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.

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.

Full Story.

With the outbreak and continued spread of the recent Coranavirus, or COVID-19, your business continuity plan (BCP) may need to be put in motion.

IBRS has created the Business Continuity Planning: Pandemic Scenario template to test your BCP using the potential COVID-19 pandemic.

Download and use this template to ensure your organisation is well prepared.

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Conclusion: This month has seen a surge in merger and acquisition transactions, and discussions regarding the increased level of acquisitions in the past year. A growing trend of private equity firms investing in service providers was also flagged. This represents a shift in the market, as vendors become more established, profitable and more attractive to private equity investors. The opportunity to drive greater profitability, and demand for specialised technologies and services, also act as incentives for investment and provide vendors with resources to develop and offer a wide range of targeted, high-quality services to their customers.

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Being prepared: IBRS has created a BCP checklist to help you create and/or update your business continuity plan.

This diagram is to be used in the following ways:

  • A checklist to ensure all BCP steps have been actioned and/or updated as required
  • An easy reminder to update key supporting documents to the BCP to remain current which include:
    • Enterprise risk frameworks
    • Business impact analysis documents
    • Evacuation and lockdown procedures
    • Recovery plans and testing of these plans
    • IT disaster recovery plans
    • Communication plans
    • Regular executive reporting

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Conclusion: As Australia’s use of consultancy services continues to grow, so too does the need for businesses to obtain value from these engagements quickly and effectively. Key to obtaining this value is the organisation’s ability to easily and rapidly provide consultants and contractors with the specific context of your business, your customers and your unique challenges.

By providing the organisational context quickly, you can mitigate time, scope and budget creep, improve the quality of outputs developed by consultants and ensure that consequent plans are actionable and genuinely valuable for your business.

However, the ability to provide the needed organisational context quickly and effectively to consultants remains a common organisational challenge, and therefore a pitfall for successful vendor engagement. This paper covers how you can overcome this pitfall.

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Conclusion: Choosing to simplify the SAP migration project by removing irrelevant KPIs could increase adoption. This is the common thread for organisations that have successfully undertaken the SAP migration from on-premise to the Cloud.

Choosing an SAP certified practitioner with S/4HANA migration expertise helps reduce migration risk and enables a simpler migration strategy. SAP design for the S/4HANA suite replaces the extensive tables structures of the ECC series with a new digital core, in memory processing and reduces data storage costs.

Project risk can be minimised by considering these during the planning stage:

  1. An experienced SAP S/4HANA project team.
  2. Fully engaged executive sponsors and users.
  3. Early user engagement and user training.
  4. Allow testing to increase user confidence and reduce fear of data loss.
  5. Not underestimating the impact organisational issues will have on the project timeline.

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Conclusion: Pandemic planning is a strategic approach to business continuity that anticipates and prepares for a widespread outbreak of an infectious disease.

Business continuity planning can have an over-emphasis on short-term technology platforms failing, but as part of business continuity planning consideration needs to be given to the potential risk of an outbreak of a disease that could spread and may not be resolved quickly. The time of risk may go over several months or longer. Some forecasts for the coronavirus speculate it could take 12 to 18 months to come up with a vaccine.

The impact and planning needs to consider both internal and external factors; that is, how the pandemic event may impact employees and the organisation’s ability to keep its business operating. External factors will include the impact of the pandemic event on external service providers, suppliers and customers.

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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, security issues that concern businesses have been prominent. In particular, high profile security incidents in 2019 have resulted in a greater awareness of challenges faced by vendors and businesses when preparing for and responding to security concerns. One particular vulnerability flagged is that security initiatives and responses have trouble keeping step with new threats, technologies and security frameworks. It is necessary for both vendors and customers to view security as part of a framework that can adapt to change quickly, and accommodate challenges that arise with highly unexpected variables. Security specialists and frameworks can provide a good basis for strategies and response measures, but the capacity to recognise and respond to unforeseen incidents and threats is also critical.

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Conclusion: Australian organisations must have strong disaster recovery plans, be it for natural disasters or man-made disasters. The plans need to deal with the protection and recovery of facilities, IT systems and equipment. It is also critical that the plan deals with the human side of the impact of a disaster on the workforce. What planning needs to be done, what testing will be done, what will happen during a disaster and what needs to be done after a disaster?

This planning can be complex and confronting. Whilst testing the failover of IT systems can be relatively straightforward, testing the effectiveness of the workforce side of a plan will be difficult, and may even disturb employees who may prefer to think “surely it will never happen to us”.

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Conclusion: Two key supporting artefacts in the creation of pragmatic incident response plans are the incident response action flow chart and the severity assessment table. Take time to develop, verify and test these artefacts and they will be greatly appreciated in aiding an orderly and efficient invoking of the DRP/BCP and restoration activities.

