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: 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.

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The challenge going forward is to implement the IT Strategic Plan over the next three to five years while continuing to service the business both from an operational point of view, and through the delivery of the appropriate business systems. A particular issue is how to balance the introduction of a new IT architecture based on a services orientated model, while delivering application systems which may not comply with this architecture but are perceived by the business to meet their requirements.

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Conclusion: One of the hottest IT issues at the moment is Software as a Service (SaaS.) However, SaaS is not yet a well-defined, nor well-understood approach. Like most IT buzzwords, vendors are rushing to stake their claim. Having a framework to evaluate the different approaches taken by vendors is essential for planning future IT architectures.

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Conclusion: Tesco’s move to sell its own brand of software has been perceived as a direct threat to Microsoft, but the UK retailing giant signals several broader effects for IT vendors and suppliers, for users, and an opportunity for other companies.

As the world’s fourth largest retailer, Tesco’s market share influences markets and by selling its branded software, it may, over the next two to three years, be a catalyst for change in the consumer software industry.

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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”.

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As the company has grown a need for more transparency and accountability for IT costs has been identified. Consequently we have revisited our recovery model and made the decision to alter the charge from a fixed percentage of project turn over to a monthly fee per computer. The decision was also made, in line with the new IT Strategy for the Leighton Contractors Group, that ownership and life cycle management of all IT Assets would be the responsibility of the Corporate Information Systems Department and that the monthly charge should apply to all business units.

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Conclusion: With recent vendor movements in the Web Content Management (WCM) space and related Enterprise Information Management (EIM) space, there is a great deal of focus on how organisations organise and distribute content online.

Much of the hype surrounding vendor announcements and lucrative tenders for web development obscure a far more important trend: the movement of content from being a product in itself to being seen as the result of a series of organisational processes. This is similar to (although not as far-ranging) as Business Process Modelling (BPM) and many of the approaches used in BPM can be applied to process-oriented web content planning.

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Conclusion: It has been five or more years since many organisations built their current websites and increasingly many of them are examining ways to improve the design and content. While planning for the future is sensible it is apparent that many legacy issues remain. These legacies are evident in the available technology being used and, probably more importantly, in the planning and thinking of the site’s next phase of development.

How the web is developing and its overlap with other digital media are significant factors in a web strategy and its execution through to a content management strategy. Organisations should recognise and adapt to user behaviour if they want their next generation websites to be effective.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Conclusion: With mobile device shipments predicted to grow in excess of 50% per annum though to 2010, IT organisations must learn how to deal with this trend. The key is to ignore the glamour and glitz associated with the mobile device and focus on the benefits that mobility brings to a core business process. Mobility projects have many of the same characteristics as ERP or CRM projects and IT organisations should apply the lessons learned from implementing such applications.

To avoid becoming a “solution looking for a problem”, organisations must resist the technology hype from telecommunications carriers and use a top down, business process improvement focused approach when considering whether to invest in mobility projects.

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Conclusion: Estimating the cost of software development projects is notoriously difficult. The simple “thumb suck” technique still enjoys significant popularity, and although attempts to introduce a more rigorous estimation process usually lend a scientific touch to the process, any numbers that are not based on historic metrics tend to collapse like a house of cards. Obtaining useful metrics is the hard part. The only way it can be achieved in a realistically short time frame, is by adopting an iterative, incremental approach based on timeboxed iterations of constant duration.

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In April 2006 I discussed the turn around in this company’s fortunes due to the unprecedented resources boom1 and the significant increase in large infrastructure upgrade projects. This growth is rapidly increasing and we are currently winning an average of one project a week. The latest large Joint Venture project to come our way is the $1.88 billion Gateway Bridge Duplication in Brisbane. There are other large road projects in Queensland to be awarded over the next month, following closely on Peter Beattie’s win at the recent State Election. Our chances of winning a good proportion of this work are very high.

