zz-Rob Mackinnon

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Conclusion: The dimming of IT kudos can be exemplified in a number of ways including: IT not being invited to the table when strategic business decisions are made, then being assigned project work post factum; having IT solutions predetermined by those outside IT, then having to implement them; having phalanxes of IT people brought into the organisation from one of the major systems integration firms to deliver a major project, then subsequently having to support it. Almost without exception the behaviour and performance of the CIO and the IT organisation are the root cause of these events.


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Conclusion: Within the working environment, complexity is often introduced unwittingly. At times, expediency is to blame, when intended short term fixes (such as code or business process changes) get baked into the organisational DNA. Unchecked, layer upon layer of complexity can builds up, undermining efficiency and causing ambiguity that troubles staff and confuses clients. With economic gloom casting a shadow over IT budgets, a systematic approach to re-instituting simplicity is warranted. Though more time-consuming to implement than conventional IT savings measures (such as cutting back contractor numbers or reducing training costs) the cost saving and efficiency benefits should be longer lasting.


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Conclusion: Whether in the private or public sector, the fundamental objective of a board should be “building long-term sustainable growth in shareholder value”1. Usually the intention to do this is expressed in an organisation's strategic plan. Increasingly, IT plays a significant part in these plans, yet many Directors remain shy of anything other than superficial discussions on IT, potentially diminishing IT's contribution to the organisation. Through exertion of appropriate influence and by carefully selecting which channels to use to gain board attention, an effective CIO can take a number of steps to correct this situation.


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Conclusion: Bob Dylan’s enigmatic song ‘Changing of the Guards’ included these lyrics: “But Eden is burning, either brace yourself for elimination. Or else your hearts must have the courage for the changing of the guards.” This song could well refer to changes in IT that have been gathering force for over a decade. A new order is emerging: progressive CIOs are unseating their regressive counterparts bringing new meaning to IT enablement.


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Conclusion: Despite recent IT Shared Services (ITSS) failures in government, the global appetite for ITSS seems to continue unabated. Given evolving developments in the cloud, ITSS seems assured of longevity. It is thus important to understand its nuances, especially from a delivery perspective. Whilst tempting to think of ITSS initiatives merely as ambitious programs of work capable of delivering attractive savings, it seems that a scaled-backed, incremental delivery approach, though perhaps more costly and time-consuming than other methods, may result in more lasting and beneficial outcomes.


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Unbelievably, Steve Jobs' passing made front page news in virtually every nation on earth. This is probably unprecedented for an 'IT guy' let alone one who dropped out of college before going on to establish Apple with Steve Wozniak in 1976. As most know, after the Jonathan Sculley / Steve Jobs power struggle of late 1985 Steve Jobs resigned from Apple, founding NeXT Computer. Subsequently in 1996, Apple acquired NeXT as sales of the Mac languished, leading ultimately to Jobs assuming the CEO role at Apple after a successful boardroom coup. During Jobs’ sabbatical from Apple he was also the driving force behind Pixar. In August 2011 Apple’s market capitalisation briefly surpassed market leader Exxon Mobil, remaining comfortably ahead of IBM and Microsoft.


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Conclusion: The instincts of greed and ambition can sometime blindside the architects of IT Shared Services (ITSS) initiatives. Thinking too grandiosely and without sufficient regard for the consequences of ITSS can doom such ventures from the outset. Conversely, taking more level-headed approaches, tempered by the honest counsel of those that aren’t necessarily management sycophants, can have the opposite effect.


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Conclusion: There is a perception that public sector organisations experience higher failure rates with IT Shared Services (ITSS) ventures than their private sector counterparts. While no definitive studies have confirmed this, it remains true that both sectors have a chequered history of success with ITSS. However, perceptions are skewed by the sometimes massive and very public ITSS failures that have occurred locally in the public sector. Curiously, many of these failures could have been averted by following some simple steps.


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Conclusion: Recent events1 have shown that IT shared services initiatives do not always live up to their promises. When benefits fail to materialise, emotional rather than logical thinking predominates. Naysayers engage in the fallacy of faulty generalisation, asserting that if one IT shared services venture is deemed to have failed, then the very notion of IT shared services is questionable.


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Conclusion: There is a universality to many aspects of the roles performed by CIOs. Dictated by technology trends and strongly influenced by IT vendors, CIOs often find themselves following a pre-written script containing the initiatives they should pursue. Often they find themselves carrying out exactly the same types of projects as their colleagues in totally different business sectors. For some CIOs, this can be less than satisfying. Worse, despite their complicity (sometimes tacit) in IT initiatives, many senior executives are often underwhelmed by the value delivered by IT. CIOs can take a number of steps to overcome this impasse, achieving more job satisfaction whilst gaining higher profiles in their organisations.


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