IT Operational Excellence

When IT departments are tuned to run their best, they achieve more, spend less and drive success back into the organisations they support.

IT operational excellence is an approach that helps to ensure IT departments run efficiently and deliver great service. Without an operational excellence philosophy, IT departments lack vision and strategy, are slow to adapt and are more likely to be bogged down by trivial issues.

Achieving IT operational excellence isn't about implementing one particular framework. It is a mindset geared towards continuous improvement and performance that incorporates multiple principles designed to align team goals around delivering value to the customer.

IBRS can help organisations achieve IT operational excellence by revealing the most effective ways to leverage resources and identify the most valuable activities and differentiators in a given IT team.

IBRS advisor Dr Wissam Raffoul, who specialises in transforming IT groups into service organisations, said legacy tech stacks had a lot of 'single point failures' which could bring whole systems to their knees.

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IBRS iQ is a database of Client inquiries and is designed to get you talking to our Advisors about these topics in the context of your organisation in order to provide tailored advice for your needs.

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Conclusion: This month, discussions regarding a heightened demand for managed security services have been prominent – in particular, around vulnerability and penetration assessments, mitigation frameworks, response and recovery protocols, as well as response consolidation and training. Customers have long recognised the need to ensure systems are protected from inappropriate access. However, internal business preparedness, recovery and continuity plans have caused vulnerabilities in the past. A greater number, frequency and awareness of security incidents have prompted vendors to integrate security services with a customer’s business operations and business preparedness plans, with a focus on response and continuity. This has resulted in the provision of high-quality offerings, delivery models and ongoing support, with an increased customer adoption and integration with existing business operations.

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Conclusion: To respond to the COVID-19 outbreak in Australia, organisations are left with no alternative but to improve their internal efficiency to continue meeting their committed service levels while facing a constant drop in headcount1. However, sustaining the efficiency gains once acquired requires high-availability and efficient services that meet business operations imperatives. This demands avoiding outages that require significant manual effort to recover services while dealing with possible embarrassment in the media. IT organisations should develop a risk profile for every critical service and alert the possible exposures to business executives. The focus of the risk profile is to avoid increased overheads while maintaining service levels. The outcome should be a mitigation strategy that is acceptable to business executives, clients, business partners and government agencies.

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Conclusion: All organisations need to identify the value of their procurement portfolio. That is, to document and regularly review the portfolio to understand both the criticality of the contracts to business and the triggers that decide whether the technology is meeting the need and when actions need to be put in place to limit the risk to the business in the acquisition process.

With an improved situational awareness of the procurement portfolio, organisations then need to ensure alignment with the business strategy. The alignment can only be achieved with regular independent reviews, and by effective governance processes to ensure that the risk associated with procurement planning is contained.

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Conclusion: At the start of 2020, businesses had carefully-devised strategies in place which had been put together the year before. The onslaught of the global pandemic has either put these strategies to the test or caused them to be scrapped completely. The coronavirus has imposed changes everywhere we look and across different industries. Some businesses were forced to close shop. Others have been on a path of fast-tracked innovation and transformation. Before the pandemic, organisational behaviour had been structured to usher in growth and expansion. Although these are still valid goals, another factor has been added and that is survival.

With an economic crisis looming, consumer behaviour will inevitably change. Building and rebuilding the business requires its executives to be resilient and agile. A change in mindset is key. Alternative perspectives are relevant in pivoting in this new normal. After the period of adjustment has set in, managing IT may look different from how things were previously done.

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IBRS iQ is a database of Client inquiries and is designed to get you talking to our Advisors about these topics in the context of your organisation in order to provide tailored advice for your needs.

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Conclusion: As-a-Service solutions offer organisations agility, flexibility and scalability but the graveyard of unused software piling up should ring alarm bells. Neglected software utilisation and compliance will be factors that should drive a new Software Asset Management (SAM) investment. The impact of an unmanaged Cloud SaaS or IaaS solution will be quickly revealed during audits. At a time when management is a focus, this should be an easy win.

Organisations will need to quickly identify if they are running single or multi-tenanted instances and whether production and non-production environments are being managed efficiently for the purposes of SAM product selection.