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Three months ago two Google researchers unveiled a project which has wide implications but attracted little attention. They proposed using ambient-audio identification technology to capture TV sound with a laptop PC to identify the TV programme that is the source of the sound and to use that information to produce personalised Internet content to the PC. This technological turnkey is called Mass Personalisation by the researchers because it brings TV and the Web together, harnessing large audiences but which are informed over the Web as individuals.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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For some time now we have been, with varying degrees of success, implementing systems providing electronic document and records management capability; to address the large volumes of paper on construction projects and to better manage the complexities of engineering drawings. Due to the distributed project nature of our business and the power invested in project managers to make their own decisions, we have never managed to implement a single company wide solution, and by doing so have not realised the benefits that this standardisation provides. We find ourselves in the position where we are using several different ASP model solutions, one of which is of course inCite, and a number of proprietry third party products. This makes it considerably more difficult to introduce one standard system for managing project documentation across the business, while still taking into account the different requirements of the various delivery models i.e. straight design and construct, joint venture, alliance, PPP etc.

To satisfy an important part of the company’s strategic direction, we have been undertaking a review and formalisation of the organisation’s Management Systems. In this case Management Systems are defined as those processes which are integral to the way that the company does business. In the past these have been applicable to construction projects only, but the decision has now been taken to define, implement and maintain formalised business processes for all parts of the organisation. A large part of this review involves the selection of the optimum way of storing these processes and their associated business procedures, and publishing them. While these processes may or may not be enabled through an IT application, they will be maintained and accessed through an electronic repository. The million dollar question is which electronic repository.

Through this project the business has invested a significant effort in designing a revised format for these processes, and most of the content for construction projects has been put together in the new format. The business has now engaged, with IT, to go to the market to select a product to deliver the new Management System. Following a robust and detailed evaluation procedure involving a project team, including the major business stake holders, a decision was taken on the most appropriate product. A pilot is currently being undertaken to prove the suitability of this product with an initial implementation of the Management Systems planned for December 2006.

At this late stage of the project some doubt has been expressed about the value of the solution that has been chosen. While there is little doubt about the capability of the product to deliver the required solution, concern has been expressed in some quarters about the total cost of ownership for what is considered to be a point solution only. The chosen solution is a vendor driven product, with a significant cost for licences and on-going support. There is a feeling that a satisfactory solution could be provided through a commercial open source product, or through products for which we are already licenced because of other contracts with specific suppliers.

Supporters of the product claim, with some justification, that it has the capability of providing total enterprise content management to the business and can therefore deliver the value that is being questioned. Additionally, it can go a long way to satisfying the perceived need to have only one system in the business to manage all processes and associated documentation. The scope of this project however did not include other business requirements outside the Management Systems.

We have received well intentioned advice on this matter, both solicited and unsolicited, from a number of third parties. It has become apparent that there is a diversity of views on this subject which is of no use to us at all. The main issues seem to be:

  • what actually is an enterprise content management system?

  • having established what it is, do we need one?

  • having established that, do need one over arching enterprise content management system, or do we need a number of point solutions addressing business requirements as they arise?

  • if we do need one overarching enterprise content management system, what is the total cost of ownership – do we go for a vendor driven solution, open source solution or utilise one of the “freebies” that we are entitled to (assuming their suitability)?

  • where does an enterprise content management system sit in our IT architecture? Is it an infrastructure application, a platform, a business application, or a bit of all three?

There are some interesting schools of thought out there ranging through:

  • Enterprise Content Management addresses document management, records management, web content including intranet, extranet and internet and is underpinned by a work flow engine.

  • There is a significant immaturity in this market with little immediate sign of this improving. We should not be making a decision on one over arching solution until the market is more mature and there are indications that the major players are here to stay. We should be leveraging off our existing products in the meantime.

  • We should be considering commercial open source to reduce total cost of ownership. Is commercial open source really cheaper or is it just another model with much the same cost?

  • Enterprise Content Management is an infrastructure application to be built upon much like a relational data base.

  • Enterprise Content Management systems should be selected to suit the particular business need that is being addressed and is not necessarily one over arching system for the business.

  • Enterprise Content Management is a misleading name for managing unstructured information electronically.

  • Given our commitment to inCite and its current inability to deliver all of our requirements our chosen solution will always be a hybrid of point solutions

To help resolve these issues we have hurriedly put in place another project, running in parallel to the pilot; to which I referred above, to further analyse commercial open source offerings and selected other vendor supplied systems that could be considered to offer savings in total cost of ownership. We have a commitment to deliver the Management Systems within a certain time frame and we will honour that commitment. It may be, however, that we deliver them through a different product than that which is being piloted. The time frame for this decision is very tight.

