ICT and Digital Strategic Decision

Conclusion: ‘Adventure is just bad planning’ observed Roald Amundsen, renowned Norwegian explorer. Good strategic planning processes aim to avoid unintended consequences. They have a firm focus on seeking appropriate destinations then getting there with surety.

Conclusion: A decade ago Knowledge Management was the next big thing, and according to the analysts responsible for the Knowledge Management hype, it has evolved into a well-understood concept that is firmly established in the majority of organisations. Nothing could be further from the truth. Only very few organisations have a practically useful definition of knowledge, and even fewer realise that knowledge is not something that needs to managed, but something that needs to be nurtured - by committing to capture knowledge in its purest form, neither diluted by implementation technologies, nor distorted by organisational politics.

Conclusion: More organisations are establishing explicit rules governing the use of social media. Any guidelines or functional principles for social media use should be comprehensive and practical.

Most importantly, the rules should be drafted for the specific organisation, not taken from a generic template as they will lack specific and pragmatically understood rules within the particular organisation. In so doing, the guidelines will be unambiguous. In addition, one of the objectives of a guide must be to gain complete cooperation from all staff, and consequently make compliance, and therefore sanctions, easier to apply.

Conclusion: Microsoft’s new Sketchflow product breaks many of rules of software development and prototyping. Instead of taking an architectural approach, where data requirements are identified up front, Sketchflow places the focus firmly on user experience, with the expectation that data and architectural issues will be dealt with in good time. Sketchflow represents a quiet new development approach by Microsoft and one that is worth examining, even if only for a glimpse of things to come.

 Conclusion: CIOs and IT operations managers must avoid the risk of succumbing to green fatigue. Greenwashing is rampant, with every IT vendor promoting its products as "green." Most IT publications have at least one Green IT focused section. At the same time organisations are continuing their focus on cost reduction, often with IT under the magnifying glass. In these circumstances, it is easy for Green IT to be given lip service only while everybody gets on with the "real work". This must not happen. The biggest green issue for IT is how to reduce the energy consumption of the data centre. Organisations should first focus on reducing the energy consumption in their data centre: not only does it bring a significant green benefit but it saves money.

Conclusion: Windows 7 is ready for release and by now most organisations' IT departments will have spent some time evaluating the product. While initial reviews have been positive, a fundamental question still needs to be asked - does this new operating system offer your enterprise anything of substantial benefit that would warrant its use?

Conclusion: Cloud computing is not a new environment, merely the extension of a number of technologies that support IT outsourcing (bureaux, ASPs, SaaS, IaaS, PaaS). Cloud computing is technology-driven but will be and is likely to become “the next disruptive technology” in sourcing. Rightly or wrongly, many have been jumping on the cloud bandwagon because they’ve been driven to reduce costs. However, many potentially significant legal problems and their consequences have yet to be addressed. These legal issues extend beyond, and can be more complex than those that apply in traditional outsourcing agreements. Organisations considering outsourcing business applications to cloud computing must consider all relevant legal challenges at the same time as they explore the technologies.

Conclusion: A decision to migrate an enterprises desktop operating environment from Microsoft Windows XP to Windows Vista in the near term, or to wait until Windows 7 is available and proven, is both technically and politically complex. The final decision depends heavily upon several key factors: the existing software and hardware infrastructure, Microsoft licensing arrangements, the sophistication of desktop management tools, scale of the help desk and ability to train end users and manage change.

Conclusion: Before any organisation outsources any of its operations to a cloud computing provider it must be fully cognizant of, and have addressed to its satisfaction, the many potential legal problems and their consequences. These extend beyond, and can be more complex, than those that apply in traditional outsourcing agreements. Organisation must ensure that all legal issues have been addressed before committing any core systems to a cloud environment.

Conclusion: One of the weakest process elements in the software development lifecycle of most organisations is the discipline of requirements engineering. Over-investing in requirements specification amounts to speculation on behalf of the customer, and under-investing in requirements specification leads to speculation by the software development team. The optimal balance involves selecting an appropriate set of artefact types, and minimising the effort for maintaining these artefacts.

Conclusion: The possibility of enhancing websites is not high in 2009. Therefore, developing ingenious ways to improve old website properties is necessary. Evaluating and testing the website is a wise strategy in order to refresh content and enhance contact with site users.

A testing strategy should set out the business case, including the logic by which it will be conducted and the return on investment that may be expected. This focus on process will help to ensure that the testing program can achieve results and that other stakeholders within the organisation understand the objectives and purpose of such a testing program.

Conclusion: The widely accepted definition of sustainability is the ability to provide for the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Sustainability is accepted as addressing the “triple bottom line” of meeting both environment requirements and society’s needs, while at the same time ensuring a viable economy.

As organisations plan for economically straightened times they may consider dropping “green IT” from their planning, not seeing it as directly contributing to keeping the business afloat. In this context, the term green IT may have passed its “use by” date. Instead, using the term sustainable IT may bring a more business-oriented focus on this key area.

In our corner of society, if we want our and future generations to enjoy a healthy, equitable, and prosperous Earth, then we must address the way we use and exploit IT in our day to day activities. This means continuing the move to sustainable computing practices in 2009.

Conclusion: The choice of technology for a website involves a selection process with several factors. The process must consider adequacy of the technology, future business needs, and organisational resources, both current and future. Clarity in the choice of products will reduce risk and offer better resource allocation.

The best way to decide the preferred technology option is to use a decision template which assists in the selection process, providing a rational, transparent background to choices. This method can work for an organisation into the future regardless of personnel.

Conclusion: The importance of web site usability has higher recognition now than it did a few years ago, but there are still several gaps in achieving an effective usability evaluation process. In order to improve site usability for end users, combining technology with survey research will help considerably.

