CIO-as-a-Service

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

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.

Conclusion: A recent Harvard business review article1 reinforced the view that meetings have increased in length and frequency over time from 20 % to nearly 50 % of the working week. This time does not include the planning, reading and preparation of those meeting. Executives such as CIOs or similar should spend some time assessing how effective meetings are in their organisation to return the valuable commodity of time to all and reap the benefits.

Conclusion: Taking the guesswork out of capacity planning by making an informed forecast of demand for computing and support resources for the strategic capacity plan is an ongoing challenge for IT professionals and managers. Reputational damage can ensue when resources are either under or overestimated and there are claims that guesswork was employed.

Conclusion: The 2018 CIO survey1 revealed that the CIO’s influence is stalling, with fewer CIOs on executive boards. However, improving business processing is still the #1 operational priority. To address this priority, CIOs and IT managers should use everyday tools such as calendars to better collaborate with their staff by exploiting and promoting the features of the tools at their fingertips.

Conclusion: Keeping the executive informed on how the ICT function is performing while advising it how to take advantage of changes in business technology is an ongoing challenge for every CIO or ICT manager.

Astute CIOs know that to get traction with the executive (or equivalent) they must deliver services required by stakeholders while contributing to strategy debates on how to use new technologies to meet the challenges of the future. Getting traction starts with presenting the right ICT-related information to the executive at the right time.

Conclusion: The differences in roles and responsibilities between an IT professional and line manager are many and need to be understood quickly by the new managers and their peers. Not only will the understanding help both parties make the appointment work but it will also reinforce the selection panel’s appointment decision.

A new line manager must remember that the behaviour and strategies adopted in the IT professional role are unlikely to guarantee success in the new role. This is because the new role is typically a multi-dimensional one in which there are more stakeholders, outcomes are elusive and feedback is minimal.

Conclusion: The initial gathering of momentum for change is difficult enough to generate, but letting that momentum lapse will make it even more challenging next time to generate the passion and endeavour to improve the modus operandi for the long haul.

Conclusion: One of the objectives of an IT workforce plan is to maximise the use of the skilled IT professionals and project managers and minimise their idle time. Managing the IT workforce plan is a complex task in most organisations as skill levels required may vary by project and by operational support roles.

To be successful, the manager of the plan must maintain a current and accurate skills inventory to assign the right IT professional(s) to the role. The manager also needs to ensure the role is correctly specified so an inexperienced IT professional is not assigned when an experienced one is needed.

Conclusion: Staff remember how leaders behave and react during a crisis, rather than when the business is operating successfully. Astute leaders do not just deal with restoration and getting the business back on deck; they also support their staff during and after the crisis and can even create the potential for the organisation to be in a better state than before the crisis occurred.

Conclusion: In a rapidly changing business environment driven by demand for enhanced client services and immediate access to business data, CIOs who can deliver what is needed will thrive. Conversely CIOs unable to meet the CEO’s and Board’s transformation objectives and leverage service providers could quickly find themselves redundant.

Conclusion: Astute managers know that once a project is completed, skilled staff will be reassigned and their recall of the lessons learned and what worked and what did not is quickly lost. This is because corporate memory dissipates the longer the recall is delayed.

Apart from determining whether the objectives of the project were or were not achieved, an open and frank conversation needs to occur regarding the project’s outcomes and stakeholders need to be:

  • Brave enough to admit failures and shortcomings
  • Modest when highlighting successes
  • Generous in giving credit to all who contributed to the project’s success
  • Prepared to adopt practices and approaches that worked well
  • Comfortable in disseminating the review’s findings to all who need to know.

With financial and economic commentators warning of difficulttimes ahead, CIOs must be prepared and have arguments at their fingertips to justify continued IT investment in corridor conversations or at the Executive (or Board) when all operating budgets arelikely to be under the microscope.

It might be argued that business managers should present the casefor increased IT investment in their business systems, that is as owners or sponsors. However the reality is an increasing numberof information systems cross organisational boundaries and the CIO is often the only manager able to grasp the ramifications of and need for enterprise-wide investment in IT.

Conclusion: The CIO role is one of the most demanding jobs in an organisation as it involves driving the business to new highs based on an effective IT and business partnership arrangement, so IT can act as a services business. To succeed the CIO needs to articulate a vision that is acted on by business managers who assume the role of informed buyers of IT services

Conclusion: The successful IT (line) manager and CIO is one who can comfortably operate in the technical arena and political (organisational) domain at the same time. Whilst the skills to operate in the technical domain can be acquired, those needed for the political domain are more elusive.

In the article entitled, ‘Making the Transition from IT professional to Line Manager’,1 I focused on what IT professionals moving to a line management role needed to do initially to build a foundation for success. In summary the new manager needs to understand the technical requirements of the role and its political dimension and establish effective relationships with major stakeholders.

Conclusion: Many IT departments struggle to understand and meet their client's expectations, often leading to the perception value is not being delivered. One way to address the problem is to appoint CRMs (Client Relationship Managers) who become the client's 'eyes and ears' and represent their interests with dealing with IT. The role is a senior one. Its occupants must be skilled in managing business relations and rewarded accordingly.

Conclusion: Programs aimed at reducing IT and business operating costs are more likely to succeed if the targets are realisable, stakeholders committed and there is a clear roadmap for the journey. Conversely, cost reduction programs that have unrealistic targets, or are the brainchild of senior managers and linked to their incentive bonuses, are unlikely to succeed.

IT due diligence is primarily undertaken to understand the target business IT systems with a view to establishing the resources and costs involved in integrating them into the acquirer’s IT systems, the possibility of the target business having a more suitable IT infrastructure already in place should not be ignored. The IT due diligence exercise must be exhaustive and particular emphasis placed on reviewing and understanding contracts with third parties and the possibilities of rationalising software licences. These are areas where value can often be added in the form of cost savings and improved processes.

Conclusion: Evolutionary changes in the composition of the IT workforce 1 will continue to occur in mature organisations in next 3 to 5 years, but in immature organisations, where the focus is on today’s operations only, revolutionary change will be needed to enable the IT workforce to maximise the benefits from IT-related investment.

Fuelling the need for change in the IT workforce is the continuous enhancement of desk top and business process automation software combined with an increasingly IT literate workforce keen to exploit the latest technologies. In the opposite corner is the need to maintain business systems as usual, keep costs under control and minimise risks from uncontrolled use of the Internet. Senior management’s role is to hold the competing interests in tension.

Conclusion: IT related governance processes in a federated business model, i.e. where autonomous business units or divisions have own IT staff and resources, must focus on what is needed to achieve the strategic objectives of the organisation and at the same time help each unit achieve its potential.

The governance processes typically presume each business unit will cooperate and contribute resources and expertise to the organisation when requested. It is axiomatic that failure to cooperate in the governance, or decision making, processes will frustrate efforts to get the best outcomes for the organisation.

Conclusion: Managers working in a steady state environment, with few major successes and unexceptionable performance metrics, generally struggle to engage their peers at monthly operating performance meetings.

The problem is compounded when peers, who operate in a high profile environment, are able to actively engage the audience at the monthly meeting using attractively presented performance metrics, accompanied by streaming video footage material.

What can managers, including CIOs, who struggle to engage their peers, do to turn the situation around and earn the commendation of the meeting?