Governance

Conclusion: Governance committees face a number of challenges that can undermine their effectiveness. These challenges include groupthink, a focus on individual responsibilities rather than organisation-wide benefits, trust issues and a lack of knowledge of emerging issues and opportunities. Appropriately qualified and experienced independent external advisors can play an important role in overcoming these challenges.

Conclusion: As-a-Service solutions offer organisations agility, flexibility and scalability but the graveyard of unused software piling up should ring alarm bells. Neglected software utilisation and compliance will be factors that should drive a new Software Asset Management (SAM) investment. The impact of an unmanaged Cloud SaaS or IaaS solution will be quickly revealed during audits. At a time when management is a focus, this should be an easy win.

Organisations will need to quickly identify if they are running single or multi-tenanted instances and whether production and non-production environments are being managed efficiently for the purposes of SAM product selection.

Selecting a SAM tool should be proportionate to the cost of non-compliance. Unmitigated software licence costs can be eye-watering. Consider these factors when selecting your SAM product for Information Technology Asset Management (ITAM):

  1. Data points
  2. Software overspend
  3. Inefficiency
  4. Compliance

Conclusion: In the modern world, no organisation has ICT entirely in-sourced. As a result, procurement, contract and vendor management have become strategic processes that allow organisations to align their ICT capability with the business strategy to achieve the desired outcomes, both now and into the future.

It is often the case that effective planning for the procurement of technology capability is compressed or constrained such that procurement is not able to effect ‘big step’ change. Or the commercial approach means the agreement is based on a fixed term, which results in the procurement not being a strategic exercise. More often than not, the procurement delivers constraints that limit the business’s ability to achieve the desired outcomes. These constraints limit the business’s ability to be agile in terms of elasticity, or how well it can respond to disruption in the market.

The technology options to meet business demand are not the same today as they were yesterday, and they will undoubtedly differ tomorrow. The challenge is to ensure ICT procurement is responsive to the business strategy, and that vendors share in the advantage a strategic alliance brings to the business. Procurement needs to be effectively planned and clearly aligned to the business strategy to ensure the strategy is delivered effectively.

This paper is the first in a four-part series on how to ensure procurement meets the business need, gain an understanding of strategic versus tactical procurement, and will define the steps necessary to avoid the pitfalls that cause procurements to under-deliver.

Conclusion: The need to see value from an enterprise architecture (EA) framework is essential, if for no other reason than to justify the cost. However, the business benefit of EA is not just the cost. It will also provide reduced risk and improved agility for the business in its use of ICT.

Many organisations struggle with how success or failure of EA should be measured. This paper provides the reader with guidance and advice on what to measure EA against and how that measurement could be presented as a key performance indicator (KPI).

In establishing KPIs for the EA framework your organisation has adopted, both business and ICT will jointly have a better understanding of the value EA brings to the enterprise, and be able to provide governance on the continuous improvement of your EA framework to achieve even better value.

Conclusion: Many organisations have integrated enterprise architecture (EA) into the business processes, whilst many have not. To some, it is a religious argument as to why the ICT group even needs to have people with ‘architect’ in their name; for others, the EA group is the watchdog of the system, ensuring both new capabilities and changes to existing capabilities will be fit for purpose.

Like most things in business, the cost versus benefit analysis to justify why any activity is a priority is essential before committing effort and resources to it. EA should be no different. Organisations should complete a business case assessment to justify why EA is necessary for their business model, and what form it should take.

In doing so, both business and ICT will jointly have a better understanding of the value EA brings to the enterprise, be able to manage expectations on what EA can deliver and judge its effectiveness.

Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic has taken the whole world by storm, shutting down establishments and pushing businesses and public sector agencies towards high levels of uncertainty. It seems it will be a while before this storm lets up.

Regardless of how bleak the effects of the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns are to the economy and the business sector, it can be a platform where leaders and innovators come forth.

Most companies are struggling to determine the next steps and are barely surviving through their business continuity plans. This paper aims to help you pivot towards a different perspective.

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: As a result of COVID-19, has the criticality of web presence for your business changed? Is your organisation now exposed to threats and risks that previously were a lower order concern? Are there advantages to be gained in the realignment of the organisation’s web strategy?

IBRS recommends organisations assess the vision statement for its web presence. Once the vision is clear, review the framework for delivery and sustainment, the processes, and the roles and responsibilities for online web services, as a result of the impact of COVID-19. The purpose of the review is to ensure your organisation leverages the strengths and opportunities of the organisation’s online presence resulting from the impact of COVID-19.

Conclusion: In the current COVID-19-driven environment, video conference calls have become the stuff of life. They are used for school, family, leisure and even work. Numbers of call attendees have jumped from tens of millions to more than 300 million worldwide. As is normal in technology, there are a plethora of options to choose from.

One of those, Zoom, has made the news repeatedly over the period of April-May, initially because of its popularity but then because security flaws were being discovered. With the flaws seemingly serious, commentators were recommending organisations abandon Zoom. Many organisations did so, given the amount of coverage the flaws received.

But the product was and is popular. It is one of the easiest video conferencing products to use. It works well and is simple to deploy. A valid question to ask is whether Zoom is safe to use for business purposes. Taking a realistic view of the flaws combined with efforts Zoom has made to correct some of them leads to the conclusion that Zoom is safe for general business usage.

