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.

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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Conclusion: CIOs must create a flexible workplace combined with astute people management practices to achieve service related productivity improvements and reduce IT costs. Creating the workplace and expecting that the benefits will accrue without astute team management is naïve. It is analogous to giving a new programmer complex specifications and, without supervision, expecting, error free code when first tested.

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Conclusion: Cloud computing offers many opportunities for organisations. There are shifts in the market which are producing an increase in third party cloud brokers who are offering to undertake an agent role between organisations and the many cloud service providers that are appearing in the market.

However, the reality is that for the next few years most organisations will adopt a hybrid model which requires the ICT organisation to manage the adoption of cloud services with legacy services. The transition period offers an opportunity for CIOs to position themselves as the broker of ICT services for their organisation, but will often require a shift in attitude and focus.

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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.

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Conclusion: It is widely accepted that ICT plays an ever-increasing role in almost all aspects of personal and business activities. As an industry, ICT has made many significant contributions over the past few decades. However, despite an instrumental role in business ICT continues to suffer from negative perceptions in terms of its professionalism and conduct and many business customers are frustrated by the limited avenues available to demand standards of service, professional conduct, complaints management, and dispute resolution.

There are various industry bodies supporting the ICT industry at both an individual and organisational level. There is a perception that the industry self-regulates in a limited way as there is currently no significant formal independent oversight of the industry. Without an appropriate regulatory framework for the ICT industry there is no independent complaints management mechanism and little recourse for misconduct which impacts on customer confidence and the ability of the industry to collectively improve professionalism and standards.

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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.

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Conclusion: ICT plays an integral role in almost all areas of society. Over the past two decades there have been spectacular failures with the implementation of ICT business improvements. These failures have cost organisations millions of dollars in direct costs and revenue, damaged brands and even contributed to a number of company failures .ICT as an area of expertise has been evolving over the past few decades but has not yet reached the level of a profession. There continues to be a lack of structure and clarity to the many roles undertaken in ICT, no professional accreditation that is widely valued and demanded and no formal mechanism to enforce accountability.

This is largely due to the diversity of roles categorised under the umbrella of ICT, the limited membership of professional bodies, lack of business expectation that an ICT worker will belong to a professional body and the lack of enforceable accountability as a consequence of the low membership.

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Conclusion: The war for talented IT professionals and managers is ongoing. To attract and keep talented people, senior IT and HR managers must continually ask whether their job-hiring and staff retention strategies are working. If the strategies do not create a flexible working environment with access to new technologies to meet the aspirations of talented people they risk losing their organisation’s competitive advantage.

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Conclusion: The concept of innovation has been gaining wider acceptance in the past few years, particularly in line with the explosion of the Internet and social media. However, many organisations are still following the model that new ideas will be generated by the clever people within the organisation or will come from those external partners that are already known to the organisation. This outdated model does not provide the opportunity for organisations to identify great ideas that could provide significant benefit to their organisation. There is growing adoption of a broader based innovation method known as ‘Open Innovation’ that offers considerable benefit to organisations that embrace it.

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Conclusion: Senior IT managers will in future look back on 2013 as the year their priorities changed from applying new technologies to enhancing client services in order to enable the organisation to achieve its business objectives. Put simply business management, which was paying the piper, decided it was time to change the tune.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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Conclusion: Maintaining innovation while gaining clarity and control over IT operations is a fine balancing act, especially in organisations that are seeing rapid growth. IBRS recently conducted a series of interviews with Australian CIOs regarding their approach to this dilemma. This research note outlines the different approaches taken by these CIOs, and the impact of their personal philosophies regarding staff development on the IT Operating Model.

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Conclusion: Wartime is fast approaching. Some would argue it is already happening around us, and CIOs will be in the firing line. Radically different business models, historically poor relationships with business areas and the confluence of transformational technologies mean that many CIOs will not be able to just incrementally improve operations to stay relevant but lead significant change or face being a casualty of war.

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Some standards are undeniably useful, and the benefits of these standards can typically be quantified in terms of improvements in quality and productivity due to increases in the level of automation and interoperability. In contrast, other standards mainly fuel a certification industry that has developed around a standards body, without leading to any measurable benefits, whilst clearly adding to the operating costs of those organisations that choose to adopt such standards.

