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: CIOs and the IT management team continually wrestle with prioritising and coordinating planned and unplanned IT operational changes for both new and existing systems. The problem is compounded when senior managers use informal influence with IT staff to change the priorities, thereby jumping the queue and bypassing formal processes. Not only does this create disharmony, it can also cause system failures.


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Conclusion: failure to maintain a competent ERP support group1 can have an adverse impact on an organisation’s business operations. When the group lacks the resources to keep the software current or to resolve data errors in rejected transactions, clients become disillusioned with the ERP and either work around its requirements or develop alternate systems solutions, e. g. using spreadsheets or departmental computing.


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Conclusion: the time is right to review whether ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) solutions implemented over 10 years ago are still meeting their original objectives, and if not, assess the options. Failure to review and seriously consider the options when the business value of the ERP is marginal, is unsustainable.


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Conclusion: To meet the demand for more online services, IT and business management must identify and filter the opportunities and vigorously pursue those with high client visibility, ensure adherence to legislation and reduce the cost of doing business.


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Conclusion: To provide easy to use online client services, organisations must create cross functional teams with people who can work together to implement solutions which can be tightly integrated with back office systems, and work first time. Failure to assign the right people first time will, until it is fixed, cause tension and stifle innovation.


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Conclusion: IT managers who discourage staff from using consumer oriented technologies could be doing themselves a disservice. Whilst there are risks of data leakage or cost blowouts from over-usage of external computing resources, the unexpected benefits such as identifying new patterns of buying behaviour or using data analysis to identify welfare fraud, far outweigh management’s concerns.


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Conclusion: While the concept of bundling and outsourcing of IT services is simple, its pricing regime based on dedicated devices available and not client applications processed, frustrates efforts to make IT costs transparent to business managers.


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Conclusion: With increasing pressure to digitise extra services to clients, now is the time to review the effectiveness of the partnership between IT and business units. Unless it is strong the capacity to deliver the extra services will be at risk.


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Conclusion: Unless the IT and HR management work together to implement information systems to enable them to hire, develop and record the skills of IT professionals, the organisation will probably not have the right people to meet the looming challenges of the digital age.


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Conclusion: Whilst surveys highlight a surplus of ICT professionals and managers, job recruiters are not convinced. They claim the many vacancies on their books for skilled ICT professionals indicate there is a shortfall. Ironically both claims are true and together demand a different management response.


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Conclusion: Remediating major systems is not a job for the faint-hearted or over-confident IT managers. Poor governance decisions and excessive optimism can easily lead to project failures (and ruin careers). Conversely smart decisions combined with sound project leadership can increase the probability of success and enhance careers.


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Conclusion: When business critical systems have ‘passed their use-by-date’ or maintenance costs are excessive there is a temptation to fast-track the approval of the replacement systems and underestimate the cost and complexity of doing so. Avoid the temptation by thoroughly defining the scope of the project and include contingencies in the cost estimates to cater for the unexpected. When this is done, start lobbying management so they approve the project first time.


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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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