Conclusion: The phrase ‘People, Process and Technology’ describes the three key elements of a successful business. Business is the why, People the who, Process the what, and Technology the how. No single element of the trilogy can be seen as more important than the others. However, in the post-COVID-19 world, successful businesses will see that the focus of People has changed – they no longer go to work, work goes to them.

In technology terms, this effectively means that everyone is now the core of the system; the old concept of a core that is controlled from a central hub is now questionable. Post-COVID-19 technology design must allow for each worker to be able to work from any location, able to access information, services and data when necessary, and for each location to have surge capability.

Conclusion: Projects in trouble or failing need to be assessed with two main possible outcomes: rescue or discontinue. Organisations should carefully consider whether shutting down a project is a better outcome. If the decision is to discontinue then it should be done in a careful and controlled manner which considers the impact on stakeholders, team members and any residual value that can be extracted.

Conclusion: Organisations that are nearing the end of life for their current voice platforms or have a compelling event to hinge the replacement of their voice service, need to review their use of voice before replacing the technology. IBRS recommends organisations look to leverage voice as an application to operationalise the processes within the organisation, and improve customer satisfaction.

Today the newer technology offerings allow your organisation to get a better return from voice. However, the use of these new technologies will impact business processes and offer greater innovation for your customer interaction. It will not be a simple replacement of boxes.

The key is understanding the power of voice. It is now an application driven by smart software. Businesses need to assess their use of voice to determine the cost benefit of the changes in the technology stack now on offer.

Conclusion: Once a project is in trouble and the first response of escalation of commitment in terms of allocating time, budget and resources in an attempt to recover the project has not been successful, the project can be considered as not just troubled but in real crisis. Recognition of a project in crisis is the first step to recovery and often the most difficult. Next steps involve putting the project into triage and preparing the project for the detailed assessment phase which provides critical information, options and the potential important decision to kill the project or recover.

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: When projects start to show early signs that they may be in trouble, it is easy to have a knee-jerk reaction and address the most visible symptom. However, it is critical that CIOs and business executives (project board chairs and project sponsors) understand that early recognition and intervention is often less painful, less costly and less damaging for the organisation.

Conclusion: Most organisations across Australia have implemented project management methodologies to support successful project outcomes in a consistent manner. Project boards exist to provide support for project managers and advocate the business change that is being created by the project. An important role of the project board is to have oversight of progress and to ensure execution is advancing as expected. However, many project boards accept project status updates that include only lagging indicators and play a passive role in project oversight. Project indicators should include both lagging and leading indicators and project boards need to actively review and probe these areas to assess progress and identify early indicators that issues are emerging. Project difficulties often start in the blind spots and can be avoided.

Conclusion: Not knowing where an organisation’s business-critical data is located, and its quality, can lead to many frustrating efforts to respond to management queries. When the converse is true and IT management can respond quickly to queries, say, at a board meeting or in an FOI (freedom of information) request, it enhances confidence in the quality of management of IT generally.

Conclusion: Deterministic1 project budgets do not convey any information about the range of possible outcomes for a project, or the associated risk factors driving the range. The ability to communicate the risk-weighted range of possible project outcomes can lead to much clearer expectations and understanding of project outcomes, especially for project sponsors. Modelling these ranges can be performed with relative ease, using basic Excel add-ins and high-level estimates of risk applied to the components that make up a project2.

Conclusion: The notifiable data breach regulations have had an impact on business priorities. For any organisation subject to the regulations, protection of personal information should have become a priority. One security technology, data loss prevention, could have offered some assistance. But it has had a mixed reception in the past due to many issues in both implementing and operating the service.

The continued move to SaaS for office systems such as document creation and email is also changing the market. Many capabilities that have been previously offered as standalone products are now being subsumed into the SaaS offerings as just adjunct functions. 

This simplifies the selection of the products and their ongoing management. A prime example of this is data loss prevention which is now being offered as a check-box selected capability in several SaaS offerings.

This could put data loss prevention within reach of small to medium businesses as a component of their personal information protection strategy.

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: Agile teams will struggle to deliver a viable solution (or product) unless they can tap into the business knowledge of an astute product owner who can communicate the objectives of the product and work with the scrum to ensure it meets the stakeholder’s requirements. Without a proficient product owner, the Agile team may lack direction which would put successful outcomes at risk.

Conclusion: Every dollar spent in supporting legacy systems or BAU (business as usual) represents a dollar that cannot be allocated to digital transformation initiatives. Conversely, organisations without legacy systems (digital natives) can be quicker to market with innovative solutions supporting the digital strategy, as there is no residual debt to repay.

Compounding the problem for organisations with legacy systems is that skilled IT professionals supporting them are likely to be fewer each year, as they leave for greener pastures or retire. To back fill, management must pay a premium to engage skilled contractors who will need time to understand the nuances of the legacy systems and become productive.

Related Articles:

"Digital transformation: More than a technology project" IBRS, 2018-06-01 04:04:24

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

"Make the process for allocating IT resources transparent" IBRS, 2018-06-01 04:17:01

Conclusion: Project management principles and frameworks are now implemented in the majority of organisations, including public, commercial and the not-for-profit sectors across Australia. While project delivery metrics indicate an improvement in successful project execution there is still a concerning level of project failure (approximately 35 %). Project failure is extremely costly and while focus is on the project execution elements, many failures can be traced back to poor governance and decision making. Project boards set the tone and show the way forward for projects by helping to resolve challenges or to provide alternative actions. Their behaviour will be reflected whether the tone is positive or negative and has enormous impact.

