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.

Conclusion: Increasing the IT literacy of business managers and professionals has sharpened their interest in buying off-the-shelf software to meet immediate business needs, but potentially without the expertise to implement and support it, often leading to unexpected requests for IT support. When the request is a surprise, and there is a compelling business priority, IT workforce plans must be put to one side and changed to find the resources needed. When the dust has settled and the surprise element is a thing of the past, the IT governance group is bound to ask, ‘How did this surprise occur and what can be done to ensure it does not happen again’? It is a reasonable question and one that needs a cogent response.

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Conclusion: Reimagining the ERP strategy will require IT and business collaboration to ensure requirements are clear. Retaining the 5–10 year old ERP system1 may serve back office functions but this may impede innovation. ERP customisation is being replaced by vendors who deliver regular updates to their SaaS ERP model. This provides innovation which could reduce the need for complex business cases.

ERP vendors have signalled sunset on support for older ERP systems to challenge organisations to embrace modernisation in the next five years2. This seems far away but experience suggests laggards could see skills shortages and higher costs as the deadline approaches.

ROI measures successful ERP migrations but SaaS models will challenge this. Organisations will need to hold regular conversations to understand these competing parameters. Business leaders will question business requirements; however, innovation should not be ignored during the development of the new ERP strategy.

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Conclusion: This month, there has been increased discussion regarding security services; in particular, the growth of the Australian security service provider industry and benefits associated with procuring locally. Now that customers recognise security as a basic function, a strong local security services sector has evolved. Local vendor expertise within the Australian market, regulations, customer demands and the security environment as it pertains to Australian businesses is invaluable when establishing mechanisms to avoid and respond to security incidents. Security is a necessity, but vendors must be prepared, and more importantly understand the local market, as well as businesses, to ensure customers can avoid, continually educate staff about and respond to security incidents effectively.

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Conclusion: Email is one of the most pervasive IT applications spread throughout organisations of all sizes. It is hard to imagine any employee in any organisation not having an email account. It is critical that all organisations have a formal Email Policy that clearly spells out what every employee’s responsibilities are in terms of usage of their email accounts, as well as what is not allowed or inappropriate usage. Additionally, the use of social platforms (for example, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram) has given rise to the need for organisations to also have policies that incorporate acceptable and unacceptable usage of social platforms, especially in terms of representing the organisation.

It is also important to establish guidelines for the expected etiquette and best practices around email and social platform usage; for example, when not to use email when another form of communication would be more effective, such as a phone call or conducting a meeting.

It should not be assumed that all employees know what is expected of them in terms of usage of these platforms, or how best to manage the information they handle every day.

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Conclusion: The aim of IBRS’s CRM modernisation series of advisory papers is to help organisations create a contemporary CRM strategy, not to advocate for specific solutions. Many organisations are considering two powerful players in the CRM space as part of their modernisation efforts: Salesforce and Microsoft. These two vendors are the most encountered local players when talking about CRM systems at the high end of the market.

We have selected these two vendors to illustrate the nuances in the pricing structure for licensing and total costs of services.

Comparing the two vendors’ solutions is complicated by the fact that each packages different aspects of the modern CRM in different modules, and prices them in different ways. This paper strives to provide clarity for organisations attempting to evaluate the two solutions. More importantly, it is an example of how the ‘devil is in the detail’ when it comes to total cost of service of SaaS-based solutions.

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Conclusion: The ICT Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) is, more often than not, focused on technology providing for redundancy of infrastructure and systems, including data back-up and data recovery. Whilst these components are important and necessary, we often oversimplify the need for business resumption of the ICT business, which in turn will impact ICT availability. The need to ensure people are part of the planning is critical to success. Often the disaster, whether it be a technology issue, a business issue, such as a fire or denial of access to key sites, or an environmental issue such as a flood or storm, can equally affect the need for expanded operations centres and larger than normal help desk support functions.

Effective planning and testing of the plan, for all aspects of a probable disaster scenario and the ICT Business Resumption Plan (BRP) to support the business as a whole, is necessary. Effective testing of the DRP and BRP for ICT must be a high priority for any CIO to ensure service levels are maintained. Failure to do so will increase the risk of ICT to the business.