There have tended to be two paths to examining website usability. The first is the use of Web analytics data, and other technology tools generally, to improve a site’s functionality. The second path employs consultants’ expertise in conjunction with research focus groups to address the usability and functionality of web properties. The integration of these two methods, on a case by case basis, would be more effective.

Conclusion:Deployment of Microsoft products in virtualised desktop environments requires careful consideration of how virtualisation impacts on an organisation’s Microsoft licensing costs. Even though Microsoft has introduced new licensing packages to address desktop virtualisation, it is not uncommon for organisations to significantly underestimate the licensing costs involved.

IT organisations must first properly understand how Microsoft structures its desktop operating system, productivity tools and server licences before they can correctly interpret them in a virtual desktop environment.

Related Articles:

"Has Microsoft's desktop licensing got you on edge? Part II - licensing a virtual desktop" IBRS, 2008-11-30 00:00:00

Conclusion: During times of tight corporate budgets the IT budget is often cut down. Planned IT projects are deferred and in some cases selected running projects are cancelled. Unless a systematic and economically sound approach for allocating IT budgets is used, the result can easily backfire, leading to increased operational costs and unusable half-finished applications. Yet, if the right steps are taken, a reduced IT budget provides the ideal opportunity for decommissioning cost ineffective legacy systems and for refocusing attention on those applications that really matter.

While some international analyst firms claim the economic crisis will cause Green issues to fall off the IT agenda, in Australia we beg to differ! In 2007 the Australian Federal Government introduced the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 20071. The key features are:

  • Reporting of greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption and production by large corporations.

  • Public disclosure of corporate greenhouse gas emissions and energy information.

  • Consistent and comparable data available for decision making.

Failure to comply can mean up to two years in goal and a fine of up to $220,000. What makes this Act so interesting is that the CEO is personally liable to ensure their organisation’s IT systems are capable of complying with these new emissions reporting requirements. In short, this Act puts the onus on the CEO to ensure their organisation has the necessary reporting and monitoring systems in place.

Conclusion:The balance of information power is skewed in favour of knowledge intensive organisations, to the detriment of information-poor organisations and individuals. Reliable, high quality information distilled from Software as a Service users is evolving into a powerful currency that can be translated into financial profit via the sale of ad space and other techniques.

Conclusion: To get the most from their IT vendors, buying organisations must understand the underlying importance of each of their vendors to the organisation, and their potential to work with the organisation to help achieve business goals. A structured approach to building a vendor portfolio will allow key vendors to be identified and for the process of building strategic, partnership type relationships to be initiated.

Last month’s issue of the Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) contained a timely article on the role of formal methods in the design and construction of software systems. The article drives home the point that much of software development today still amounts to "radical design" when viewed from the perspective of established engineering disciplines and that, to date, there are only a limited number of areas for which established "normalised software designs" exist. But this picture is slowly starting to change, as model-driven approaches offer economically attractive ways of packaging deep domain knowledge as reusable "normalised designs".

Conclusion: It is all good and well to talk about alignment between business and IT, but it is easy to get trapped – either in purely theoretical business process models that bear little resemblance to reality, or in technical jargon associated with the latest and greatest implementation technologies. Given appropriate executive backing, significant productivity and quality gains can be achieved within six months or less by implementing a small number of fundamental best practices.

Conclusion: Waste is a normal consequence of marketing. It appears as high budgets in costly marketing channels, which can occasionally under-deliver a solid return on investment. In buoyant economic times wastage is accepted, but in a downturn, as is occurring now, alternatives are sought to improve efficiency, become more 'accountable' and cut all wastage.

In response, the typical strategy is to reduce budgets and seek cheaper alternative marketing channels. While these strategies are proven, to improve marketing investment returns a major piece of information is still missing, in good and bad times: that is, to have better information on consumer purchasing behaviour with special reference to the adoption cycle.

Conclusion: The corporate battle for search supremacy between Microsoft and Google over Yahoo! has been a good spectator sport for several months. So far it’s unresolved, but it should refocus attention on search marketing strategy, on optimal tactical channel selection and the opportunities that may emerge from a new landscape in search marketing.

With changing conditions in the economy leading to greater uncertainty, organisations ought to use this time to re-examine their search strategies and to look for better value and accountability from search channel suppliers.

Conclusion: In the current credit and liquidity market investors demand more transparency, and accurate and timely product and market information, yet most legacy banking systems are not up to the job. There is a strong business case for replacing legacy banking systems to restore organisational agility, and to improve the quality of service offered to customers.

Conclusion: Even though the National Broadband Network (NBN) will not be ready for another year, and despite the lack of detail provided about it; speculation about the value of this network is widespread. The covert nature of the planning process is one major reason for criticism of the NBN. A second reason is the degree of understanding into the broadband market that underwrites its strategy and the NBN solution offered in a commercially litigious marketplace.

The National Broadband Network may become an object lesson for executives involved in strategic planning in that use and adherence to independent facts is critical, and the development of solutions must extend from that understanding of the industry or market. Although rollout of the NBN is delayed it is highly probable that policymakers will have to develop a better plan in the next three years.

Conclusion: The Commonwealth Government’s drive to cut its operating costs and improve efficiency is a worthy one but last month’s Federal Budget has not matched the rhetoric. The emphasis and even reliance placed on ICT (Information and Communications Technology) to help meet expected client service levels means all agencies have to be able to deliver services at the lowest cost. To do this management must have a thorough understanding of the cost components in the delivery process and focus on reducing them.

IT managers can identify improvements in efficiency, but in all probability technology will be utilised to ensure levels of service across the ‘back office’, and to the wider community are maintained. The immediate task is to identify and evaluate costs and redesign processes to ensure efficiency gains are possible.

Conclusion: The recent strong media attention on Green IT, coupled with aggressive vendor marketing, has left the impression that many IT organisations have made significant progress in reducing their environmental impact. In recent conversations with our clients it seems this media and vendor attention has raised concerns with some organisations that they have fallen behind their peers in this area.

