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: Cross-agency initiatives are high-risk endeavours that can deliver significant community and financial benefits. They are extremely challenging because they require a coordinated approach across Agencies as well as high levels of business and technical capability.

Failure to establish high Capability Maturity Level (CMM) processes and to acquire / develop key skills is a major reason why managers involved in many cross-agency initiatives encounter problems.

Before work on an initiative begins program directors should review the capability of each participating Agency in the areas of: project management; risk management; financial management; strategic planning; and, benefits management. If the capability of participating Agencies is not up to the level required, then a capability development program must be undertaken before major work can begin.

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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.

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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.

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Conclusion: The predicted business software consolidation marches forward. Eighteen months after initial advances, the U.S. Department of Justice(DOJ) approval has finally paved the way for Oracle to complete its hostile takeover of Peoplesoft.

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We have always looked at ADSL with a healthy suspicion preferring to build our corporate network on what we considered a more solid base of Frame Relay or ATM. We reasoned that although ADSL was significantly cheaper, inferior SLAs, inability to ensure quality of service, limited availability and sometimes erratic performance could not provide the robust environment that our business needed. Our attitude was that you get what you pay for.

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Conclusion: Help Desk systems are a mature technology, but capabilities between systems differ widely. Ironically, IT departments are even more likely than other business units to choose systems based on unrealistic and misunderstood business requirements. Often their technology savvy leads them to overestimate the ability of technology to overcome the difficulties of people and process management.  In theory, help desk systems are the obvious choice.  However, if the motivation behind the implementation of a new system is to "manage" an undisciplined, unhappy or untrained team, then a help desk system is unlikely to help.

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Conclusion: The Vision Foundation of Australia estimate that 18% of the population, or nearly four million people, have a disability and a large percentage of those people, have impaired sight. Based on a straw-poll survey of government and private enterprise websites, those disabled people will, or may, not be able to fully access most sites.

For organisations which have not made their sites compliant with the law, a casual attitude is not acceptable. To remedy some problems of access, such as, replacing text for graphics is straightforward. Adaptation, to allow for different browsers as well as voice output and Braille browsers, is also necessary.

Elements of a site including branding devices, such as pack shots, logos, as well as site functionality may also need to be overhauled, which  may mean revising the architecture and or design so that the objectives of the website remain intact.

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Conclusion: Despite increasingly affordable prices, basic workflow management systems are  still not widely used in Australian businesses. E-commerce, intranets, websites, corporate email and other desktop automation trends appear to have obscured the basic usefulness and wide application of one of the most powerful technologies brought to market in the last twenty years.

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Conclusion: The pay as you grow benefits of Application Service Providers* (ASP's) are finally approaching critical mass in Australia as a result of greater penetration of broadband technologies (cable internet, DSL, satellite and wireless) and more substantive vendor offerings.

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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.

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Conclusion: When the business environment is changing and support systems need to adapt to the change, managers have the option of developing an ITSP (IT Strategic Plan) with a long range focus, or a BSIP (Business Solutions Investment Plan) that  concentrates on investment needed in the next 12 - 24 months. A synopsis of both options is set out below.     

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Conclusion: Channel strategy has become more complex with a range of options and better means of reaching various markets. The mobile phone is already a powerful tool and with the onset of more applications could emerge as the next, most discrete, channel in relationship management.

Changes will not occur overnight, but managers ought to look ahead to the next twelve months for options that are suitable to their organisation. This channel may be an effective one, replacing mail and leaflets, for both business and government, including local councils.

A plan to consider the mobile as a CRM tool should, at this stage, examine:

  • 1. Current channels and options and the cost of delivering them to see whether they can or ought to be changed.
  • 2. The aptness of emerging applications and how they might be adapted.

With the market reach of the mobile phone a strategy should be identified soon to take advantage of the channel.