Related Articles:

"Bite the bullet – stop failing projects sooner not later" IBRS, 2016-09-02 05:06:18

"PMO – Models and structures" IBRS, 2018-05-04 18:33:08

"Tips for improving and monitoring ICT project governance" IBRS, 2018-07-05 03:12:50

Conclusion: Managers need to pay attention to ensure effective project governance, or risk joining the already long list of ICT project failures in Australia, aided by weak or ineffective project governance.

Related Articles:

"Bite the bullet – stop failing projects sooner not later" IBRS, 2016-09-02 05:06:18

"Make the process for allocating IT resources transparent" IBRS, 2018-06-01 04:17:01

"PMO – Models and structures" IBRS, 2018-05-04 18:33:08

"Project review: Active assurance" IBRS, 2018-03-06 07:02:37

Conclusion: Project management in organisations is commonplace. Organisations then seek to establish a Project Management Office (PMO) as a more permanent centre for project coordination. PMOs may start in the technology division and expand or may be established outside the ICT area. Knowing what the various models and structures are is important. Knowing how to assess the maturity and environment within the organisation and selecting the appropriate approach with empathy and common sense is critical to success.

Conclusion: Organisations everywhere are implementing Agile as a dynamic approach to speed up the creation of value and improve development of new and improved services and products. Adopting a best practice such as Agile is more than learning a new process and skill and then applying it in a project environment. Implementing Agile in an established organisation means that there are often a number of other frameworks, best practices and procedures that will need to co-exist with Agile. It is critical to consider these elements and adjust them to ensure that Agile is effective in delivering the value and benefits expected and is not another “best practice” fad.

Conclusion: Project management in organisations is commonplace. Reviews are often undertaken at the end of the project to gain learnings for future projects. Project reviews completed during the life of a project need to ensure that they are inclusive of appropriate stakeholder groups and assessment is targeted at the appropriate focus areas. Active and inclusive review and assurance activities need to be well understood and supported within the organisation so that it is not viewed as an exam that needs to be prepared for and passed. Applying reviews and assurance as a process checkpoint only is ineffective and will not ensure quality project delivery.

Conclusion: Most organisations today understand that business change requires the effective management of stakeholders. Whether they be internal or external, the inclusion of their opinions, needs and concerns is critical to the success of the initiative. However, too many projects and change programs still struggle to be completed successfully or to achieve desired outcomes. Change management and stakeholder engagement is too often handled as a linear process and many are under the assumption that working through the activities in sequence will be sufficient. Stakeholders are complex to identify and to assess as their relative power and influence often go beyond the obvious. Effective stakeholder engagement absolutely requires a full and frank appreciation of the power and influence of each stakeholder.

Conclusion: Despite repeated audits pointing to failures by IT to deliver expected outcomes, organisations continue to publish IT plans that do not adequately address the fundamental dimensions of IT planning, being the IT Business Plan, IT Strategies and IT Program of Work.

These elements are often developed as a single composite document, but this approach fails to recognise that each dimension:

  • requires a different method of creation
  • is owned by different stakeholder groups
  • has a different purpose and audience
  • requires renewal on different cycles.

Failure to ensure that all dimensions are addressed presents risks to implementation both in terms of effective up-front investment selection as well as ongoing IT governance arising from gaps in critical decision-making information.

To avoid these risks, organisations should maintain the content of each IT planning element as a separate deliverable even if the desire, or requirement, is to regularly produce an “annually” updated composite document.

Conclusion: The current wave of digital transformation will see the retirement of large numbers of legacy systems. Although the cost of operations, including storage of data, in newer Cloud-based solutions is often cheaper, the cost of migration of historical data to new platforms can be significant. IBRS has observed increasing numbers of digital transformation projects where the decision is being made to preserve legacy systems using back-up infrastructure techniques at the application and/or database level without any reference to regulatory records management requirements.

Many legacy systems were not designed with a long-term view of key business records and information they capture and generate, nor are back-up technologies designed for long-term archival and retrieval of individual records. The result of these strategies is the potential for access to official records and chains of evidence to be interrupted – a situation likely to be viewed by regulators and stakeholders as a failure of the organisation’s record-keeping obligations.

Conclusion: Many municipalities and civic enterprises contemplating Smart City initiatives are simply not capable of implementing them because they lack the leadership, partnering skills, corporate experience, skills, sophistication and organisation required to address these global urban planning and ICT developments locally1.

The remedy is at Governance level.

Municipalities must assess their own native capability to contemplate, evaluate, manage and complete Smart City business and ICT solutions according to global best practices.

Conducting a fundamental high level appraisal of a city’s ability to undertake Smart City tasks and programs may be the most valuable contribution that most mayors and civic management teams can make for the modern municipality.

Only municipalities working through a broad Digital Transformation strategy can truly expect to be in strategic control of Smart City initiatives as part of that framework. 'Smart’ initiatives are a critical element in fulfilling Digital Transformation for cities. 

For many civic organisations, the Mayor, Councillors, City Planners and Administrative Staff react to Smart City opportunities as if they sit outside their traditional local government role. However, the first principles of Digital Transformation require that a logical baseline of current capabilities should be established so that any initiatives are grounded in an understanding of the city’s ability to effectively evaluate them and deliver reliable solutions. 

