Alan Hansell

Alan Hansell

Alan Hansell is an emeritus IBRS advisor who focused on IT and business management. Alan specialised in critiquing and commenting 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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Conclusion: Creating an environment in which IT and business professionals can adapt to a new and remote (also known as alternate work) environment will test the ingenuity of many senior managers.

To meet the challenge, managers must help their staff avoid being anxious and isolated and enable them to easily access their peers for advice and guidance. Failure to keep contact could lead to a decline in productivity and staff not feeling part of the team. Alternately, not having to travel to work sites and work prescribed hours can be a blessing for others.


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Conclusion: When cost cutting of IT services is on the executive agenda, due to the impact of COVID-19 virus, will it yield low hanging or sour fruit? One area often regarded as low hanging fruit is the amalgamation of SPOC (single point of contact) activities, viz. help desk, service centre and contact or call centre. Combining them is a compelling proposition and demands an informed response.

Put simply, the logic used by management, seeking to amalgamate and reduce costs, is:

  • Similar skills are required so staff can be co-located
  • Staff can become multi-skilled and resolve incidents or software failures of internal (service desk and help desk) and external clients
  • Office space used now will be reduced and by combining the functions
  • Headcount savings will ensue

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Conclusion: While there is no perfect approach to restructuring an IT services department, there are fundamental principles (set out below) that must be followed, to get it right first time. If these principles are not followed, staff resistance to the changes proposed could impact staff morale.


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Conclusion: The entering of a strategic partnership with a client or prospect by a major vendor, e. g. more than $50k paid p. a., is aimed at convincing them that mutual benefits such as helping them gain a competitive advantage or achieving major cost reductions, will accrue. When pressed on the likely benefits to the vendor, and assuming no financial equity is involved, one tactic some vendors use is to propose participation in a prestigious early software support program to jointly enhance their market image.


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Conclusion: Not knowing where an organisation’s business-critical data is located, and its quality, can lead to many frustrating efforts to respond to management queries. When the converse is true and IT management can respond quickly to queries, say, at a board meeting or in an FOI (freedom of information) request, it enhances confidence in the quality of management of IT generally.


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Conclusion: Unless the attributes of user stories (agile) or high-level requirements (waterfall) are succinct and testable, business systems specifications will lack rigour and could compromise the system’s integrity. To ensure these attributes, i. e. succinct and testable, are present, the stories and high-level requirements should be peer reviewed to identify content that is unclear or just expressing an unrealistic ‘want/wish’ list.

It is important the stories or high-level requirements contain sufficient context to enable systems requirements, i. e. functional and non-functional, to be developed because unless they do it will be difficult to prioritise them based on business drivers.

Similarly, the results of user acceptance testing should be peer reviewed to ensure the agreed requirements have been met and the output is verifiable.


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Conclusion: Taking the guesswork out of capacity planning by making an informed forecast of demand for computing and support resources for the strategic capacity plan is an ongoing challenge for IT professionals and managers. Reputational damage can ensue when resources are either under or overestimated and there are claims that guesswork was employed.


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Conclusion: Increasing the IT literacy of business managers and professionals has sharpened their interest in buying off-the-shelf software to meet immediate business needs, but potentially without the expertise to implement and support it, often leading to unexpected requests for IT support. When the request is a surprise, and there is a compelling business priority, IT workforce plans must be put to one side and changed to find the resources needed. When the dust has settled and the surprise element is a thing of the past, the IT governance group is bound to ask, ‘How did this surprise occur and what can be done to ensure it does not happen again’? It is a reasonable question and one that needs a cogent response.


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Conclusion: In an age-diverse workforce, it is important that IT managers and professionals understand the different expectations and management styles of stakeholders and accommodate them to gain their support for IT-related initiatives being proposed.

Without understanding the management styles and expectations of age-diverse stakeholders, a level of disconnect may occur and business relationships could slip from being of mutual benefit to transactional and ineffective.


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Conclusion: IT auditors typically consult with, and report their findings to, the board’s Audit and Risk Committee. Their POW (program of work) or activities upon which they will focus may or may not be telegraphed in advance to stakeholders, including IT management.

To avoid getting a qualified audit report for IT, e. g. when internal (systems) controls are weak or IT risks are unmanaged, business and IT management must first get their house in order, by tightening controls and addressing risks before the possible arrival of the audit team. Failure to get the house in order, before an audit, could be career limiting for IT and business managers.


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Conclusion: Increasing competition where thin profit margins are the norm forces management to analyse business data more intently to identify ways to increase revenue and/or reduce operating costs. Similarly, in the public sector the aim is often to connect common data from multiple sources and determine if government programs are achieving their objectives.

To ensure the analysis is sound and the resulting scenarios can withstand scrutiny, management must rely on skilled and commercially astute data analysts1. The latter typically operate in small teams and may need to resolve data errors or inconsistent definitions of it to process the data correctly and interpret the results.


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Conclusion: Increasing emphasis in the media and in industry literature on cyber security and the risks of data breaches with service disruptions is likely to get extra attention in future from the board and their audit and risk committee (or ICT governance group).

Not only must the committee be concerned with risk prevention, astute members will also want to know how the organisation will recover from a data breach or ransomware attempt and restore the organisation’s operations, if an unexpected disruption to services occurs.

To minimise business risks, committee members must stay aware of local and international cyber security incidents, how they occurred and were addressed and what they need to do to make sure they are not replicated in their organisation.


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Conclusion: When faced with determining the long-term future of an ERP solution that has met the organisation’s needs, business and IT management must investigate and weigh up their strategic options.

To make an informed determination, business management must take ownership of the buying process in their role as demand managers while IT management and staff support the process by assuming the role of supply managers and technical advisors.


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