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During 2002 it was becoming increasingly evident that our data integrity processes, in particular on our project sites, were inadequate and we were considerably exposed should the loss of a mission critical server occur.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Conclusion: Understanding the future would obviously give everyone a real competitive edge, or at the very least reduce wastage and efforts in the wrong direction. Forecasting is intended to reduce risk but the quality of forecasts is the key to getting something useful from them. That statement may seem simplistic but many forecasts do not use standard methodologies, or even methodologies that are clear to an outside observer. For anyone using forecasts to build plans and investments, the forecast should meet two conditions:

  1. Use a clear and transparent methodology with data that is verifiable and from known sources, and:

  2. A forecast model that contains more than one outcome, because a range of possible outcomes within the confines of the forecast, may be more realistic given the variable forces operating in a market.

Unless a forecast meets the two conditions outlined above, what ought to be a powerful instrument with which to organise strategy, is just a scrap of paper.

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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.

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The worldwide recession in IT spending is, by most accounts, about to end. However, our discussions with technology buyers show that the demands to ‘squeeze more out of less’ are still common. With most IT budgets forecast to show percentage growth only in the single digit range, demonstrable ROI from new IT initiatives is essential.

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A few weeks ago an organisation, with whom we have had previous dealings, contacted us about a technology that they had developed for use on hand held computing devices. While the use of hand held devices on construction projects is not new, this technology is somewhat unique in that it consists of a number of associated products which facilitate the building of formalised software applications on devices that use the Microsoft Pocket PC operating system. These applications can be developed, documented, deployed and supported efficiently across the organisation in the same way as other, more complex enterprise computer applications. In the past such systems have generally been built in a somewhat ad hoc fashion.

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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.

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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.

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My manager looked up at me from his columns and rows of numbers and said in an exasperated fashion, ‘This is an exercise in futility!’ I knew what he meant as we jointly tried to estimate resources needed for systems not yet designed and forecast computing capacity needed for indeterminate transaction volumes.

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Conclusion: Many organisations have two business strategies – an actual strategy and an espoused strategy.For IT managers this creates a major problem because these actual and espoused strategies can be very different. If the IT managers align IT systems and processes to the organisations espoused business strategy they will almost certainly make inappropriate IT investments in terms of the actual business strategy.

Recently I found one example where business executives said their organisation was aiming for product / service innovation while the IT manager was implementing an architecture aimed at overall cost leadership. These two different business strategies require completely different systems portfolios supported by equally different IT architectures. In this case the IT manager and the business executive were heading for an inevitable disagreement – one the IT manager was going to loose.

IT managers need to work with business managers to uncover their actual business strategy. To do this IT managers and business managers need to become familiar with a new set of concepts – ones that help business managers uncover the gap between what organisations would like to be and what they really are.

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Conclusion: Failure of the two main parties to use their websites to reach voters, as indicated by visitor levels just prior to the ballot, suggest important lessons for organisations marketing online.

The first is that content and information cannot retain audience interest, especially if the content is static and unchanged over several months.

The second lesson is that contact between an organisation and interactive communication through a website can be a strong tactic to galvanise a market. Evidence from the US demonstrates that the effective use of the Web, in conjunction with the mainstream media, builds momentum.

Many organisations’ websites do not change over long periods and the value of the site to the organisation, and to the marketplace, drops. Refreshed content and promotions, or other gimmicks may not be right, but techniques to reach and gather individuals, such as an online conference or chat room, can give renewed purpose to an otherwise static website.

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Recently I facilitated an IS strategy workshop. The audience was made up of people at DIRECTOR level - some 20 of them. All were on six figure incomes. The objective of the workshop was to confirm the business strategy for a Division. I started the workshop by asking the following question: * What are the GOALS of your Division (why do you exist?) * What objectives do you want to achieve in the next 3-5 years - are these measurable * How will you achieve these objectives (what are your strategies?).

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Conclusion: Business prospects are still difficult to predict with good news and bad in equal measure. Even so, growth is minimal and the market is flat. For business planners, management teams and CIOs, the next six months dictates a stripped down and lean strategy.