Any test of your DRP and ICT BRP should include business and customer involvement to provide your organisation confidence that all known risks have been successfully mitigated. The oversight of the testing of these plans must be planned and conducted by an independent body (preferably a consultancy that has knowledge in the organisation business world, or your ICT advisory service).

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Conclusion: When engaging the market for suppliers, the objective of the procurement process is to select the supplier with the most suitable approach, who is able to accurately define the scope, and deliver in an effective and risk-mitigated way. In the context of a full project, for a proportionally minor investment, and a comparable amount of time and effort from key stakeholders, a competitive and paid discovery phase, involving multiple prospective suppliers, can yield significantly better outcomes for projects than through request for proposal (RFP) alone. The benefits include the ability to trial the delivery team, more accurately define scope, validate assumptions and hybridise the best of several informed approaches.

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Conclusion: This month, attention has been drawn to vendors and managed service providers requiring customer transformation or migration to new frameworks and associated customer reluctance to do so. For instance, platform enhancements may necessitate migration to new systems or upgrades because of an inability to support ageing systems. Old platforms may simply not be compatible with newer resources, technologies or procurement models. However, these types of enhancements can be disruptive or costly for customers if they are not prepared for changes. Further difficulties can arise with existence of intertwined, hybrid systems within enterprises or systems which perform critical functions if changes interfere with business operations. Simply removing the capacity to access ageing systems and associated support is not sufficient. Businesses must prepare in advance when investing in products and services, in conjunction with vendors. The development of strategies and sharing responsibility for forward planning, education and engagement, as well as support for shifts, are necessary. The provision of other resources or advice from vendors, or obtaining services from third-party specialists dedicated to transformation strategy development and implementations, can also be beneficial. Whilst vendors must evolve, customers must also be prepared to make these changes and understand what kind of impact it can have on their operations.

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Conclusion: With Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) deployments the fastest growing and most deployed Cloud service globally, particular attention should be given to evaluation and selection approaches that align to the solution being selected. When evaluating SaaS solutions, greater confidence in the applicability and value of a solution can be gained via a rapid demonstration and trial-based evaluation versus the same level of time and cost committed to a full request for proposal (RFP) process.

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Conclusion: ICT health checks enable organisations to better understand risks and prioritise activities to both maintain and improve the performance and reliability of ICT in support of business outcomes.

ICT health checks can be conducted as a light touch in the first instance, with detailed in-depth health checks being conducted as follow-up activities in specific areas where and when necessary.

An effective ICT health check strategy will be business-focused and not based on technology alone. Implanting health checks as part of your annual ICT budget planning will provide timely advice on the organisation’s ICT health and provide in-built regular reviews of ICT health to ensure business outcomes are achieved without unnecessary risk.

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Conclusion: ICT disaster recovery plans (DRPs) have been in place for many years. Fortunately, invoking these plans is rare, but just like insurance plans, it is wise to ensure the fine print is valid, up to date and tested on a regular basis to minimise restoration of business services reliant on the complex range of IT enablers in place. Adoption of general Cloud services and the ever-changing ICT asset landscape requires careful alignment with the DRP to be ready when the restoration is required.

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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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Shadow IT sounds like a covert — quite possibly dark — force. And to some people it may well be. But the truth is both far simpler and more complex.

According to Cisco, Shadow IT is the use of IT-related hardware or software by a department or individual without the knowledge of the IT or security group within the organisation.

“Shadow IT is a term that originally came from people having little apps they brought into the business themselves. Dropbox is the classic one, but there are plenty of them,” says Dr Joseph Sweeney, advisor at leading Australian IT research firm, IBRS.

“Today, shadow IT extends beyond consumer apps to the as-a-service delivery of enterprise business capability, such as Human Capital Management.”

