Kevin McIsaac

Kevin McIsaac

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The next ''Big Thing'' in business computing is more about new IT deployment, sourcing and management models than about the evolution of technology itself. Vendors such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard have continued to fine-tune products and services that were announced in 2001 to a point where they are now viable choices for technology buyers. Given labels such as ''On Demand'' by some, or the Adaptive or Agile Enterprise by others, they can all be considered part of the Utility Computing paradigm.


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The ongoing war for market share in the server platform market will continue to present vendor-sponsored programs for migration to their favoured operating system platform. While these programs offer real assistance in evaluation of new options for your organisation, they require thorough evaluation and significant allocation of resources. If tempted by a vendor offer for a migration evaluation, it is essential that the scope and limitations of the model used by the vendor to build their conclusions includes meaningful measures of business benefit rather than just infrastructure cost savings.

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PC Virtualisation technology could make it possible to achieve effective desktop lockdown without sacrificing user freedoms. The result could be total cost of ownership savings for enterprises that have struggled to implement full desktop lockdown, as well as clearer definitions of IT responsibilities. This technology can be considered for desktop deployment where PCs are not currently locked down. However before doing so be sure to understand the additional complexity and costs involved before proceeding with testing and implementing.

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IS organisations attack increasing client systems support costs by implementing a desktop "lockdown" or Standard Operating Environment (SOE). However, if they do not give enough attention to the process and planning that is required to lock down their desktops their project will fail because of political and cultural problems, and because lockdown may prevent users from doing their jobs efficiently.

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Survey results are now reinforcing anecdotal evidence and supporting vendor marketing claims by showing that, when it comes to choice of an operating system platform for an ERP system, there is still a degree of choice. This is in marked contrast to the reduced choices available in ERP systems themselves. Linux will provide a very viable alternative to the entrenched Unix variants and the ubiquitous Windows. This has to be good for end users – particularly those in the medium size business category.

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The challenges facing the CIOs of midsize businesses are not expected to become easier. Continuing requirements to support the growth of their businesses by adding new offices, new applications and more staff mean that they have to increase the capabilities of the IT, probably without the benefit of increased staff and budgets. They will also have to deal with new vendors, sales channels and disappearing vendors.

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New server assessment and acquisition practices are often ignored in preference to a "speeds and feeds" focussed, "hardware is cheap" mentality. This focus is supported by the constant bragging by server vendors about their latest and greatest TPC1 Benchmark figures. Unfortunately, these benchmarks and the technologies that enable them have little impact on most workloads. A better purchase can be made by understanding the application characteristics and how server technologies will benefit performance.

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Some CIOs seek to chair all the IT steering committees as a way to ensure coherent IT approaches, to monitor value for money and to maintain power. This is an incorrect approach; most IT steering committees are driving business change on behalf of one or more business units or functional areas. Only a few are driving change in the IT infrastructure itself. Thus it is a best practice for the champion of the business functional area to chair the relevant sub-committee and to reinforce the connection with other governance processes.

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Technologies to support the consolidation of rampant servers continue to make marked advances. Server virtualisation is an approach that can make a consolidation exercise faster, easier and safer. Microsoft''s announcement of Virtual Server 2005 broadens the market and will bring lower licensing costs from the existing alternatives. If VS05 is of interest, then be aware of its limitations and costs.

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IT organisations that build systems and software piecemeal fashion, using the so-called "Best of breed" components on the market from different vendors, should be aware that "Best of breed" is a dying breed. The increased complexity and cost of these systems rarely can demonstrate the incremental benefits over "Good Enough" solutions to justify the time, effort and expense

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A critical factor in the successful management of PC leasing contracts is the availability of accurate and consistent data that will facilitate the tracking and management of the assets. This factor is frequently overlooked in a Lease vs. Buy decision that is typically focused on TCO and NPV. In most cases, asset information can only be obtained from multiple sources.

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Service-level agreements (SLAs) serve as a powerful tool for enabling an IS organisation to understand the business'' definition of adequate service (based on business requirements) and for business communities to understand the support function''s responsibilities. If the services are sourced externally, then they are also one of the most critical factors in the success of the outsourcing relationship.

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26 May 2004: Telstra is sending 450 software jobs to India as part of its outsourcing agreement with IBM Global Services.

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Last month we introduced the concept of a vendor management program. We noted that most mid-size organisations do not consider the full life cycle of product selection; instead, they tend to focus on purchase price alone. IT acquisitions are usually made by the IT department in isolation, without the proper insight of the business requirements and with the primary focus being on "speeds and feeds," price and the ability of a vendor to deliver a solution quickly. This month we provide a framework for the process.


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Related Articles:

"The Case for a Vendor Management Process Part 1: The Case" IBRS, 2004-04-28 00:00:00