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. 

Corporate document management initiatives can often fail to deliver expected outcomes because too much emphasis is placed on the choice of technology at the expense of the more critical issues of people and process. As corporate electronic document management systems are used by all staff within an organisation they will not be successful unless all business units have been engaged during the implementation and the supporting processes are simple and practical. Adoption will be accelerated through identification of tangible, personal benefits for end users and their reinforcement during training and implementation.

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Conclusion: Although Microsoft’s new range of servers products have been available for some months, it is only now that the software giant’s marketing engine will go into full throttle. Understanding Microsoft’s likely marketing strategy that will endevour to shift the market from virtualisation to what it calls “Dynamic IT,” and being prepared for this strategy’s ramifications and the pressures it will create for IT managers will be essential to managing expectations from the business and smooth technology deployment.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Conclusion: Manually re-implementing application functionality in a new technology every few years is highly uneconomical. Model driven automation offers the potential to eliminate software design degradation and to minimise the cost of technology churn. Yet the model driven approach only works if conceptual models of questionable quality are discarded, and if deep knowledge about the business is used to develop elegant, compact, and tailored specification languages for domain knowledge.

This article is the final in a series of three on technologies and techniques that are leading to fundamental changes in the architectures used to construct software applications and software intensive devices.

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Related Articles:

"The Industrialised Web Economy - Part 1: Cloud Computing" IBRS, 2008-03-31 00:00:00

"The Industrialised Web Economy- Part 2: Software Supply Chains" IBRS, 2008-04-28 00:00:00

Conclusion: More than a year after its launch, IT managers in large enterprises perceive Vista as being costly, having compatibility issues with legacy applications and offering few benefits over its popular predecessor, Windows XP.

However, there is a concern that delaying the move to Vista may lead to problems in the deployment of other highly-desired products from Microsoft and third-parties. This concern is unfounded. Given the other more pressing priorities for IT management, and the relatively few benefits associated with Vista, organisations can afford to wait at least another three years before migrating to Vista, or skip the current iteration of Vista altogether. IT managers should look beyond pure operating system issues and examine a variety of desktop and application deployment models.

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Successfully delivering agreed strategies from an IT Strategic Plan can only be achieved through planning and the application of strict governance processes. This governance must provide the necessary flexibility to deliver successful outcomes in a changing business and technology environment. Open and regular communication with the total organisation on the status of the IT Strategic Plan is essential to maintain credibility and ensure support and cooperation

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Conclusion: Building a business case for Unified Communications is currently more of an art than a science. Traditional Return on Investment (ROI) models are now inapplicable unless arbitrary values are placed on intangible benefits. However, the difficulty of building a business case for UC does not mean that there is none – just that we need to view (and measure) UC’s benefits in accordance with the stage of maturity of the technology’s adoption. Paradoxically, as UC evolves past its current human-to-human model over the next decade, we will be able to switch back to using formal ROI models.

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Conclusion: In 2008, corporate databases reached unprecedented sizes. Yet despite the abundance and diversity of data, many organisations remain challenged by Business Intelligence (BI) initiatives. They buy on vendor promise, but many have difficulty fulfilling it. Against this backdrop, and in a confusing post-acquisition market, BI vendors continue to release increasingly sophisticated and capable products.

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Conclusion: Over the next 7 years the typical commodity IT infrastructure1 will be ‘reinvented’ from today’s network of independent servers and storage into a unified computing resource that looks and behaves remarkably like the old mainframe. This new infrastructure will blend the best attributes from each architecture to create a highly agile, robust and cost effective environment that is based on commodity components.

While the key technologies are available today, due to the inertia of the existing environment, and the cultural barriers in IT and the business, this journey will take most organisations 5-7 years to complete. IT organisations can hasten the journey by breaking down the siloed, hardware centric cultures that exist in their organisation. To succeed, the commodity IT infrastructure must be reinterpreted as a unified, shared resource, where a server is a mere component, rather than as a loose network of servers owned and managed by individuals or groups.

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A thorough technology trends analysis, identifying upcoming initiatives in the development of technology and assessing their value and relevance, is an important phase when preparing the IT Goal State of an IT Strategic Plan.

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Conclusion: A perfect IT storm is looming, driven by merging category 4 storms such as Utility (or cloud) computing, and the Red Shift growth in massive computing. The force of the storm will be exacerbated by rising energy costs and their impact on the data centre energy budget. As a consequence, in a few years many mid to large organisations have at least all their non-differentiating applications running on remote shared SaaS-like sites. This will have a significant impact on the IT department and it’s CIO.

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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.

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A number of vendors and thinkers have been promoting the idea of putting the entire data centre in a shipping container. These pre-assembled mobile data centres can come complete with pre-installed networking, power and cooling systems and can be transported by truck and quickly made operational. The approach is touted when temporary, mobile data centres need to be set up, such as in disaster-recovery situations. It is also being promoted as viable as organisations struggle with providing adequate IT resources for their IT dependant operations.

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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.

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Engaging with senior management early in the IT Strategic Planning process, to understand their personal views on how IT can be used to assist the organisation achieve its objectives is beneficial. This process has the affect of elevating the importance of the IT Strategic Plan in their minds and helps to ensure their cooperation and support when the outputs from the plan are being implemented. Failure to do this will inevitably lead to difficulties when implementing the IT Strategic Plan into areas of the organisation where there has been little or no senior management input.

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Conclusion: For most corporate IT departments, concepts such as Cloud Computing seem light years away from current day-to-day reality. Yet the number of commercial providers of such services is growing fast, and even more far-fetched ideas such as global software service supply chains are emerging on the horizon. The distance between innovators and late adopters of modern techniques and technologies is growing. In this scenario it is essential to know when not to remain amongst the late adopters, to avoid being left behind in the dust and struggling with evaporating profit margins.

This article is the first in a series of three on technologies and techniques that are leading to fundamental changes in the architectures used to construct software applications and software intensive devices. First examples of these changes are already visible today, and over the next five years, many of the current rules for architecting business applications will be re-written.

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Related Articles:

"The Industrialised Web Economy - Part 3: Automation and Model Driven Knowledge Engineering" IBRS, 2008-05-28 00:00:00

"The Industrialised Web Economy- Part 2: Software Supply Chains" IBRS, 2008-04-28 00:00:00

Conclusion: IT managers planning business-to-business integration, or with the need to couple old-school EDI (Electronic Document Interchange) and legacy ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning systems) with modern web-based architectures must look towards a uniform message-based middleware infrastructure. If the organisation is already moving down the .Net deployment path BizTalk R2 is now a contender along with the more traditional products, such as Tuxedo and Tibco.

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Conclusion: Too often corporate decision making is not a rational and well structured process.. The team charged with making the decision often accumulates a lot of information, probably biased by their own values, then goes into a room and emerges with a decision. This approach is a poor basis for making complex or important decisions  

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This month saw the beta launch of Microsoft’s Office Live, a Web 2.0 collaboration tool by Microsoft. The free service is yet another attempt by the Redmond Giant to halt the incessant march of Google. By going into a space that is normally associated with Google, Microsoft hopes to once again leverage its monopoly status with its desktop productivity tools to keep an upstart competitor off guard.

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Conclusion: Collaboration is not something you can buy. It is not a product. It is not even a solution. It is an approach to doing business. As such, collaboration initiatives must be viewed more as a transformative business project with IT support. Large-scale, monolithic collaborative initiatives run exclusively by IT will prove difficult to justify over time and likely turn out to be white-elephants. Instead, collaboration should be driven first and foremost by a change in company culture fully backed by management, with IT supplying a supportive network and software service architecture.

