Leadership & People

Positive change starts from the top. Great leadership drives teams to succeed, defines a positive culture and inspires the leaders of tomorrow. 

Much is written about what makes a good leader, and no one recipe or formula exists. The challenges facing our current and upcoming leaders vary wildly.

How teams thrive while dealing with internal politics, external ideas and failure are complex challenges every leader must learn to manage. You don’t have to do it alone.

IBRS is comprised of many ex-CIOs with a wealth of knowledge that can provide mentoring and advice to current and aspiring leaders. Our career development, networking and thought leadership resources help leaders solve problems and create workplace cultures geared towards success and satisfaction.

The Latest

25 January 2022: ServiceNow has recently launched ServiceNow Impact that provides AI-driven recommendations along with human-powered solutions on technical support, prescriptive guidance, preventive solutions, role-based training, curated content, and coaching using the Now Platform. Users will receive personalised recommendations on customer success, progress monitoring, platform architecture and performance management to improve their overall workflow automation.

ServiceNow’s AI is leveraged to deliver recommendations that allow users to optimise their existing ServiceNow platform, without integrating third party tools into the system. The solution also provides personal support through on-demand training, and dedicated expert teams and developer consulting depending on a user’s subscription package. 

Why it’s Important.

IBRS has observed a rise in the number of AI decision support services being integrated into workflow automation tools. Hyper-automation on decision-making processes built on top of existing workflow platforms and enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions is where most organisations will obtain the quickest impact from AI - specifically machine learning (ML). Therefore, instead of investing in separate ML tools and developing custom algorithms, it may be more prudent to leverage existing SaaS platforms emerging AI and ML capabilities.

In addition, many service providers that use AI to automate workplace processes, customer journey flows and enterprise spend management continue to expand their tool’s capabilities in terms of customised solutions to address each organisation’s requirements on value acceleration. In this regard, AI will continue to maintain its essential ‘invisible’ role by recommending better workflows, which in turn drive service quality and agility.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • System administrators
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

Look for opportunities to leverage AI (and ML) from existing investments in SaaS platforms. In particular, look for how AI is being used to make recommendations on improving workflow with low-code development platforms. Bespoke AI initiatives will be less utilised in favour of AI being added to already existing SaaS applications.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Machine Learning Operations (MLOps), the AI Productivity Fast Track
  2. Trends for 2021-2026: No new normal and preparing for the fourth-wave of ICT
  3. How can AI reimagine your business processes?
  4. VENDORiQ: ServiceNow to Acquire RPA Vendor Intellibot

The Latest

4 January 2022: RingCentral recently announced that it is expanding its telephony solutions through the Message Video Phone™ (MVP™) platform via a ‘bring your own carrier’ (BYOC) offering. The vendor will also enhance its service to enterprise call centre solutions by allowing Microsoft Teams clients in Australia to integrate the RingCentral app for embedded dialler integration, direct routing solution and fax, call-to-web and voicemail capabilities.

Why it’s Important

IBRS has observed a rise in the number of call centres integrating apps such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom in their operations for embedded phone features. In March 2021, MaxContact, a vendor of a Cloud-based call-centre solution, announced it is supporting integration of Microsoft Teams clients. 

The increased interest in integration of popular video collaboration solutions is a direct result of customers’ recent experiences with video calling. The pandemic has raised expectations for digital service delivery and omnichannel experiences.

IBRS predicts that within the next three to five years, video call centres will be common, and supplement existing in-house facilities. This will coincide with the majority of call centres adopting real-time agent solutions to off-load common service requests and free up operators to offer a deeper, hyper-personalised care that will increasingly include video. These companies will also leverage advanced real-time analytics and artificial intelligence that will accurately detect client sentiment and reaction in every digital interaction.

However, while white-glove service is ideal and will be the norm in the coming years, two challenges will arise. First, even if the technology is already available, it is too early to determine which industries will lead the way and what impact it will have on traditional call-centre outsourcing models. For instance, Australian banks have relocated their call centre operations back to Australia to streamline communications and quickly resolve issues firsthand.

Second, will be the value of outsourced call centres, especially in Asia Pacific where millions of business process outsourcing (BPO) workers in the Philippines cater to telecommunication, banking and insurance customers in the United States, Australia, Europe, Canada and Japan. Video calls will require more than just accent training to make it appear that the servicing company is based locally. The entire user experience - including the call centre environment - will need to be ‘localised’ for different markets.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • User experience/customer journey teams
  • Customer service teams
  • Call centre teams

What’s Next?

Call centre managers must invest time in exploring new modes of communication with the aim of enhancing customer relationship management (CRM) tools. However, given that it is highly profitable for vendors to take advantage of this trend in the next five years, call centre solution vendors will be looking for ways to differentiate themselves, while also supporting a wide range of common integrations.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. VENDORiQ: Why is Zoom Pivoting? Do You Need to Be on Top of the Fourth-Wave of Unified Comms?
  2. Better Practice Special Report: Microsoft Teams Governance
  3. VENDORiQ: CommsChoice becomes Australia's first vendor of Contact Centre for Microsoft Teams Direct Routing

The Latest

December 2021: Data centre and colocation service provider NEXTDC announced it will buy 20 per cent (AU$35m of equity) in Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider AUCloud to support the latter's Cloud platform zone expansion in Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide. These centres will be operational as early as the fourth quarter of 2022.