Benchmarking evidence from the practices of leading corporations shows they have adopted two essential strategic techniques:

  1. Determine organisational structure with the allocation of resources.

  2. Focus on core attributes of product and service and then develop the opportunity to enhance those product attributes.

An important ingredient to realise the strategic goals above is flexibility and preparedness to re-set priorities to trade into the next growth period.

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IM represents a new tool for business communication and collaboration – additional to the traditional forms of communication, particularly e-mail and voice. Paradoxically, IM is the personal communication of the impersonal digital world, and as such it requires its own unique set of corporate IM guidelines.

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Conclusion: SMS has proved more versatile and effective in business-related communications than simply a means of chatting with text. By reducing costs and simplifying the process of communication, SMS is proving to be effective for firms dealing with their suppliers, customers and staff.

Firms of all sizes – and Government departments - can likewise benefit from SMS in two key ways. Firstly, it is a marketing communication channel which can be used for product promotions and secondly, it has proved its worth as an operational communications tool which can be used for channel management within an organisation.

Experience shows firms can cut costs and increase efficiency by using SMS to deliver timely and useful information to stakeholders. Having said this, it is important that the ease with which messages can be delivered should not be equated with permission to flood mobile phones with frequent and irrelevant messages.

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You are the only person in the elevator on the ground floor at 7.15am. Just as the doors are about to close, you see the CEO hurrying to catch the elevator and press the ‘Open Doors’ button so she can join you. She says breathlessly, “Thanks. Our meeting is timely. I read your report on our business information management dilemma last evening and raised it with the Chairman before I left. He just contacted me on the mobile phone and said he wants to talk about it when I get out on the 20th floor.

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The US Defence Force is setting the pace for the universal adoption of IPv6 as the new IP has been mandated for its "security grid" counter terrorism initiative set for 2008. Essentially, IPv6 and its predecessor IPv4 define the way information is transmitted on and devices connect to the Internet.

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The need to more efficiently manage the enormous volumes of documentation which construction projects produce has been acknowledged, within the industry, for some time. With the increasing complexity of projects and the different models for project delivery this volume is increasing significantly and, along with this increase, the need for more efficient systems becomes even more important.

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IT cost recovery is viewed as a necessary part of establishing a clear service relationship with business units, but by itself it will not reduce costs or increase efficiency. In fact the worst cost recovery systems, with IT-centric cost algorithms, reinforce the image of IT as a techno-jungle with no concept of business value, dealing in “funny money” (what do I get for a CPU second?). Misinterpretation of fixed versus variable costs can also lead to faulty decision-making.

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Conclusion: Despite the recent hype over search engine marketing the basic elements remain simple. They are:

  1. Ensure the listing of the website is clear, complete and comprehensive;

  2. Review it in 6 months, just as all marketing channel investment is periodically reviewed;

  3. Don’t spend more time and effort than is due to the task relative to the investment committed.

With these three guidelines the quality of the listing on search engines ought to be competitive

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There are about 1.24 million Freephone and Local Rate Numbers (FLRNs) not yet released by the Australian Communications Authority (ACA). FLRNs are the 1800, 13 or 1300 numbers and are necessary marketing channels for many organisations. An initiative in the May Federal Budget will promote access FLRNs more equitable, which is a boon for businesses as demand for these numbers is increasing.

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Conclusion: The key selling point of 3G is remote access and mobility. This has been evident in the advertising from genuine 3G offers and the “pseudo 3G offers” from Optus, Vodafone and other telcos. The benefits of multi-media bandwidth are unnecessary to most businesses just as also bandwidth speed is not really compelling to most users.

There is no first mover advantage. Even other businesses adopting 3G would not be so convincing because there is no real advantage in choosing it – for reasons of price and usability - as there was in the early days of the PC.

Faced with a communications upgrade businesses need not jump in but should adopt three inter-related policies when considering 3G in the introductory phase:

  1. Negotiate firm performance contracts with vendors, e.g. No result no fee. If the claimed benefit has been improved results in business efficiency however that may be measured then it is up to the vendor to sanction those claims and support the investment in the technology on performance;

  2. