Leadership & People

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

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

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

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

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.

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Conclusion: Organisations source and procure research and advisory services for a range of reasons. The benefits of access to external research and advisory can vary widely from organisation to organisation. Today’s business and technology environment is changing in more radical and rapid ways. Organisations that fully access and embed the information and advice available from research and advisory services can enhance the problem identification and solving process, ensure staff are incorporating a broad range of information into their thinking and systematically include changing environmental information at strategic, tactical and operational decision making levels. Research and advisory can also be used to improve staff analysis and presentation skills. 

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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.

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Conclusion: Design thinking is increasingly being utilised by organisations in Australia and globally to create new products and services. Based on the current level of adoption by leading organisations and those investigating design thinking it could be considered the next best practice concept. However, like other best practices, it is the art of applying the technique that reaps benefits, rather than just following the process.

In other words it is the nuances that need to be considered closely and not just the elements that can be seen and touched. Understanding the elements of design thinking and, most importantly, applying the right people using the right approach with the right expectations will ensure that the results match the promise. Empathising with users, customers or consumers is the first step in the process and is critical to the success of all the effort that follows.

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Conclusion: The analysis of various and complex data sets could provide a catalyst for team collaboration. One of the challenges organisations will face in combining teams is setting out the conditions in which they will work together. Looking past obvious differences in background, or so-called professional culture, will be necessary to organise roles with the talents available.

Initially devise pilots to assess teams and roles and the value of the output. The development of data projects should produce quick benefits in terms of output and team cohesion. Understanding of the analytical insights should be shared widely in order for the benefits to reach as many within an organisation and bring change where it is needed.

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Conclusion: Organisations that fail to develop the skills of their BAs, or give them intellectually challenging roles, are in danger of losing them and their corporate memory. BAs used wisely are often the glue holding complex projects together.

Use them to elicit and simplify business requirements, develop compelling business cases and redesign business processes and the investment will reap dividends. Allocating them mundane tasks and failing to involve them in critical decision making meetings will demotivate them and give them a reason to move on.

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Conclusion: Organisations often look to their competitors for new ideas and innovations and to provide a comparison to their own operations and business direction. Public sector organisations tend to look at other public sector organisations at different levels such as local, state or federal and public sector operations in other countries. Australia generally looks to Canada and the United Kingdom for advances in public sector administration and operations.

However, there are many lessons to be learned from other sectors and industries that could have significant benefit for individual organisations. Failure to identify and harvest the lessons and ideas from other industries will place organisations at a significant disadvantage in the future.

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Conclusion: Organisations building new products and services need new tools and skills to reinvent old business offerings or build completely new business products and services. To be successful, organisations and key decision makers need to be continually assessing the environment for tools and techniques that can be introduced to assist in providing creative thinking and service design activities. Rather than focus on volumes of detailed assessments and documentation the new approach for tools and techniques is creative and visual. Combined with a culture that supports innovation and change, these tools assist organisations to confirm their service and value direction or to identify and build new value for their customers and their organisation. Having staff who have the right skills and the right aptitude to be creative will be critical even if an organisation partners with a specialist business.

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Conclusion: Most organisations have an unbalanced ICT investment portfolio where back-office systems (including ICT operations) consume more than their fair share of the ICT budget and capability. Consequently, emerging initiatives may fail to gain organisational support relevant to their potential business and organisational benefits.

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Conclusion: Progressing digital transformation strategies requires a much more holistic view of service delivery and extends beyond existing business process review and business systems improvement. Designing services that support digital transformation objectives need to look at the end to end service including customer experience. Traditional business analysis activities that captured the requirements of the business process owner and are used to implement business systems will not be adequate.

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Conclusion: To achieve workplace assimilation of new or replacement business systems, staff must be well trained and convinced it is in their best interests to become proficient operatives. For assimilation to become a reality a comprehensive workplace change management program, that includes a systems training strategy, must be developed.

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Conclusion: The standard method to assess the future is through the type and function of technologies. The starting point is the way new technologies modify processes and thereby rebalance requirements and outputs. An alternative approach is to examine how executive management will adapt to technological innovation because management maintains longstanding principles and objectives which are noteworthy in the implementation of technologies.

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Conclusion: Business leaders who have concluded that a Chief Digital Officer is required to provide a critical focus on their digital transformation plans, will find that defining the role in detail will remain an ongoing challenge because it is intensely context-sensitive.