Why it’s Important

NEXTDC is a major data centre provider in Australia with strong contracts in the public and private sectors. By buying into AUCloud, the firm is preparing its position for what is expected to be a wave of 're-localisation' of Cloud services, bringing Cloud workloads back from geographically spread environments to smaller, Australian-based sites.

With re-localisation, enterprises can benefit from highly responsive support from regional Cloud providers that do not just ride the trend of introducing solutions based on US or European requirements and enforce it for local enterprises.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads

What’s Next?

Organisations must consider the advantages of working with localised Cloud service providers, especially those with a strong reputation in the industry. They have to look into the benefits that it can bring to their platform in terms of service and technology, delivering geographic redundancy while taking advantage of the proximity to their facilities. These localised services can help with latency and meet data security and compliance requirements demanded by some industries.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. The Industrialised Web Economy - Part 1: Cloud Computing
  2. VENDORiQ: Google Next: Distributed Cloud is More Than Hybrid and Multi-Cloud

Conclusion: Making a business case for human capital management (HCM) solutions can be undervalued by senior leadership who do not share the same perspective as the teams involved in the proposal. Securing their commitment through highlighting pain points and respective solutions can build momentum for digital transformation.

Read more ...

Conclusion: ICT leaders are increasingly expected to combine traditional technical skills with leadership competency in an agile and flexible environment. This often presents a challenge: how can leaders connect with teams and individuals, from across disciplines, rapidly, and in a positive performance manner that achieves organisational and employee outcomes.

This paper covers how the principles of situational leadership can be leveraged by ICT leaders, to influence the approach applied to their management of individuals and mixed teams, to drive cohesion, collaboration, and delivery, and avoid dysfunction.

Read more ...

The Latest

30 November 2021: Microsoft recently announced the release of Windows 11 SE in 2022, which is designed to support K-8 students’ blended learning needs in the classroom. The operating system (OS) will only be available on low-cost devices sold exclusively to educational institutions. Windows 11 SE was developed after consulting with teachers and students for 18 months, which resulted in removing the widgets section, adding an automatic backup of files to OneDrive, and launching apps in full screen mode. The new Surface Laptop SE for students as well as upcoming devices from Acer, ASUS, Dell, Dynabook, Fujitsu, HP, JK-IP, Lenovo and Positivo will carry the OS.

Why it’s Important

With the launch of Windows 11 SE, Microsoft hopes to influence educational technology teams to shy away from Chrome OS. Microsoft claims with this product, IT admins can take advantage of the simplified backend as well as bundled Microsoft and non-MS apps such as Minecraft for Education.

IBRS recently conducted a major study of the Australian education sector to explore issues relating to the transition to remote learning during the pandemic. IBRS discovered that it is not the OS, nor the device, that is the primary challenge. Rather, it is the identity, access and administration concerns safeguarding students' privacy that were the single biggest issue.

Microsoft Windows 11 SE markets itself as a student-friendly version to compete against Google Chrome OS. In Australia and New Zealand, it is unlikely to impact the relatively low (in comparison to international market) presence of Chrome OS.

Who’s impacted

  • Educational policymakers
  • CIOs
  • Educational ICT strategy leads 
  • Principals and senior leadership of higher education institutions
  • Digital workspace teams

What’s Next?

Based on IBRS’s series of consultations with the education sector, the group recommends educational institutions decide on robust or streamlined solutions based on their learners’ needs and not on the premise of fear of missing out (FOMO). Developers must continue to collaborate with their target market, allowing students to be exposed to professional tools that provide a headwind in accelerated learning. Likewise, stakeholders must constantly assess their technological devices and platforms and how these impact the learning styles of users.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Dr Sweeney on the Post-COVID Lessons for Education (Video Interview)
  2. Kids, Education and The Future of Work with Dr Joseph Sweeney - Potential Psychology - 25 July 2018
  3. Higher Education Technology Future State Vision
  4. BYOD in Education: A report for Australia and New Zealand

The Latest

30 November 2021: Enterprise automation software firm UiPath collaborates with business schools to support student training on robotic process automation (RPA). This is part of their program to develop students’ skills in automation technologies, especially for business and finance majors. The strategy is aimed at growing future demand for RPA among business (as opposed to technical) staff.

Why it’s Important

Microsoft successfully transformed MS Excel into a standard spreadsheet software program in universities and enterprises, and edged out Lotus 1-2-3 and Quattro Pro in the ‘80s. Having Excel built into the curriculum of most schools at that time solidified Excel’s adoption.

