Reporting Up

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.

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: 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: In an age-diverse workforce, it is important that IT managers and professionals understand the different expectations and management styles of stakeholders and accommodate them to gain their support for IT-related initiatives being proposed.

Without understanding the management styles and expectations of age-diverse stakeholders, a level of disconnect may occur and business relationships could slip from being of mutual benefit to transactional and ineffective.

Conclusion: Relationships at work between managers and employees are important and can influence the success and effectiveness of individual teams or whole organisations. Both managers and employees need to understand the bias that can occur between a view a manager may take about an employee they have invested in and ‘hired’ or selected, versus an employee that is thrust upon them or that they inherit from another manager; for example, employees that join an organisation as the result of an acquisition.

When managers are ‘invested’ in the selection of employees, a relationship exists that reflects on the managers’ judgement and decision-making skills, having believed that they have made good hiring decisions. No such relationship exists when the managers have no involvement in the selection of the employees but are assigned to managing the employees.

The more that managers understand this, the better they can focus on avoiding viewing employees differently. The more that employees understand this, the better they can recognise potential issues, and work to improve their career prospects by ensuring they work for a manager that has ‘chosen’ them, or at least learnt to understand their abilities and contributions.

IBRSiQ is a database of Client inquiries and is designed to get you talking to our Advisors about these topics in the context of your organisation in order to provide tailored advice for your needs.

IBRSiQ is a database of client inquiries and is designed to get you talking to our advisors about these topics in the context of your organisation in order to provide tailored advice for your needs.
 

IBRSiQ is a database of Client inquiries and is designed to get you talking to our Advisors about these topics in the context of your organisation in order to provide tailored advice for your needs.

 
 IBRSiQ is a database of Client inquiries and is designed to get you talking to our Advisors about these topics in the context of your organisation in order to provide tailored advice for your needs.
 

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.

Related Articles:

"Can IBRS provide a Checklist for reporting to the Board on Cyber Security?" IBRS, 2017-06-29 01:41:08

"Digital transformation: Top 4 lessons" IBRS, 2018-10-04 13:03:00

"Mind the Gap in the IT and Business Partnership" IBRS, 2014-10-01 20:39:56

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.

Related Articles:

"Helping technical team leaders succeed" IBRS, 2018-02-01 10:09:58

"Inspirational leadership core qualities and behaviours" IBRS, 2017-11-02 04:18:41

"Leadership is critical to innovation" IBRS, 2017-12-02 06:06:05

Conclusion: Just as one size car does not suit everyone, so one IT management reporting structure will not meet the needs of all firms or agencies. While there is no blueprint for developing an IT management structure, there are guiding principles and workplace change management practices to help get the restructure right the first time.

Due to fluctuating IT investment cycles and business transaction volumes changes, IT management reporting structures are rarely static. Consequently, management must be prepared to change IT management reporting structures quickly in response to business changes or when they are not meeting the purpose for which they were designed.

Related Articles:

"A Digital Transformation Maturity Self-Assessment Checklist" IBRS, 2015-06-30 22:34:46

"Getting traction at the executive meeting" IBRS, 2012-09-23 00:00:00

"Taking care of business - the CIO and the Board" IBRS, 2011-12-27 00:00:00

Conclusion: Organisations planning to transform their business operations using IT must develop a shared vision of how to use IT to enable the transformation. Failure to provide a vision will frustrate attempts to implement the transform agenda, demotivate employees and, if false starts occur, could adversely impact business relationships with suppliers and clients.

Related Articles:

"Digital Strategy Part 1: What are the traits of digital leaders?" IBRS, 2018-02-01 10:26:23

"Innovation: Taking action in 2018" IBRS, 2018-08-01 09:14:16

"IT management leadership role in risk management" IBRS, 2018-05-04 18:43:08

"Know how to sell ideas and support the digital strategy" IBRS, 2018-08-01 09:46:03

IBRS iQ is a database of Client inquiries and is designed to get you talking to our Advisors about these topics in the context of your organisation in order to provide tailored advice for your needs.