Conclusion: The PMO role has many manifestations. It is also rarely static. When the organisation is in transformation mode the PMO must ensure project managers work as a team and deliver results. It is analogous to the role of an orchestra conductor who must get the musicians to rehearse so they know their roles and work together to make their opening concert a success.

Post transformation, one of the PMO’s roles is to get business operatives to assimilate the system’s functions so the benefits expected are realised. Similarly, the conductor’s role is to get the orchestra to perform so well there is a full house at every performance and the producer gets a satisfactory payback from the production.

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.

Many enterprises are simply not capable of implementing the ICT programs and projects that they attempt because they lack the experience, skills, sophistication and organisation required to address these developments adequately.

The "fix" is at Governance level. Businesses must assess their native capability to contemplate, manage and complete the IT solutions planned to support their business operations.

This MAP addresses the need to identify an organisation's level of IT Maturity and outlines the steps that should be followed to improve on that level. 

Related Articles:

"IBRS Compass: Finding IT maturity" IBRS, 2016-09-02 05:17:30

Conclusion: Deciding to stop investing in a business system is a decision no manager likes to make as it could have an adverse impact on staff, suppliers, clients, stakeholders and the Board. Before making the decision, management must assess all options and conclude they have no alternative but to act now and stop wasting scarce resources.

Conclusions: Many enterprises are simply not capable of implementing the ICT programs and projects that they attempt because they lack the sophistication, skills and organisation to address these developments adequately.

The ‘fix’ is at governance level. Businesses must assess their native capability to contemplate, manage and complete the IT solutions planned to support their business operations.

Conducting a fundamental high level appraisal of a business’ ability to undertake IT tasks may be the most valuable contribution that most management teams and boards can make for the modern enterprise.

Related Articles:

"Download Finding IT Maturity Master Advisory Presentation" IBRS, 2016-12-14 23:47:27

Conclusion: Most organisations have some form of central approval process (Governance) based around agreed artefacts – few organisations have a built-in evergreening process to ensure governance controls are in line with emerging technology and business trends.

Conclusion: The high-risk and high-reward Agile approach for systems development enabled many organisations to respond quickly to changing management strategies and yielded significant productivity benefits, according to a 2015 survey1.

However the same survey found not everyone has been so successful, as lack of experience in using the Agile approach, and organisation resistance to change, have frustrated almost the same number of organisations.

Once IT and business management have decided that Agile is the right approach they must:

  • Champion and defend its use
  • Actively track progress and allocate extra resources to the project if justified
  • Provide a safe environment in which a retrospective review can be conducted
  • Widely disseminate the lessons learned from the review, including strategies that succeeded and failed, without attributing blame

Conclusion: To grow their business and deliver sought after online services, organisations must provide error free systems supported by robust IT infrastructure. When unable to deliver one or both of these consumers will seek other suppliers that provide better online services.

To meet consumer expectations online systems must be comprehensively tested and error free before making them publicly available, and operated on IT infrastructure that can be ramped-up when needed to meet consumer demands. The inability to provide quality services when required could put the organisation’s reputation at risk.

Conclusion: Governance committees face a number of challenges that can undermine their effectiveness. These challenges include groupthink, a focus on individual responsibilities rather than organisation-wide benefits and trust issues. Experienced independent external advisors can play an important role in overcoming these challenges.

Conclusion: Businesses with an interest in becoming ‘digitally transformed’ need to take stock of their current status and preparedness. Systematic as well as creative approaches can be taken to discover ways to radically upgrade the business’ operations as shown in a self-assessment.

Use this checklist showing five stages of maturity in preparing for a digitally based transformation of the business.

Take the necessary actions in a graduated approach to make the required transitions endure.

Conclusion: The full financial maturity model provides more detail which can be applied to organisational requirements.

Conclusion: Poor planning is frequently cited in surveys as a major reason an ICT project has failed. A major element in the planning process is the preparation of the business case setting out why the project is needed and must be approved.

Management is remiss when it approves a poorly developed business case as it sends the wrong message to developers and sponsors – that if the project fails to deliver they are not to blame.

Conclusion: Proficiency in financial analysis and concepts is critical for management. Assessment of an organisation’s skills establishes the requirements necessary to raise abilities. The financial maturity model can assist with the process of setting those requirements.

Conclusion: all organisations implement some form of ICT governance to determine how IT will operate: they manage demand, reduce waste and overheads, identify and deliver demand, and address risks.

The scope of ICT Governance is broad and the maturity and capability within organisations to manage ICT Governance differs significantly. ICT Governance activities commonly focus on the compliance aspects of the function and miss opportunities to use them more proactively and to develop significantly better partnerships with business areas.

Conclusion: ITIL Change Management is insufficient for CRM Governance – an organisational change is needed. As with all complex management jobs, governance for CRM projects should be divided into sets and subsets. By dividing the tasks it is easier to view each set or phase. By combining them into larger groups and modules it is feasible to gain an overview of how the parts fit together.

Conclusion: A product line engineering approach to digital service development and operation can unlock significant value if due diligence is applied when identifying product line stakeholders and product line scope. A successful product line is one that enables all stakeholders to apply their unique expertise within the context of the product line at exactly those points in time when their knowledge and insights are required as part of the organisational decision making process. Good product line architectures align human expertise, organisational structure, business processes, software system capabilities, and value chain integration1 with customers and suppliers.