In a one-on-one executive interview with IBRS, UiPath’s executive revealed that while it is a relatively young vendor, it has donated millions of dollars to business schools as part of the company’s Academic Alliance partnerships. In the ANZ region, this includes:

  • University of Melbourne
  • Deakin University
  • Tower Australian College
  • University of Tasmania
  • Swinburne University of Technology
  • University of Wollongong
  • University of Auckland
  • Auckland University of Technology

UiPath’s goal is to train students early in using personal software robots to support the automation of manual processes, build smarter assistants, and create their startup similar to how Microsoft influenced developing spreadsheet skills in the ‘80s and ‘90s. In other words, the company is developing a new type of use case in the business and finance department where the launch of a non-IT version of the RPA will mean creating a domain for business majors, and not just for the IT department.

IBRS predicts that since RPA is rapidly becoming merged within the low-code everything ecosystem, it will play a vital role in business and finance even if it will take some more time for the technology to provide insights, predict outcomes and exercise self-healing. 

Who’s impacted

  • Educational policymakers
  • CIOs
  • Educational ICT strategy leads 
  • Principals and senior leadership of higher education institutions
  • Digital workspace teams

What’s Next?

IBRS recommends CIOs prepare for RPA to become a standard business staff tool over the next three to 10 years. Its accelerated adoption in universities will expand its scope of automating rule-based digital processes and advanced cognitive automation on unstructured data sources across industries. Furthermore, organisations need to recognise the shift in management approaches and process discovery by adopting more sophisticated solutions that will leverage no-code tools and AI-driven technology to achieve their target ROI.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Dr Sweeney on the Post-COVID Lessons for Education (Video Interview)
  2. Higher Education Technology Future State Vision
  3. Trends for 2021-2026: No new normal and preparing for the fourth-wave of ICT

The Latest

23 November 2021: SoftIron is developing an Australian facility to manufacture it’s high-performance data processing appliance. This is the company’s second facility after its California factory and they have plans to develop another centre in Berlin in the coming years. The planned edge manufacturing facility is expected to be the first component level computer manufacturing hub in Australia for several decades.

SoftIron’s New South Wales manufacturing facility is supported by a AU$1.5 million grant from the Department of Defence. The hardware provided by SoftIron will include open-source appliances for high performance data processing.

The vendor will leverage smaller-scale, automated ‘edge manufacturing’ systems and effectively side-step global supply chain bottlenecks.  

SoftIron claims that security-minded clients, such as the Australian Government, are increasingly concerned about the risks of supply chains that include foriegn entities suspected to have inserted spyware. Governments are already applying bans on foreign providers of communications and data processing hardware that power modern data centres. SoftIron claims the ability for clients to verify every aspect of a product - from the open source code to the supply chain of components and manufacturing cycle - is critical for trust in data centre appliance.

Why it’s Important

SoftIron’s entry into Australian tech manufacturing is welcome. Australia’s technology tech manufacturing was decimated by large-scale overseas production capabilities in the mid to late 80s, despite having some extraordinary world-leading products. For example, the world’s first battery-powered laptop, the Dulmont Magnum (aka the Kookaburra) designed and manufactured in Australia in 1984. Hartley Computers developed hardware and software locally in the same decade, before concentrating on supporting imported Wang minicomputers.

The SoftIron announcement raises several important considerations:

Supply Chain Risk

Procuring hardware from an foriegn manufacturing plants (such as POS and telecommunication systems) is now being flagged as a possible point of exposure to business espionage and spying. The complexity of international supply chains combined with the opaqueness of the firmware and code running on tech products, opens up many avenues for criminal and state actors to inject malware into products sold overseas. While China is a target of US suspicions, it should be noted that Australia's allies have engaged in similar activities in the past: in particular the US and Germany with encryption technologies, and the recent use of the ANoM phone app used to ensnare criminals.  

For Australian enterprises, the lack of visibility into the supply chain should be a growing concern. The only way to address this concern is to adopt a risk assessment policy that includes verifiability of the supply chain, and the firmware and code of products.

Support Chain

Edge manufacturing (aka micro-manufacturing) leverages the ever lowering costs of robotic manufacturing systems and (importantly) the lowering cost of programming such robots, to compete against the cost-efficiencies of huge factories in lower labor-cost countries. 

Technology manufacturing firms have traditionally driven costs down through economies of scale and labor savings. However, the global supply chain crunch due to the pandemic and slow-moving trade wars, coupled with rising labor costs globally, is causing a change in the equilibrium of manufacturing. 

Edge manufacturing employs robotic technologies and short-run production automation to deliver specialised products at a faster rate, at costs that are within the realm of those offered by large scale manufacturing, when transport, warehousing and related global supply chain costs are considered.  Edge manufacturing is less susceptible (though not immune) to global supply chain disruptions. 

Most importantly, edge manufacturing is highly agile and their entire manufacturing process is verifiable, making the model attractive for security conscious buyers. Finally, firms that locate their facilities here are covered by Australian laws and are therefore required to be certified to a compliance standard to ensure the level of data security is being met.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • CFO
  • Procurement managers

What’s Next?

IBRS believes that the national economy has a solid potential to benefit from edge manufacturing.  Recent economic modelling by IBRS and Insight Economics noted a 10% increase in organisations buying Australian software (as opposed to US and European solutions) would return close to a $1.5 billion uplift in the economy within a decade. This economic benefit would be significantly magnified if hardware was added.

