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Governance & Planning

Conclusion: Company reports used for planning and discussion are not always as clear as they might be. There are a few basic rules which can clarify what is required to be an effective report writer.

Firstly, ensure the argument and the structure is clear; that there is a beginning, middle and end to the flow of ideas to make the report cohesive. Secondly, use short sentences to make the argument unambiguous. Do not rely too much on bullet points in spite of the fact that they are widely used. A sentence argues a case and guides the reader through a thought. On the other hand, a bullet point asserts a point but may not convey an argument satisfactorily.

Most reports will have executive summaries or recommendations. To make the recommendations convincing it is essential that the arguments throughout the body of the report connect with each other. Structure will aid clarity, and these elements are the two hallmarks of good writing.

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Conclusion: Increased demands on bandwidth have been growing in the last two years. The Australian Bureau of Statistics' figures for the March - September quarter of 2003 showed a 180% increase in bandwidth usage by business and government. As an index of demand this trend is significant and poses for managers the question of how to plan for bandwidth demand in the future.

Although most organisations differentiate the "backbone" bandwidth, the "peer to peer" bandwidth, LAN bandwidth, and voice over IP bandwidth, from each other, demand on all networks should be assessed overall to forecast how an organisation should manage changes to its requirements.

New applications also put pressure on existing networks. The rapid deployment of applications naturally turns attention to the adequacy of current networks and platforms to deliver those applications. With increases in demand what was once acceptable to a business becomes insufficient. 

The challenge for managers is how to forecast, taking into account temporary surges in demand and also longer term trends.The two techniques below will help managers plan for such requirements:

1. Review the business strategy and the upcoming demands across your organisation and whether current arrangements are suitable for the next two years. This review should include the influence of competition and market conditions.

2. Establish an efficiency benchmark of current communication services to be certain of what is delivered and at what cost. There are many widespread claims as to the additional effectiveness and efficiency from more bandwidth, but these claims are not generally qualified with productivity figures to support them. A clear understanding of the benchmarks will assist future investment decisions.

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Conclusion: Effective ICT architectures allow organisations to become smart buyers of applications and infrastructure; and, ensure that technologies work together in a cohesive and effective way.  Attempting an ICT strategic planning project without an effective architecture carries three major risks.  

  1. The planning team will struggle to turn business ideas into ICT initiatives.
  2. The planning team will need to make decisions about potential ICT investments without sufficient time to analyse how well these investments may or may not work with the existing applications portfolio.
  3. Technical implementations may differ from the initiatives specified in the plan through lack of architectural standards.

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Conclusion: When the business environment is changing and support systems need to adapt to the change, managers have the option of developing an ITSP (IT Strategic Plan) with a long range focus, or a BSIP (Business Solutions Investment Plan) that  concentrates on investment needed in the next 12 - 24 months. A synopsis of both options is set out below.     

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Conclusion: The quality and precision of variables used in a plan will decide the fate of any plan. Variables come in many forms: sales, market trends, technological enhancements and so on.

Practical issues, such as the size of any given budget in a plan, may also influence and qualify the variables. Limitations on available resources may influence decisions to account for all relevant variables.

For example, the existing status of technology, or if a competitor has succeeded to your cost, could yield more realistic and sharper variables for planning.

All variables must be included in a general or master, plan, or in the appendix to it. The reason is straightforward, as it will indicate the thought process used to develop the plan and why. This level of information will also assist in subsequent iterations because the elements are discernible.

Two straightforward techniques can improve planning:

  • 1. Review past plans and the logic that gave those plans coherence.
  • 2. Cluster the variables of your current planning so that the relationship between them and net effect of one versus the other is clear.

By doing so the thought processes within the plan should be focused to everyone involved in the process.

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Conclusion: The rise in number of niche vendors offering budgeting software (at detailed level) might lead the uninitiated to conclude that spread sheet software, such as MS Excel or Lotus123, which is typically used for budgeting and planning has passed its ‘use by date'. This conclusion is premature and ignores the widespread use of spreadsheets, which still have their place. Nevertheless, their use needs to be controlled to minimise business risks. Failure to do so could be career limiting.

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The management of software assets, particularly Microsoft software, has always been an issue for us, much in common with most organisations I suspect. While we have been nibbling away at the edges for sometime, the company structure and politics have consistently been a major stumbling block, and it has only been in the past twelve months that we have made any significant progress.

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Conclusion: Very few organisations have effective ICT strategic planning processes resulting in a poor return of investment for ICT assets and missed business opportunities. 

Do not confuse ICT strategic plans with technical ICT plans.  ICT strategic plans are business oriented and focus on the future systems portfolio and its contribution to future business priorities.  Technical ICT plans simply focus on the technology investments an organisation needs to make over time.  A technology plan will be just one of many deliverables from an effective ICT strategic plan.

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Conclusion: Managers working in a steady state environment, with few major successes and unexceptionable performance metrics, generally struggle to engage their peers at monthly operating performance meetings.

The problem is compounded when peers, who operate in a high profile environment, are able to actively engage the audience at the monthly meeting using attractively presented performance metrics, accompanied by streaming video footage material.

What can managers, including CIOs, who struggle to engage their peers, do to turn the situation around and earn the commendation of the meeting?

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Conclusion: When making the decision to invest in wireless, managers are presented with economic arguments from suppliers. Examining the variety of case studies* reveals that not all the arguments are valid, and this fact should not be significant, because not all decisions, should be, or are based on economic grounds.

Indeed, the case for a wireless solution in enterprises may be impelled by the same tacit logic of fashion. In other words, as more companies adopt it, perhaps even for purely financial and logical reasons, the spread of the technology becomes more compelling. If that line of argument appears fanciful, it is the same reason why the DVD is so popular, and in fact, one of the background causes as to how the PC took hold in companies, twenty years ago.

To assess whether to join the wireless movement or not, managers can simply do two things.

  1. Survey similar sized companies and organisations that have adopted it.

  2. Discount the putative efficiency benefit from any calculation of ROI in a short-term period, say the first year.

Widespread adoption of technology arises from network effects; in essence, because your competitors are doing it, there is a justifiable reason to do likewise.

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