Strategy & Transformation

Flourishing in the modern marketplace relies on an organisation’s ability to make the right choices.

To avoid being left behind in an evolving world it is critical for organisations to jump at opportunities for transformational growth. However, acting without sufficient planning is fraught with risk. 

Transformation can only happen when an organisation is aligned on its strategic intent, and IT leaders need the resources to drive great choice-making across their organisation.

From planning to delivery, IBRS can cut through the confusion and guide your organisation all the way through its transformational journey. Our advisors have first-hand experience delivering digital transformation projects and can develop a tailored roadmap to deliver the outcomes you want. 

Conclusion:Value chain analysis is one of the fastest ways to understand the essence of a business or an organisation, provided appropriate techniques are used in the analysis. The only concepts needed for recording value chains are roles, systems, artefacts, the links between these concepts, and a distinction between artefacts that are exchanged with other organisations and artefacts that are only relevant within the organisation. One of the biggest pitfalls in value chain analysis is to lose track of the big picture, and to get lost in the details - which can easily be avoided by following a small set of best practices to avoid work that does not add value.

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Conclusion: Traditional approaches to web application performance optimisation have focused on the physical network infrastructure, WAN optimisation, and to a lesser extent application development. As web applications become mainstream, the complex issue of ensuring they remain responsive has received increased attention.

Web application performance is impacted by physical infrastructure, application design, software, specialised services and WAN optimisation. This begs the question, who is actually responsible for a web application’s performance? IBRS recommends that a single person, or team, be responsible for end-to-end web application performance, with direct governance of the physical infrastructure, software and services needed.

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Conclusion:Last year Richard Soley, Ivar Jacobson, and Bertrand Meyer called for action to re-found software engineering on principles and practices that are backed by robust scientific theories. Achieving big gains in software quality and productivity by introducing off-the-shelf methodologies has proved to be elusive. The evidence suggests that looking for much smaller (and scientifically validated) building blocks that can be composed into an organisation-specific methodology is much more likely to deliver results than the quest for the ultimate methodology. Alignment between business and IT requires constant vigilance of staying on the narrow ridge that separates over-simplification of an organisation’s activities from spurious complexity in software implementations.

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Conclusion: Despite better and more available government services online there are considerable gaps in service quality. These gaps, or dissatisfaction, with services are based primarily in users' ability to deal with accessibility, navigation and understanding of government services and information.

There are two recommendations to be made from the five years' of usage data of government sites: Firstly, that content management, site navigation and information discovery has to be improved, and, secondly, an information marketing campaign to assist users should also be considered using the Web and traditional media to inform and educate the public.

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Conclusion:Organisations that that plan to deploy or extend their WAN Optimisation Clients (WOCs) should strongly consider virtual WOCs. Virtual WOCs will carry less financial commitment, and an organisation deploying virtual WOCs will not be encumbered after 2-3 years with outdated appliances which cannot be repurposed. The importance of not over-committing to WOC appliances will become increasingly important: as WOC capabilities get baked into application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs); and as organisations move towards web applications, which will require their own accelerators.

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Conclusion: Expanding Web 2.0 tools in government consolidates the current experimentation into a new range and reach of technology from established practices. Adoption of 2.0 tools may create new responsibilities and pressures for government agencies and consequently managers will have to review specific strategies and prioritise the deployment of 2.0 tools.

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Conclusion: IT managers starting to investigate either WAN optimisation or web application acceleration technologies need to be clear on several factors before making a purchase. The first and most important factor is the technical architecture their organisation currently has. The correct choice of technology will depend on: where the data is, where the users are, what applications the users need, how mobile they are, and whether the organisation is moving towards web applications.

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Conclusion: Oracle Exadata is an innovative approach to system design that makes Oracle a leading vendor in our Integrated Systems model and it is an example of how IT infrastructure will evolve over the next 3-7 years.

Oracle’s reinvention of storage as a cluster of commodity servers (x64), using commodity storage (SAS/SATA), and a volume storage operating system, is particularly noteworthy. This is a fundamental departure from the last 20 years of storage design, and heralds a major shakeup in the storage industry over the next five years.

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Many highly accessed government web sites are fragmented, with out of date information, and appear poorly coordinated. While some departments and agencies have demonstrated positive web governance abilities, the expansion of Commonwealth government web sites, coupled with lack of oversight or continuity, means that gaps in service and information delivery are evident.

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Conclusion: In the short-term, the soon to be launched Windows Azure platform is likely to be misunderstood by IT enterprise architects and under-estimated by in-house software developers. The notion of "cloud computing" has become ill-defined and confused. In order to understand where Azure and other cloud based solutions can benefit an enterprise, it is vital to have clear definition of the different classes of cloud computing and the trend of clouds towards greater simplicity at the expense of flexibility.

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Conclusion:Government does not only want to supply information and transactional services, it wants engagement from within and outside its ranks. But that ambition may be already too late.

The reality of online use is that government (including its policies and services) is part of the online knowledge system network that includes a plethora of blogs, forums, videos and mailing lists. As the Web grows in scope and complexity, the idea of developing Government 2.0 as a media policy is already history. It's time to investigate a new approach to government online.

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Software development was still a very esoteric discipline in the days when Lisp was born. In the meantime the software industry went through a whole series of major paradigm shifts:

  • From structured programming (Pascal and related languages)

  • To relational databases (the SQL standard and implementations from IBM, Oracle and others)

  • To Computer Aided Software Engineering (a very large range of competing tools)

  • To object-oriented languages (such as Smalltalk, C++ and Java)

  • To components (such as the CORBA standard and Java Enterprise Edition)

  • To web based applications (HTML, XML, JavaScript, and other scripting languages)

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Conclusion: Oracle’s vision is to become the leading IT Systems Vendor by creating a complete IT stack of hardware, middleware and applications. The objective is to reduce complexity, and to lower the total cost of ownership, though integration and optimisation across the entire stack.

Oracle will retain Sun products that are both complete this Systems Vendor vision and are aligned with its long term business and technology strategies. The remaining Sun products will either be parked, and the customer base transitioned to a related Oracle product, or sold to a third party.

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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.

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Conclusion: Public sector IT departments are facing greater financial scrutiny as a result of both the GFC and the Gershon Report. There is a broad mandate to reduce ‘business as usual’ costs. In order to prioritise projects, manage expectations and drive down IT costs, IT professionals need to understand the key technology trends in the public sector.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Conclusion: Most attention has been focused on Chrome OS's technical qualities and possibly disruptive effects on the operating system status quo while the commercial objectives of the operating system are veiled. Chrome OS is another potential channel by which Google can harness network effects to develop revenue.

Observing how revenue will grow from Chrome OS will indicate its real market and technological potential. Although it seems far away now, in the next 18-24 months IT departments in organisations will probably have to deal with the swelling influence of Chrome OS from its early adopters.

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Conclusion: Interviewing CXOs during consulting assignments over the past eighteen months has revealed significant dissatisfaction about their ERPs. Many contend their ERP investment has significantly eroded since originally implemented, and, given the need to maintain a reasonable degree of release currency, their ERPs are now providing negative returns on capital invested.

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Conclusion: This year's Tech·Ed comes at a time when Microsoft is attempting to recapture attention with products such as Windows 7, HyperV, Office 2010, Visual Studio 10 and Silverlight 3. IBRS has analysed Tech·Ed attendee patterns to identify key issues and areas of interest for developers and enterprise architects for the coming year. Topping the list is a range of desktop deployment issues. However, this analysis also shows that some technical skills that have been assumed to exist within IT departments are in fact under-developed. These skill gaps must be addressed prior to new desktop or unified communications deployments.

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Conclusion: Google's Wave has caused both thrill and uproar over its innovation and potentially disruptive effects to the status quo of office productivity. Currently Wave is an indication of what might be possible, once all the programming and security issues and assorted bugs are either organised better or eliminated.

In any case, enterprises and large organisations are not likely to be early adopters of Wave because of their current collaboration platforms and legacy systems. The SME sector, and that comprises thousands of smart businesses in the information industries, are likely to adopt Wave. The underlying reason is due to their use of Google products, chiefly the Apps and search applications.

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 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.

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Conclusion: Given the hype around the interactive aspects of Web 2.0 and the continuing popularity of Business Process X – with X being any element of the set {Management, Modelling, Analysis, Re-engineering, Integration} – the role of artefacts in enterprise collaboration and in value chains is easily neglected. If an organisation looks beyond the hype and invests in a comprehensive and accurate model of artefact production and consumption, the result is an understanding of business processes and value chains that is much more useful than the average business process model.

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Conclusion: Software vendor Zoho is pinning its growth on the rapid adoption of cloud services with the aim of being the IT department for SMEs. This business strategy might seem overly optimistic as its potential success may even be partly dependent on Microsoft. According to Zoho, the status of Microsoft in delivering products online is an implicit approval of the delivery and use of software by smaller vendors.