Organisations can examine the premium put on closer collaboration with suppliers and vendors through this business model by:

  • Running a hypothetical stress tests on their current supply chain to understand how it affects their financial standing
  • Utilising local vendors while considering a third party risk assessment and compliance program that will fit their cyber security strategy
  • Assessing a vendor’s governance framework using the IBRS Vendor Governance Maturity Model

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. How does your organisation manage cyber supply chain risk?
  2. Vendor governance framework (VGF): Evaluate maturity to manage growth and risks
  3. Strategic vendor management in government
  4. Challenges when conducting business impact analysis

The Latest

16 November 2021: Oracle recently launched the Oracle Industries Innovation Lab as part of its commitment to supporting the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference’s (COP26) climate goal of lowering global temperature by 1.5 degrees. The facility, located in Reading, UK, is set to open in the spring of 2022 and will become a sustainable town centre dedicated to creating solutions to fight against climate change. It will feature wind turbines, electric vehicles and a simulated train station with a railcar made from repurposed materials. Oracle’s first innovation lab was built in Chicago in 2018 to host tools and technology for testing in simulated worksite environments.  

Why it’s Important

Other new tech initiatives that were introduced during the conference include:

  • Salesforce announced its US$300 million investment in reforestation and ecosystem restoration over the next ten years. It will donate technology through its nonprofit program and commit 2.5 million volunteer hours to organisations that work on climate change initiatives.
  • Amazon pledged US$2 billion to transform inadequate food systems and restore landscapes. Its aviation unit, Amazon Air, which operates exclusively to cater to the business’s cargo operations, also vowed to use sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) together with other major US airlines.
  • Rolls Royce secured the backing of the British government to develop the country’s first small modular nuclear reactor to deploy low carbon energy and replace its aging nuclear plants.

In 2008, an IBRS study found that the majority (25% rating it as a high priority, 59% rating it as somewhat of a priority) of ANZ organisations had a strong mandate for the executive to reduce the environmental impact of IT. However, interest in sustainable computing has plummeted year on year, and by 2019, less than 5% of CIOs rated sustainable ICT as a high priority. 

Recent climate events, and shifting public opinions are now seeing the trend reverse sharply. Initial data from a 2020-2021 study (not yet complete) suggests that once again most private and public organisations are joining the call for immediate action on climate change, with 24% of respondents stating it is a high priority.

All hyperscale Cloud vendors are promoting their carbon footprint and energy consumption credentials.. 

CIOs should expect increased demand to balance success in terms of investment returns and the impact on the environment, especially when pledging their support for man-made carbon capture innovations. Transparency and clarity through specifics in planning and execution of net zero transitions are the keys to speeding up the progress of such initiatives.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • CFO
  • Data centre leads
  • Infrastructure architects

What’s Next?

CIOs must revisit their Green IT strategies and consider revising areas that do not meet proactive and incremental operational eco-efficiencies as well as cleaner processes. This includes focusing on infrastructure efficiencies and implementing energy management that takes action out of boardroom discussions and into actual practice.

In addition, more gains will be realised in the coming years through cleantech, with Cloud computing being a major contributor to carbon emission reductions, as we concluded in our 2021 study. CIOs must consider benefits such as this when designing their Green IT strategy.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. VENDORiQ: Cloud Vendors will Push New Wave of Sustainable ICT Strategies
  2. Building your Green IT strategy
  3. VENDORiQ: More Evidence for Cloud Leading Sustainable ICT Charge

The Latest

2 November 2021: Two former Western Sydney TAFE (WSI TAFE) executives have been charged by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) for allegedly engaging in illegal solicitation and acceptance of $450,000 from IT consultancy firm Oscillosoft. The three-year investigation published its findings in a public report that revealed how the executives failed to comply with the proper IT procurement processes when they acquired the iPlan software program on behalf of the institute.

Why it’s Important.

IT-related fraud and corruption have grabbed the headlines in the past years, including:

  • the payment of false invoices in 2015 by a former IT manager who worked at several Australian universities 
  • the 2016 corruption investigation involving $1.7 million in payments for the personal business of an ICT manager at TAFE NSW South Western Sydney Institute 
  • the 2012 illegal ICT contractor recruitment by the head of ICT projects at The University of Sydney 
  • and just recently in 2020, the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) investigated fraud allegations concerning $2.8 billion worth of procurement contracts by government agencies made with IBM. 

While these headline grabbing examples are concerning, the reality is questionable contracting and programming in ICT is far more pervasive than most executives would like to admit.

IBRS has seen multiple examples of this problem. 

Sometimes these have been uncovered as part of ‘project rescue’ engagements where IBRS has been asked to review why a project is failing and recommend remediation. This is the worst time to discover that the consulting services being procured are more or less thin air, as it means significant budget has already been spent. In one case, IBRS identified a project to implement a major information system had burnt through $3.5 million over three years without a single delivery milestone being met and no code being available for review. There was a ‘friendship’ between the contracting company and the ICT executive.   

In another case, IBRS uncovered consulting being awarded to a family member of the person granting the contracts, and the organisation had an ‘over-reliance’ on contracting.   

Neither of these situations may warrant a corruption investigation. Though they certainly skirted the edges of the law.

At other times, IBRS has uncovered questionable contracting and procurement as part of project assurance reviews. This is the best time to reveal problematic procurement, since it occurs earlier in the project cycle and thus heads off significant losses. More importantly, when staff know that such activities are likely to be exposed as part of the regular due diligence of project assurance, the temptation to engage in such activities that just barely skirt corruption is far less likely to occur.

There is a great deal of financial and reputational savings to be accomplished by putting appropriate governance, such as formal gateway reviews and project assurance programs, in place. 

That said, not every project needs a top-down approach to procurement. Still, the industry needs a more careful process of choosing the right level of governance and assurance for the right projects, taking into consideration the context and culture of each organisation.  

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • CFO
  • Procurement teams
  • Executive board

What’s Next?

For fraud and corruption to be prevented, better oversight by an institution's board should be extended to overriding controls, reviewing financial transactions and reporting processes, coupled with a program of project assurance.

Internal controls in payroll, procurement, inventory, sales and financial reporting must be proactive to prevent the manipulation of processes. 

Finally, organisations must review procurement processes regularly and amend sections that promote poor supervision and weak adherence to routine audits.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. The difference between fraud and cybercrime
  2. Critical Controls for ERP Projects: The Human Factor
  3. Recognising cognitive biases for better decisions

The Latest

2 November 2021: The 2021 Australian Digital Inclusion Index indicates improvement in technology access, but many are still considered left out of the digital revolution.The recently published Index reports access to technology accelerated to 71.1 from 67.5 points the previous year, indicating significant improvement among middle-aged and senior Australians. It remains to be seen if this pace of progress can be sustained in the next year, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on online participation.

Why it’s Important

When planning digital engagement, service and marketing teams need to be aware that access to digital services is not ubiquitous. This is especially important for public sector organisations, where the failure of equitable delivery services may harm the most at-risk segments of society. However, it is also important for private sector organisations, as they plan multi and omnichannel services.

The Index provides important information that can help with planning digital services.

Some of the report's key findings necessary for policy implications include the following: 

  • The metro-regional gap has narrowed in different regional areas to 67.4 from 62.3 points
  • The national access score has improved to 70.0, but it is not shared evenly by all citizens, with 11 per cent of the population still being excluded
  • A slight boost in the digital ability score has been achieved at 64.4 points, although basic operational skills (setting passwords, connecting online, etc.) have dropped.
  • 14 per cent of Australians would need to pay more than 10 per cent of their income to afford a reliable internet connection
  • The gap between citizens with the lowest and highest income has slightly widened from 25.3 to 26.5 points.

These survey results indicate the need for solutions to remove barriers to inclusion, such as affordability of devices and lack of training for better digital literacy. In particular, the Index recommends improvement in network access and critical infrastructure through the ongoing pandemic, and provision of more affordable broadband connections across all regions and cities.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Managers
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

When planning digital services, look for qualified sources of information on the extent to which the new services will be accessible and, importantly, who may be excluded. Discuss the impact of any exclusion on both those being excluded and your organisation. What additional, non-digital channels will be needed, and how will these channels eventually find their way back into the multi or omnichannel strategy?

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Staff need data literacy – Here’s how to help them get it
  2. Trends for 2021-2026: No new normal and preparing for the fourth-wave of ICT

Conclusion:

Due to the scarcity of skilled ICT professionals and managers, organisations will inevitably seek extra capacity from augmented services providers to address the shortfall. Staff conducting due diligence to find the best provider and qualify the providers must be unafraid to ask difficult questions, business savvy and, when dealing with providers, able to separate the wheat from the chaff. Identifying providers with the capacity and ability to deliver the desired outcomes and are a good fit is not an easy task.

If the staff find that no provider can deliver what is required, stakeholders must either:

  • Wait for internal staff to become available, or
  • Hire and train staff which can be an expensive, time-consuming exercise that may increase business risks.

Read more ...

Conclusion

At 21.7 per cent, staff attrition within the Australian Information Technology (IT) sector is unsustainably high. Staff recognition can be defined as the action or process of recognising employees for the work completed through words and gratitude1. Over the past five years, globally, organisations have increased their focus and investment on employee reward and recognition.

However, despite this increased focus, research shows that recognition is not occurring as often as it should be, as only 61 per cent of employees feel appreciated in the workplace1. Research also shows that even when recognition is provided for employees, it is not executed well or enacted correctly 1/3 of the time.

Organisational development and human resource studies demonstrate that reward and recognition programs commonly do not resonate or hit the mark for employees, if they are: not authentic and sincere2, only provided in a single context, or are based on award criteria that is overly complex or unattainable3.

This paper covers how leaders and organisations can recognise and then subsequently avoid these three common pitfalls, to maximise the investment into employee reward and recognition programs and efforts.

Read more ...