Selecting a SAM tool should be proportionate to the cost of non-compliance. Unmitigated software licence costs can be eye-watering. Consider these factors when selecting your SAM product for Information Technology Asset Management (ITAM):

  1. Data points
  2. Software overspend
  3. Inefficiency
  4. Compliance

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Conclusion: In the modern world, no organisation has ICT entirely in-sourced. As a result, procurement, contract and vendor management have become strategic processes that allow organisations to align their ICT capability with the business strategy to achieve the desired outcomes, both now and into the future.

It is often the case that effective planning for the procurement of technology capability is compressed or constrained such that procurement is not able to effect ‘big step’ change. Or the commercial approach means the agreement is based on a fixed term, which results in the procurement not being a strategic exercise. More often than not, the procurement delivers constraints that limit the business’s ability to achieve the desired outcomes. These constraints limit the business’s ability to be agile in terms of elasticity, or how well it can respond to disruption in the market.

The technology options to meet business demand are not the same today as they were yesterday, and they will undoubtedly differ tomorrow. The challenge is to ensure ICT procurement is responsive to the business strategy, and that vendors share in the advantage a strategic alliance brings to the business. Procurement needs to be effectively planned and clearly aligned to the business strategy to ensure the strategy is delivered effectively.

This paper is the first in a four-part series on how to ensure procurement meets the business need, gain an understanding of strategic versus tactical procurement, and will define the steps necessary to avoid the pitfalls that cause procurements to under-deliver.

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Conclusion: This month, there has been an increased focus on the impact of external environments and customer demands on managed services providers and their offerings. An increased demand for hybrid working solutions, remote operations and connectivity solutions has driven a greater demand for associated services such as security, Cloud and platforms. Customers have been searching for targeted and combined solutions to help address business needs and increase operational efficiencies. For those vendors that put an emphasis on meaningful customer relationships and interactions, maintaining open and clear communications and the capacity to adapt to client needs is critical. A customer with a heavy reliance on legacy systems for key business processes may find this raises challenges or is simply no longer feasible in the current climate. Service providers must be ready to work with clients that need to adapt or completely overhaul in order to provide the necessary support in difficult times. 

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Conclusion: As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak in Australia, many businesses’ income has been reduced, approximately 800,000 people have been made redundant and the IT budget has been significantly cut. IT organisations are left with no alternative but to improve their internal efficiency to continue meeting their committed service levels while facing a constant drop in headcount. To survive under these budget limitations during the next two years, IT must focus on efficiency quick wins that opt to reduce costs, automate highly manual activities and mitigate critical risk that may lead to service breakdowns, which in turn require significant human effort to rectify. The quick wins should be implemented within 18 months to realise the desired effect. An efficiency improvement task force should be established to make it all happen. 

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Conclusion: In August 2020, IBRS ran a roundtable on the issue of Microsoft Support service, and specifically options for obtaining services in the most effective manner. 

The replacement of Microsoft's traditional Premier Support programs for its Unified Support program is well underway. For many organisations, the new program is a strong fit, offering a wide range of services and unlimited reactive support inquiries for a fee that is directly proportional to their Microsoft software and platform investment.  

However, for others, the program is not an ideal or cost-effective fit. During the roundtable, 16 peers shared their stories of how they have approached Microsoft support in the new era and a set of practical recommendations was developed. 

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Conclusion: The massive shift to working from home since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to upsides for employees: more flexibility, no commute and greater productivity. Many executives have been publicly extolling the virtues of remote working. However, a number of management, cultural and work design issues are now starting to emerge. Organisations need to review their current workplace design and practices and prepare for a hybrid home-office workplace post-pandemic.

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Conclusion: To respond to the digital world challenges, many organisations are transforming their operations to multi-Cloud to reduce cost, improve service efficiency and contain business risks. As a result, the multi-Cloud availability has become a critical success factor. In some cases, multi-Cloud complex architecture weaknesses have resulted in service outages and allowed ransomware attacks to severely impact business operations. The new generation ITSM tools provide effective backup and recovery facilities that are worth investigation to mitigate multi-Cloud exposures to failure.