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As an organisation’s dependence on a fully functioning and secure IT Network delivering an IT environment enabling business to be conducted successfully grows, it is important that the integrity of that network is protected to the highest degree possible. While there are many software and hardware products available in the market to help to ensure this protection it is also important that, at the human level policies and procedures are put in place to protect the network from misuse by its users. As an important part of IT governance organisations must compile, publish, maintain and enforce IT Network Policies to help ensure the integrity of the IT Network.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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It may seem that recognition of the risks associated with a reliance on legacy application software systems and the need to migrate these systems should be obvious to an organisation. However there is often a reluctance among business users to move away from the familiarity of deeply entrenched systems that are seen to be delivering the required outcomes. To mitigate these risks it is necessary for the IT department to work with the business to promote an understanding of the risks and costs associated with running legacy systems and to migrate them into a fully supported and up to date technical environment This exercise should not be driven by horror stories of impending disaster which can lead to hasty, inappropriate decisions but must be approached in the manner of any software applications system implementation, with the appropriate governance and management.

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Conclusion: Authentication is arguably one of the biggest stumbling blocks on the road towards massive use of Software as a Service and Cloud Computing. Enabling authentication via the traditional login dialogue between individual systems and users does not scale anymore, and home-grown single sign-on architectures are largely limited to the corporate boundary. OpenID addresses the issue of establishing trust and credentials head-on, and makes use of a process pattern that is well established in the domain of financial transactions.

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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.

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Conclusion: Mergers and acquisitions are an everyday occurrence in today’s business and public sector environment, where companies are bought and sold and agencies merged and de-merged to meet the government’s agenda. Whilst business leaders and ministers stress the expected benefits to clients, the impact on critical back office activities such as IT systems and infrastructure integration, rarely makes the headlines.

What is important in mergers or acquisitions is they be implemented with no unplanned business disruptions and, if likely they are likely to occur, stakeholders (staff, suppliers, clients and legislators) alerted well in advance, Similarly it is important, after the disruption has ceased, that the same people be thanked for their forbearance.

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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.

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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.

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Conclusion: It is well known that the cost to rectify a defect increases significantly the later the stage in the systems development life cycle it is discovered. At the same time it is well known that software requirements can only be reliably uncovered when an iterative process of validating software under construction is used. Taking full advantage of iterative requirements validation while minimising the costs associated with late defect discovery requires a 360 degree perspective on requirements and testing that goes beyond the scope of individual projects, as well as a realistic perspective regarding the (in)ability to foresee future requirements.

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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.

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Conclusion: While wikis are certainly an important new approach to information management, they should not be considered as a replacement for enterprise content management systems (CMS). Instead, wikis should be considered an adjunct to content management, providing added flexibility and collaboration where needed. Understanding the differences between CMS and wikis is vital.

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Conclusion: Open Source software is demonstrably successful in specific business and government areas (think of all those Linux and Apache servers humming away!). However, apart from these, MySQL and a few exceptions from, for example, the Mozilla stable, Open Source systems have not yet had a significant impact in the mainstream world of business IT. The one exception is in Government where there is a world-wide trend to espouse Open Source Software. Government agencies are reporting what they see as compelling arguments for adopting Open Source. Those in the Government arena who have not yet considered this option may wish to re-examine their stand.

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Just a week has passed since the election, and the Australian population can switch off their PCs (and Macs too) and Web connections as they have blogged themselves into exhaustion; debating and understanding the policies; been involved at the grass roots level of political and social debate, all in all, thoroughly engaged in the of political process.

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Conclusion: Multi-channel CRM is an area in which technology has to serve people, and when it does not, the disappointment and failure is measurable. In call centres, and in the growing, though underutilised implementation of Web based contact, CRM can be tuned to customer needs, if an organisation has made adequate plans, based on customer behaviour and usage.

If CRM solutions are chosen, for example, Interactive Voice Response technology, organisations may find a cost-effective solution over time, but one that short changes them in their ongoing relationship with customers.

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Conclusion: Implementing a web service oriented architecture leads to more maintainable application systems that are cheaper to operate - if you can afford to wait three years or longer, without resorting to cutting corners, or even pulling the plug. Reduction of risk exposure is the real and immediate reason why consumption and creation of services should be an essential part of renovating and evolving the enterprise application landscape of a software intensive business.

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While sophisticated Knowledge Management Systems have proved to date to be a bridge too far for many organisations the use of Document Management and Collaboration Systems can provide an acceptable alternative.

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