IBRS iQ is a database of Client inquiries and is designed to get you talking to our Advisors about these topics in the context of your organisation in order to provide tailored advice for your needs.

Conclusion: The program to upskill IT professionals and managers must be intentional and the results measurable. Unless the program is actively supported by participating line managers and affected staff, it may not meet the vision set in the IT strategic or business operational plan. The IT upskilling program’s initiatives should be presented by the CIO, to the executive or its talent management committee so the results can be applied elsewhere in the organisation.

Related Articles:

"Demystifying IT workforce planning" IBRS, 2017-11-02 03:50:29

"Future-proofing your ICT team: Predictions and mitigation" IBRS, 2018-02-01 10:12:40

"Helping technical team leaders succeed" IBRS, 2018-02-01 10:09:58

"Recruiting today for tomorrow’s workforce" IBRS, 2018-01-03 05:52:33

Conclusion: Business and IT professionals struggle with how to frame their message so it engages the reader and has immediate impact. To get the reader’s attention, it is important to pose a business problem, or an unacceptable situation that is pre-occupying the reader, and provide a solution on the same page.

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: IT professionals who operate in a structured and predictable environment could find the role change to that of an IT manager more challenging than they had anticipated, as it typically requires a mind-set change from completing one or two tasks to managing people. To avoid disappointment, senior management must help new IT managers make the transition and cope with the nuances of the role.

To help them succeed, assign other IT managers, who have made the transition, to coach them. In this way they can learn how to act out the new role and come to grips with the politics of the organisation, or spheres of influence, and know how to interpret business priorities.

As technology executives in councils drive to innovate services in their communities they face specific challenges. 

Over 2016-2017, IBRS surveyed CIOs in NSW, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria in order to understand how the winds of change are affecting local government’s frontline professionals.

The results are in this 22-page report, together with IBRS’s recommendations. Additionally, this report reveals the potential for ICT vendors in the local government sector.

This is a must read report for IT stakeholders involved in local government

 What you will discover in the report:

  • IT Management Priorities of other CIOs and skills needed to transform client services
  • Innovation and digital transformation initiatives being pursued by Councils
  • Why focusing on reducing IT costs is a low priority and potentially counter-productive
  • Why it is important to identify and grow the capabilities of business analysts and their line managers
  • And for vendors: how to establish mutually beneficial relationships with Councils

Conclusion: There are four broad approaches to consider when procuring Software Asset Management. The approach should be based upon an organisation’s SAM maturity1, and its appetite to grow this maturity2.

Related Articles:

"Software Asset Management Maturity Part 1: A pragmatic model" IBRS, 2014-05-30 00:00:00

"Software Asset Management Maturity Part 2: A Process for bootstrapping maturity" IBRS, 2014-06-29 00:00:00

"Software Asset Management Maturity Part 3: Aligning Architecture" IBRS, 2014-07-29 11:24:24

IBRS iQ is a database of Client inquiries and is designed to get you talking to our Advisors about these topics in the context of your organisation in order to provide tailored advice for your needs.

IBRS iQ is a database of Client inquiries and is designed to get you talking to our Advisors about these topics in the context of your organisation in order to provide tailored advice for your needs.

Conclusion: Technical debt is intangible and its extent hard to measure. Organisations that compromise quality for expediency to meet schedules or defer software release upgrades accumulate technical debt unwittingly.

Managers who let the debt increase and fail to reduce it could be digging an ever deeper and dry well that could cost them their jobs, leaving their successor to find the wherewithal to fill it and create valuable system assets.

IBRS iQ is a database of Client inquiries and is designed to get you talking to our Advisors about these topics in the context of your organisation in order to provide tailored advice for your needs.

Conclusion: Unless the Executive holds business and IT management accountable for reporting if the benefits expected in the business case have been realised or not, they will never know whether they made the right decision to invest in the first place.

To estimate the gross benefits and costs, it is imperative the business case records not only the performance metrics when it was approved, but also those current when the business system(s), was implemented (when there is a time lag).

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.

Conclusion: Workplace change and IT transformation projects typically bring with them more political (organisational) than technical challenges. To win support for these projects concentrate on the people by listening to their concerns and developing strategies to alleviate them. Let the technical solution stand or fall on its own merits.

I have observed that many organisations operate with limited knowledge of the costs, structures and competitive initiatives planned by their competitors or of comparable agencies in other jurisdictions.

Rarely does management know which system solutions have been acquired, deals concluded with suppliers such as software licence pricing, or whether their online competitors are operating profitably or not.

In the private sector lack of understanding of the competitive landscape breeds management paranoia and in the public sector fear of being disbanded if the services are not critical to government or costs are high. When fear is pervasive management is internally focussed and preoccupied with survival. To counter the fear management seek quantitative and qualitative data.

Conclusion: Equitably allocating IT resources to competing proposals can be simplified by conducting a business systems portfolio assessment in advance with stakeholders. Without the assessment, management will find it hard to reach consensus on where to best allocate their IT investment and skilled resources.

Over the last 2 years, there has been an explosion of all things cloud. Infrastructure in the cloud, cloud services and of course cloud providers.

Many organisations are moving to the cloud, planning to move to the cloud or at least thinking about ways that they can leverage what the new wave of services can give them. Combine this with a very competitive commercial world where winning a portion of the available ICT spend is becoming harder and harder and you can see why no ICT company wants to be seen with yesterday’s present.

Conclusion: IT managers, who aspire to become CIOs, must not only work hard but actively support business projects in order to succeed. Having a track record of successfully completing projects and winning the respect of peers will go a long way towards convincing senior management of fitness for the CIO role.

Conclusion: CIOs who align their forward work program with their IT workforce competency assessments so they can assign the right people to the right roles have a higher probability of successful services delivery than those who rely on intuition alone to make the assignment.

Conclusion: Assuming surveys indicating global IT spending is declining hold true in Australian and New Zealand, CIOs are in for a tough time in the next budget cycle. To arrest the decline CIOs have to go on the front foot and highlight the business benefits IT has helped secure and explain why each one is at risk if the IT budget is reduced.

I was surprised when a CIO that had engaged an external services provider told me the firm was not delivering the project management services it had contracted to provide. I had earlier conducted due diligence on the provider and been impressed with its track record. The CIO stated the provider had not assigned an activist project manager and problems were not identified in advance and solved. The client subsequently terminated the contract.

Conclusion: There is an increase in the number of women board directors following changes to diversity disclosure guidelines. However, the pipeline of senior executive women remains small and changes in the workforce are needed to improve this trend. Tight labour markets and an ageing workforce provide opportunities for organisations and industries to differentiate themselves and attract and retain women with future board membership potential. Recognition of planned career breaks for family and appropriate support on re-entry to the workforce can significantly increase senior management participation for women.

Conclusion: CIOs need a politically sensitive antenna to pick up items of interest or performance metrics that need to be included in their Monthly Operational and Strategic Update reports to the Executive or Board. Their antennas must pick up and focus on matters likely to be on the ‘radar screen’ of the Executive such as responses to a competitive initiative or the status of a critical business system's implementation, which may take priority on the agenda over 'business as usual' matters, such as IT service delivery performance.

Additionally, if a major online systems outage has occurred in the month, they will want to know its impact and steps being taken to ensure it does not happen again.

Strategic Update reports, which are usually required on a regular basis, typically focus on major achievements and initiatives planned for the next reporting period. These reports are aimed at keeping the Executive informed on how IT investment is contributing to meeting business objectives.

Conclusion: The drop in enrolments in IT related courses at academic and vocational institutions in the last 10 years and estimates of job vacancies in 2012 and 2014 are alarming.1 Whilst online job advertisements have declined in the last year, and pending public sector budget job cuts may free up some IT professionals, these are temporary blips and pale alongside long term vacancy projections.

To avoid being caught short in 2014, when unmet job vacancies will peak, hire the best graduates, improve productivity and retain proficient staff. Doing nothing is not an option.