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Conclusion: This month, the high activity in mergers and acquisitions has continued. However, there has been additional discussion on the impact of these acquisitions on the industry in general, as well as the high volume, and whether this type of activity could have a negative effect on the Australian market – in particular, if the current regulatory frameworks governing mergers and acquisitions are sufficient to protect competition and avert potential misuse of market power. It is critical that regulators are aware of industry trends and how new practices may affect the market, as well as be open to feedback from vendors that have direct experience with circumstances regulators may not be familiar with.

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Conclusion: In times of business disruption, the value of a pragmatic and accessible incident response plan (IRP) will become the main tool in getting the business back to normal operation, and minimising loss of revenue, services and reputation. This holds true during the time of stress when attempting to get back to normal operations. Using the analogy of taking out insurance, insurance is usually highly recommended or great to have, but hopefully rarely required and of little or no use when you need it to find it is out of date and/or incomplete. The same principle applies when you need to activate the IRP to quickly get that critical business function operating to sufficient levels.

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Related Articles:

"Pragmatic business continuity planning" IBRS, 2018-08-01 09:12:08

"Testing your business continuity plan" IBRS, 2019-05-31 13:39:29

"Top 10 considerations when running an incident response drill" IBRS, 2018-09-04 13:29:16

"What are the important elements of a Disaster Recovery Plan?" IBRS, 2016-08-30 01:17:08

Conclusion: The development of a strategic relationship between suppliers and public government agencies needs to be approached differently to that in the private commercial world. Government bodies are bound by procurement rules which require government agencies to regularly market-test provision of services, where value for money is the primary consideration. Government agencies cannot therefore have a strategic partnership with suppliers in the same manner as a commercial strategic partnership. The relationship must therefore be timeboxed to meet procurement policies such as the Commonwealth Procurement Rules and cannot be open-ended1.

Strategic vendors for government agencies are either critical to the delivery of business outcomes or are influential in the development of future business opportunities.

For strategic vendor management to be successful in government, both the government agency and the vendor need to commit to effective governance of the relationship and agree to share knowledge on business strategies and product development.

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Conclusion: Enterprise architecture (EA) framework standards, such as the Zachman Framework or The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF), are often promoted by advocates as complete solutions for organisations seeking to maximise business alignment and mitigate risk during major transformations through the use of an agreed set of structured planning practices.

However, the term ‘framework’ has become overloaded and not all industry offerings are created equal. Some frameworks provide well-defined content meta models while others provide detailed methodologies and some industry-specific reference models. Therefore, organisations must understand the elements that make up a complete EA framework, then ensure that they adopt aspects from multiple sources to provide complete coverage in support of a contemporary EA practice.

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Conclusion: Increasing competition where thin profit margins are the norm forces management to analyse business data more intently to identify ways to increase revenue and/or reduce operating costs. Similarly, in the public sector the aim is often to connect common data from multiple sources and determine if government programs are achieving their objectives.

To ensure the analysis is sound and the resulting scenarios can withstand scrutiny, management must rely on skilled and commercially astute data analysts1. The latter typically operate in small teams and may need to resolve data errors or inconsistent definitions of it to process the data correctly and interpret the results.

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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, a number of failures due to external vendor systems performing essential functions have been prominent. Disruption caused by these types of outsourced solution failures become disproportionate when they facilitate critical tasks conducted by consumers. Similarly, reactions can be disproportionate when tasks are deeply intertwined with others, such as government agencies requiring submissions of consumer information or reports to set schedules. These types of failures highlight the fragility of systems and the need for sturdy response measures in case of disruption – responses which must extend beyond technical and local issues, but also cater to practical matters. For instance, an acknowledgement from certain government agencies that consumers depend on vendors to fulfil regulatory requirements, and allowances from agencies when failures interfere with customers meeting their responsibilities to these agencies. Vendors require different layers of protection and responses. This includes dealing with externals and their associated issues that can increase difficulties of failures if not identified and factored into vendor response measures.

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Conclusion: During periods of business-as-usual activity or low project investment, organisations often consolidate or reduce thei.e.terprise architecture (EA) capability. Conversely, when entering a period of transformation or increased investment, organisations often look to increase their EA activity and so must take stock of the state of current EA practices.