Consequently, the first iteration of a Chief Digital Officer’s (CDO) role responsibilities, job description and person specification needs to be widely canvassed and tolerant of the ambiguity between maintaining ‘business as usual’ and a digital transformation.

A CDO role action plan is an important first step in setting and clarifying expectations.

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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).

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Conclusion: To improve the digital maturity of an organisation the CIO must encourage a team effort from business and technical areas within their organisation as well as strategic partners in the IT industry. Laggard IT vendors should be dropped in favour of digital leaders. The CIO will also need to convince their organisation to make early investments in long term capabilities that are critical to the adoption of new digital initiatives.

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Conclusion: The Australian market presents serious problems to marketers. The situation has been foreseeable for the last two years. The situation is likely to soften further, which will constrain their capacity to seek growth.

Solutions are available and require reappraisal of strategies and objectives. Applying intelligence and the right tools should help organisations steer through the variety of conditions ahead.

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Conclusion: A high dependence on a small range of technologies can reveal and extend weaknesses in marketing strategies. Coupled with the development of mobile applications to enhance their brands, marketers have moved to one-to-one communications which entails relatively increasing marginal costs because the efficiencies of scale are discounted. The focus on metrics and CRM in order to gain a comprehensive view of customers should aim to improve marketing activity efficiency, which also includes investments.

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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.

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Conclusion: innovation is top of mind for many CEOs across Australia. In fact, more than 86 % recognise that they need to invest more in R&D and innovation as part of the company strategy. However, there is a significant gap between the aspirations of organisations and the reality of innovation within these companies and entities. Knowing what behaviours should be demonstrated and having a plan will improve the alignment between goals and achievements. Most CIOs are being asked to drive innovation for the business, yet innovation is still more rhetoric than substance.

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Conclusion: consumers are de facto demanding Omni-channel customer service in digital commerce for its single consistent positive experience but Omni-channel service is only an aspiration for most businesses today.

  • Viable Omni-channel technology and IT architectures exist and are rapidly emerging but insensitive, unknowing business management is the main inhibitor to adoption of Omni-channel as the universal approach and practice.
  • Omni-channel creates a bigger scaling problem in marketing and IT than most enterprises currently envisage.
  • Leading adopters are evaluating Omni-channel service as a goal, but only investing in deployments that are immediately affordable because an Omni-channel ecosystem can be endless.

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Conclusion: Some organisations succeed at innovation better than others. To do so requires insight and an ability to understand how an organisation can function differently.

Innovation requires fresh thinking and different approaches. It demands attention on the value chain and business process in order to develop alternatives that will solve old issues.

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Conclusion: In an effort to reduce transaction costs governments have moved face-to-face payment-based transactions to online services. However, it is not always clear if savings are maximised and customers are totally satisfied.

If governments look to redesign services, some payment-based transactions no longer need to exist and many can be automated to the point they require no intervention from government or customer.

Most jurisdictions have failed to reduce payment-based transactions because their service delivery bodies are KPIed on the number of transactions they process.

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Conclusion: Organisations globally and across Australia increasingly understand the importance of providing products and services with a great user experience. Global companies and brands such as Google, the iPhone, the iPad, and the Kindle from Amazon have proven that user experience is an important differentiator even when something is not first to market. User experience (UX) is often confused with User Interface (UI) and organisations wanting to improve the customer experience of the products and services need to understand the difference. Organisations may increase their capabilities or engage an experienced partner to assist them to improve their user experience (UX) and it is important to understand the UX and UI roles and then apply them both in the appropriate manner so that they are not producing the wrong thing in a beautiful wrapper.

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Conclusion: Organisations across Australia are talking about innovation. Having a structured approach for idea management within organisations is critical as is receiving executive support and appropriate funding for new ideas. However, thinking differently about problems and opportunities will be a key competency in the drive for innovation. One approach such as design thinking is being utilised to great effect in other countries. There are some local occurrences but Australia is lagging and needs to take action to catch up.

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Conclusion: Productivity is one of management’s major objectives. This is generally understood but not always executed. As an enabler of organisational functions and productivity, IT needs a precise understanding of the concept in order to fulfil organisational productivity.

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Conclusion: Failure to understand the nuances present in clinical environments can lead to experienced ICT professionals making fundamental errors. These errors can impact patient safety.

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Conclusion: Virtual teams continue to be an accepted organisation mode as a means of grouping specialist and project resources together to achieve high quality outcomes. Recent research1 identifies that more than 40% or Fortune 500 companies currently utilise virtual teaming. Smaller organisations have found that technology tools provide the mechanisms to collaborative cost effectively. A key activity of virtual teams is collaborating on research, projects and reports. Understanding the purpose of the collaborative authoring activity, the personality preferences of the authors and the relationship of the authors can enable organisations to increase the quality of the output with less effort and in less elapsed time.

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Conclusion: Over the years, many ICT professionals have moved from roles in commerce to roles in Health without recognising the unique challenges presented by clinical environments. The result is an underperforming, expensive and misaligned ICT service that soaks up hundreds of millions of dollars annually for minimal patient benefit.

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Conclusion: With increasing pressure to digitise extra services to clients, now is the time to review the effectiveness of the partnership between IT and business units. Unless it is strong the capacity to deliver the extra services will be at risk.

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Conclusion: Organisations are increasingly leveraging the services, skills and capabilities of third party organisations to deliver high quality IT services to their organisations. At the same time, there is industry recognition that contract management skills within organisations are often under par. Well managed relationships can result in significant returns for the organisation in terms of ROI and reduced management costs. Well planned arrangements with performance measurements represent sound management practices. Going beyond the basics to mature relationships and trust dividends is even better.

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Conclusion: Whilst surveys highlight a surplus of ICT professionals and managers, job recruiters are not convinced. They claim the many vacancies on their books for skilled ICT professionals indicate there is a shortfall. Ironically both claims are true and together demand a different management response.

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Conclusion: When it comes to balancing the demands of stakeholders, CIOs are often left with Hobson’s choice1 – give in to demands from their enterprise customers. The alternative (saying no) risks the CIO being labelled a ‘Blocker’.

Elite CIOs deal with individual stakeholder demands within an ecosystem of five distinct stakeholder forces, and in doing so drive extraordinary enterprise benefits. Less effective CIOs remain bogged down in a tactical debate focusing on one demand at a time – never really satisfying anyone.

Success as a CIO will be defined by how well an agreed balance by these five stake-holder forces will be achieved.

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Conclusion: Organisations that fail to recognise the difference between information and knowledge are at risk of haemorrhaging knowledge at a rate that at the very least has a measurable impact on the quality of service delivered by the organisation. In the worst case, a loss of knowledge poses an existential threat to a product line or to the entire organisation. Whilst tools can play an important role in facilitating knowledge preservation, it is information sharing between individuals and teams that fuels the creation of knowledge.

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For several months business analysts and government ministers have been telling the public that Australia has to lift its productivity. The urgent call to action has come about because the golden years of mining are stuttering. To fill the gap left by mining, at the same time as the creeping shadow of ageing ‘boomers’ lengthens, productivity has to rise.

Companies and individuals are aware of this. Recommendations to improve productivity come in various forms. With technology, it’s in almost every piece of kit offered, from gadgets that squeeze that extra bit of output per hour to a full migration or new stack. In the human resources area it may come as advice to give more time to the work-life balance. Even adding green plants to the workplace has been another means to lift productivity.

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Conclusion: Consumer-oriented software and online services are raising user expectations. To determine the aspects of user experience design, and the trade-offs that are appropriate in a particular business context, requires extensive collaboration across multiple disciplines. The cross-disciplinary nature of the work must be considered when evaluating external providers of user experience design services. References and case studies should be consulted to confirm cross disciplinary capabilities and the level of expertise in all relevant disciplines.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Conclusion: CIOs have a pivotal role in ensuring business and IT transformation and major change initiatives succeed. As they are both disruptive to business and IT operations and typically involve retraining staff while implementing new information systems, CIOs must be innovative and exercise a strategic leadership role. If they do not, project failure is almost inevitable.

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Conclusion: There has been considerable research and media coverage on the role of the CIO and its relevance in the new digital era. Cloud services are making big inroads and traditional responsibilities are changing. This could signal the end of the role of CIO in organisations or, at the very least, dramatically change the scope of responsibility and divide the function. Over the next 3-5 years many CIO roles will be restructured into two roles and this is already occurring internationally and Australia wide. Organisations are making this change because they need to position for change and growth and they do not feel that the CIO can lead that change. In many instances the CIO either leaves the organisation or is allocated to run internal operations and a new digital chief is appointed for the more externally facing growth positions. Savvy CIOs will position themselves to lead this alignment activity, divest responsibility for low growth value activities and remain relevant into the future.

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