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Alan Hansell

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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.

Conclusion: To prepare for the inevitable questioning by senior management of whether an expense line item can be reduced, management must review its breakdown and be prepared to justify it to senior management when asked. Responses must highlight the business risks that will ensue should a selected expense line item in the ICT opex (operating) and capex (capital) expense budgets be reduced. Failing to frame the response in business (risks) terms could delay the review and reflect poorly on ICT management.


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Conclusion: For many years, shadow IT or business-managed computing has flown under management’s radar screen with mixed results. For some organisations it has been a panacea as it has helped them automate business processes quickly and gain valuable business insights from accessing complex data structures.

In some organisations, business managers resort to developing a shadow IT solution because skilled IT resources are not available due to budget constraints. When this occurs, business or engineering professionals (also known as digital natives) are then reassigned to provide a stop-gap solution, which is often uncontrolled. For these managers, shadow IT is an irritant as it diverts them and their direct reports from their everyday tasks.


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Conclusion: Creating an environment in which IT and business professionals can adapt to a new and remote (also known as alternate work) environment will test the ingenuity of many senior managers.

To meet the challenge, managers must help their staff avoid being anxious and isolated and enable them to easily access their peers for advice and guidance. Failure to keep contact could lead to a decline in productivity and staff not feeling part of the team. Alternately, not having to travel to work sites and work prescribed hours can be a blessing for others.


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Conclusion: When cost cutting of IT services is on the executive agenda, due to the impact of COVID-19 virus, will it yield low hanging or sour fruit? One area often regarded as low hanging fruit is the amalgamation of SPOC (single point of contact) activities, viz. help desk, service centre and contact or call centre. Combining them is a compelling proposition and demands an informed response.

Put simply, the logic used by management, seeking to amalgamate and reduce costs, is:

  • Similar skills are required so staff can be co-located
  • Staff can become multi-skilled and resolve incidents or software failures of internal (service desk and help desk) and external clients
  • Office space used now will be reduced and by combining the functions
  • Headcount savings will ensue

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Conclusion: While there is no perfect approach to restructuring an IT services department, there are fundamental principles (set out below) that must be followed, to get it right first time. If these principles are not followed, staff resistance to the changes proposed could impact staff morale.


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Conclusion: The entering of a strategic partnership with a client or prospect by a major vendor, e. g. more than $50k paid p. a., is aimed at convincing them that mutual benefits such as helping them gain a competitive advantage or achieving major cost reductions, will accrue. When pressed on the likely benefits to the vendor, and assuming no financial equity is involved, one tactic some vendors use is to propose participation in a prestigious early software support program to jointly enhance their market image.


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Conclusion: Not knowing where an organisation’s business-critical data is located, and its quality, can lead to many frustrating efforts to respond to management queries. When the converse is true and IT management can respond quickly to queries, say, at a board meeting or in an FOI (freedom of information) request, it enhances confidence in the quality of management of IT generally.


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Conclusion: Unless the attributes of user stories (agile) or high-level requirements (waterfall) are succinct and testable, business systems specifications will lack rigour and could compromise the system’s integrity. To ensure these attributes, i. e. succinct and testable, are present, the stories and high-level requirements should be peer reviewed to identify content that is unclear or just expressing an unrealistic ‘want/wish’ list.

It is important the stories or high-level requirements contain sufficient context to enable systems requirements, i. e. functional and non-functional, to be developed because unless they do it will be difficult to prioritise them based on business drivers.

Similarly, the results of user acceptance testing should be peer reviewed to ensure the agreed requirements have been met and the output is verifiable.


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Conclusion: Taking the guesswork out of capacity planning by making an informed forecast of demand for computing and support resources for the strategic capacity plan is an ongoing challenge for IT professionals and managers. Reputational damage can ensue when resources are either under or overestimated and there are claims that guesswork was employed.


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Conclusion: Increasing the IT literacy of business managers and professionals has sharpened their interest in buying off-the-shelf software to meet immediate business needs, but potentially without the expertise to implement and support it, often leading to unexpected requests for IT support. When the request is a surprise, and there is a compelling business priority, IT workforce plans must be put to one side and changed to find the resources needed. When the dust has settled and the surprise element is a thing of the past, the IT governance group is bound to ask, ‘How did this surprise occur and what can be done to ensure it does not happen again’? It is a reasonable question and one that needs a cogent response.


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