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Conclusion: The entering of a strategic partnership with a client or prospect by a major vendor, e. g. more than $50k paid p. a., is aimed at convincing them that mutual benefits such as helping them gain a competitive advantage or achieving major cost reductions, will accrue. When pressed on the likely benefits to the vendor, and assuming no financial equity is involved, one tactic some vendors use is to propose participation in a prestigious early software support program to jointly enhance their market image.

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Conclusion: This month, regulatory frameworks for the ICT industry and their interaction with IT businesses and customers have been prominent. The private sector has been more vocal about the need for government involvement and the government has been searching for industry input in areas of interest. Areas that are vulnerable and require government protocols and standards, as well as regulations, must be flagged. In addition, frameworks that may have negative impacts on local industry or global trade efforts if other market standards conflict must also be considered. It is critical that vendors, agencies and advocacy groups work together when setting frameworks in order to produce new and better business outcomes, as well as support government regulatory functions.

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Conclusion: Recognition of revenue and recording of objectively verifiable historical costs are the foundation of globally accepted accounting practices. These practices in turn provide transparency and consistency of reporting to improve the confidence with which enterprises conduct business and undertake trade, nationally as well as internationally.

Unfortunately, many enterprise architectures lack models that address this most critical of elements within an organisation. This absence of cost analysis means the recommendations from enterprise architects (EAs) can lack business credibility, rely on subjective assessments or are stymied by biases, cultural drag and ignorance of the true cost of the technology portfolio. Therefore, EAs must present business leaders with analysis from enterprise architecture (EA) that not only contains cost based on basic accounting practices, but also employs other important economic models, analysis and reporting techniques such as total cost of ownership, activity-based costing and technical debt.

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Conclusion: Finding technologies that meet print demand across differing personas is challenging. CIOs are being asked to replace printed documents with digital workflows but many formal documents are still printed for boards, corporate stakeholders, consumers and management. The answer can be to reduce the cost of printing and provide greater flexibility rather than simply removing printing. Remote print solutions in the Cloud should be investigated as a viable alternative to on-premise printing.

Remote worker definition is becoming broader as organisations look to reduce their footprint across leased buildings. Workers are looking at flexibility to perform their roles wherever work can be completed. The solution can be remote printing that is secure, easy to use and reliable.

Organisations need to consider print software that is operating system agnostic and allows the workforce to print from any location securely. This could eliminate the need to own or lease print hardware in your business.

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Conclusion: Stage gate reviews can be a highly effective governance tool that can materially enhance project outcomes; however, their value can be eroded by poor design, a lack of planning, or if they duplicate the objectives of other governance processes. To ensure stage gates are designed to deliver enhanced project outcomes, four key areas of consideration should be addressed: risk, context and purpose, delivery, and scheduling. Addressing these areas will ensure that stage gates address a defined and unique objective and contribute to overall project success.

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Related Articles:

"Being a good customer of consulting Part 1: The importance of a client-side project manager in consulting engagements" IBRS, 2019-11-02 01:24:20

"Being a good customer of consulting Part 2: Driving value and successful outcomes by aligning RFP scope to supplier skills" IBRS, 2019-12-05 05:15:44

Conclusion: A foundation for virtually all IT vendors is to work to position themselves as a ‘leader’. This might be for a specific set of products, solutions or services.

IBRS client inquiries often include the question: “Which vendor is the leader for a specific solution?” This suggests that if a vendor may be perceived to be the leader then they may also be the best solution. Yet it is not unusual that several competing vendors all have statements or references that point to them being a leader.

Being a leader can mean many different things in terms of competing vendors, and can also be fluid as vendors are always working to improve their offerings and grow their businesses. Buyers need to understand exactly what is meant if a vendor is called a leader and recognise that this is only one factor to consider when deciding which solutions or vendors will best serve their specific needs and for their specific environment.

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Conclusion: This month, the launch of plans to develop new data centres have been prominent. The market has experienced a heightened demand for storage and associated services, with adoption driven by increased awareness amongst business users and evolving technologies specifically targeted to perform functions, such as the protection of critical assets and data. New unified technologies to meet a higher demand for the integration of applications, data and management solutions have also prompted growth. It is necessary for vendors to identify market gaps and offer new solutions to customers to stay relevant in an environment that is constantly changing. The development of new solutions to cater to customers who demand new ways to store, manage and use their data is essential, and an ongoing process.

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Conclusion: If your organisation has not entered a phase 1 managed print services providers (MPSP) agreement then having a clear understanding of your network connectivity, print assets and security requirements is essential before progressing to a tender. The business case needs to deliver at least 20 % savings on the current arrangements before considering value-add services to justify the request for proposal (RFP) process.

Enterprises entering phase 2 agreements with MPSPs should examine the value-add services and determine how they will contribute to further savings. Vendors will be offering automated workflows, data analytics, security and consulting services to increase the contract value.

If use case benefits are unclear, run a request for information (RFI) to enable comparative analysis of vendor capabilities.