Conclusion: Project Health Checks and Gateway Reviews are an excellent way of assessing the progress of a significant project, identifying issues and taking a corrective action approach that is in the best interests of the organisation. One of the obvious and highest risk periods for projects to go off the rails is the period between when a contract has been signed with a supplier and go-live day. Organisations can ensure that they have all the other elements for a successful project in place such as aligning with the strategic goals of the organisation, a rigorous options assessment resulting in a robust business case, a good governance framework and solid project team, and still have major challenges. There are some softer signs to watch, so that if is action is taken quickly, project failure can be averted.

Conclusion: To provide easy to use online client services, organisations must create cross functional teams with people who can work together to implement solutions which can be tightly integrated with back office systems, and work first time. Failure to assign the right people first time will, until it is fixed, cause tension and stifle innovation.

Conclusion: When business critical systems have ‘passed their use-by-date’ or maintenance costs are excessive there is a temptation to fast-track the approval of the replacement systems and underestimate the cost and complexity of doing so. Avoid the temptation by thoroughly defining the scope of the project and include contingencies in the cost estimates to cater for the unexpected. When this is done, start lobbying management so they approve the project first time.

Conclusion: Many organisations in Australia struggle with accurate prediction of project cost and schedule. There are two steps that organisations can make to address this: the first is reuse of well-defined solution building blocks – the second is repeatable construction of solutions using those building blocks.

Architecture and estimation are closely related functions. Therefore CIOs who struggle with projects that run over-time or over-budget should look to enterprise and solution architecture methods to increase the degree of reuse and repeatability when defining ICT-enabled solutions. This leads to improved accuracy in cost and schedule estimates.

Project directors and SROs1 are still falling for the same mistakes that Brooks explained so elegantly in 19722.In large government environments where project scope and deadlines are dictated years in advance by election promises and new policy initiatives, many aspects of ‘agile’ can’t be adopted: BDUF (Big Design Up Front) is alive and well.

Conclusion: The federal government has undertaken a number of whole-of-government (WofG) application and information services initiatives over the last five years. Now that these programs have mostly reached closure, a second wave is being initiated. At the same time state and territory governments are looking to implement similar programs.

Conclusion: Many organisations have implemented frameworks and methodologies, increased internal project management and improved project governance in an effort to improve IT project success. The Standish Group reports project success has shown considerable improvement over the last 15 years. However, projects can still fail and organisations can improve their preparedness for projects and change programs by spending time undertaking a Business Readiness Assessment (BRA) before they begin any new change initiative.

Conclusion: We appear to have reached a period in business management where ICT Governance is part of overall Corporate Governance. Across most organisations, policies and procedures have been implemented to support how ICT decisions are made, who makes them and who is accountable. Yet, there are still too many ICT project failures, a continuing inability to control costs, lack of resource management, and business dissatisfaction with the performance of ICT. In many cases organisations have implemented these measures to ensure compliance, or tick the boxes, and are not achieving the real benefit of Governance – Competitive Advantage. Organisations that move from a compliance-only approach to a Competitive Advantage approach can increase performance and improve the value of ICT investment within their organisation including public sector agencies.

Conclusion: All organisations are multilingual, and most, more so than may seem apparent on the surface. A systematic effort to minimise the likelihood and impact of communication problems can lead to significant cost savings, productivity improvements, and improvement of staff morale. Data quality, the quality of system integration, and the quality of product or system specifications often turn out to be the Achilles’ heel. It is a mistake to assume that the biggest potential for misunderstandings is confined to the communication between business units and the internal IT department. Whilst some IT departments could certainly benefit from learning to speak the language used by the rest of the business, the same conclusion applies to all other business units.

Conclusion: Nobody doubts the need for effective governance of IT. Industry journals and Government Audit (and Ombudsman1) reports2 highlight project cost blowouts and implementation delays when governance is ineffective. Ironically while the reports set out what needs to be fixed, rarely do the authors tell readers how to do it.

Conclusion: IT steering committees and project managers must ‘keep their eye on the ball’ and remain alert for indicators that a project under their remit might fail. Avoiding corrective action will impact on morale and increase costs and potentially delay the project’s implementation. By taking immediate corrective action the project might be saved, or if it is to be stopped, minimise losses.

Conclusion: It is easy to sheet home the blame for IT project cost overruns to difficulties experienced in estimating work days required. Whilst estimating is difficult it can be converted from an art form into science by identifying the tasks required in detail and estimating the work days required for each one. Include the total in the business case.

 

Conclusion: They usually begin with starry-eyed stakeholders. Too often they end in tears. After several years of fiscal restraint, blockbuster projects are back on the agenda. Many will fail. Others will fall well short of organisational expectations.

Conclusion: The prototyping of user interfaces is moving beyond traditional low-fidelity static wireframes and embracing more sophisticated approaches to simulate the entire application experience. Modern solution visualisation tools can deliver a more accurate and dynamic rendition of complex enterprise applications before a line of code is cut. This can significantly reduce delivery risk and improve development productivity. Beware though the diminishing returns from overly complex solution visualisation tools that absorb the cost and risk that they should be offsetting.

Observations: Prototyping has long been a means to visualise early in the system development lifecycle how a system should look and behave. This has the benefit of allowing a system design to be validated as early as possible by subject matter experts. While textual based requirements remain the primary contractual specification for system development, they are often hard to fully comprehend without the kinesthetic aid of a visual prototype.

A good prototype should put abstract and generalised requirements into the context of real life business processes and user interactions, creating a rich dialogue between system designers and users around the system’s expected behaviour. The use of a prototype to assist in the harvesting of correct, concise and consistent requirements can pay off considerably in the long term. Studies show that addressing defects in the requirements phase can be 100 times cheaper than fixing them as post-implementation defects.

Traditional prototyping: Low tech prototyping tools such as butchers paper, white board markers and post-it notes can be immensely valuable design tools when combined with adept user interaction facilitators and knowledgeable subject matter experts. Rapid storyboarding of anticipated system behaviour from a variety of stakeholder perspectives can generate a robust high-level shared view of system functionality. This can help establish, or challenge, the important assumptions and principles that will guide detailed design work.

The use of productivity applications to generate basic user interface mockups (Powerpoint, Visio, OmniGraffle) or RAD development tools (such as Dreamweaver and Visual Studio) to create HTML or native-app click-models have become common prototyping tools. In the case of RAD development tools the lurking danger is that users or (even more worryingly) executives, begin to see the prototype as almost the finished system. This can lead to pressure to “put the prototype into production” without the required underlying architectural support, or set false expectations about the considerable extra effort required to implement complex integration and business rule support. To avoid this situation a common rule is to implement a “throw away” prototype using a technology that is impossible to deploy into production.

Solution visualisation: New prototyping tools (such as iRise, Axure and SketchFlow) have emerged that support the end-to-end simulation of applications without the overhead of custom development. These “solution visualisation” tools enable the definition of rich visual user interfaces with advanced interactive features such as data entry, simulated business rules and complex navigation logic. Supporting these design elements are collaborative features that enable applications to be reviewed, annotated and critically evaluated in a fashion similar to the “mark-up” features of modern word processors. These prototype applications can often be packaged for easy distribution by email, facilitating analysis and review without the overhead of maintaining access to prototype infrastructure.

While solution visualisation tools can quickly deliver rich prototypes that flesh out high-fidelity representations of desired systems, the cost of purchasing such software and the effort to maintain complex prototype models can undermine the core benefits of prototyping. The benefit of common tools such as HTML editors or office productivity application lies in their ubiquitous availability and universal accessibility. Complex solution visualisation tools may require expensive up front license costs and/or proprietary file formats that require specific reader software to be installed for the viewing of applications. They may also require centralised repositories to be installed into server environments. These tradeoffs need to be carefully considered before embracing a solution visualisation toolset.

Multiple device simulation. The enterprise application landscape is changing. Touch phones and tablets have established a need for mobile “finger-driven” apps as much as there is a need for “mouse-driven” desktop apps. Corporate applications are demanding dual-mode solutions that support finger operated Android and iOS access just as they do web-based or rich native applications. This need is adding an extra burden on prototyping efforts to support multiple target platforms. Solution visualisation tools can help manage consistent requirements across a multitude of platforms.

ALM tool integration. The key outcome of solution visualisation or prototyping efforts is a consistent and complete set of requirements. In the modern software world applications are often managed by dedicated tools or as part of application lifecycle management (ALM) suites. Effective solution visualisation tools need to be able to integrate into the requirements and design management tools that support the end-to-end development lifecycle. This allows solution visualisation tools to be institutionalised in the core process of application delivery, rather than sidelined as a niche user experience activity.

Next steps:

  1. Organisations should carefully evaluate the use of prototyping in supporting custom application development. Is it effectively contributing to the quality of application design before moving into the development phase?

  2. If basic prototyping tools are not being used effectively start with the low fidelity approach and embed their use into upstream requirements and design activities.

  3. If basic prototyping has reached a ceiling of either design richness or stakeholder reach, consider solution visualisation toolsets. Consider carefully the Total Cost of Ownership of such tools against the anticipated benefits.

McConnell, Steve (2004). Code Complete (2nd ed.). Microsoft Press. ISBN 0-7356-1967-0.

 

Conclusion: Establishing, or re-launching, a Program Management Office (PMO) using a text-book driven, ‘cookie cutter’ approach is not likely to bring about improvements in the performance of individual projects, IT programs or even a portfolio of projects. While some initial improvements may be observed as a consequence of closer management scrutiny, it is rare for formula-based approaches to work effectively on a sustained basis.

Conclusion: Technical debt is a metaphor for the ongoing cost of bad IT decisions. As with debt in the real world, interest is paid on technical debt in the form of increased cost of operations and maintenance, poor quality solutions and loss of enterprise agility. Prudently managed technical debt can be a useful tactical tool, however uncontrolled technical debt can rapidly become an overwhelming burden and severely reduce the ability to invest in new initiatives. This is toxic technical debt. Crucial to managing technical debt is having an approach to identify and track when and where it is incurred.

Conclusion: IT Strategic Plans typically include a long term application pathway for offering enhanced services to clients, and better management information. In reality this is just the beginning of the journey from concept to benefits realisation. To succeed, project sponsors need to take the initiative and gather arguments that will ensure funds are allocated to their projects by the governance group as soon practicable.

To minimise management tension the governance group has to create a level playing field and equitably allocate resources to sponsors whose projects best contribute to meeting business objectives.

Conclusion: Organisations aiming to improve the effectiveness of their EGIT (Enterprise Governance of IT) initiatives must ensure they apply best practices in relationship management with all stakeholders. This is because effective governance is dependent not only on having the right framework in place, but also people skilled in stakeholder relationship management positions to implement them.

