Coaching & Mentoring

Conclusion: Faced with the tough question, ‘How can the organisation reduce its IT costs without compromising client services?’ astute CIOs highlight the impact of the potential reductions by business unit and assist line managers to argue the case for retaining the status quo, to the Executive.

Conversely CIOs who notice the firm’s market share is dropping due to clumsy online ordering systems or excessive customer complaints about online IT services must take the initiative and, with line management, propose an immediate course of action to the Executive to fix the situation, even if it means increasing IT spending. Waiting for line management to act is not an option.

Conclusion: The attention in which organisations are engaging with social media inevitably leads to a sharper focus on the reputational and legal ramifications of using social media. Organisations have to consider how their staff use social media, the materials published, the statements made on an organisation’s behalf, and possible consequences of the material.

Reviewing and resetting guidelines for employee use of all social media, in particular career sites, is fundamental to how an organisation, its brand name and products are distributed and perceived through social media. New guidelines will set a fairer use policy between employee and organisation, reduce the uncertainties and reduce unforeseen risks.

Conclusion: One of the most challenging tasks for a CIO is to implement cultural change, or transformation, so it energises people and cements the business relationship with clients and suppliers. Instant success is unlikely. This is because implementing cultural change takes time as relationships have to be nurtured, trust engendered and staff empowered.

Conclusion: The dimming of IT kudos can be exemplified in a number of ways including: IT not being invited to the table when strategic business decisions are made, then being assigned project work post factum; having IT solutions predetermined by those outside IT, then having to implement them; having phalanxes of IT people brought into the organisation from one of the major systems integration firms to deliver a major project, then subsequently having to support it. Almost without exception the behaviour and performance of the CIO and the IT organisation are the root cause of these events.

Conclusion: The Australian Institute of Management recognises that leadership and management will need to continue to evolve to keep up with technological innovation and globalisation. Whilst organisations are usually aware of the need to keep up with technological changes, they often struggle with the practical implications for management and impact on organisational structure. On the one hand operational management can increasingly be automated, and on the other hand the ability to build and lead high performance teams is gaining in importance. Having appropriate people in executive team leadership positions is critical.

Conclusion: The intense focus on social media and related technologies and how it will influence organisations has increased in the last year. Nor will it dim. The catalyst for the change has emanated from four companies and their products which have significantly altered behaviour and interaction with technology – in particular with devices.

Business and IT executives wishing to understand the forces of consumerisation and social media (Social IT) and its impact within organisations need to look at the compound effect brought about by network connections between those four companies and how people connect with them.

Conclusion: Whether in the private or public sector, the fundamental objective of a board should be “building long-term sustainable growth in shareholder value”1. Usually the intention to do this is expressed in an organisation's strategic plan. Increasingly, IT plays a significant part in these plans, yet many Directors remain shy of anything other than superficial discussions on IT, potentially diminishing IT's contribution to the organisation. Through exertion of appropriate influence and by carefully selecting which channels to use to gain board attention, an effective CIO can take a number of steps to correct this situation.

Conclusion: One of the initial soft targets of the Executive when costs have to be cut is the IT training budget. Whilst CIOs might put up counter arguments such as potential impact on IT productivity, project delays and reliance on lower skilled staff, the arguments usually fall on deaf ears as most executives regard training as a discretionary expense.

When the cut occurs CIOs have to be creative and find ways to enhance the skills and proficiency of IT professionals and managers, while staying within the amended IT expense budget.

Conclusion: Bob Dylan’s enigmatic song ‘Changing of the Guards’ included these lyrics: “But Eden is burning, either brace yourself for elimination. Or else your hearts must have the courage for the changing of the guards.” This song could well refer to changes in IT that have been gathering force for over a decade. A new order is emerging: progressive CIOs are unseating their regressive counterparts bringing new meaning to IT enablement.

Conclusion: In the current economic climate with potential scaling back of discretionary investment in IT, and data suggesting a decline in the number of IT skilled staff entering the workforce, CIOs have to weigh up many factors before deciding whether to hire permanent IT staff or engage contractors.

Unbelievably, Steve Jobs' passing made front page news in virtually every nation on earth. This is probably unprecedented for an 'IT guy' let alone one who dropped out of college before going on to establish Apple with Steve Wozniak in 1976. As most know, after the Jonathan Sculley / Steve Jobs power struggle of late 1985 Steve Jobs resigned from Apple, founding NeXT Computer. Subsequently in 1996, Apple acquired NeXT as sales of the Mac languished, leading ultimately to Jobs assuming the CEO role at Apple after a successful boardroom coup. During Jobs’ sabbatical from Apple he was also the driving force behind Pixar. In August 2011 Apple’s market capitalisation briefly surpassed market leader Exxon Mobil, remaining comfortably ahead of IBM and Microsoft.

As a consequence of the Internet, and with it, the development of several technologies, and e-commerce (and piracy, too) and now, all things ‘social’ there is an expectation that disruptive innovation is critical to success. More than that: disruptive is the key to success, and without it businesses will die. Survive or die; it’s either/or. The choice is clear.

In the US, as each new social media IPO is a success, the disruptive power of social is proven and now figuratively slapping the faces of tired old enterprise IT. Look at the P/E ratios of Cisco and Microsoft and Google – too low and unexciting because they are not disruptive. They are like remnants of the US steel industry, slowly rusting.

Conclusion: There is a universality to many aspects of the roles performed by CIOs. Dictated by technology trends and strongly influenced by IT vendors, CIOs often find themselves following a pre-written script containing the initiatives they should pursue. Often they find themselves carrying out exactly the same types of projects as their colleagues in totally different business sectors. For some CIOs, this can be less than satisfying. Worse, despite their complicity (sometimes tacit) in IT initiatives, many senior executives are often underwhelmed by the value delivered by IT. CIOs can take a number of steps to overcome this impasse, achieving more job satisfaction whilst gaining higher profiles in their organisations.

Conclusion: When it comes to craving what we desire, we’re often our own worst enemies. Sometimes the steps that are taken to achieve an outcome result in the antithesis of the desired effect. Many of the attempts CIOs make to gain CEO attention may be misread, causing the relationship to distance rather than strengthen. However, there are some steps all CIOs can take to properly position IT in the mind of the CEO, building strong CIO/CEO connections and heightening CIO job satisfaction.

Conclusion: Between the initial enthusiasm of planning a new system, the focused effort of selecting a vendor and negotiating a contract, and the frenetic activity of implementation, nobody wants to think about how to deal with the possibility of a major project failure. While rare, organisations need to put in place contingency plans before they start, preferably during planning and negotiations.

Organisations should establish a framework for dealing with failing systems that gives them the necessary tools to quickly get it back on track or terminate it and seek reparation if appropriate. Without this, organisations risk a long and bitter struggle, which is both costly and embarrassing to themselves and the vendor.

Conclusion: More than almost any other factor in a CIO’s armoury, having good people within IT is a mainstay of continued success. Building good teams starts with staff selection. While some use search firms for senior roles, most CIOs use traditional recruitment methods: profile the role, advertise it, shortlist candidates, interview them, check references, then appoint. In difficult employment markets it is tempting to make staff selection compromises purely for the sake of filling a vacant role and relieving a stress-point.

One of the most valuable IT professionals is the resilient project manager or program director. This is the person who can ‘jump tall buildings in one bound’, ‘walk over hot coals unaided’ and can deliver the solution or issue the tender while meeting OTUB (On Time Under Budget) requirements. (The role is gender neutral). Such is their value that astute CIOs ‘ring-fence’ these managers and stop them being seconded to projects outside their area.

Conclusion: A new leadership team in a major IT provider such as IBM will mean the potential for change and disruption for customers, partners and staff of IBM. This change may vary from a potential for a shift in strategic direction to more incremental changes as new management seeks to place its stamp on company performance. Just as in your organisation, new leadership at IBM will mean new ideas and processes for both IBM and its clients.

Conclusion: Many an incoming CIO stumbles between acceptance of an employment offer and the first few months in the job. Often for the CIO it seems that there is so much to do it’s difficult to know where to turn and what to focus on. Coupled with this, the incoming CIO usually has an overwhelming sense of desire to do a good job and achieve recognition.

Conclusion: In the best-selling 1982 publication "In Search of Excellence"1Tom Peters introduced the concept of MBWA or Managing By Wandering Around. His hypothesis, which remains valid today, is that to gain perspective senior executives should periodically distance themselves from usual management activities to see their organisations differently.

Conclusion: As a CIO enmeshed in day to day activities, it is easy to think myopically of a world bounded only by what is closest to hand: IT clients, staff and suppliers. But to do so can be delusional. Effective CIOs are first and foremost good strategic thinkers constantly focused on delivering better business outcomes. As such, they take the time to survey the world beyond their immediate boundaries, reflecting on and gaining inspiration from the manifold influences that can shape their future plans and indeed over which the CIO may exert affect. Such a world, quite distant from daily routine but subtly connected to it, may be thought of as the CIO’s role as seen from space.

Conclusion:All contracts eventually terminate, however the reasons for the termination and the way the termination is handled can lead to different outcomes. To minimise the risks associated with contract termination it is essential that the buying organisation gives due consideration to this event while in the early stages of the procurement cycle. Unless the procurement contract is drafted to cover the issues that can arise as a result of termination, the buying organisation can be faced with significant business disruption, financial penalties and potentially even legal action.

Conclusion: Many CIOs seek to be seen as visionaries in their organisations. Usually bestowed with higher than average intellect and with unique insight into the workings of their organisation and its role within its ecosystem and society, they are well-placed to make a significant contribution toward organisational growth and innovation. Yet curiously, this rarely happens.

Conclusion: The GFC (Global Financial Crisis) has forced most organisations to reduce their operating costs to stay viable, and have given the task of achieving it, by challenging spending proposals and trimming budgets, to the CFO.

To ensure the right areas of expenditure are targeted CIOs must work with the CFO to not only assess impact of reduced spending but also develop a fallback plan in case IT spending is cut. CIOs who adopt an adversarial approach or are slow to co-operate with the CFO are putting their careers at risk.

Conclusion: In Australasia in 2009, admittedly in the thrall of the GFC, an unprecedentedly high number of CIOs lost their jobs. A broad spectrum of CIOs were involved: some were high profile industry figures, a few had been promoted from within whilst others with seemingly well-credentialed backgrounds had been in their roles for a matter of months.

Conclusion:The participation rate of IT and Business Professionals in teleworking is growing and has the potential to reduce occupancy costs while increasing productivity. That is, using ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) to support work activities away from the employer's office. Growth in recent years has been triggered by the availability of robust IT infrastructure and an increasingly IT literate workforce.

Despite its upside, surveys1have shown that teleworking, if not effectively managed with boundaries put around its participation, may negatively impact business relationships and lead to work-private life conflicts.

Conclusion: Historically grown organisational structures and simplistic job descriptions sometimes stand in the way of creating a high-performance team. Taking personality attributes into account when assigning roles and responsibilities can have a measurable influence on overall costs, delivery time, functional fit of IT solutions, as well as on skill development in the team.

ConclusionTurning expected outcomes identified in the business strategy into reality, is high on the agenda of most senior managers. What is not well understood though is the role sound planning has to play in ensuring the outcomes are realised while meeting the typical project performance criteria such as delivery on time, costs kept within budget and ability to meet agreed service levels.

Project planning skills are not acquired overnight. They are based on a sound understanding of the project life cycle, as depicted in the diagram below, the ability to unravel the business strategy and plan the IT-related activities (tasks) needed to facilitate workplace change.

In the last year billions and trillions seemed to be the only numbers that counted for anything anymore. The Australian government is raising approximately $1.5 billion dollars per week on bond markets; the US public debt could reach up $20 trillion dollars in five years. According to the International Money Fund, public debt in the world’s top 10 economies could balloon by 36% to 114% of GDP, or US$50,000 per capita by 2014; and let’s not forget the $680 trillion dollar OTC derivatives market, which may produce some more heart racing, and wealth destroying, events in the future.

Conclusion: The number of documents (reports, email, TXTs, other written material) managers read every day amounts to a huge amount of textual information. All of us are now 2.0-conditioned and are more used to absorbing sound or word-bites and less sympathetic to struggling through long documents. So you can be certain that, no matter how important the substance of your reports, your audience will not read them with as much care and attention to detail as you spent writing them. Even the management summary may get the 10 second treatment: a once-over-lightly scan to determine the document’s usefulness before giving it a proper read – or not if it doesn’t grab attention.

Bloggers know all about the 10 second treatment and the good ones construct their blogs to capture and hold their target readers. (If they don’t they lose the revenue from selling their products or the advertisements on their blog sites). Competent bloggers use successful attention grabbing and holding techniques to help ensure that their communications get the attention they deserve and convey their intended messages.

Observations: Thanks to the 2.0 world most people have learned to skim-read really quickly. This is a problem for those writing reports for management. It means that if they haven’t made the important parts easily findable and accessible then the whole report becomes invisible. Write reports, and especially, management summaries, expecting their readers initially to only scan them. Once the report has captured their attention, they will return and read more closely what they initially scanned.

The medium is the message. Marshall McCluhan1 meant by this that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role, not only by the content delivered via medium, but by the characteristics of the medium itself. The widespread acceptance of PowerPoint last century (!) resulted in many documents and reports being produced in a PowerPoint-like format. Now, the ubiquitous influence of the Internet and Web 2.0 means that reports and documents are being delivered and presented in web-influenced styles.

It’s a 2.0 world, so cater for speed readers. Managers have to wade through scads of written material and become proficient speed readers, scanning at about 900 words per minute, rather than reading at about 240 words a minute. (It is likely that you will spend about 10 seconds scanning this entire note to determine its usefulness and, if it has captured your interest, will return and spend four or so minutes giving it a proper read.) Therefore, if your writing is initially going to be speed-read it is wise to write it on this assumption.

Learn from bloggers. Expert bloggers capture their readers by making it easy for them to scan the blog and find the key elements in the approximately 10 seconds they’ll initially allocate to the blog’s content. They attract the reader’s eye with:

  1. a catchy blog title,

  2. subtitles or subheadings within the blog

  3. bold, underlined, quoted, or otherwise highlighted text and hyperlinks

  4. pictures, graphs, charts, or images

  5. a summary of key findings/points/recommendations

If their scan suggests the blog is likely to meet the readers’ interests they will then go back and read the article in more depth.

Copy the bloggers. By including these keys in your document, your target audience can rapidly appreciate its value and assess the relevance of the content. After that, those who are interested will re-read it, this time in more depth, understand the message and act accordingly.

Content is king is a web catchcry, generally focused on ensuring that the web sites are easily indexed by search engines. The same meme2 applies to blog writers, wanting to ensure that blog readers see the value of the blog’s contents and return for more rather than ensuring search engine optimisation. The whole point of a blog (and your report) is the message. The person reading the blog (your report) wants to learn something or have something they ”know” confirmed – they are reading it for the content. That is why bloggers use the approach described above.

Rule number 1: Remember, busy people never read beyond the first page or maybe (the diligent ones) the second. You may still have to provide all the expected back-up bulk, but the serious content must appear early. Help the diligent ones find all the detail by using hyperlinks to the relevant components.

Rule number 2: Follow the Three Rules of Targeted Traffic to ensure those you want to read your material do so:

  1. Determine the audience you are writing for – write for them.

  2. Stay on-topic – don’t introduce irrelevant distractions.

  3. Write the document – and its title – so that your targeted reader finds it as interesting as their favourite web page.

Rule number 3: review your final document – and edit if it needs be – to make sure your target audience will read it. Check that:

  1. You’re making a unique and new point and not just regurgitating information,

  2. You’ve clearly summarised the point of your article in 2 – 3 sentences,

  3. the point you’re trying to make is apparent.

And: Move all those boring front pages containing the revision history and sign off details to an appendix with a hyperlink to them. Put the most important part of your document right up front!

Next Steps:

  1. Determine your target readers’ views of the readability, clarity and value of the documents/reports you provide them, and how they think they could be improved.

  2. Determine if a “blog-like” approach would improve their perceptions.

  3. If “Yes” set up a pilot program to “blog” a particular set of documents and monitor the response of the target audience.

  4. If it is successful, expand the program, possibly placing your non-sensitive “blogs” on your intranet.

What about – Start now – explore the option of blogging your approach as you develop your 2009/10 IT budget3.

2 Meme – A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another. Coined by analogy with `gene', by Richard Dawkins

3 See Start to prepare IT Budgets for 2009/10 Now IBRS February 2009

The rule of three is a principle that suggests that things that come in threes are inherently more memorable and attractive to us than other numbers of things.

Conclusion: The differences in roles and responsibilities between an IT professional and line manager are many and need to be understood by new managers and the manager’s manager. Not only will the understanding help both managers make the appointment work, it will also help the selection panel choose the right person.

A line new manager needs to be aware 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: Interacting continuously with difficult people (also known as ‘jerks’) has the potential to make the workplace an unpleasant environment and sap the energy of those around them. Astute IT managers and professionals must understand the reasons difficult people behave in the way they do before they can develop coping strategies.

If UK and US based research quoted by Robert Sutton1 is a guide, difficult people also represent a hidden cost to the organisation through higher staff attrition, lost productivity and lower job satisfaction.

Conclusion: eLearning is re-emerging as a solution for effective delivery of online, hybrid, and synchronous learning regardless of physical location, time of day or distribution device type. eLearning can be used by the whole organisation for ensuring staff have and maintain the skills they need to deliver top organisational performance. Pending financial constraints provide an ideal stimulus to consider the increased use of eLearning in organisations.

Conclusion: Because cross-enterprise projects cross management responsibility boundaries and change the way people work, resistance is inevitable. To minimise resistance, start the project only when all plans have been agreed and skilled resources, including change managers, are available.

If the project is started before minimisation initiatives are implemented, counter implementers, who thrive when there is uncertainty, will create resistance and put success at risk.

Project managers and the governance group for cross enterprise projects must be aware of the risks of failure and not be daunted by them. Success comes to those who minimise the political (or people-related) risks. Appoint the right professionals to implement the project and break it up into ‘bite sized chunks’ in which usable results are possible.

Conclusion: Managers who can retain their best people are well on the way to a successful career. Because many IT professionals and managers have unique skills their retention is vital to business success. Conversely when they resign ‘with regret’, their loss may delay projects, increase system failures and adversely affect their manager’s career.

Astute managers identify their best people and develop strategies to keep them as well as their likely successors. It is called career protection insurance.

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: When a CIO is appointed he or she becomes the centre of attention in their new IT ecosystem. Major demands will be placed on the CIO’s time by those seeking to espouse their views on IT and effective judgement will be needed to filter essential input from dross. Being visible and accessible within the organisation is important at this time. Drawn from broadly-based stakeholder input, a principle-based framework needs to be established setting out the new IT leader’s agenda. This should be followed through with decisive action. Adjust the plan quarterly to ensure continued relevance.

Conclusion: From the moment a new CIO is appointed, the clock starts ticking as organisational scrutiny commences. Generally, a new CIO has 100 days to prove his or her worth. However, from the new CIO’s point of view, the clock should start ticking 20 days earlier. This is when savvy incoming CIOs can carry out due diligence on their new organisation and begin planning to ensure the strongest possible impression is made in the vital 100 days. In addition, the new CIO needs to carefully select the most appropriate driving modalities that best characterise the major themes the new IT leader will pursue. Failure to act as outlined may prove career limiting.

Conclusion: Industry surveys continually rank as high the need for IT professionals and their managers to understand the business context in which their clients operate and deliver systems solutions quickly. IT professionals that can promptly turn a business requirement into a systems solution bring credit to themselves and their organisation.

Peter Keen1 coined IT professionals, who understand the business context and can drive systems delivery, as hybrids. Put simply they are people who are proficient in both the business and IT domains. Astute managers know that hybrids have to be identified and developed and the process takes time. Hybrids do not fall out of the sky.

Conclusion: Three previous articles on this topic were triggered by a January 2006 McKinsey & Co. survey1 on the IT spending patterns of 37 retail and wholesale banks. The survey revealed a surprising paradox. Those that were the lowest spenders were judged as delivering the greatest business value from their investment in IT.

Conclusion: Two previous articles on this topic were triggered by a January 2006 McKinsey & Co. survey1 on the IT spending patterns of 37 retail and wholesale banks. In essence, it showed that the lowest spenders were judged as delivering the greatest business value from their investment in IT.

Conclusion: Last month’s article on this topic was triggered by a January 2006 McKinsey & Co. survey1 on the IT spending patterns of 37 retail and wholesale banks. In essence, it showed that the lowest spenders were judged as delivering the greatest business value from their investment in IT.

Conclusion: A McKinsey & Co. survey1 of the spending patterns of 37 retail and wholesale banks, published in January 2006 revealed a startling paradox. Those banks judged as delivering the greatest business value from their investment in IT, were also among the lowest spenders.

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.

How often have we seen it in recent years? IT Management journals with articles about the need for CIO’s to get closer to the business. In many cases it is suggested that in order to add value to the business, the CIO should become involved in the development of business strategies and to put forward proposals for the use of technology to support the implementation of these strategies.

Conclusion: A recent study1 has found Australian IT managers have the highest need, compared to their peers, to develop their influencing capability overall. The result is not surprising. Previous studies2 have found, as a generalisation, IT managers and professionals are task oriented and have low social skills relative to their peers. Unfortunately, these attributes stymie efforts to influence others and sell their ideas.

All is not lost however. IT managers and professionals can acquire the insights and skills needed to exercise an influence and persuade others, providing they are willing to make changes to their management style.

Conclusion: Identifying the right person to the right task or project and helping them succeed is a major challenge for most managers, principally because it involves knowing the competencies and aspirations of each candidate. This knowledge is rarely acquired quickly. Ironically it is often only when the assignee has encountered stressful situations, such as a conflict with a client or vendor or had to deal with an unexpected delay in the project that the knowledge is refined.

Stressful situations also test the manager who may have to help the assignee ride the wave or resolve the conflict. This article provides a useful framework for determining how to identify competencies and help assignees maximise their performance. It also canvasses options to consider when things are not going well.

Conclusion: There is compelling evidence in Australia and New Zealand that ongoing investment in IT is being hindered by a shortage of trained IT professionals. While the evidence, which is in industry surveys, government statistics and job advertisements, is compelling it begs the question, ‘What can I do to mitigate the shortage of skilled IT and business professionals in my organisation?’

While innovative strategies are presented in this article, they are no substitute for sound HR practices, such as implementing flexible working and leave arrangements, sound benefits management and using astute people management practices.

It was also evident that a number of business and IT staff (some quite senior) who had been involved throughout the acquisition and specification process had growing concerns about the process and the path that the project was taking. However, these people had chosen to remain silent, largely it would seem in deference to Mr. H’s ebullient and fearsome style.

Since IT began as a profession, within many organisations there seems to have been some degree of tension between IT and Finance.

Conclusion: Industry and research publications have cogitated for many years on the CIO’s role and responsibilities. Some recent articles in journals have speculated the role will become redundant due to emergence of information systems or point solutions owned and operated by business units.

Whilst some organisations operate point solutions from within business units, e.g. equities trading desks in wholesale banks and exploration systems in oil and gas companies, the reality is that these organisations also have statutory reporting and corporate compliance requirements. These requirements force them to consolidate financial and other data typically under the remit of the CIO or equivalent.

Other commentators emphasise the supply side of the CIO role and assume IT literate business managers will occupy the demand side an act as informed buyers. In my observation this is less than ideal as the buyers typically have stretched performance objectives leaving them little time for involvement in IT related matters.

Conclusion: The CIO organisation can be considered as the CEO organisation in microcosm. Both domains encounter similar issues: strategy, market penetration and credibility, cost reductions and so on.

As with last month’s article, this one draws on insights gained from studies of major corporations and is intended to provide inspiration to CIOs keen to improve practices and lift performance within their domain.

Conclusion: The literature is replete with reasons why projects fail but strangely one that rarely gets mentioned is, ‘appointment of an inappropriate project manager’ or equivalent. Picking the right person for the right project is not difficult providing some guidelines, related to identifying the skills, attributes and personality type preference of the person, are followed and the type of the project is clear.

2006 marks a significant 50 year anniversary for computing in Australia. On July 4th 1956 it is claimed that the first program was run on SILLIAC, a valve computer that was assembled and housed at the Physics Department of the University of Sydney. Over the years much political mileage has been made on both sides of politics, about how Australians have often been at the forefront in pioneering new technologies, but have been slow in exploiting and commercialising them. However, these assertions need to be tested, certainly as far as information technology is concerned.

Conclusion: Some of the lessons from corporate management literature can be applied to the successful running of an IT shop. This article contains insights gained from studies of some of the world’s most admired companies and provides new ways to think about planning for the future through the application of the ‘three horizons’ technique.

Conclusion: The end of the calendar year is always a time of soul-searching and reflection. What has been nagging you this year that you know can be improved upon next year? Before 2006 begins in earnest, think about some of the aspects of CIO life that could be changed for the better.

Conclusion: Most organisations (and agencies) use a formal staff (including management) performance review or appraisal process to give everyone feedback on their contribution and insights into their strengths and weaknesses. While most organisations publish procedures on how the process should operate, it is typically left to busy line managers to implement it albeit, in my observation, in a patchy way, eg because many work on long term projects their immediate contribution is hard to assess.

Conclusion: As executive management become more cynical about technology’s ability to deliver change, they continue to depend upon it as an enabler whilst keeping a closer rein than ever on the IT spending component of change programs. This places enormous pressure on the IT Executive. However, change programs are not just about technology. The problem is that the IT component is usually the most visible, and often the most expensive part of a change program. In my experience, if an IT-based project fails to deliver, though the Project Sponsor may nominally be responsible, the technology is often blamed and it is the IT Executive who may well be brought to account by association.

