinced the risks2 are known and can be minimised by vigilant management.


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