Conclusion:The need for an overarching framework to drive business value from IT through value management processes, supported by mature delivery service processes has prompted the need for an enterprise-wide approach to IT governance1

Conclusion: Enterprise governance of IT (EGIT), the objective of which is to drive business value from IT, is a new concept. It also goes beyond traditional IT governance, which focuses on effective delivery of services, by seeking to transform IT so it can meet the current and future demands of all clients.

CIOs who can drive the transformation of IT and help drive business value through their leadership role with the senior management team will always find their services in demand.1Conversely those who do not take up the dual challenges run the risk of being perceived as operational managers only, and potentially limit their career advancement options.

Conclusion:Knowledge workers – and people in general – commonly overestimate their ability to convey information in documents, diagrams, and in discussions. To make matters worse, they typically have too much faith in the validity of their personal mental models to frame the problems that need to be solved. As a result, misinterpretations often remain undetected for months, milestones are missed, and deliverables don’t meet expectations. There is no antidote against project failure in terms of a universally applicable methodology, but many failures are avoidable by recognising that communication and collaboration is fraught with difficulties.

Conclusion:It is tempting to seek out easy solutions for hard problems. Many others must have had similar problems, and a large part of the solution development effort can be short-circuited by selecting an appropriate productised solution – that’s hope. But similarities between problems in different organisations are easily over-estimated – that’s uncertainty. Business cases are strengthened by highlighting key differences to other organisations, and by proposing a path that incrementally removes uncertainty.

Conclusion: When establishing or enhancing an IT governance framework, one size does not fit all. For full effect, governance practices need to reflect an organisation’s ethos. Time can be the enemy of good governance practice; what works well at the outset may need to be tailored and progressively refined to suit evolving organisational maturity, changes in personnel and the interest of executives in contributing to the IT agenda. In essence, a multi-factorial, time-phased approach is recommended for instilling and maintaining effective IT governance.

Conclusion: Organisations with immature IT governance processes push many of the decisions that need to be made by the business, back to IT. This creates a downward spiral, often characterised by IT making poor decisions about business/IT investments (due to insufficient business context), consequential failure by IT to deliver business value, then loss of confidence in the IT function, sometimes resulting in the CIO losing his or her job.

Conclusion: The terms “IT” and “governance” are frequently coupled, sometimes glibly and often inappropriately. Indeed, IT governance seems to have a multiplicity of meanings but is generally seen by IT people as a “white knight” in which business user engagement, properly executed, will overcome a troubled IT situation.

Conclusion: Project managers often find management of the change process one of the hardest aspects to deal with in their projects. While they have been trained to deal with facts and figures using templates and other project management aids, rarely do they have the necessary skills and experience to successfully manage the workplace change associated with their projects.

 

Project managers often find management of the change process one of the hardest aspects to deal with in their projects. While they have been trained to deal with facts and figures using templates and other project management aids, rarely do they have the necessary skills and experience to successfully manage the workplace change associated with their projects.

Conclusion: Australian taxpayers should applaud the Rudd government for adopting in full, all the recommendations of the Gershon Report.1 As a consequence, IT savings of an estimated $1 billion are planned for realisation over the next 10 years. However, will the government be able to bank all these savings? The answer is probably no. Intentionally or otherwise, what Gershon proposes is nothing more or less than a wide-scale, transformational change program. These unfortunately, rarely meet with complete success2.

Conclusion: Despite considerable advances in the discipline of project management many organisations continue to report unacceptably high rates of failure for their IT projects. There are, however, a number of initiatives that organisations can take, particularly in the planning phase of IT projects, which can significantly reduce the likelihood of project failure.

Conclusion:The recession has brought the prophets of gloom out in force, all predicting massive cuts in the IT budget, with many of them also telling us how to address this. Their solutions are often facile and naïve, most boiling down to “do this to be more efficient”, ignoring the fact that most good IT shops have already made themselves highly cost-effective and have little room to move to reduce costs. Other commentators have recognised this and are predicting that the major savings in many IT shops will be by stopping or deferring projects.

Most IT shops have a range of projects on the go at any time, all with committed teams and management support. Determining which projects should be stopped or deferred may require the judgement of Solomon, and like Solomon, the IT manager should not be the one to make the decision. The projects are all, presumably, business focussed and the business should make the decisions.

Conclusion: Stakeholder management is a critical, but often overlooked aspect of project management. Insufficient attention to the needs and attitudes of project stakeholders can lead to project failure even when the more well known components of project management have been addressed.

Conclusion: Standards Australia has developed and published the Australian Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Governance Standard1, the first government driven ICT Governance Standard in the world. This provides an opportunity for ICT dependent organisations to revisit their ICT governance and confirm it meets agreed good practice. It is also a useful template for any organisation that is setting up or re-examining its ICT governance, policies, and procedures. It should be used by company directors, owners of small businesses, and other organisations to recognise and accept their ICT responsibilities and to set in place processes that ensure that ICT meets these obligations.

As countries struggle to improve their populations’ dietary habits, now may be the right time to borrow an idea from the ICT industry: just claim it, whatever it might be, leads to higher productivity. The argument seems to work because products that linger on shelves start to move with this simple but effective message. It also motivates policymakers to design grand projects on the basis of productivity gains; it is at the centre of how business is done and it provides an unassailable argument. No one would deny the benefits of productivity.

Conclusion: Unless an organisation consistently conducts project PIRs (Post Implementation Reviews) for business systems (IS development, staff training and business process redesign) and IT Infrastructure projects it cannot claim to be learning organisation.