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Conclusion: For the last two decades, the market for ruggedised computing has been led by emergency, policing and military needs. The advent of lower-cost wireless networking, 4G and now 5G has prompted a sharp rise in field workers using devices and mobile-ready solutions to streamline operations. Unfortunately, legacy thinking about the type of devices to be used has prevailed: either staff get consumer devices (iOS or Android) or military-spec ruggedised devices.

There is an opportunity to rethink this polarised view of devices. Rather than seeing devices as either consumer or rugged, it is better to view devices on a spectrum of needs, including ruggedness, based on the work contexts in which they will be used.

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Conclusion: This month has seen a rise in mid-high level IT management appointments and departures. These types of shifts are especially prominent in times of change and uncertainty when companies search for staff to provide new skills, experiences to support critical IT and business operations. With an impetus to expedite digital transformation and other projects, companies must focus on increased standards for selecting, deploying and managing infrastructure and highly skilled professionals to implement plans. Vendors must be prepared to support customers when leaders with different priorities or focused on streamlining and enhancing business operations are brought in.

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Conclusion: This month, the first anchor tenant signed up to the new Sydney Innovation and Technology Precinct. The NSW Government first announced plans for the Tech Central precinct, located in Sydney’s CBD, in 2018. The precinct is expected to provide 50,000 square metres of space for startup and scale-up businesses and promote industry expansion, innovation and collaboration. These types of initiatives are critical to stimulating the ICT service industry, and ensuring the ongoing development of offerings and delivery models that shift quickly and are sensitive to external influences, such as new technologies or the pandemic. The Tech Central precinct is expected to facilitate the evolution of the industry in Australia and allow for high quality and advanced products and services that customers demand, and vendors require to remain relevant in a highly competitive environment.

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Conclusion: The traditional IT service management (ITSM) tools have allowed IT organisations to automate key IT processes (e. g. incident management), promote service management disciplines and meet service levels in the majority of cases. However, they were not designed for multi-Cloud management. The new generation ITSM tools address the essential multi-Cloud requirements by offering:

  • Asset discovery
  • Performance management
  • Multi-platform Cloud cost forecasting
  • Integrated Cloud security and compliance verification
  • Mechanisms to orchestrate applications workflow across platforms
  • Backup/recovery

IT organisations should assess the cost-effectiveness and relevance of the new ITSM offerings to business operations improvement1.

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Conclusion: Many organisations have integrated enterprise architecture (EA) into the business processes, whilst many have not. To some, it is a religious argument as to why the ICT group even needs to have people with ‘architect’ in their name; for others, the EA group is the watchdog of the system, ensuring both new capabilities and changes to existing capabilities will be fit for purpose.

Like most things in business, the cost versus benefit analysis to justify why any activity is a priority is essential before committing effort and resources to it. EA should be no different. Organisations should complete a business case assessment to justify why EA is necessary for their business model, and what form it should take.

In doing so, both business and ICT will jointly have a better understanding of the value EA brings to the enterprise, be able to manage expectations on what EA can deliver and judge its effectiveness.

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IBRSiQ is a database of Client inquiries and is designed to get you talking to our Advisors about these topics in the context of your organisation in order to provide tailored advice for your needs.

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Conclusion: This month there have been increased discussions regarding the security services sector, marketplace expansion and triggers for growth. New market conditions, operating frameworks and the rapid adoption and integration of new services and technologies have resulted in a demand for security offerings that cater to the new environment. However, it has also given rise to new threats posed by new offerings and technologies, such as ageing devices which can cause vulnerabilities with changed operations, configuration changes and under-skilled staff. Security service vendors need to target offerings to individual company needs and strategic objectives as well as specific industry needs.

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Conclusion: The disaster recovery plan (DRP) should be seen as significantly more than a technical document for IT resources to be accessed only in times of crisis restoration. Use regular IT DRP updates and testing as a valuable marketing tool and keep the DRP ready for when disaster strikes.

A recently released survey revealed nearly one-quarter of all respondents cited lack of budget as a major challenge for BCP/DRP funding. This challenge will be even more daunting after the anticipated post-coronavirus budget cuts, so it is critical to remember the DRP is not just required to be technically savvy; it contains useful information to suit the non-technical audience when attaching the DRP to support funding to keep it current.

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Conclusion: As a result of COVID-19, has the criticality of web presence for your business changed? Is your organisation now exposed to threats and risks that previously were a lower order concern? Are there advantages to be gained in the realignment of the organisation’s web strategy?