To help clarify the status of Green IT in ANZ we recently undertook a survey that indicates most organisation are still in the earliest stages of reducing their environmental impact of IT. While there is great interest in Green IT, and the majority of organisations have a mandate from the executive to reduce the environmental impact, there is a strong disconnect with the IT organisations ability to effect change due to lack of budget and formal programs of work.

Conclusion: Web 2.0 technologies promise to deliver greater productivity and seamlessly collaborated, workers. While the tools can be applied to a range of functions, and may probably assist in evolving hybrid business processes, the proclaimed big productivity gains are speculative.

Once the work re-processes and investments are factored in, the implementation of many Web 2.0 technologies may pose a substantial cost to an organisation. Therefore any potential productivity boost is likely to be diminished.

Even so, examining the range of technologies, picking the best and most suitable of the Web 2.0 options may be a wise choice for organisations as they evolve work practices for the future.

Conclusion: Whether anyone takes international surveys such as the United Nation's worldwide e-Government survey seriously or not, they are used and referred to widely. They are important in establishing where a country wants to be in delivering e-government services, and the survey results indicate why our governments are not leading other nations.

Applying some of the lessons learned from the Scandinavians, who always seem to perform well in international exams, is one obvious strategy for Australasian governments to help them do better next time; but the key element of any successful e-government strategy is not technological: it is the connection with citizens. Technology in this instance simply facilitates contact.

Conclusion: IBRS and other key IT industry commentators are reporting that Green Computing will be one of the areas receiving increased attention from senior management in 20081. The senior IT team should anticipate this increased attention and have a Green IT strategy agreed with senior management, in place, and active. This means that they will already be focused on their organisation’s strategic Green issues for instead of hastily adopting ad hoc and less than optimal green IT measures.

Conclusion: Through various channels of the media the news that the first wave of Baby Boomers are retiring implies some uncertainty. While it is true that those people who are 60 are retiring, the actual numbers are quite small and the flow on effect to the economy not large – just yet.

Population, like the planet, is something accepted as a basic fact, but like the initiatives to reverse global warning and operate in a sustainable way, significant changes are happening to the composition of the population that alter sixty years of accepted facts.

Organisations cannot create a single strategy to deal with demography but the effects of demographic change must be catered for in the next decade. In the broadest terms, with fewer young people and more older people, different approaches to training and skills, working arrangements and communication with the market are likely. Organisations that have seen and planned ahead may not only find a competitive advantage but an easier transition to the changes that will ensue.

Conclusion: A survey warns that the IT industry's carbon footprint is skyrocketing and could soon surpass that of the aviation industry. On a per capita basis Australia and New Zealand are clearly up among the big players in the greenhouse gases emission stakes1. IT and how businesses use their IT, will increasingly come under the spotlight as governments and corporate boards seek to meet carbon-cutting commitments.

Conclusion: Although Net Neutrality has had a much larger play in the US, some voices on this side of the lake are rationalising it’s imposition on the broadband market here. In sum the arguments to apply it in Australia are false, as are the facts to support the case.

Net neutrality will emerge more strongly in the next two years as Telcos believe they are suffering a loss of revenue, or that there are revenues they are owed. At this stage the advocates of net neutrality are lobbying from self-interest and hoping to persuade decision makers that they have a business case.

Policymakers, regulators and technology strategists at state and federal levels of government should review net neutrality in the context of the public good and consequences for the economy, not an individual Telco’s market share.

Conclusion: The new government broom in Canberra will implement its policies and that means the telecoms market, and in particular broadband, is set for a clean sweep that may revolutionise the Australian communications market. Before the initial tenders close on the $4.7 billion broadband strategy, sometime after June 2008, it’s timely now to investigate the background to these policies that will bring big changes in Australia.

To a large extent the broadband initiative is based on foreign experience; both South Korea and Japan being important influences. In those countries the superficial evidence of investment induced benefits to the economy from high speed broadband has captured the imagination of Australian policymakers, yet the measured economic benefits are not clear, despite the enthralment of superfast broadband and its promise for the future, and to uninvented industries.

As the scale of the projects and the size of investments are so large, the arguments about economic advantage, and lessons from foreign experience to date, and into the near future is critical; otherwise it will be difficult to dispel the impression that projects have been undertaken without adequate understanding or that simple gullibility has prevailed.

Conclusion: Most organisations recognise the need to better align their IT environment to the business’s requirements, however many struggle to achieve this. A key step towards better alignment is the creation of an IT Strategic Plan. A “best practice” for creating this plan is to define a desired IT Future State that supports and enables the business objectives, and then perform a gap analysis between that IT Future State and the IT Current State to generate an IT Transformation Plan (i.e., IT strategies and IT projects).

Great IT Strategic Plans follow the principle of “Just Enough Planning, Just in Time”. They are very short and concise, have a well articulated “Future State”, and are action oriented, forward looking documents. Some common failings of IT Strategic Plans are too much detail (especially in the “Current State”) extensive justification of the decisions and detailed analysis of the history of the current business and IT circumstances.

This article is indebted to the Monty Python team and their infamous sketch on the Ministry of Silly Walks, which remains a cross-generational favourite with comedy audiences worldwide some 37 years after it was first broadcast.

Conclusion: Although without a firm launch date, the Google phone offers another interesting facet of Google’s relentless pursuit of digital media domination. While it may add some interesting competition to the mobile market, telephony is the least interesting aspect of the innovation.

The potential – at this stage that’s all there is – of Google’s phone on search and mobile directory services, all of which are related to advertising, looms larger and larger. It may a genuine catalyst in the development of Web 2.0 services, and along the way cause some anxiety to traditional media, Telco and directory service providers.

Conclusions: Mobility and the exploitation of applications and content on mobile devices have been growing with furious speed in the last year. Although some organisations are moving to broaden or enhance their distribution channels through mobile, many Australasian organisations are employing a “smoke and mirrors” strategy to disguise their tardiness.