Done well the reviews can help avoid mistakes of the past, sustain the project’s benefits and aid staff development.

Organisations that do not review outcomes from business systems and IT Infrastructure projects, or do review them but pay little attention to the lessons learned, will probably continue to make unwise business systems investment decisions and fail to develop their people. 

Conclusion: In March 2001 the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published a management brief1 addressing problems in implementing large IT projects in the public and private sectors. Observations in this report included “...budgets are exceeded, deadlines are over-run and often the quality of the new system is far below the standard agreed when the project was undertaken”.

Conclusion: Many organisations continue to have trouble having projects complete within budget, on time, and meeting user requirements. This is in spite of a plethora of project monitoring metrics and methodologies designed to prevent this happening.

Conclusion: Project Portfolio Management (PPM) is now viewed as a necessary pre-condition for maximising the contribution of an organisation’s IT projects to the achievement of corporate goals. Unfortunately many Small to Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs) have made the decision not to implement the process due to its cost. The guidelines provided in this paper have been found to be effective in allowing a scaled down version of PPM to be implemented in a cost effective fashion within SMEs.

Conclusion: A frequently reported cause of IT project failure is a lack of senior management ownership and leadership.1 This often first manifests itself in problems in the deliberations of the project’s steering committee. Measures that can reduce the likelihood of such problems occurring include the selection of committee members who meet the criteria given in this paper and the use of a Kick Off session to gain agreement on roles and expectations of both the committee members and the project manager.

With increasing use of external service providers CIOs and IT managers find themselves having to prepare an increasing number of RFPs (Requests for Proposals) to select the right provider at the right price.

Conclusion: The application of a project management methodology to an organisation’s project work can be the cornerstone for consistent project success. It can assist, among other things, in allocating resources, managing the project schedule and controlling project costs. Most importantly it provides a consistent approach to managing projects across the organisation so that project personnel don’t waste time learning multiple approaches to the management of projects and executive management only have to deal with one approach to project governance and reporting. 

Conclusion: Public sector IT projects can often have a range of characteristics different to their counterparts in the private sector. These can lead to project failure if the issues relating to them they are not appropriately addressed. The adoption of the following set of best practice principles can significant reduce the risk of project failure.

Conclusion: Public sector IT projects have been found to have similar rates of failure to their counterparts in the private sector, however they also have a number of characteristics that are different to private sector projects. Project related issues that arise from these characteristics have been found to be the drivers for the majority of public sector project failures.

Conclusion: Through the 1990s many organisations established Project Management Offices (PMOs). Also known as Project Offices and sometimes as Strategic Project Offices, these were generally set up within the IT organisation and were driven by the desire to take a more focused, financially responsible and standardised (read template-driven) approach to project delivery.

Conclusion: Many organisations have IT steering committees that are considered to be ineffective due to a combination of poorly defined committee charters and ineffective leadership. Restructuring of the committees and resourcing them with appropriately skilled business executives can result in IT Steering Committees that add significant strategic value to their organisations e.g. by prioritising IT projects based on business need and risk.

Conclusion: Portfolio Management is a process that allows management to prioritise and manage its portfolio of projects. The more progressive organisations within IT are finding that this approach needs to be modified in order to manage the different project types that are associated with competitive edge and strategic advantage business initiatives.

Conclusion: Risk management for IT projects or services that involve suppliers e.g. software and hardware suppliers or system integrators, is a more complex activity than the risk management of a project when there is no supplier involvement. There are not only additional considerations that must be addressed in the risk management process; there are also additional risks that will have been introduced through the involvement of supplier(s) of IT products, services or other resources.

Conclusion: Deciding whether major business solutions, or ICT enabled projects, should proceed to the next stage during a review is pivotal for sound governance.

When lip service is paid to the review process project failure may just be around the corner. This view was put forward by the UK National Audit Office, and was endorsed in the November 2006 Review of ICT Governance by Queensland Government, which stated that one of the three prerequisites to project success is ‘rigorous challenge and scrutiny of projects and programs at each stage of the life cycle’.

Conclusion: Weaknesses in the approach to risk management, when applied to IT projects, can lead to poor project outcomes. A holistic approach that encompasses people, structure and organisational culture, as well as tools and process, is needed for the successful management of project risk.

Conclusion: One of the more difficult aspects of the management of projects is the decision making process associated with shutting down troubled projects. There are a range of factors that can influence decision makers and prevent them from making a rational decision to close down a troubled project. These include project related influences, psychological and social factors as well as organisational pressures.

Conclusion: The continuing widening of the span of control of application systems managers is a major management concern. Unless the span is reduced by initiatives such as replacing systems with marginal value and rationalising the number of application software vendors, organisations will see their systems maintenance costs rising higher than other support costs and the time from program fault to fix blowing out.

Conclusion: An often reported reason behind failures in complex IT projects has been poor communications between the project team, the decision makers and other parties who were impacted by the project.

To address this project sponsors and project managers should ensure that communication strategies and associated communications plans are developed for all projects that are seen to be complex or have long lifecycles.

Conclusion: A number of recent high profile IT project failures have involved issues with external suppliers of services. Despite this, the increasing complexity of IT projects and the need to minimise on-going costs of in-house IT resources will necessitate the continued use of external suppliers. The effective management of such suppliers requires project management staff with skills that cover not just project management but also a high level of commercial, contractual, leadership and interpersonal skills.