Prior to developing the RFP, consider use cases that look at B2B or B2C workflow efficiency such as:

  1. Integration of print activities with other delivery processes
  2. Reducing resources to deliver improved outcome
  3. Accelerate the shift to digital transformation.

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Conclusion: Shifting end users to a digital service delivery channel is more cost-effective for most scenarios and most organisations. The return on investment is through a reduced volume of low-value interactions and an increase in the volume of high-value interactions within high-cost traditional channels. This is a strategic tactic for many organisations and mature ones will have this articulated in a channel management strategy with defined channel migration/shift/uptake targets.

If that channel migration target is not at the centre of the key performance indicator (KPI) design before it gets rolled out to front line staff, organisations run the risk of creating internal tension between their departments which in turn slows down the rate of transformation.

Well thought out and designed KPIs are a critical success factor in the time it takes for an organisation to see a return on the investment in service delivery transformation.

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Conclusion: When engaging the market for consulting services, estimating the resource mix, including experience and skills, can form an excellent basis for evaluating if what is being proposed by consultants is likely to be optimal for the scope, and effective, given the environment of the purchasing organisation.
There are four main elements that should be considered:

  1. Engagement and project management
  2. Technical, strategic or design elements
  3. Guided, repetitive or high-volume elements
  4. Intellectual property.

The rationale for these, and approaches to consider when evaluating each, are discussed below.

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Conclusion: Unless the attributes of user stories (agile) or high-level requirements (waterfall) are succinct and testable, business systems specifications will lack rigour and could compromise the system’s integrity. To ensure these attributes, i. e. succinct and testable, are present, the stories and high-level requirements should be peer reviewed to identify content that is unclear or just expressing an unrealistic ‘want/wish’ list.

It is important the stories or high-level requirements contain sufficient context to enable systems requirements, i. e. functional and non-functional, to be developed because unless they do it will be difficult to prioritise them based on business drivers.

Similarly, the results of user acceptance testing should be peer reviewed to ensure the agreed requirements have been met and the output is verifiable.

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Conclusion: Onboarding is a critical process when hiring new employees. Poor first impressions can impact the potential success of new employees, and potentially the productivity or benefits that an organisation may have been expecting when adding the new employees. Worst case is a new highly skilled employee decides quickly that the organisation is not a good fit for them, and they leave it to find a better one.

Software tools are available to assist with the onboarding experience and process.
These tools aim to assist in several ways including automation of administrative tasks such as getting HR documents out to new hires, providing e-learning tools, tracking new hire progress, ensuring governance, and managing workflows and checklists.

Tools can help improve the overall efficiency and potential effectiveness of the onboarding process, and importantly help develop a repeatable and consistent process that all hiring managers in an organisation can utilise. Onboarding is of course about welcoming a new employee into the organisation, helping them get up to speed quickly in terms of their new role and the organisation, and providing them with the support to be productive as quickly as possible. The importance of the ‘personal’ contribution to the process cannot be forgotten or replaced by software tools.

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Conclusion: It is not uncommon for IBRS to see vendors delaying licensing negotiation for renewals until the very last month via a variety of tactics. By delaying negotiation vendors can limit customers’ time for reviewing their options to reduce the overall licensing spend through either better licensing packages and licensing optimisation processes. Clients should put in place practices that reduce vendors’ ability to apply delaying tactics and put vendors on notice that this tactic is no longer tolerated.

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Conclusion: Despite its widespread adoption, enterprise architecture (EA) continues to suffer from the perception that in a world of lean start-ups, design thinking and agile delivery, it is simply not pragmatic. As a discipline EA is shrouded in language that can be seen as alien or obtuse with many practitioners quick to launch into discussions of frameworks, meta-models, methodologies, notations and ultimately tools. The result is EA has become stayed and stifled in archaic notations and models often inaccessible to anyone outside the fold.

Just as software development, project management and product management have all undergone an ‘agile reformation’ in areas where traditional approaches had failed, EA is entering its own ‘revolution’ with the emergence of ‘architecture thinking’ and ‘lean tooling’. If successful, these trends may establish a new manifesto that heralds a reformation of the EA discipline’s core practices, a renaissance in EA tooling and a turnaround in the perception of its value.

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Conclusion: This month, discussions regarding partnerships and acquisitions with the specific aim of expanding reseller businesses to include managed services have been prominent. Specifically there have been a number of investments, acquisitions and partnerships to transition resellers into service providers. This type of consolidation can be beneficial by enhancing offerings, assisting with collaboration and evolution, as well as providing access to new skills and products vendors have been lacking. Investments have also been made to educate traditional resellers on the benefits of becoming managed service providers with a focus on obtaining new customers and channel distribution of managed services. This flags a shift in customer demand for service-based value models which can be specifically targeted to individual business needs, and will ultimately be positive for both vendors and their clients.

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