The mobile opportunity is ready and waiting and now is the time to be making real plans to realise that opportunity.

Conclusion: Fundamental to any consideration of mobile banking will have to be a balance between risk and convenience; and that applies equally to both bank and customer. Even with the choice of secure technology the viability of mobile banking as a service will reside in its adoption, or not, by customers.

Worldwide the expansion of mobile banking is varied and the key factor in its sustainability is not technology but most probably customer acceptance. Any bank considering such real transactional services should conduct research into its likely acceptance with its customers thoroughly and use the responses to decide if mobile banking is likely to be a good deal for both parties.

Conclusion: Unless CIOs are able to provide business with a balanced and accurate picture of IT performance, it is likely that IT will be treated as ‘just another supplier’ in the minds of senior business executives. Moving IT up the value chain to become trusted and strategic business partners requires more than concerted efforts in delivering projects and keeping the IT lights on. It requires effective marketing and good communication. One of the ways of improving IT credibility is to develop an effective IT scorecard that highlights precisely how IT’s performance supports and indeed, adds value to the business. Further, providing scorecarding data to IT management and staff is likely to provide an incentive for them to lift IT performance levels.

Conclusion: We live in the age of personalised and mass customisable products, and this has significant implications for the software systems that enable such products or services. If configurability is added to software as an afterthought, the results are not pretty. In contrast, products or services that are personalised and configured based on intelligent interpretation of user feedback constitute a genuine improvement in quality, typically reducing the complexity that users have to deal with.

Conclusion: When future generations sift through the decade 2000-2010 they will wonder why so much effort was put towards understanding, managing and developing broadband and why many talented minds produced hundreds and hundreds of reports proving the benefits of this broadband. But as the current generation is stunned at the ignorance of history’s scientists, the same fateful judgement may rest on today’s analysts of broadband.

Policy makers and the community rely on interested parties to submit analytical reports which will have a determining influence on Broadband and its many affiliated industries and social projects. Unfortunately many, if not most, of the analysis from the interested parties is poor or even fallacious. If policy makers want to understand and steer broadband they will have to use much better analysis than is the currency of today.

Conclusion: The amount of information that software intensive businesses store in their databases continues to increase from year to year, fueled by demands for regulatory compliance (for example SOX1), by increasing complexity of products, and the quest for a deeper understanding of customer behaviour. Yet, in the next few years, it is likely that the increasing use of web services will lead to smaller and more modularised database schemas.

Conclusion: Environmental issues and conservation are now mainstream in almost all areas of commerce and an increasing focus in computing, driven in part by economic and energy considerations. Governments, ICT vendors, providers and consumers must focus on sustainable computing as part of their quest for good citizenship. All participants in the ICT industry will have to respond by adopting and demonstrating sustainable computing principles, whether they want to or not.

Web 2.0 has emerged as one of the top buzz words of the last 12 month. But, is it hype, a passing fad or an important emerging trend that IT executives must know more about? Like the major IT paradigm changes before it, Web 2.0 is a little bit of each!

The difficulty with the Web 2.0 is a lack of a clear definition and so it can suffer from being “all things to all people”. According to the Wikipedia, “Web 2.0 is a term often applied to a perceived ongoing transition of the World Wide Web from a collection of websites to a full-fledged computing platform serving web applications to end users.”

Conclusion: Establishing a Portfolio Management competency is now commonly regarded as best practice for organisations seeking to gain maximum benefit from their investment in IT. Whilst there is growing interest in this practice, many who attempt it are likely to fail, or at the very least find that it won’t deliver the expected outcomes.

Conclusion: Lack of involvement of business unit management in IT has been found to be one of the main contributors to the difficulties that can arise in the IT/ business relationship. There are however a number of initiatives that can be instituted, particularly in Applications Development and Project Management, which have been found to have a very positive impact on the relationship.

Conclusion: The fractious and partisan dispute over Australia’s broadband is not educational, but it is informative, particularly for those IT executives developing a business case. Indeed, the entire public debate over broadband is dressed as a business case; that is, broadband offers a vital channel to future productivity. Or does it?

Perspective and context are required to understand what productivity gains technology can deliver. In the arguments over broadband, facts are disputed; the interpretation of tables and the consequences of policies all muddle perspective. Therefore, to understand the situation, and be able to make decisions, it’s necessary to return to the basic facts and then examine how the data is compiled, so that the logic of a business case is based on unbiased material.

Over the New Year the broadband forum, Whirlpool, conducted a survey of user attitudes to broadband services in Australia. There were many respondents, and Whirlpool has cleaned up the obvious faults in online surveys; so the results, though not be market research perfect, are a biopsy of what users think about the broadband service they are getting.

Conclusion: Initially oriented towards IT auditors and control professionals, COBIT1 has matured into a broadly-based governance framework capable of being used by board members and C level executives, such as COOs and CFOs, when seeking to understand and effectively harness IT capabilities. Importantly however, in its new form COBIT also provides a valuable reference guide for the CIO and his or her staff, when wanting to establish a sound framework upon which to improve IT performance at all levels.

Conclusion: Even when one has settled on implementing an iterative software development process, there is still a large number of approaches and process frameworks to choose from. Instead of another instance of a "method war", it is much more productive to concentrate on techniques from different methods, which can be strung together into a working approach that is suitable for a specific context.

Conclusion: Until recently, Digital Rights Management (DRM) has been viewed primarily as an antipiracy technology. The recent advances in DRM and digital media management technology now mean that DRM is able to provide significant and new revenue generating opportunities for suppliers of existing or new digital products.

Conclusion: In the IBRS Trends forecast for 2007, we stated that governments would adopt a new approach to e-government, “moving it from being simply a ‘publishing medium’ to it becoming a true extension of its service arm.”

The purpose of this paper is to examine where the new approaches are taking form as they evolve over 2007. Governments consider their policy options and how they will be delivered well in advance which means that while developments may be emerging, not all will be apparent to users by December 2007.