IBRS recommends organisations assess the vision statement for its web presence. Once the vision is clear, review the framework for delivery and sustainment, the processes, and the roles and responsibilities for online web services, as a result of the impact of COVID-19. The purpose of the review is to ensure your organisation leverages the strengths and opportunities of the organisation’s online presence resulting from the impact of COVID-19.

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Conclusion: The traditional IT service management (ITSM) tools have allowed IT organisations to automate key IT processes (e. g. incident management), promote service management disciplines and meet service levels in the majority of cases. However, they were limited in identifying service issues before impacting business operations, managing multi-Cloud environments and lacking the required speed to empower the digital transformation initiatives (e. g. releasing new software to production). Organisations wishing to modernise their IT service management practices should evaluate the new generation ITSM tools to determine their suitability and cost-effectiveness to improve their business operations.

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Post-pandemics require changes to IT services, vendors' contracts and service levels. Organisations must re-examine their service foundations to meet business expectations and remain compliant with policies and legislation during and post-pandemics.

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IBRSiQ is a database of Client inquiries and is designed to get you talking to our Advisors about these topics in the context of your organisation in order to provide tailored advice for your needs.

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Conclusion: This month there has been a focus on the impact of the current economic environment on managed service providers. Declines in vendor service uptake, or difficulties experienced by existing customers, have resulted in the need for providers to adapt in an uncertain environment. New measures adopted by vendors when dealing with customers have included the revision of traditional business and payment models, increased flexibility with service contracts, and client support packages. Internally, vendor strategies include tightened cashflow management and regular communication with suppliers to mitigate disruptions that can have flow-on effects to their own customers. Whilst there has been a growth in demand for vendors to provide new and more complex solutions to cater to new work practices and business operations, vendors must work to maintain the integrity of their services. The re-diversion or loss of staff can impact on a vendor’s capacity to provide quality managed services, resulting in vulnerabilities. Vendors must adapt customer engagement practices in order to cater to both internal and external pressures caused by the highly variable and uncertain economic environment.

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Conclusion: Remember, constructive feedback is of benefit to both the employees submitting the form and the staff who provide the services to enable working from home arrangements. Continuous improving is the nature of running IT operations and support services. This feedback can also assist with wider human resources polices as everyone comes to terms with supporting the existing present state and plan for future arrangements that may end up permanent or in a hybrid state.

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Conclusion: Many processes are relatively poorly designed and are not subject to effective governance. The reasons for this are many and varied: some relate to complexity, where there is a perceived risk associated with their criticality and whereby change could harm the business if they are altered; others are just not managed at all.

If your organisation does not understand how its business processes are architected, executives run the risk of fear influencing their judgement, rather than fact – the end result is ‘no change’ where change is needed. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the need for flexibility and agility in business processes to sustain and grow the business. The opportunities in the post-COVID-19 world, where many processes have been found wanting, are too great to be missed.

Successful organisations understand, manage and adjust business processes to meet the times. Having an effective business process management approach – where the process strategy is documented, processes are designed against set standards, implementation is monitored and managed, and controls are in place to manage the process lifecycle – is essential if your organisation is to achieve the best outcomes.

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Conclusion: Traditional service desks which are based on voice communication and email to engage with clients are no longer adequate for the current IT market. New-generation service desks should:

  • Allow self-service to extend the hours of operations.
  • Use multiple communication channels (e. g. online chats) to make the service desk more reachable to clients.
  • Adopt artificial intelligence technology to analyse unstructured data.
  • Deploy virtual agents to reduce service desk’s staff workload.

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Conclusion: This month, there has been a particular focus on business continuity plans amidst COVID-19-driven uncertainties. Businesses are updating and activating, or establishing business continuity plans to minimise operational disruptions. Broad-based business continuity programs to ensure solid internal operations, avoid supply chain disruptions, support customer liquidity needs and mitigate risks associated with a volatile industry have become critical. Vendors must focus on managing partner and customer relations during market shifts and changes to strategic plans which are expected to be ongoing.

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Conclusion: Risk assessment tools help protect and support staff and minimise business disruptions by following Australian risk management (and health) guidelines.

