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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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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Conclusion: This month, there has been a range of company acquisitions, consolidations and partnerships in the managed services industry. These types of purchases can allow vendors to obtain resources necessary to adapt to emerging industries and new offerings. Purchasing providers can be beneficial, expanding and enhancing a firm’s products and services with the successful integration of companies. This has resulted in trends including more targeted purchases such as company assets, or the amalgamation of a number of vendors with very different specialties to provide new offerings and adapt to market shifts. Failure to adapt offerings and business structures which allow for these changes can impact on vendor credibility and is critical in a market where proactive, innovative and highly specialised providers are required by customers.

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Conclusion: Given the frequency of acquisitions within the information technology (IT) sector, it is prudent that clients of the organisations involved spend time to consider the possible outcomes or consequences of the acquisition, and in particular if the outcomes are likely to be good or bad news for them.

Acquisitions are likely to always involve changes in staff. The staff most at risk of being made redundant are usually in non-client-touching administration roles, such as finance, supply or HR. What clients do need to think about are possible changes to key technical or product development teams, as well as key staff that they deal with on a regular basis.

The other area where impacts may be felt is in the future direction of ongoing product development, with outcomes that can again be positive or negative for clients.

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Related Articles:

"Acquisitions Part 1: Determining the goals" IBRS, 2018-12-03 09:49:50

"Mergers, Acquisitions and Divestitures: What does it mean to your business?" IBRS, 2017-01-01 10:35:33

"Running IT-as-a-Service Part 28: IT-as-a-Service Procurement Maturity Model" IBRS, 2017-03-04 16:52:54

"Running IT-as-a-Service Part 46: Mergers and acquisitions impact on service contracts" IBRS, 2018-09-04 13:46:42

Conclusion: Increasingly, IT departments are looking for ways to divest their operations of undifferentiated activities – that is, activities that are common among most organisations. One technology that is ubiquitous across every organisation, in every vertical sector, is end-user computing. Theoretically, it should be an easy area of IT to be deployed via a fully managed service. In reality, IBRS has seen more failures in the space than successes.

The reasons why fully managed (aka “as-a-Service”) end-user computing initiatives fail is a result of the initial rationale for the go-to-market strategy and the resulting request for proposal (RFP).

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Related Articles:

"IBRS Compass: Beyond the Desktop: Creating a Digital Workspace Strategy for Business Transformation" IBRS, 2016-01-02 11:39:29

"The Components of a Self-Service Desktop" IBRS, 2014-10-01 18:36:09

"The use and abuse of Personas for end-user computing strategies" IBRS, 2017-03-04 16:53:10

  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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 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.

Read more ...

Conclusion: This month, discussions regarding the need to strengthen security and recovery solutions have been prevalent. The increased number of breaches which compromise private user data and interfere with business operations has become apparent. While technologies and frameworks can assist with avoiding and recovering from security events, weaknesses still exist when integrating security strategies with company structures and culture. Human error, and the failure to educate or provide all employees with skills to avoid, detect or respond to security events, has been flagged as a particular concern. Any security structure must provide resources that can support employee vigilance and slot into a company’s culture.

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Conclusion: Acquisitions are a frequent occurrence amongst information and communication technology (ICT) vendors and solution providers. The outcomes of an acquisition or merger will impact clients as well as the employees of the organisations.

Clients and employees should invest in thinking about the announced acquisitions, what the stated goals are for the acquisition, and what exactly might be the reasons and likely outcomes of the acquisition. Whilst clients and employees are unlikely to be able to influence an acquisition being completed, it may be in their interest to take steps to help secure their own position, to either capitalise on the opportunities or reduce the risk of any possible negative outcomes.

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Related Articles:

"Running IT-as-a-Service Part 28: IT-as-a-Service Procurement Maturity Model" IBRS, 2017-03-04 16:52:54

"Running IT-as-a-Service Part 46: Mergers and acquisitions impact on service contracts" IBRS, 2018-09-04 13:46:42

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, IT vendor acquisitions and partnerships have been prominent. The incentive for companies with disparate products and services to consolidate has increased, resulting in strategic arrangements aimed at expanding offerings and future company developments. However, this kind of consolidation can result in difficulties when separate entities make efforts to integrate. This type of integration requires an orderly transition and establishing a solid foundation for ongoing operations to maximise benefits associated with new resources. Detailed planning and execution is necessary to establish direct relationships and better understand the resources available, customer base and externals from both companies and allow for a more consistent fit between internal departments as well as a framework for practical and flexible implementation of plans.

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Conclusion: When scanning the market to find new solutions or vendors, it is usual to consider who else uses the solutions, the size of the organisation and their customer base. Vendors often publish examples of clients that use their solutions, and particularly like highlighting those clients that represent well-known global or local brands.

Whilst being nice to know, the details provided are usually very shallow, and should never be relied on in terms of influencing a buying decision. It will take a significant effort to get any details that may actually help a project team, and in many cases, the detail will simply not be available.

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Related Articles:

"Don’t let poor research cloud your thinking" IBRS, 2015-12-02 19:54:39

"Embedding research and advisory into an organisation" IBRS, 2016-07-02 04:20:00

Conclusion: Carried out using reliable cost and performance metrics, a benchmarking exercise can yield significant benefits. Conversely, when costs are unclear and few performance measures are available, IT managers may struggle to justify their budget and enhance service delivery.

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Related Articles:

"Benchmarking - A Waste of Time or a Taste of Wine" IBRS, 2003-07-28 00:00:00

"Identifying and comparing IT costs - Why it is a must" IBRS, 2010-08-30 00:00:00