In the last twelve months Australian and New Zealand governments have been expounding their revised strategies and taking action to fulfil their policy vision. In IBRS’s view governments could adopt a number of basic processes. These processes should be integrated in the implementation of the plans so as to achieve the objectives.

Conclusion: All too often scalability considerations are limited to a technical discussion of implementation technology combinations, and other aspects of scalability are ignored. Organisational scalability is only achievable if not only software architecture, but also knowledge management and software portfolio management are part of the equation.

Conclusion: In politics it is generally considered that the first 100 days of office are critical for a new leader to assert his or her authority. Insightful and visible actions taken during that time instil confidence in the new leadership and set the right tone for the future. Arguably, a similar dictum applies to IT leadership.

Conclusion: Most organisations are fairly adept at dealing with routine changes that have minimal local impact on processes and systems. The topic of change management becomes an order of magnitude more challenging when the changes in question amount to a fundamental shift in the business model or in the way in which the business model is implemented: Form needs to follow function, new approaches need to be validated in depth before company-wide roll out occurs, lower and upper limits apply to the speed of implementation, and expectations need to be managed judiciously.

Conclusion: Shared services commenced as a movement in the early 1990s and rapidly became a worldwide trend in both the private and public sectors. Conceptually the prospect of doing of more with less is appealing. However, anecdotally, there have been just as many failures as successes, especially in the delivery of IT shared services.

Conclusion: IT/MIS within an organisation can be thought of as a business and, like any business, should have an active marketing plan in place. Such a plan helps the CIO and key members of the MIS group actively promote to all parts of the organisation the value of the services delivered by the MIS Department. The plan should be couched in business terms understood by each user community and not in “IT-speak”.

Conclusion: Distribution is an essential part of doing business and for some industries; media especially, its products can only be accessed through a complex distribution network, mostly through retail outlets. Underpinning that distribution network is an economic basis which appears to be changing. The change in that base will increasingly affect the mode of business.

Not all organisations face identical commercial changes to their distribution networks but where once brands, and media in particular, developed their online properties on the heritage of the traditional brand; now, Web properties have a brighter future than the heritage brand. That change in fortune may be explained and attributed to electronic distribution, not declining fortunes to the brand itself; but simply its access to the market

Organisations can deal with, and manage change, by being ready and planning ahead; by anticipating that distribution is a business function that will be modified according to competitive forces and market conditions.

Conclusion: Organisations striving to reduce their cost base may choose to investigate shared services strategies in areas such as Finance, Human Resources and IT. Changing past practices, and more importantly delivering bottom line benefits, can be challenging, particularly in IT. Whilst the stakes may be high, the organisational risk can also be high and resistance is likely to be encountered from those who fear their futures threatened by any planned changes.

Conclusion: Much has been written about the benefits of iterative, incremental software development. There is virtually no software development or integration project that could not benefit from an iterative approach. Yet many large, high-risk software projects are still managed according to the “good old” waterfall approach. And in those cases where projects are run in accordance to some iterative methodology, often the benefits of the approach are not fully realised. The risks of getting it wrong in transitioning to an iterative mode can be minimised by adhering to a few basic guidelines and by seeking assistance from an expert practitioner during the first project.

Conclusion: Irrespective of organisational size or business sector there is an extraordinary sameness to many of the activities carried out by IT Departments. Interviewing CIOs in a variety of organisations bears this out. In 2006, some of the common threads of activity include:

Conclusion: Watching and interpreting Google has become a strategic game; and whether its various plays may lead to gladiatorial combat with another or several large corporations. For most users of IT products and services, consumers and organisations, the alliances and struggles between Google and its competitors are either mysterious or irrelevant. Yet, the rise and rise of Google in so many sectors of the IT industry will present both users and vendors with challenges that are only just emerging.

Much as most consumers enjoy using a dominant search engine, few people would like to be restricted to just one service in other areas of work. The probability of Google dominating all the other information service delivery sectors such as news or TV media is remote. But it is conceivable that it may invade sectors in which it is not present today. Rather than attempt to understand what Google is doing it is timely for organisations to assess how they might deal with that situation.

Conclusion: Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) has been reborn, albeit in a new form. After achieving cult-like status for a number of years in the 1990s following publication of the book “Reengineering the Corporation”, authored by Michael Hammer and James Champy, BPR seemed to disappear from the corporate radar.

Conclusion: Good enough, like the expression ‘common sense’, is tacitly understood but lacks precision, so it is relatively facile to criticise products and organisations for failing to deliver a gold standard. But it may be mistaken. The perception, or attitude, about a perfect product is simplistic. Price and value are important factors in how products and services are created and delivered, not an idealised ambition.

Rather than pursue an ideal, managers should make efficient and effective use of the real skills, resources, investments, available to them to provide competitive services in the marketplace. To do so requires good understanding of one’s own organisation and the market in which it operates.

Conclusion: In the mid-nineties online marketing and e-commerce pioneer, Dave Carlick would often say that the Internet offered “a new bargain between consumers and marketers”. He meant that information was more readily accessible and that made prices easier to compare. Being able to obtain more information about goods and prices is one of the benefits of the Web to consumers.

In a channel environment where mainstream media is strong in securing audience reach, the Web seems to offer no additional advantages. Yet, coverage of an audience market is one part of the communications effort; something a stalwart of mass media, the chairman of Australia’s second largest media-buying company, affirmed recently.1

Whether used commercially, or in transacting ideas, the art of persuasion is critical for success. But it’s here that Dave Carlick’s observation is acute because, in part, information can be compared easily. The editorial control is solely with the publisher; the cost of distributing the message is miniscule; and further contact and action may be initiated.