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Conclusion: IT services are critical to reducing the impact of pandemics on public health, jobs and the overall wellbeing of nations. To prepare IT for this challenge, organisations should:

  • Embed pandemics management into their business continuity plans
  • Define fallback strategies to operate during pandemics
  • Plan the transition to the normal mode of operations when the time comes

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Conclusion: This month, discussions regarding the COVID-19 outbreak and the range of impacts on industry have been prominent. While extreme and unforeseen impacts of seemingly small events have been common for vendors and their customers in the past, this pandemic has triggered a wide range of effects, with potentially long-term implications. In all circumstances, vendors need to have strong, yet highly adaptable foundations to accommodate sudden shifts in the market, and adequately support their customers. The outputs and responses to this pandemic will be unique; however, customers will still require experienced vendors to provide services which support changes to business operations, long-term strategies and external issues, such as fluid supply chains, new government regulations/frameworks and economic uncertainties.

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Conclusion: Ransomware attacks have been in the news lately with Toll, Talman, Travelex and Manheim Auctions all having their day-to-day operations completely shattered. Many pundits and security product vendors are touting their initiatives to help an organisation defend itself against such an attack.

Despite all best efforts, there is no 100 % guaranteed defence against succumbing to a ransomware attack. So rather than investing still more funds in defensive products, it is well worthwhile creating a strategy to allow a rapid recovery or reestablishment of service after being struck by an attack.

It is possible to develop some strategies, all relatively inexpensive apart from time, that will position an organisation to have an excellent chance of quickly returning to normal productivity after a ransomware attack.

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Conclusion: With cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) emerging across Australia, many businesses are or should bewell into pandemic planning to ensure they maintain essential services. Teleworking, remote working, or working from home, is a centrepiece of those efforts and will increasingly be implemented by organisations. Cybercrime activity is rising rapidly with actors seeking to exploit the fear and uncertainty in the community. The use of remote working technologies presents additional cyber security challenges that can be different from the more secure on-premise environments. Below is a list of considerations to help guide businesses through these challenges.

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Conclusion: Increasingly, organisations are looking to improve customer experiences through effective business processes. A ready portfolio of electronic services is expected by the market which offers services using online processes. SAP is often at the core of these ecosystems due to its scalability and interconnection with other specialised applications. This type of interconnection of systems has become the new norm.

Data collection, processing, security and privacy are but some of the concerns of customers. Systematic collection of data including seamless integration and extension of processes across multiple applications are part of the customer’s expectations, albeit unseen.

Once SAP forms the core of the ICT ecosystem, the ROI concerns will not stop once SAP integration is complete. Instead, organisations carrying a large SAP licensing investment would naturally dwell on maximising the ROI. Let us explore the risks associated with achieving this ROI now SAP has shifted the definition of user licensing.

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Conclusion: An ERP implementation can be one of an organisation’s biggest investments when considering implementation services, licences, hosting and support. ERP implementations and major version upgrades continue to be endorsed the world over, suggesting ROI continues to be positive. In scenarios where an ERP tool has been implemented or upgraded but has not been reviewed for years, especially in a changing operating environment, the intermediate step of a health check can drive significant value through adjusting and performing minor upgrades to the system for less investment than a new implementation or major upgrade.

As health checks are a periodic activity outside of business-as-usual, they often benefit from a different perspective, so organisations often use external consultants. While health checks should yield outputs that consider risk and value, ensuring the accuracy of findings is paramount in ensuring targeted value creation. To do this, organisations should consider several factors in the setup, execution and output of health checks.

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Conclusion: Covid-19 has already had severe global impacts even though the total impact is yet to be fully dimensioned. Further restrictions are foreseen in Australia. Its implications will be long term and disrupt the way we conduct business in future and the way we interact socially and a ‘new normal’ will emerge. No business will be immune and during this dislocation both challenges and opportunities will arise.

At IBRS we believe that it is critical to take the long view on how the crisis will evolve and be prepared for the waves of change which will follow.

Download your COVID-19 Survival Kit Covid-19-Survival-Kit.pdf

IBRS workforce transformation advisor Joseph Sweeney said many government departments had to navigate difficult IT environments that were only part-way through their digital transformations, with some systems in the cloud, and other legacy software still on premise.

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