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: 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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Conclusion: Organisations that receive competitive and insightful responses to their RFTs for products and services know they do not come their way by accident, but due to sound planning and conscientious execution of the bid process.

Conversely, organisations that rush the bid process and give potential suppliers little warning of the RFT’s availability and insufficient time to respond are likely to find fewer than expected responses, or even an empty tender box, on the closing day.


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Conclusion: When probity and management accountability are rigorously applied in the IT procurement process, a message is sent to all stakeholders, including vendors, that fair and equitable buying decisions will be made.

Conversely, when probity is absent or lip service only is paid to it, stakeholders may be wary of investing scarce resources to market their services and potentially decide to ‘no bid’ when a tender is issued. The corollary is the client may not get visibility to the best solutions the market has to offer.


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Conclusion: In most organisations the Help Desk is the single point of contact for business and IT professionals regarding desktop support. When management skimps on the number of IT professional needed and their training, users typically wait too long to get through to the Help Desk or become frustrated and abandon the call, with adverse business consequences.

Conversely, when too many Help Desk staff are assigned, boredom quickly ensues. Ensuring the Help Desk has the right number of IT professionals with the right skills is a balancing act for management. Unless management has sound performance metrics to measure service effectiveness, achieving the balance is hard.


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Conclusion: IT Strategic Plans typically include a long term application pathway for offering enhanced services to clients, and better management information. In reality this is just the beginning of the journey from concept to benefits realisation. To succeed, project sponsors need to take the initiative and gather arguments that will ensure funds are allocated to their projects by the governance group as soon practicable.

To minimise management tension the governance group has to create a level playing field and equitably allocate resources to sponsors whose projects best contribute to meeting business objectives.


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Conclusion:When assessing potential service providers, rate highly those whose solution clearly meets requirements and who have capable IT professionals ready to implement it. To reflect the rating assign a higher evaluation weighting to providers meeting both tests and a lower weighting for attractive pricing, previous experience and availability of proprietary methodologies.


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