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Conclusion: With the exception of an improved web browser, Windows 6.5 offers organisations little benefit over Windows 6.1, and developers will find accessing the iPhone-like features cumbersome. Organisations with Microsoft-based mobility initiatives should either ignore 6.5 and wait for Mobile 7, or expand support of alternative mobile platforms.

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Conclusion: Automated software and system testing will never be the testing silver bullet. One of its components though, the automated generation of test data, is one of the powerful weapons in the software testing arsenal1 and its deployment can provide a strategic advantage in the testing battle. The key is when and how to automate test data generation and which of its features are most effective when deployed. Two of its most useful benefits are reducing risks by protecting personal details and lowering costs by significantly reducing the numbers of tests required.

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At IBRS, we get to see our fair share of IT project failures. We often get called in at the last minute to explain why or how some project is going FUBAR and to suggest remediation tactics. What never ceases to amaze me is that so many of these project failures are identical.

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Conclusion: vCloud Express is a new entry level Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offering based on self-service portals, credit card payments and VMware’s enterprise class virtualisation products.

CIOs should look at vCloud Express as a low cost, low risk way to learn how to use public cloud infrastructure. Since vCloud Express may be seen by some groups (dev/test, business units) as a way to side-step the perceived bureaucracy of the IT Organisation, CIOs should develop a strategy to embrace this use as a way to retain control and ensure relevancy with dissatisfied customers.

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Conclusion:SharePoint’s rapid installation across organisations (and especially within the public sector) is leading to fragmented deployment, which is then causing difficulties when attempting to merge or share content and applications. Organisations that are part of a federation, such as Local and State Councils – can alleviate future integration bottlenecks, reduce investments in application development, increase the rate of eServices delivery and help ensure that stakeholders can share information, by adopting the governance practices from the open source community.

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Conclusion: User interface design, implementation, and validation can easily turn out to be the most expensive part of application development, sometimes consuming over 50% of the overall project budget. This does not have to be the case. If user interface and usability requirements are specified at the appropriate level of abstraction, the required design and implementation effort can be reduced by an order of magnitude, whilst consistency and usability of the resulting application is greatly improved.

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Conclusion: Any successful software testing regime uses a judicious mix of manual and automated testing. Manual testing is best in those areas that need spontaneity and creativity. Automated testing lends itself to explicit and repetitive testing and to scenario, performance, load and stress testing. While not all tests can be automated, given good tools there is no reason why much testing and test data generation and test management cannot be automated.

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Conclusion: While some organisations with distributed sites are benefiting from WAN optimisation, there are variables which will have a direct impact on the viability of a deployment. These variables can be sorted into three categories: cost, environment and desired outcomes. The most important is the last – desired outcomes. Many WAN optimisers have been deployed to remove branch office servers, only for IT departments to discover that application latency was causing more of a headache for users.

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Related Articles:

"WAN Optimisation - Latency will tear us apart" IBRS, 2009-06-29 00:00:00

Conclusion: Like a toy that comes with a ready meal, Google Apps is seen by universities as suitable for student users. By its cost per student and terms of service, Google Apps exemplifies how the principle of good enough (POGE), has been accepted to service student needs.

With ever-present financial pressures institutions will consider Google Apps, and for its trading cost it is a viable alternative, which will develop and in all likelihood offer more features in the future.

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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?

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Conclusion:Cloud computing is promoted as the next disruptive technology in the organisational use of IT. If this does happen, no matter what else changes there are some verities which must not change, in particular meeting legal requirements. There are at least seven areas where a move to cloud computing should not be contemplated unless the legal requirements can be demonstrably satisfied.

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Conclusion: Google Apps' products are developing rapidly. These developments range from the large and significant, to the small minor adjustments. Google has increased its pace of development, and enterprise users will want to gain a strategic view of how the Apps mature in the next two years.

Google Apps' driving force, Rajen Sheth defines the corporation's main ambitions in two areas: to improve functionality, perhaps in ways that have not been considered by users, and to redefine enterprise messaging and collaboration. Whether they can achieve such ambitions is not foreseeable but they will offer many new tools and enhancements to reach that objective.

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Some commentators have been sceptical about Google''s intentions with the Chrome OS. Is it a mere distraction? Why has Google bothered?Is Chrome part of a broader plan? As a former CIO, Chrome appears to me as just one element in a complete armoury of products Google is developing, all aimed at the CIO heartland.

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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.

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Conclusion: Google is working in a dynamic market exploring and challenging current approaches. While that evolving plan may confuse some observers, it may succeed, though perhaps not exactly in the way originally set out.

To help understand what Google is doing in the enterprise market, IBRS interviewed the founder and driving force of Google Apps.

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