Conclusion

Major increases in demand for ICT and business professional employment in the year 2020 have been reported, despite the economic downturn. These increases are important to note as they signal a post-pandemic increase in ICT investment in the year 2021 and in future years to support enhanced business systems and demand (user) computing.

To complicate matters a survey of Australian CIOs indicated that it will be more challenging to find qualified technology employees in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic market conditions. Unless recruitment programs are well thought out, the inability to recruit the right people will stifle plans to take advantage of ICT growth opportunities in 2021.

Read more ...

Conclusion

DevOps, business intelligence (BI) and data, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) are all driving rapid change within IT departments. The challenge will be finding Cloud certified people to meet the rising demand.

Leaders have two main choices. Upskill their existing teams, or embark on a recruitment campaign that brings in Cloud certified professionals to manage Cloud migration and provide the ongoing support and optimisation needed to bring the full value of Cloud to IT operations.

For organisations who suddenly realise how far they are behind on the Cloud value curve, pressure will mount to deliver results quickly. Make sure staff are certified and ready to address your hybrid or multi-Cloud environments.

Read more ...

Conclusion:

Involving end-users in the software development cycle isn’t a new concept, yet reportedly, 78 per cent of IT project professionals believe business stakeholders need to be more involved in and engaged with the requirements process1. Commonly, software development project managers report problems with end-users’ ability to learn and use the new system and/or the end-users’ perceived quality of system functionality. While usability testing is meant to be a safeguard for system ease-of-use, user acceptance testing is designed to be a safeguard for the development of quality functionality. Both play a different role in the software development lifecycle.

This paper covers the differences between usability testing with end-users and user acceptance testing, also conducted with end-users and why both are equally important for the software development success.

Read more ...

The Latest

18 February 2021: The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Labour Force report highlighted major increases in employment for ICT and business professionals.

Net increases of note in the period were:

ICT professionals 

  • programmers (14%)
  • network professionals (16%)
  • web designers (16%)
  • database administrators (23%)

Business professionals

  • accountants (14%) 
  • information / organisational professionals (27%).

Who’s impacted

  • CIOs
  • Sourcing Teams
  • Human Resources

What’s Next?

These increases are consistent with forecasts that found ICT spending would increase in 2021 to
secure growth opportunities and support remote staff.

Employment increases of the scale above inevitably trigger investment in new systems that need
innovative software solutions, hardware, and specialised ICT services, all of which open the door for
market-ready vendors to promote their offerings.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. ICT Trends 2021-2021: No new normal and the fourth wave of ICT
  2. IBRSiQ: Can IBRS help in an understanding of where Australian companies are in relation to spend vs revenue? 
  3. Why benchmarking IT costs and staffing is important

Conclusion:

Fear of missing out (FOMO) drives information and communication technology (ICT) leaders to look at new ICT applications with the promise of greater benefits. Many organisations then fail to maximise the value of their existing applications and Power BI is no exception. Hidden under a Microsoft enterprise agreement, organisations and staff are often unaware of Power BIs full capabilities.

Excel still remains a default position for most data analytics. The main reason is familiarity and flexibility to construct, but it has limited access to data warehouses making it less efficient as a business intelligence (BI) tool. Complex problems require multiple spreadsheets to capture and analyse data from multiple sources. Changes are often tedious and time-consuming.

To generate meaningful business insights, ICT leaders need to initiate the use cases and upskill staff with BI tools such as Power BI which are capable of agility and real-time value add.

Read more ...

Conclusion:

COVID-19 has presented a number of challenges for business and the underlying Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in particular. These challenges have presented both as crisis and opportunity but all have been compelling events. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, ‘never let a good crisis go to waste’. In each case, this will only be possible when the lessons learned are properly investigated and documented, allowing evidence-based decisions to ensure organisations improve the way business is done.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many changes to the way business is done, how employees contribute, and how customers interact. Taking the time to evaluate performance, document the lessons learned, and to improve your business decision processes is invaluable. Applying the technical and business lessons learned from the period of this pandemic will add value for many years to come. It will allow your organisation to reinforce successes, avoid possible errors, and potentially improve its position in the marketplace.

Read more ...

Conclusion:

Australian organisations in both public and private sectors enthusiastically identify and implement best practices from around the world. After considerable time and effort has been allocated to implementing these processes and the associated tools the results are all too often less than satisfactory. There are many best practices, frameworks and tools to assist in the optimisation of IT but there are two key problems areas that if overcome, can make a significant difference in the benefits that organisations will derive from best practice implementation.

Read more ...

The Latest

27 January 2020: Sitecore, which offers a web content management and online customer experience platform, announced a US$1.2 billion investment plan to grow its global footprint. 

Why it’s Important

In the market for online customer experience, Sitecore is the key rival to Adobe. While Sitecore does not provide the breadth of digital design services that Adobe offers, its web content and digital marketing capabilities are competitive. This US$1.2 billion investment plan signals Sitecore’s desire to take advantage of the increased demand for digital service delivery in the wake of the pandemic. 