Most of the advice offered in research on the IT aspects of mergers and acquisitions has focused on the acquiring organisation. Last month I wrote about the actions required in divesting part of your organisation; this month we have a review of what to do when you are subject to a takeover. IT organisations in a company being acquired have considerations and responsibilities of their own to address, and they are quite different to those of the acquiring company.

In a 2003 Accenture study, 73 percent of the Fortune 1000 executives surveyed found company acquisitions easier than divesting part of their company, while 11 percent thought the opposite. This statistic is important, as many acquisitions involve divesting some part of a business entity prior to the M&A event by the seller, or afterward by the seller or buyer, depending on how the deal is structured. Divestiture brings a range of issues for the CIO to address, and the divestiture process can be quiet different to the acquisition process.

Conclusion: The increase in IT related standards since the invention of the Web in 1989 can be seen as an indication of maturity of the IT industry. Today, all kinds of devices that contain software provide interfaces that allow them to communicate with other devices. Similarly, in the realm of enterprise software, today’s applications are typically interconnected across organisational boundaries and across a range of implementation technologies. But adoption and implementation of standards comes at a price. Which standards an organisation should embrace depends heavily on the nature of the business.

Conclusion: Inexperienced organisations often see benchmarking as the process of measuring best performance and fail to achieve the real value of benchmarking which is the discovery and adoption of best practices that drive best performance. Done appropriately benchmarking can yield unexpected and significant benefits, but done inappropriately it wastes considerable time and money1.

Conclusions: Due to a lack of transparency in the relationship between the demand for IT services and the cost of service delivery, most IT departments find themselves constantly justifying their IT budget to the CFO while simultaneously fighting with business units about additional demand for services. The major source of this dysfunction is the typical IT cost allocation, e.g., overhead or chargeback based on technical measures, which do not create the sufficient transparency to show the real cost drivers and incents undesirable behaviours.

Leading IT organisations are resolving this by recreating IT as an internal service provider with a formal IT Services Catalogue. This makes clear the relationship between demand and cost and uses economic incentives to drive the desired behaviours. It also has the benefit of aligning the service delivery expectations of the business unit and the IT organisation, thus reducing frustration.

Conclusion: Marketing can seem the very opposite of IT: lots of look and feel and rather intangible when compared with systems that must deliver on time. Yet IT can inject ideas and methods into marketing across an organisation, and an organisation that harnesses the expertise of its distinct and specialised divisions can realise positive results.

The product of greater cooperation may be several and various in the role of marketing. IT specialists may offer knowledge and expertise with practical effect for marketing strategies. Many marketing solutions involve technology solutions, and coupled with a thorough understanding of processes and the implementation of technologies, an IT manager can play an influential role to a marketing team.

Marketing is a sometimes crude means of meeting new people and businesses must invest in it, or they wither. For instance there are many brands that have loyal customers, who have used the brand for up to 40 years; but customers don’t live for ever, and the brands inevitably suffer declining sales.

Conclusion: Five years ago portals were essential to any worthy online strategy; without one, an organisation was not serious about the Web. That sentiment dissipated as portals were seen as symptomatic of the cyber land grab that failed. In the last two years they have quietly reasserted themselves – or perhaps never went away: Which begs the question: How does an organisation plot a course for its portal?

A portal ought to be created with a business objective, not because it’s fashionable, or competitors have one, or it’s possible with a large amount of content that is underutilised elsewhere in the organisation. From inception the portal should be planned to provide value to users, and in this context focusing on their requirements will produce a portal users keep using.

In February 2006 Oracle announced its intention to buy California-based Sleepycat Software, a leading provider of embedded open source database products, for an undisclosed sum. While this acquisition marks another signpost on Oracle''s broader acquisition binge, it also signals a deeper and more aggressive strategy to leverage and co-opt the growing open source movement to its advantage.

Conclusion: The emphasis on marketing eGovernment has dropped in priority. There was a Community of Practice on Marketing E-government run by Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) but that government-only group is no longer meeting. In addition there is no specific area in AGIMO responsible for marketing e-government, yet marketing activity is critical to building usage, adoption and education of a product or service.

As the government is committed to delivering services on the Web, it should, as a business would, create the necessary structures for professionals to market the services. To ignore marketing wastes investments in the websites. Currently, the so-called 'operational' areas have some marketing inbuilt into their projects but there is no overall responsibility to oversee standards and market online services.

In addition a complete review of all government website usability should be undertaken to assess weaknesses and client usage. Such a review may entail revising sites. Thirdly the definition and application of “access’’ through the sites ought to be clarified: is it published information; transaction for payment, or email contact with government officers. The fulfilment of any one of these actions should be measured to report if the objective of access has been successful.

Conclusion: There is an increasing trend for the IT function to become decentralised. Feedback from IBRS clients indicates that more than 60% of organisations have elected to adopt some form of decentralised IT responsibility. Our observation is that this figure is increasing, driven by:

Conclusion:Government websites are not reaching the public as effectively as they might. This phenomenon is common around the world and while some sites have functional value to the public, research shows that people are confused, ignorant or unable to find what they need from many government sites.

To improve their usability government should examine practical steps to reach citizens, firstly by marketing the sites in conjunction with improved navigation and, if required, re-designing sites for users to know what they can find on them.

Secondly, refine the execution of the sites, with special reference to improving the quality of sophisticated interaction that is possible between citizens and the administration. This process of should be conducted in the context of the strategic objectives of e-government policy if they are to achieve that particular policy target.

The growth of utility computing (UC) and utility infrastructure (UI) is both driving and being driven by open source software adoption. Leading utility IT vendors show that open source-based technologies and applications are now being considered or used to fill important product line gaps. At the same time, feedback from our customers indicates that utility infrastructure partially based on open source-based software will deliver more value to the enterprise than would utility infrastructure purely based on proprietary technologies.

Conclusion: A website that is underperforming, certainly in terms of the expectations that an organisation may have had for it, could be called loss-making. Not all websites generate revenue in one way or another but many organisations want their sites to demonstrate returns, whether that is in contact with site users, public relations, or just awareness of the site itself.

