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Conclusion: Delivering real business improvement in Workforce Automation & Management practices has proven elusive for many organisations. Two principal factors seem to have been at play. Firstly, a piecemeal approach seems to have been taken with a focus on rostering rather than on the entire process chain (see diagram). Secondly, the organisational change management effort seems to have been underestimated. With so few opportunities available to businesses to deliver bottom line savings from application software initiatives, it is now timely to revisit this area. Further, increasing safety-awareness in sectors such as mining, construction and transportation, have highlighted the need to achieve success with WAM initiatives, in some cases driven by the need to comply with fatigue management standards for rostered staff.

From time to time our company looks at opportunities to grow the business through the acquisition of other organisations. When this occurs we are asked to review the information technology infrastructure of the target organisation. Our brief is to assess their IT health and identify areas where there may be significant expenditure required to ensure it achieves a level which complies with our standards. We are also expected to recommend how IT should be structured following the acquisition. For example should the company continue with its current processes or should it be partly or wholly, integrated into our network and be subjected to our governance procedures.

We have recently been successful in winning two significant projects in Western Australia associated with the construction of the South Western rail link between Bunbury and Perth. These projects, which have a combined value of around $400m, are for the provision of infrastructure for the railway line which, as well as including several bridges (Package E), also involves tunneling under the Perth CBD to the Central Railway Station (Package F). Package F is a joint venture in partnership with Kumagai from Japan, a relationship that brings its own set of problems.

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.

To date we have been concentrating our efforts on improving the performance of our Help Desk, through better incident and problem management, and through imposing some much needed disciplines on our infrastructure support team by introducing more rigorous and collaborative change management processes. It is true to say that, prior to ITIL, we firmly believed that it was important to resolve as many issues as possible on the Help Desk, without escalating them to Level Two support. We were unaware that this practice was significantly downgrading the level of service we were providing.

One of the most difficult dilemmas an IS project manager or CIO is likely to face is what steps should be taken when the client will not accept a proven technical solution, e.g. because she claims acceptance will compromise her ability to meet her performance criteria set by the CEO.  

While the ‘crash or crash through' approach is tempting, it is risky. Pursuing it is likely to bruise everyone involved. Another option, which is to go to the CEO to get the matter resolved, is not politically astute. In most firms it is lore that asking the CEO to resolve an impasse is viewed as failure.

Small and midsize companies have, so far, mostly postponed investment in CRM solutions because of their complexity, their cost and dubious return on investment. Now, with Microsoft in the fray alongside Salesforce.com and others like them with their online deployment models, SME''s have a better range from which to choose and should be planning how they can take advantage of more affordable solutions

In the August publication I discussed a planned review of our service delivery model and the introduction of ITIL methodologies to correct any areas where there are found to be shortcomings. Our first step on this path has been to employ an external organisation, with ITIL skills, to review and comment on our existing service processes (ITIL Maturity Assessment).

In most businesses, regardless of size or industry, formal business continuity and/or disaster recovery planning is consistently under-funded and generally neglected by management. The business risks associated with this attitude can be very high but are not understood. Those plans that are in place simply don’t work. This is not surprising since disaster recovery hasn''t been given sufficient consideration, ensuring that plans are rarely tested (if ever) and equally rarely updated to reflect changes in process, technology or applications. In an emergency, there are many continuity requirements within an organisation’s business and services covering processes, facilities, and personnel. IT and a range of business units across the whole organisation must work together, both in planning for continuity and in its execution.

With a number of significant IT projects either completed or well under way we are now turning our attention to improving the quality of the service we deliver to the company. With our IT infrastructure becoming increasingly mission critical it is essential that we constantly review and ensure the provision of the appropriate level of IT resource to contribute to the organisation’s success and growth. The challenge is how to achieve this in the tight budgetary and technically complex and logistically distributed environment in which we operate.

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