Sitecore’s offering is price-competitive against Adobe, though still at the high-end of the market. However, it does need to boost its support network and partners if it wishes to encroach on Adobe, while also defending against mid-tier players and modern CRMs such as Salesforce and Netsuite ecommerce and customer service offerings. 

Who’s impacted

  • CMO
  • Sales / Marketing teams

What’s Next?

While Sitecore is well-known in Australia and the Asia Pacific / Japan region, strengthening its implementation partners and support network will go a long way to positioning it against Adobe. IBRS has noted that some Australian Sitecore clients have expressed frustration with the availability of local Sitecore skills and sought US-based contractors to fill the gaps. Investment in building an international footprint may help alleviate local skills shortages.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. CRM modernisation Part 1: Strategy, planning & selection
  2. CRM modernisation Part 2B: Creating a customer experience strategy
  3. Positive customer experiences must lead digital transformation

The Latest 

19 January 2021: Salesforce has added a customer loyalty management module to its Customer 365 Platform. The new module allows organisations to define and deploy programs for incentives and rewards, linked to customer data held within the core Salesforce and customer experience platform.

Why it’s Important

During the pandemic and related lockdowns, digital service delivery has surged. More significantly, as consumers adopted more online service delivery, they also tried out new brands. McKinsey estimates that 80% of US consumers stuck with their new channels, with digital customer loyalty programs being a significant force in this trend.  

Who’s impacted

  • CMO
  • Sales executives
  • E-commerce teams

What’s Next?

While data for Australian consumers' adoption of digital channels and digital loyalty programs is not readily available, anecdotal evidence from discussions with IBRS clients and from well established online retailers such as Kogan and Woolworths, suggests Australia has also seen a similar pattern to that of North America, though perhaps not as pronounced.  

Loyalty programs will likely become a key differentiating factor for brands to maintain repeat business as more (niche) Australian retailers take up digital channels to meet their client demands. Organisations should begin to explore how digital loyalty programs can:

  • drive repeat and regular online engagement 
  • build brand awareness and affiliation, and 
  • increase life-time-value measures.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. CRM modernisation Part 1: Strategy, planning & selection
  2. CRM modernisation Part 2B: Creating a customer experience strategy
  3. Positive customer experiences must lead digital transformation

Conclusion: Organisations that laid off IT and business professionals during the pandemic due to cost pressures will find it challenging post-pandemic to reset IT services needed to meet client service requirements and those of much leaner organisations.

With many employees working remotely, organisations will need to enhance their cyber security skills while providing secure services in a price-sensitive and cost-constrained environment in which many clients will also be struggling financially.

Vendors will also find it difficult to grow a client’s technology base post-pandemic due to their clients being short of capital, which will frustrate both parties, and once the solution is justified fewer skilled staff (than pre-pandemic if lay-offs occurred) will be available to implement them.

Read more ...

Conclusion: Employees who feel their voices are heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work, and 96 % of employees believe showing empathy is an important way to advance employee retention1. Many organisations understand the importance of employee engagement, yet many organisations also do not develop and deliver successful staff engagement plans or activities2.

Many published strategies centre on the aspirational and critical elements of vision, leadership and growth3. This paper focuses on three practical steps that organisations can implement easily, to help tangibly begin the journey to turn employee engagement results into informed, believable and actionable plans.

Read more ...

Conclusion: As organisations strive to enhance customer experience, complemented by marketing and sales activities, success will be contingent on IT and business professionals using data literacy skills and being able to implement systems that make it easy to do business with them and understand their buying patterns.

Unless IT and business professionals acquire the data literacy skills needed, and make the right data available, efforts to better engage with customers and prospects will fail to achieve expectations and opportunities will be wasted.

Read more ...

Conclusion: Many organisations are engaged in implementing digital transformation programs to provide enhanced customer services, e. g. with new products or to reduce operating costs, or both. Unfortunately, many programs fail, sometimes repeatedly, until they achieve their set objectives. What is important though is when failure occurs, use the lessons learned to try again.

Delivering a transformed organisation is hard as it is inevitably accompanied by:

  • Redesigning business processes to meet today’s business imperatives
  • Implementing enhanced information systems
  • Encouraging employees to acquire new skills and be innovative
  • Actively minimising the business risks

Read more ...

Conclusion: Estimating the workdays for an agile- or waterfall-based IT project is not a simple task. However, with effort and a disciplined people-focused approach, it can be turned from an art into, as close as possible, a science.

When the effort is made, management will become more comfortable with the resources needed to complete projects and avoid the unpleasant task of asking for more resources than expected due to flawed estimating.

Read more ...

Conclusion: Due to the pandemic and economic decline, politically astute IT managers will need all their selling skills to get one-off IT infrastructure proposals approved. Not only is this due to a decline in earned revenue or grants, but also because procurement involves paying cash to vendors.

IT managers may need to ‘walk the talk’ to convince decision makers to support IT infrastructure investment proposals. In an environment where demand exceeds supply, and competition for scarce resources is high, the need to sell the proposal is probably an organisational political necessity.

Read more ...