There are many tools and techniques to measure, and thereby improve the performance of a site: one of these is usability. These techniques will deal with the execution of site structure and content. As valuable as these techniques may be, if a site is loss making it may be that the root cause lies in the initial planning i.e. that the site does not match the strategy or the expectations that were in place when it was developed.

Organisations with underperforming web site must adopt business process re-engineering principles and redesign it and redesign the aims of the site. Return to the strategic plan – if one exists – and reset objectives. Do this planning once the site has been measured and assessed to obtain a thorough overview of the site’s current performance.

Conclusion:The mobile phone is entering a new phase in which it appears likely to become another medium, combining material from broadcast and print media. The mobile is not likely to become a pocket cinema - Apple’s iPod video is that – but according to a recent Australian research survey mobile users want more communication choices on their mobiles and to enjoy media content.

Current developments in technology and the growth of mobile content and increasingly mobile media content give organisations a powerful channel option in their communications suite.

Conclusion: Practical experience shows that software development initiatives usually entail high risks for the customer and the software developer. In anticipation of the risks both parties attempt to mitigate the impact, the customer often insists on a fixed price, and the software developer consequently builds contingency into the fixed price. This simplistic mitigation strategy rarely works. Successful application development requires intensive interaction with end user representatives and stakeholders, and the ability to take into account new insights into user needs, which are gained while the application is being built.

In early September the Audit Bureau of Verification Services released its online advertising market report which showed that revenue had grown by 62.7% year-on-year to $488m. For the last five years the online advertising industry has been promoting its growing revenues as proof that it has “arrived”, and by implication, companies should use online media as an advertising channel.

Conclusion:There is conflicting evidence on the role of IT in delivering higher productivity. Some studies attribute productivity gains almost entirely to IT, yet two recent surveys have found that astute management may have played a vital role.

For technology managers it’s important to understand how technology affects productivity because the argument that productivity gains can be realised often underpins business cases and investment decisions. Technology alone may not produce higher productivity but simply make the input component of the productivity equation more efficient. Under these types of conditions, therefore, the role of management becomes a key variable in realising productivity growth.

To understand how productive they are, managers should examine their organisation’s business processes and management practices over a number of dimensions. These dimensions would include business processes in conjunction with personnel quality and management; the aim of which is to know how an organisation functions as a whole and therefore to know how and where improvements to productivity may be applied.

The ongoing war for market share in the server platform market will continue to present vendor-sponsored programs for migration to their favoured operating system platform. While these programs offer real assistance in evaluation of new options for your organisation, they require thorough evaluation and significant allocation of resources. If tempted by a vendor offer for a migration evaluation, it is essential that the scope and limitations of the model used by the vendor to build their conclusions includes meaningful measures of business benefit rather than just infrastructure cost savings.

Conclusion: Organisations that take the approach that they are just buying a software product rather than a solution to a business problem are under-estimating the complexities of technological change. Occasionally organisations find it tempting to take this approach at the end of the financial year when they may have a small budget available and a compelling interest in ensuring they achieve perfect budget performance.

Conclusion:The IT Contribution Model is the latest measurement performance model to be offered to managers in evaluating IT investment. Professors Marc J. Epstein and Adriana Rejc have created a highly abstract and all inclusive model of processes to classify and measure the role of IT in business outcomes, with a reference to profitability.

The quality of the model, however, and the argument to sustain it, is diminished by: the high level of generality and abstraction i.e. IT strategy as an input variable; and a naïve mechanistic explanation of the causal relationship between applied resources and economic results. The conceptual underpinning is not helped either by basic errors of logic, such as the expounded procedure to determine a metric which is circular and a formal tautology and cannot be used to derive what it lamely wishes.1 This inept thinking is compounded by the equally lazy use of these adjectives: ‘critical’, key’ and ‘careful’, to explain various aspects in the creation of the model’s implementation.

Managers are already obliged to do many of the things the Model offers, albeit at a lower scale, and not necessarily finding the linkage between IT investment and overall profitability. The IT Contribution Model is a conceptual system or engine for making a measurement although systems, such as this model, do not validate its own results, regardless of its own coherence.

The information and communications technologies market is emerging from its torpor. After the spending excesses of Y2K, then the GST, followed by the bursting of the dotcom bubble and the demise of some major consulting practices, the past four years have been positively somnolent for an industry that has always enjoyed double-digit growth.

Conclusion: Effective IT strategic planning is more relevant than ever in 2005 as IT budgets continue to be straitened and IT units remain under pressure to prove their corporate worth. Whilst there are many approaches to developing an IT Strategic Plan, a zero-based approach is more likely to resonate with business stakeholders and provide successful outcomes than other approaches.

Conclusion: The arrival of weblogs over the last two years has opened new opportunities for communication and is a well known marketing device aimed at audiences outside an organisation. The principles of a blog: direct contact and debate are applied at online message-boards where company executives answer questions and take advice on new software from users.

An intranet blog used however, as another form of internal public relations, with comments posted by executives aimed at employees, may only serve to uncover the assertive self-promoters within an organisation.

Within an organisation blogs may be used to disseminate information to groups of staff and replace group emails. A blog to share expertise among staff may be more productive and useful because the volume and flow of information in companies is large and an electronic noticeboard in a blog offers a medium to manage the information.

In considering blogs for staff to use it must be clear what medium the blog will replace, to some extent email, and consequently, what rules will govern its use. Select a small group to trial its introduction and from that experience use the feedback to expand the use of a blog to other relevant groups.

Conclusion: The speed and ease of use that broadband delivers is still a rare commodity amongst the majority of Australian businesses, especially the SME. A constant refrain is that broadband must be pushed into the bulk of Australian organisations and for sound commercial reasons. It’s not clear that many businesses are interested; however, to ensure that broadband is a common standard. In the B2B marketplace organisations do not seem to be adversely affected by suppliers that do not have comparable communications infrastructure.