Over the last few years I have grown to learn that there is this thing called ‘Real Work’. I haven’t been able to identify what ‘Real Work’ is but I can tell you this, ‘Real Work’ must be very very important.

Conclusion: Recent media coverage has highlighted a shortage of qualified trades’ people in the labour market. The technology industry has not had a problem in attracting people; however, with an aging population and other market forces at play, the ICT industry also faces shortages.

In February CIO magazine reported that the ATO had moved a software development project from Canberra to Melbourne because it couldn’t fill 100 new positions required to complete the project. This instance may be exceptional, and Canberra is an atypical labour market, but nevertheless it is a sign. <p ">   <p "> With the overall available labour falling in coming years, business and IT managers will have to plan new ways to attract and retain a scarce resource. A new competitive pressure will be thrust on IT departments.

Conclusion: In management, the role of character has been understood for some time and is frequently covered in the business literature. It is also at the core of profile testing which is used to learn how adept people are for certain jobs in an organisation.

For most managers how and why they make certain choices, or decide to follow particular plans are based on demands and outside influences. Yet starting new initiatives, even embarking on a project that is genuinely strategic may be rooted in a manager’s motivations.

To successfully implement projects and set the feasible priorities over the next year; a clearer view of how and why you manage your job can be an effective way to do it better.

The recent report* published by the Institute of Chartered Accountants on the role of the CFO is of significance to all who interact with the CFO on a day to day basis. In 2001, in a comparable report, the researchers found the CFO’s focus was on ways to enhance business performance and reduce costs through vehicles such as Shared Services units and getting the benefits expected from their ERP software implementations.

The challenges facing the CIOs of midsize businesses are not expected to become easier. Continuing requirements to support the growth of their businesses by adding new offices, new applications and more staff mean that they have to increase the capabilities of the IT, probably without the benefit of increased staff and budgets. They will also have to deal with new vendors, sales channels and disappearing vendors.

Conclusion: A common complaint from IT specialists is that "the business" doesn't understand what they can deliver to an organisation nor fully comprehend what their capabilities are. A direct result of an organisation's internal dysfunction in this regard is that projects and teams fail to deliver timely and effective work.

According to IT Skills Hub, a not for profit organisation set up by the Commonwealth Government and the Australian Information Technology and Telecommunications (IT&T) industry to deal with education and training in the IT sector:

"IT managers can't translate a project into a business outcome. So team members don't know what's expected of them or the project. IT managers […] need to be your best managers since all projects rely on people working together to deliver a product/solution. They also need to be great communicators who can manage the relationship with the customer and the teams."1

The ways and means of solving the problem, both in work practices and overall management between departments are possible using the basics of communication and cooperation. Managers must take the responsibility of identifying the problems and then establishing a process to cure it.

Conclusion: Increasing competition and the need to engage skilled people on demand will drive the need to form virtual teams. Those engaged must not only be appropriately skilled, but confident and adaptable people who can work successfully in isolation.

To succeed managers of virtual teams must treat every member of the team as an equal, respect their opinion and let them know they are trusted. Conversely, command and control style of management will de-motivate the right people and fail.

Cynicism is much too easy at election time as the general impression is that few large differences exist between the players. To understand the policy differences between the contenders Information Age sought some answers from the two main parties which were answered by the two politicians responsible, for the Coalition, Senator the Hon Helen Coonan and for Labor, Senator Kate Lundy.

Conclusion: With a growing economy, low inflation and unemployment rate, a talent war for skilled professionals who can act as informed buyers and integrators of Business Solutions is upon us.

If you are a lover of ‘Fawlty Towers', you might remember Mrs Richards - arguably Basil's most difficult guest.  No matter what Basil offered to do for her, it was never enough.  Finally, he offered (among other things) to ‘Move Mt Everest six inches to the left'.  I am sure if he had achieved this, she would have complained that it should have been moved seven inches.  Basil's problem was that neither he nor Mrs Richards could agree on a reasonable outcome that would satisfy both of them.

Many IT managers face this very same problem.  They work with business stakeholders on initiatives without agreement on what a successful outcome might be.  Now at this stage most readers are saying, ‘that's not me - we have everything specified'.  Well, specifications are one thing.  The expectations people have deep in their hearts are something else again.

One of the most difficult dilemmas an IS project manager or CIO is likely to face is what steps should be taken when the client will not accept a proven technical solution, e.g. because she claims acceptance will compromise her ability to meet her performance criteria set by the CEO.  