This assessment should not only review the number and calibre of the individual architects within the EA team but also include reviewing and/or renewing the organisation’s commitment to the tools and techniques employed in the form of a chosen EA framework standard.

However, the term “framework” has become overloaded and not all industry offerings are created equal, nor are they contemporary. Therefore, it is important to understand the elements that make up a complete “standard” when it comes to EA frameworks. In most cases, a hybrid approach is required to provide coverage of all the necessary elements needed to ensure the EA team can support the delivery of outcomes aligned to business strategy.

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Related Articles:

"Architecture governance: Part 1 - a plan that is fit for purpose" IBRS, 2012-03-31 00:00:00

"Architecture Governance: Part 2 Effective Models for Project Reviews" IBRS, 2012-04-26 00:00:00

"Business Capability Modelling Part 1 - why you should do it" IBRS, 2011-12-27 00:00:00

"Business Capability Modelling Part 2 - what you should do" IBRS, 2012-01-27 00:00:00

"Business Strategy and Enterprise Architecture" IBRS, 2017-04-04 03:07:52

"Enterprise Architecture - do you need it?" IBRS, 2012-08-26 00:00:00

"Just enough enterprise architecture - supporting CIO decision making" IBRS, 2013-05-26 00:00:00

"Just enough enterprise architecture: supporting defensible strategic planning" IBRS, 2013-06-23 00:00:00

"Measuring the performance of an Enterprise Architecture team" IBRS, 2013-10-28 00:00:00

"The case for EA remains strong in the face of continual waves of transformation" IBRS, 2019-04-04 16:31:49

"The evolving role of Solutions Architects" IBRS, 2016-01-02 12:23:13

"Using models to link Strategy and Architecture" IBRS, 2011-06-30 00:00:00

Conclusion: Regular testing of the business continuity plan (BCP) has many benefits which go beyond ticking the mandatory compliance box to keep audit off the back of executives. Effective testing exercises ensure the BCP has been updated and includes sense-checking the completeness of resources required in the recovery strategies of critical business functions. Running regular BCP exercises also has the benefits of raising the importance of identifying weaknesses, aligning restoration time expectations and ensuring continuous improvement.

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Related Articles:

"Pragmatic business continuity planning" IBRS, 2018-08-01 09:12:08

"Top 10 considerations when running an incident response drill" IBRS, 2018-09-04 13:29:16

"What are the important elements of a Disaster Recovery Plan?" IBRS, 2016-08-30 01:17:08

Conclusion: This month, the number of tenders and plans has continued to grow, highlighting the important role projects play when it becomes necessary to replace legacy systems, capitalise on new or evolving solutions or simply adapt to changed business operations or environments. Customers understand that avoiding complacency and market disconnect is critical, yet this still exists, with project plans to replace technologies such as paper-based messaging or tape data storage being announced just this month. It is critical for vendors to provide advice and ongoing support for customers in order to strengthen and simplify migrations and transformation, and more importantly, identify project objectives and final goals when replacing legacy systems.

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Conclusion: Telecommunications services and the supporting infrastructure have historically been complex, costly and difficult to change. The modern technology landscape now allows for greater flexibility in the design of networks, and the telecommunications services of voice, video and data they deliver.

The use of software defined networking (SDN), Cloud-based standard operating environments (SOE) with unified communications (UC) and Cloud-based call centre solutions are now mature, secure and commonplace in the market.

These changes with the significantly reduced cost of physical connectivity (lines and links), which are now viewed as a commodity, enable the telecommunications landscape to be agile to each organisation’s business needs and delivered at greatly reduced costs.

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Conclusion: When faced with determining the long-term future of an ERP solution that has met the organisation’s needs, business and IT management must investigate and weigh up their strategic options.

To make an informed determination, business management must take ownership of the buying process in their role as demand managers while IT management and staff support the process by assuming the role of supply managers and technical advisors.