Even if there is a real problem of efficiency between business, changing conditions in the market is not easy. Pushing attitudes to change rapidly when the cost is borne by someone else won’t happen. The telecomm landscape is settled and the power of Telstra, directly and indirectly through its infrastructure affects, pricing to other suppliers of broadband.

Individual organisations could only use their voice through lobbying. So far, the loudest voices in the broadband debate have been from self-interested parties and they haven’t been able to state absolutely clearly why and how broadband will improve productivity. Their appeal to redress Australia’s relatively low standing on the international broadband league table relies on simple chauvinism.

The widespread low broadband usage in business is not a concern, despite its coverage, and it’s nearly impossible to know what the economic benefit would be if broadband was in every organisation in the country. Where companies and organisations do have broadband efficiency problems with their business partners they might work together to resolve them.

Conclusion: Before IT managers can start to measure targets against a balanced scorecard or any other mechanism it is important to agree with business executives what the targets will be measured and what each target actually means.

IT managers can use a combination of frameworks such as Balanced Score Card and CobiT to set and communicate targets to their staff and the wider organisation.

Some CIOs seek to chair all the IT steering committees as a way to ensure coherent IT approaches, to monitor value for money and to maintain power. This is an incorrect approach; most IT steering committees are driving business change on behalf of one or more business units or functional areas. Only a few are driving change in the IT infrastructure itself. Thus it is a best practice for the champion of the business functional area to chair the relevant sub-committee and to reinforce the connection with other governance processes.

Service-level agreements (SLAs) serve as a powerful tool for enabling an IS organisation to understand the business'' definition of adequate service (based on business requirements) and for business communities to understand the support function''s responsibilities. If the services are sourced externally, then they are also one of the most critical factors in the success of the outsourcing relationship.

Conclusion: Very few organisations have effective ICT strategic planning processes resulting in a poor return of investment for ICT assets and missed business opportunities. 

Do not confuse ICT strategic plans with technical ICT plans.  ICT strategic plans are business oriented and focus on the future systems portfolio and its contribution to future business priorities.  Technical ICT plans simply focus on the technology investments an organisation needs to make over time.  A technology plan will be just one of many deliverables from an effective ICT strategic plan.

Conclusion: Search engine marketing is increasingly the critical edge of online marketing. With the predominance of Google as the preferred search engine around the world - some estimates assert that up to 80% of all searches are via Google - the power of that single engine to determine the marketing position of a company is influenced by this conduit. Obtaining the top results in a search has inspired strong competition from Web marketers. As Google is a fixture for online marketing, avoiding or ignoring it altogether, is unrealistic

What makes the problem of Google's ‘gateway' for Web searches perplexing for managers responsible for the content on the company's website, is how Google affects the potential value of other marketing and promotional activities.

Managers can instigate minor but effective modifications to their websites and tactical promotions in the following two ways:

1. Change the site so that it is receptive to Google's criteria
2. Re-examine, and if necessary change the links and connections with other sites so that it boosts the popularity of your own site.

These small changes may help improve website rankings and produce a marginal improvement in overall return from online marketing activity by attracting greater numbers to your site.

Conclusion: When making the decision to invest in wireless, managers are presented with economic arguments from suppliers. Examining the variety of case studies* reveals that not all the arguments are valid, and this fact should not be significant, because not all decisions, should be, or are based on economic grounds.

Indeed, the case for a wireless solution in enterprises may be impelled by the same tacit logic of fashion. In other words, as more companies adopt it, perhaps even for purely financial and logical reasons, the spread of the technology becomes more compelling. If that line of argument appears fanciful, it is the same reason why the DVD is so popular, and in fact, one of the background causes as to how the PC took hold in companies, twenty years ago.

To assess whether to join the wireless movement or not, managers can simply do two things.

  1. Survey similar sized companies and organisations that have adopted it.

  2. Discount the putative efficiency benefit from any calculation of ROI in a short-term period, say the first year.

Widespread adoption of technology arises from network effects; in essence, because your competitors are doing it, there is a justifiable reason to do likewise.

Conclusion: Without a proven framework that reflects the true value of each system in their portfolio IT managers and business unit managers run the risk of incorrectly prioritising new ICT investments and inappropriately identifying the risks associated with these investments.

To gain a clearer picture of the value and risk associated with each new ICT investment IT managers should map their proposed and existing systems portfolio on frameworks such as the Strategic Grid. This allows investments to be analysed and the results shared with a business audience.

Conclusion: Until recently, relatively unknown presidential candidate, Howard Dean is creating a stir in the U.S. as the leading Democratic candidate for the presidency, which is attributable to his innovative and successful Internet strategy. From the obscurity of just 4 percent of Democratic primary voters, Dean has moved to 15 percent of likely voters, according to a poll taken in November. Dean also took a record US$7.4 million in online donations during the third quarter of 2003, almost half his total for the same period.

Deans and his campaign managers have not re-invented Internet communication strategies, what they have accomplished is better than their rivals. They have demonstrated what is possible once the planning is right to start with. The two elements they have done very well are:

  1. Utilised the Internet is a facilitating channel: connections go from one to one to one and thus join people together.

  2. Encouraged engagement through other techniques like weblogs and meetings.

By connecting with supporters and managing the means to stay in touch, Dean has made the Internet a critical component of his success.

Conclusion: In 2004 many new IT initiatives (especially e-business and business intelligence initiatives) are likely to expose organisations to new technologies and business processes. These new technologies and business processes will require organisations to embark on new experience curves. Organisations that assume their existing track record will be sufficient to take on these new experience curves will find that seemingly low risk projects begin to fail.

Business and IT executives need to recognise that endeavours involving new experience curves must be managed as high risk ventures and where possible organisations should look to minimise the rate at which they expose their business and industry to new experience curves.