Conclusion: Due to their scale of operation and the massive databases they need to manage, Australia’s major banks often act as a bellwether for other IT users. This is certainly the case at present as a number of banks commit to Master Data Management (MDM) in an effort to bring their management reporting into order.

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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.

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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.

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Conclusion: Compared to the consumer market, the enterprise market is more conservative when letting an external service provider store and manage its critical business information remotely, via the web. But in the face of spiralling internal IT operational costs, many companies are likely to significantly expand their use of Software as a Service (SaaS), previously known as Application Service Providers (ASPs) over the next five years.

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Conclusion: Knowledge Management (KM) is often thought of as a dark art. It’s not. Many organisations can benefit in tangible ways (e.g. quick access to a problem database in a Help Desk context) by harvesting the knowledge that already exists within them.

The last article on KM concerned explicit knowledge management, being knowledge that has already been articulated in some form within an organisation. This article is focused on tacit or implicit knowledge which is concerned with the experiences of individuals.

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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.

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Conclusion: Networking has been a vital element of the Internet, and in organisations it has been formalised on the Web through sites such as Ryze or MySpace. Much of it involves business and technology professionals, and even people with specific political interests. Networks support and stimulate each member, and if harnessed with an agenda, even one as normal as bulk-buying discounts, they can exercise considerable influence.

Networking cannot fulfil all the communications and commercial demands of an organisation; however organisations could be using online networking to their advantage if it fits in with their communication aims.

Networking can be utilised by organisations in two ways:

  1. To generate new contacts or leads

  2. To gain a better understanding of a group or target market.

Initiatives in this area should be tested where possible on sites and through online networks. Adding networking as part of their Web communications can offer organisations a valuable means of working with customers and users and is a means of learning what users and consumers think.

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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.

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Utility Computing is gaining higher levels of customer interest and acceptance, amid significant investments by systems vendors to build on their individual "brand" (e.g., Adaptive Enterprise, On Demand, Real Time Infrastructure) and the resulting cacophony of terms, definitions, and strategic directions. However, there still remain several crucial "missing-technology-links" in the evolutionary chain -- these will be addressed by both traditional software and systems vendors, as well as Open Source providers.

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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.

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Conclusion: In the early 1990s software vendors spoke lyrically of capturing the corporate memory through use of the new products they were launching into the then emerging Knowledge Management (KM) market. Fuelled by success with document and image management solutions, then later by collaboration software such as Lotus Notes, vendors considered KM as the next blockbuster application.

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As I mentioned last month this company has procured preferred contractor status on the $2.2 billion North South Bypass project, tunneling under the Brisbane River. We tendered for this project with another leading construction company in a 50/50 joint venture partnership. This is not unusual in the construction industry where, these days, most of the larger infrastructure projects are undertaken by Joint Ventures, Consortiums or Alliances allowing a consolidation of the different skills various partner companies can bring to a project. We have had considerable success in these areas delivering a number

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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.

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Conclusion: Astute managers know that by developing comprehensive requirements for an RFP for IT hardware or services and engaging potential providers so they understand them, the probability they will get the best deal for their organisation is high.

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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.

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Conclusion: It is time for a major stock-take of model driven software development approaches within software intensive industries. Progress in the last few years in terms of developing interoperability standards for model driven tooling has not been spectacular. The term "Model Driven Architecture" has gone through the usual hype cycle, and the dust is in the process of settling. Model Driven Software Development is about breaking the 1-fits-all approach to implementation languages when needed, and entails the use of small, domain specific languages.Only in some cases can domain specific languages be bought off-the-shelf. Model driven approaches have come a long way, and enable the incremental creation of strategic software assets that can be used across a large number of applications.

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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.

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Those of you who have taken the time in the past to read my ramblings on these pages will be aware that the business for which I work has gone through some tough times recently, with a number of significantly bad construction projects contributing to a loss of some magnitude a couple of years ago. This has led to a business re-engineering exercise which has resulted in a restructure of the business including changes to the Corporate Services function which includes Information Technology.

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Over the last four months we have been working on a project to upgrade our existing platform at the same time as relocating our NSW Branch and Corporate Offices

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