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: 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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Conclusion: Equitably allocating IT resources to competing proposals can be simplified by conducting a business systems portfolio assessment in advance with stakeholders. Without the assessment, management will find it hard to reach consensus on where to best allocate their IT investment and skilled resources.


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Conclusion: Organisations that do not upgrade their major assets to reflect new technologies and practices quickly fall by the wayside. Similarly, organisations that do not critically review the effectiveness of their ERP solution, and either replace it or reinvigorate it, are failing their stakeholders.


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Conclusion: CIOs have a pivotal role in ensuring business and IT transformation and major change initiatives succeed. As they are both disruptive to business and IT operations and typically involve retraining staff while implementing new information systems, CIOs must be innovative and exercise a strategic leadership role. If they do not, project failure is almost inevitable.


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Conclusion: CIOs must create a flexible workplace combined with astute people management practices to achieve service related productivity improvements and reduce IT costs. Creating the workplace and expecting that the benefits will accrue without astute team management is naïve. It is analogous to giving a new programmer complex specifications and, without supervision, expecting, error free code when first tested.


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Conclusion: CIOs must avoid being swept up by the hype concerning SaaS (Software as a Service) and approach each business case on its merits. While the immediate net benefits may be appealing, it is important to evaluate whether the long-term benefits are sustainable and the risks manageable before entering into a service contract.


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Conclusion: IT managers, who aspire to become CIOs, must not only work hard but actively support business projects in order to succeed. Having a track record of successfully completing projects and winning the respect of peers will go a long way towards convincing senior management of fitness for the CIO role.


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Conclusion: CIOs who align their forward work program with their IT workforce competency assessments so they can assign the right people to the right roles have a higher probability of successful services delivery than those who rely on intuition alone to make the assignment.


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