While the ‘crash or crash through' approach is tempting, it is risky. Pursuing it is likely to bruise everyone involved. Another option, which is to go to the CEO to get the matter resolved, is not politically astute. In most firms it is lore that asking the CEO to resolve an impasse is viewed as failure.

Conclusion: In his book Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin argued ‘that it is neither the strongest, nor the most intelligent but most responsive to change that survive'.   Over the last four decades we have seen many species of IT professionals rise to lofty heights briefly prosper and then rapidly become extinct.  If you are of the Genus IT Darwin's theory of evolution is critical to your career.

Conclusion: An organisation’s culture is a vital part of its business process but it’s an element of a company that is only examined when there are problems. Taking stock of the state of the company’s culture, and also observing it within departments, could be another means of improving profitability and employee satisfaction.

For an examination of culture to be worthwhile, it ought to strive for definite outcomes or else it may become just another exercise in staff management. Managers can make two plays to attain goals:

  1. Sanction consent and support at executive management level as it must be something the company endorses;

  2. Make the diagnostic process deliver results and not just analysis, thereby establishing goals in the future.

By ensuring that a cultural examination will be useful to an organisation, a better understanding of how the firm is working is gained. This type of information is qualitatively useful for managers.

Conclusion: Every department within an enterprise is under greater scrutiny to prove their worth. For the IT service department rising beyond a service supplier relationship with the rest of the firm or agency means marketing their wares in two ways:

  1. Delivering services in a timely and responsive manner which like all actions can be a matter of execution;

  2. Opening and maintaining two-way communication channels with all areas of the organisation: necessary to deliver services today and to anticipate next stage requirements. To achieve these aims may require implementing some tried and tested marketing and market research techniques.

Getting the approach to marketing right can make a difference in effectiveness for an organisation, not just for the IT department.

Conclusion: In 2003 any failure of e-commerce systems through problems with supporting technology is seen as a failure of the whole organisation. Many business leaders have recognised that they need better models for governing IT investments and ensuring effective IT operations. To their dismay most CIOs have not recognised that change is required. Today many CIOs are ‘playing the wrong game’. Unless they quickly understand what is required they will be replaced with managers who do.

Many CIOs have remained focused on low cost operational support when they should be working hard to grow corporate capabilities in IT strategic planning, enterprise architecture, program and project management, relationship management and technology R+D.

For years CIOs have been waiting for an opportunity to work with business as a full partner. Today that opportunity is staring many CIO’s in the face and most haven’t recognised it.

Conclusion: By helping geeks (those who deliver technical solutions) resolve the ambiguity inherent in their work environment you can help them deliver quality technical solutions and meet your work-related objectives.

Conclusion: While attracting and retaining staff is no longer a pre-occupation of CIOs, the challenge today is to manage IT professionals in a way that maximises their contribution and minimises the possibility of them seeking another role.

Conclusion: In the past, age and income were reliable predictors of behaviour but now, and in the future, the old definitions do not depict consumers well. Regardless of the industry, businesses in the future must gain quality consumer psychographic research either, syndicated or customised, if they are to operate confidently in evolving consumer markets. The other ingredient to the emerging customer strategy is segmenting and categorising the market by what consumers think, hope and wish for rather than any other fixed metric like age or even income. This involves slicing consumer markets into separate dimensions to gain a better view on how they operate and what will drive them in the future.

Marketing management has always wanted to get inside customers’ heads and it will be essential to do so to understand what they want, dream of, and ultimately buy.

Conclusion: Over the next 5 to 10 years marketing to the mature, that is, over 50 consumers will become an essential element in the business of all types of enterprises as the entire population ages. The largest portion of consumers will be in this age group. Grasping the demographic difference will set a marker between those companies that can prosper and those that are living in the past.

Conclusion: Virtual Teams have become common in most organisations, and technology and globalisation have been the major enablers. Leaders and team participants have found themselves as participants by default and without choice.

For many, little training or education has been provided to help individuals recognise that their future work environment is going to change, and what new skills or competencies need to be developed.

To effectively utilise Virtual Teams, organisations need to develop a culture that recognises how teams will be used, what tools will be used for communication and collaboration, and education for both leaders and team members.

Conclusion: It is easier to assess the applicant against technical skills and experience than assessing against soft skills. The time to assess soft skills is at the interview. Ask behavioural questions and recruit the more Emotionally Intelligent candidate. This applies to every recruitment position no matter how technically important the skills are.