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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Conclusion: Nobody doubts the need for effective governance of IT. Industry journals and Government Audit (and Ombudsman1) reports2 highlight project cost blowouts and implementation delays when governance is ineffective. Ironically while the reports set out what needs to be fixed, rarely do the authors tell readers how to do it.


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Conclusion: Most vendors emphasise their strengths and obfuscate to hide their weaknesses when responding to an RFT (Request for Tender) for IT products and services. Detecting their weaknesses by unravelling their obfuscation is often a major task for the evaluation team or panel. Failure to detect weaknesses could lead to the wrong vendor (tenderer) being selected and reflect poorly on the team.


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Conclusion: One of the initial soft targets of the Executive when costs have to be cut is the IT training budget. Whilst CIOs might put up counter arguments such as potential impact on IT productivity, project delays and reliance on lower skilled staff, the arguments usually fall on deaf ears as most executives regard training as a discretionary expense.

When the cut occurs CIOs have to be creative and find ways to enhance the skills and proficiency of IT professionals and managers, while staying within the amended IT expense budget.


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I was taken by surprise when the caller, whom I had never met, asked whether I was interested in being considered for an IT management position in a large (unnamed) organisation. Intuition told me to be circumspect and keep asking questions about the role while I gathered my thoughts.


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Conclusion: IT steering committees and project managers must ‘keep their eye on the ball’ and remain alert for indicators that a project under their remit might fail. Avoiding corrective action will impact on morale and increase costs and potentially delay the project’s implementation. By taking immediate corrective action the project might be saved, or if it is to be stopped, minimise losses.


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Conclusion: In the current economic climate with potential scaling back of discretionary investment in IT, and data suggesting a decline in the number of IT skilled staff entering the workforce, CIOs have to weigh up many factors before deciding whether to hire permanent IT staff or engage contractors.


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Conclusion: CIOs today are often faced with deciding whether to buy integrated systems solutions and services from major vendors or buy best of breed solutions from multiple vendors and manage the integration project in-house.

Organisations that have engaged external services providers on a major scale and eroded their IT skills base typically find they have no option but to buy the integrated solution. Conversely those with specialist skills in-house and the need to develop their people, often find in-house systems integration solutions more attractive.


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Conclusion: One of the hidden costs of IT occurs when an organisation is paying more for a vendor’s services than the value provided. This cost will not be evident nor eliminated unless management regularly reviews and measures each major vendor’s performance and takes corrective action when needed. Failure to review and measure could be career limiting for CIOs.


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Conclusion: It is easy to sheet home the blame for IT project cost overruns to difficulties experienced in estimating work days required. Whilst estimating is difficult it can be converted from an art form into science by identifying the tasks required in detail and estimating the work days required for each one. Include the total in the business case.


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Conclusion: When reviewing options to reduce IT costs, ensure the application systems deployment strategy is included in the list of tasks in case the current strategy is costing more than expected and the benefits are proving elusive. Unfortunately the review is often overlooked because the perceived ‘cost of switching’ to other solutions and the business risks are viewed as too high and the task seen as a distraction from day to day business operations. CIOs must disabuse management of these views.


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Conclusion: The CIO role is one of the most demanding jobs in an organisation as it involves driving the business to new highs based on an effective IT and business partnership arrangement, so IT can act as a services business. To succeed the CIO needs to articulate a vision that is acted on by business managers who assume the role of informed buyers of IT services


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Conclusion: Relationship Managers are most effective when they can act as trusted advisors to business managers in how to best use existing IT services while helping them enhance offerings to gain comparative or competitive advantages.


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Conclusion: RFTs (Requests for Tender) increasingly contain NFRs (Non Functional Requirements) describing the desired attributes of the systems solution or services being sought. Attributes sought vary from those directly related to products and services such as scalability and high availability to strategic management capabilities.

NFRs are needed to help differentiate tenderers due to the commoditisation of products and services. Astute tenderers know they have to submit a compelling value proposition complemented by initiatives to convince clients they can deliver what is required. Clients likewise need to define fine achievable NFRS, be discerning assessors of responses, and be able to hold the tenderers accountable.


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One of the most valuable IT professionals is the resilient project manager or program director. This is the person who can ‘jump tall buildings in one bound’, ‘walk over hot coals unaided’ and can deliver the solution or issue the tender while meeting OTUB (On Time Under Budget) requirements. (The role is gender neutral). Such is their value that astute CIOs ‘ring-fence’ these managers and stop them being seconded to projects outside their area.


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