Sue Johnston

Sue Johnston

Sue Johnston is an IBRS advisor who focuses on strategy and governance of private and public enterprise ICT. She is an accomplished and innovative strategist with more than 25 years’ IT and business experience across the public and private sectors. Sue has held a number of senior executive positions with IT vendors and major management consulting companies and provides coaching to IT teams looking to change the conversation with their customers, their executive and each other. As a CIO, she has led the ICT function through significant transformation for organisations such as Department of the Premier and Cabinet, Auscript Australasia and TriCare Limited. Sue has also run a successful software development company and transitioned the company through an acquisition process. Sue chaired Innovation Committee in State Government which was responsible for generating, developing and funding innovative ideas and improving the skills and capabilities of public sector staff in pitching ideas and successfully executing innovation projects.

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Conclusion: 

Project management in organisations is commonplace. Reviews are often undertaken at the end of the project to gain insights for future projects. Project reviews completed during the life of a project need to ensure that they are inclusive of appropriate stakeholder groups, and assessment is targeted at the appropriate focus areas. Active and inclusive review and assurance activities need to be well understood and supported within the organisation so that it is not viewed as an exam that needs to be prepared for and passed. Applying reviews and assurance as a process checkpoint only, is ineffective and will not ensure quality project delivery.


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Conclusion:

Many organisations have implemented frameworks and methodologies, increased internal project management and improved project governance in an effort to improve IT project success. The Standish Group report on project success has shown considerable improvement over the last 18 years. However, projects still do fail, and organisations can improve their preparedness for projects and change programs by spending time undertaking a business readiness assessment (BRA) before they begin any new change initiative.


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Conclusion:

Australian organisations in both public and private sectors enthusiastically identify and implement best practices from around the world. After considerable time and effort has been allocated to implementing these processes and the associated tools the results are all too often less than satisfactory. There are many best practices, frameworks and tools to assist in the optimisation of IT but there are two key problems areas that if overcome, can make a significant difference in the benefits that organisations will derive from best practice implementation.


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Conclusion: The true benefit of digital strategies is in the thinking, reviewing, assessing and critical evaluation of where the current state is and where the target needs to be. Organisations that have commenced digital transformation have recognised that capability development and ownership of the strategy can make or break success. It is critical to be brutally honest about capability and skills to get to the target.


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Conclusion: At the start of 2020, businesses had carefully-devised strategies in place which had been put together the year before. The onslaught of the global pandemic has either put these strategies to the test or caused them to be scrapped completely. The coronavirus has imposed changes everywhere we look and across different industries. Some businesses were forced to close shop. Others have been on a path of fast-tracked innovation and transformation. Before the pandemic, organisational behaviour had been structured to usher in growth and expansion. Although these are still valid goals, another factor has been added and that is survival.

With an economic crisis looming, consumer behaviour will inevitably change. Building and rebuilding the business requires its executives to be resilient and agile. A change in mindset is key. Alternative perspectives are relevant in pivoting in this new normal. After the period of adjustment has set in, managing IT may look different from how things were previously done.


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Conclusion: Governance committees face a number of challenges that can undermine their effectiveness. These challenges include groupthink, a focus on individual responsibilities rather than organisation-wide benefits, trust issues and a lack of knowledge of emerging issues and opportunities. Appropriately qualified and experienced independent external advisors can play an important role in overcoming these challenges.


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Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in prolonged lockdowns and quarantines, limiting economic activity and resulting in closure of businesses and many people losing their jobs. Various institutions around the world are unanimous in predicting that a recession is on its way, if not already here. Unless a vaccine is developed in the immediate future, the uncertainty will continue to rise in the days and months to come. However, businesses can turn this situation into an opportunity to examine their current operations.

A review of the events of the recent global recession – the global financial crisis of 2007–2008 – reveals that six recession-seeded trends, when acted upon promptly, provided business advantage. Although the trends for the anticipated COVID-19-led recession are still to be established, CIOs can benefit from re-examining the lessons of the past recessions and exploring a recession’s potential to deliver organisational efficiencies and savings. The outcome may be selective adoption of technology or deferral of projects, but the potency of these trends cannot be ignored.


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Conclusion: Working remotely has become the default option for most companies in the new normal setup. Although this has led to rising demand in technological tools and IT systems, it is unlikely the tech industry will be spared widespread job cuts – already such cuts are being seen in some industry sectors. With the world bracing for recession, companies are cutting down on costs and tightening budgets wherever they can.

Understandably, the current state of job insecurity is creating anxiety in employees who have retained their jobs. IT staff are justifiably feeling insecure and this is likely to affect some employees’ work performance. Such anxiety is a major issue that needs to be recognised and addressed quickly and effectively in order to enable the company to maximise its existing resources both during the economic downturn and as it starts to grow again.


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Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic has taken the whole world by storm, shutting down establishments and pushing businesses and public sector agencies towards high levels of uncertainty. It seems it will be a while before this storm lets up.

Regardless of how bleak the effects of the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns are to the economy and the business sector, it can be a platform where leaders and innovators come forth.

Most companies are struggling to determine the next steps and are barely surviving through their business continuity plans. This paper aims to help you pivot towards a different perspective.


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Conclusion: Since the rise of personal computing in the 1970s, organisations have focused on acquiring digital tools and, since the late 1990s, on promoting digital skills. While we are now in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, where digital skills are essential, the so-called soft skills of employees also need to be constantly updated and upgraded.


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Conclusion: Organisations should tap into their management team (department heads, managers and team leaders) to keep their working-from-home employees committed to the organisation. These organisational leaders have the most direct relationships and therefore are the most qualified to invite engagement from employees and other stakeholders. However, new models for engaging and measuring employees are needed that reflect the shift to virtual teams and virtual management: there is a shift from managing by activity to managing by trust.


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Conclusion: Projects in trouble or failing need to be assessed with two main possible outcomes: rescue or discontinue. Organisations should carefully consider whether shutting down a project is a better outcome. If the decision is to discontinue then it should be done in a careful and controlled manner which considers the impact on stakeholders, team members and any residual value that can be extracted.


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Conclusion: Once a project is in trouble and the first response of escalation of commitment in terms of allocating time, budget and resources in an attempt to recover the project has not been successful, the project can be considered as not just troubled but in real crisis. Recognition of a project in crisis is the first step to recovery and often the most difficult. Next steps involve putting the project into triage and preparing the project for the detailed assessment phase which provides critical information, options and the potential important decision to kill the project or recover.


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Conclusion: When projects start to show early signs that they may be in trouble, it is easy to have a knee-jerk reaction and address the most visible symptom. However, it is critical that CIOs and business executives (project board chairs and project sponsors) understand that early recognition and intervention is often less painful, less costly and less damaging for the organisation.


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