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Conclusion: Conducting effective business impact analysis details the business functions and provides further insight into the relative importance of each function and its criticality. The information is then used as the main source to develop business recovery strategies, the priority of restoration and identification of resources to aid in the restoration of business services. However, there are many challenges in performing this critical step in order to be best prepared when those business disruptions do occur.

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Related Articles:

"Business continuity planning challenges" IBRS, 2019-03-04 13:41:18

"Pragmatic business continuity planning" IBRS, 2018-08-01 09:12:08

"Top 10 considerations when running an incident response drill" IBRS, 2018-09-04 13:29:16

Conclusion: This month, discussions regarding rising costs associated with outsourcing have been prominent. Whilst benefits from outsourcing in the form of efficiency and financial savings have been clear for some time, customers can find that savings are not as high as expected due to increased complexities associated with new offerings and associated implementation. For instance, customers that moved to the Cloud for storage and compute solutions benefited from the large number of vendors in the market and more competition. However, as the market has matured, customers demand more sophisticated offerings to leverage new technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. As a result, infrastructure and associated services have become more costly, coupled with add-ons and Software-as-a-Service costs. Whilst cost benefits remain a priority for customers, it is also important for thorough cost optimisation reviews, and the engagement of specialist services to rationalise and assist with the management and restraint of outsourcing expenses.

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Conclusion: In an environment where the quality of front line services is critical for customer loyalty, the call centre’s (or contact centre or help desk) performance is pivotal. A salient way to measure the call centre’s performance is to calculate its First Call issue Resolution rate (FCR), i. e. the rate at which received calls are resolved the first time while the caller stays online.

A 2019 survey of 300 contact/call centre managers found if the rate is around 70 %1, the call centre is performing well and likely to be satisfying the needs of customers. Conversely if the FCR is well below 70 %, IT management must initiate strategies to increase it. Failure to do so will adversely affect the customer satisfaction rate.

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Conclusion: IT organisations responding to mergers & acquisitions or migrating to multi-sourced environments of Cloud and service contracts should establish service providers governance frameworks that favour federated organisations’ principles. It requires maintaining central consistency (e. g. policymaking) whilst allowing local autonomy in certain areas (e. g. hardware purchases). This will leverage the economy of scale, allow the acquisition of local services and products more efficiently, and permit the introduction of new geographies whenever needed in a consistent manner.

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Conclusion: Medium and large sized enterprises are complex, socio-technical systems that comprise many interdependent resources – including people, information and technology – that must interact with each other and their environment in support of a common mission1. These complex entities undergo varying levels of transformation throughout their useful life in a continual quest to remain capable of fulfilling the business mission and achieving their desired business outcomes.

A mature enterprise architecture (EA) practice is extremely beneficial in supporting and enabling a business to transform in a considered manner, to formulate and execute their evolving strategies. Whether in response to traditional business, modern digital or the emerging AI-enabled transformation agendas, the case for adoption of EA remains as strong as ever.

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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, discussions regarding offshoring initiatives have been prominent following announcements by two vendors that plans are in progress to send work overseas. Though offshoring can be beneficial in terms of cost and the ability to obtain talent not available in the local market, the approach can cause difficulties for organisations. For instance, local protest or a loss of customer confidence can arise due to perceptions that offshoring practices are simple cost-cutting efforts which come at the expense of quality service. However, offshoring initiatives can be critical to meet demands for vendors to provide new, quality offerings in a highly competitive environment. The need to go beyond the local market is driven by more than mounting staff costs. Although risks associated with cultural barriers or customer backlash exist, benefits can be significant when providing unique and high-quality offerings. Vendors must achieve a balance between local and overseas services, as well as maintaining a positive view of offshoring as more than a simple cost-cutting exercise which results in low quality service, to an exercise that can enhance offerings resulting in improved services.

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Conclusion: The blending of different corporate cultures can be a huge risk factor that can significantly impact the success or failure of an acquisition. Maintaining multiple corporate cultures is extremely difficult to do, and the chances of failure are high. Cultures usually have upsides and downsides. When trying to keep cultures separate, employees tend to only see the “upsides” of what their peers have, and downside issues undermine employee morale due to feelings that they are not being treated fairly or equally.