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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.

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Much anguish has been expressed over the Apple-Samsung patent court battle. It’s not that this run of patents wars is new – they’ve been a feature of the technology business for over a century

One of the nastiest feuds was between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse. Apart from being a brilliant inventor Edison was a consummate litigator. One of the reasons the movie business took root in California was to evade Edison’s patent police. He owned the major patents on movie cameras and pursued anyone who reverse engineered his product. The East coast film producers were obliged to pay large fees to Edison; but on the west coast that was evadable. It is a suitable irony that copyright violation is one of the foundations of American film industry. Edison’s struggle with Westinghouse over alternating current versus direct current power was typically bitter. By 1900 Edison’s legal costs were $2M, equivalent to $52M in today’s money.

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Conclusion: One of the hardest tasks for CIOs and line management, unless there is a Board directive, is to convince the Executive to divert scarce resources from enhancing business-critical systems and update their plans on what they might do if a major systems outage or disaster occurred. Paradoxically, it is an easier sell when a preventable outage has occurred recently and the slow recovery has put the organisation’s reputation and their careers at risk.

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Conclusion: Australian ICT organisations are under constant pressure to deliver a higher level of service to customers and stakeholders, at reduced cost in relation to both capital expenditure and on-going operational costs. In addition, there is an increase of vendors in the market offering outsourced services relating to infrastructure, software solutions, business processes or a combination of all of these. As CIOs and CEOs start to consider how best to structure themselves to meet organisational expectations, there could be a wave of new “Hollow ICT” service models implemented across the country.

With a focus firmly on the benefits of outsourcing, all too often CIOs ignore the real costs, benefits, risks and impacts of implementing a leaner internal organisation which leads to reorganisation of ICT area as a reaction and not part of the forward planning.

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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.

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Changes at the top of your organisation can happen for a whole multitude of reasons – acquisition or merger, change of government, CEO retirement or even a new board. These changes often require CIOs to build a new relationship even when they’ve been with the organisation for a number of years.

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Conclusion: Whether it be market pressures, skills shortages, budget shortfalls or a combination of these factors, it is important for organisations to imbed a culture of innovation into their businesses; not only to address the many issues facing them today, but also for the inevitable challenges that will arise in the future. There are no hard and fast rules for an innovative organisation. CIOs may be concerned that embarking on innovation activities may be costly, time consuming or a distraction from the more immediate operational needs of the organisation. Conversely, CIOs may be looking for ways to increase morale and build closer relationships with business areas within their organisation.

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Conclusion: When conceiving and designing new services, the primary focus of product managers and technologists is often on functionality, and adequate quality of service is largely assumed as a given. Similarly, from the perspective of a potential user of a new service – the user is mainly concerned about the functional fit of the service, and is prone to making implicit assumptions about quality of service based on brief experimental use of a service. The best service level agreements not only quantify quality of service, they also provide strong incentives for services provider and service users to cooperate and collaborate on continuous improvement.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Conclusion: A common mistake when engaging third-parties for ‘Agile software development services’ is to use a contract or procurement approach that is at odds with the tenets of Agile software development. In cases where contract and payment terms follow the more traditional ‘fixed price and scope’ statements of work, organisations do not get true Agile development services, and more likely than not, will be frustrated and dissatisfied with results of the project. Instead, organisations should consider using specific styles of Master Service contracting agreements with Agile developers, or accept that the best than can be achieved will be a hybrid “Watergility” approach by the developers.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Conclusion: The challenge of servicing customers well through various channels and over many devices has added considerable complexity to operations. The blindness of monitoring how well the IT operation is working has been removed and now data flows in huge amounts. The principal goal is to provide high quality customer experience and not simply rely on dashboards to churn out machine data reports.

The skills of analysis and insight should be more keenly applied to the data in order to reveal and clarify the value of the data. How the reams of data can be used for an organisation to deliver a high customer experience remains the main task. Organisations that believe that solely monitoring data to support transactions will likely miss the significance of what the data can yield and strengthen their customer contacts.

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