Conclusion: Working remotely has become the default option for most companies in the new normal setup. Although this has led to rising demand in technological tools and IT systems, it is unlikely the tech industry will be spared widespread job cuts – already such cuts are being seen in some industry sectors. With the world bracing for recession, companies are cutting down on costs and tightening budgets wherever they can.

Understandably, the current state of job insecurity is creating anxiety in employees who have retained their jobs. IT staff are justifiably feeling insecure and this is likely to affect some employees’ work performance. Such anxiety is a major issue that needs to be recognised and addressed quickly and effectively in order to enable the company to maximise its existing resources both during the economic downturn and as it starts to grow again.

Read more ...

IBRS advisor Dr. Joseph Sweeney discusses why it falls to individuals to look at improving their work in a post-COVID world. Dr. Sweeney comments on the need to build a culture of innovation that empowers employees to understand where improvement is needed in their job.

Full Story.

Conclusion: To prepare for the inevitable questioning by senior management of whether an expense line item can be reduced, management must review its breakdown and be prepared to justify it to senior management when asked. Responses must highlight the business risks that will ensue should a selected expense line item in the ICT opex (operating) and capex (capital) expense budgets be reduced. Failing to frame the response in business (risks) terms could delay the review and reflect poorly on ICT management.

Read more ...

Conclusion: Since the rise of personal computing in the 1970s, organisations have focused on acquiring digital tools and, since the late 1990s, on promoting digital skills. While we are now in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, where digital skills are essential, the so-called soft skills of employees also need to be constantly updated and upgraded.

Read more ...

Conclusion: Scenario planning is a formal approach for developing and exploring possible future situations or marketplace environments. It allows organisations to be more flexible and agile by considering the possibilities for change. It helps organisations – and for the focus of this paper, the ICT teams – identify the environmental uncertainties and allows ICT to prepare proactively instead of reactively.

ICT executives should leverage scenario planning activities to help with post-pandemic planning, preparing advice for the board with the organisation’s readiness to react to possible changes in the market, and also as a morale and team-building activity.

Read more ...

Conclusion: Creating an environment in which IT and business professionals can adapt to a new and remote (also known as alternate work) environment will test the ingenuity of many senior managers.

To meet the challenge, managers must help their staff avoid being anxious and isolated and enable them to easily access their peers for advice and guidance. Failure to keep contact could lead to a decline in productivity and staff not feeling part of the team. Alternately, not having to travel to work sites and work prescribed hours can be a blessing for others.

Read more ...

Conclusion: Organisations should tap into their management team (department heads, managers and team leaders) to keep their working-from-home employees committed to the organisation. These organisational leaders have the most direct relationships and therefore are the most qualified to invite engagement from employees and other stakeholders. However, new models for engaging and measuring employees are needed that reflect the shift to virtual teams and virtual management: there is a shift from managing by activity to managing by trust.

Read more ...

Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic crisis is sweeping across the globe and is being felt by every individual and every organisation. By its very nature, the COVID-19 crisis is global in scope, indefinite in its duration and unknown in its long-term impact. Given the reliance of organisations on their ICT services, particularly at this point in time, CIOs have a unique opportunity to make a significant contribution, showcase their leadership capability and enhance the long-term brand of their ICT teams. All too often under the pressure of a crisis, CIOs will focus on tasks as opposed to the softer elements of leadership. The opportunities this crisis presents should not be wasted. Your leadership is on show.

Read more ...

Conclusion: When cost cutting of IT services is on the executive agenda, due to the impact of COVID-19 virus, will it yield low hanging or sour fruit? One area often regarded as low hanging fruit is the amalgamation of SPOC (single point of contact) activities, viz. help desk, service centre and contact or call centre. Combining them is a compelling proposition and demands an informed response.

Put simply, the logic used by management, seeking to amalgamate and reduce costs, is:

  • Similar skills are required so staff can be co-located
  • Staff can become multi-skilled and resolve incidents or software failures of internal (service desk and help desk) and external clients
  • Office space used now will be reduced and by combining the functions
  • Headcount savings will ensue

Read more ...

Conclusion: Organisations will typically have employees of different cultural backgrounds. As teams expand and organisations become more global, managers may find themselves managing whole teams based in countries other than their own. A lot of the time, management will by necessity have to be done remotely.

Managers need to be very aware that management cultural diversity needs to be considered, especially in areas such as communication, decision making, coaching, support and dealing with any issues or conflicts. Trust is a key element of successful manager/employee engagement and is critical when managing remote teams who may have significant management cultural differences.

Read more ...

Conclusion: While there is no perfect approach to restructuring an IT services department, there are fundamental principles (set out below) that must be followed, to get it right first time. If these principles are not followed, staff resistance to the changes proposed could impact staff morale.

Read more ...

Conclusion: There are many benefits in taking a break during the holidays that go beyond just recharging the batteries. However, along with the seemingly obvious benefits, there are also some traps for the unwary. On the flip side, there are some benefits to working in the office during the quieter periods, so take time to prepare and plan for the holiday period: develop sound strategies for all staff and above all, be authentic with setting expectations.

Read more ...