It is IBRS’s view that ultimately efforts to have two conflicting corporate cultures coexist after an acquisition are likely to fail over time. The most dominant culture will ultimately be the culture of the organisation and employees who did not sign up for that culture will look for exit opportunities.

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Conclusion: Organisations need to plan to quickly and successfully recover business operations by creating and updating business continuity plans (BCPs) supported by disaster recovery plans (DRPs). However, there are many challenges to overcome in order to keep these plans useful in readiness when business disruption eventuates.

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Conclusion: Unless software testing practices are rigorous and enforced, system defects will continue and compromise meeting of service delivery objectives. Whilst defect-free code, and clean vendor software patches, are an objective, their realisation may be as elusive as the so-called paperless office.

To significantly reduce defects, and minimise risks, IT management must implement a program that elevates quality ahead of expediency and pragmatism, even if it is at the expense of the project’s schedule.

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Conclusion: What to monitor and how you respond to the data is often poorly documented and not fully understood until after a failure occurs. In this world of “no surprises”, effective monitoring is a key success factor. If an organisation’s ICT monitoring strategy is to be successful it must be structured around the organisation’s business outcomes. The monitoring strategy framework is achieved through the alignment of the organisation’s critical-business functions, the ICT high-level design, the ICT architecture and the priorities set out in the organisation’s disaster recovery plan (DRP) as the primary influencing factors.
Key to an effective DRP is a clear understanding of the system architecture and design, with sound knowledge of the risks and weaknesses it brings in support of critical business functions. When the ICT monitoring strategy is based on this framework it will deliver a near real-time health status of the organisation’s ICT environment, allow for planning future capacity, and in the investigation of incidents when they occur. An effective monitoring strategy will be business-focused and not monitoring for monitoring’s sake.

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Conclusion: This month, security issues and responses to threats specific to managed service providers have been discussed. Attacks on vendors can be particularly serious because of provider interaction with customer environments and access to information. These difficulties can be exacerbated by other issues facing vendors, such as obtaining additional resources from contractors, inexperience or lack of expertise with complex, unfamiliar environments. Recent attacks on service providers have raised concerns because of threats to customer environments, as well as flow-on effects such as uncertainties relating to vendors and difficulties establishing trust with customers. New programs, education and vendor collaboration have been launched to address provider-specific security issues. It has been recognised that establishing best practices and protocols to help avert, detect and respond to security threats is required in the industry.

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Conclusion: Organisations develop unique cultures. It may be a deliberate and conscious effort of the executive team to define and put in place a culture which will influence the way the organisation works, its priorities and its attitudes. Or it may just be something that has evolved over time as an organisation has grown, added more employees, expanded its business, or entered new markets or geographies.

Acquisitions often occur based on external opportunities, such as growing market share, improving product offerings or gaining a competitive advantage. But it can be the internal issues of how similar or dissimilar the two corporate cultures are that can really impact the potential success of the acquisition.

If the corporate cultures are very different, care needs to be taken to understand this, and develop specific action and change management plans to support the merging of the cultures. This is significant as the impact of a culture change may hurt the acquired organisation which could reduce the capability of the acquired organisation, and perhaps the morale of the employees, resulting in high employee turnover.

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Conclusion: Cloud offerings are now commercially available, allowing CIOs to engage the technology offerings with a high degree of trust that the service is secure and responsive at reduced cost to in-house solutions.

CEOs have an obligation to ensure their organisation’s IT systems are cost-effective and meet the security accreditation defined by government (or their Board). PROTECTED Cloud services can reduce cost of operations and meet many of the CEO’s obligations for accreditation (and review) of services, and therefore better manage risk, to meet government and best practice commercial security requirements.

All PROTECTED Cloud data centres certified by ASD are physically located in Australia. Depending on your needs, they all meet Australian Government data sovereignty requirements and offer low latency and in-country technical support teams to assist clients. Provision of PROTECTED Cloud services allows the CIO to restructure IT, moving to a more agile and potentially lower cost option to provide the appropriate security approach.

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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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