Conclusion: Research shows that flexible workplaces result in improved productivity, increased revenue, lower staff attrition and higher staff morale. Numerous surveys indicate that the majority of employers and business managers support flexible workplace arrangements. But is this widespread recognition translated into actively marketing and promoting flexible workplace arrangements to prospective employees? The answer appears to be a resounding NO. In addition, are there specific areas that are experiencing high demand and short supply that benefit from offering flexible workplace arrangements? There are a number of professions that are well suited to flexible workplace arrangements including in demand roles such as business analysts. IT Leaders can utilise flexible workplace arrangements as an incentive when recruiting in demand roles as it can increase the candidate pool.

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: 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: 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: The generic term “the business” as used by IT people to refer to their stakeholders, is a gross and somewhat dangerous generalisation. Blithely referring to “the business” while making little effort to understand the real needs and priorities of system constituents can leave IT practitioners disconnected from the people they are trying to serve. Organisations have many different facets and characteristics that all seek different qualities from IT solutions. Understanding these differences is an essential requirement to delivering superior IT services and solutions.

Conclusion: Knowing what it costs to provide IT services is fundamental for sound IT governance and external comparison. Whilst it might be tempting to quote the IT expense budget as the basis for comparison, doing so is naïve. This is because each organisation differs in the way it collects and allocates IT expenses. Without normalising the costs, comparisons could be way off the mark.

Once IT costs have been normalised and adjusted, as described and depicted in the diagram below, comparison is defensible with a) comparable organisations, b) what an external services provider might charge for the same services and c) the average costs for the industry sector as set out in IT industry survey spending reports.

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.

At the conclusion of a course on ‘Selling Ideas’, in which I was an instructor, one of the participants was an Enterprise Architect in a large bank. He stated that he now planned to be a ‘political animal’. His management team when told, and unaware of his identity, were both alarmed and delighted. Alarmed, because he might ‘ruffle a few (of their) feathers’ and delighted, that by being politically active, he might fast track decisions needed to complete projects on time.

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.

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: 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: 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: 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: 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.

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: 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: When asked to give a succinct report on the organisation's (or agency's) IS investment strategy to the Executive or Board one of the dilemmas managers face is what should be included and excluded. For the purpose of this publication the strategy report is quite different to the report on operational matters envisaged in the IBRS March 2004 article, 'What do you tell your peers every month'.

While the context and business imperatives might vary by organisation, such as the competitive environment and whether the organisation is in containment or growth mode, I believe there are common elements of a strategy report and have set them out below.

For the purpose of this article assume the presenter is allocated has 40 minutes to one hour.

Conclusion: The capacity to understand and transform business data into knowledge and use it for commercial gain is one of the differentiators of a well performing organisation or agency. How this might be achieved is the focus of this article.

Conclusion: Amazingly some senior business executives still proudly state, ‘I don't understand anything about information technology'. One can see how an executive might have thought this way in the 1970s but now some 30 years later and with ICT fundamental to day to day operations of every organisation such a view is just simply unacceptable.

In today's environment senior ICT executives should take every opportunity to make the CEO and board members aware of the business opportunities and risks associated with effective ICT investments. CIO's should also make sure ICT governance processes involve senior business executives in strategic not operational decision making.

CIO's need to encourage their CEO and other members of the Executive to start saying ‘I need to understand the impacts of information technology on our business'.

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: 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.

While CIOs and IT staff in USA, and in local affiliates of US companies, are wrestling with the ramifications of Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, Australian CIOs are now coming to grips with the consequences of its local counterpart, CLERP9 (Corporate Law Economic Reform Program 9).    

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: 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?

Conclusion: As a CIO, or an IT Manager, a key part of your job will be helping business leaders recognise opportunities where IT could improve the way they do business.

If you haven’t made an effort to build a personal relationship with your peers BEFORE you try to give them business advice you will almost certainly fail. Put simply, if they don’t like you they won’t trust you and they won’t listen to your advice.

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.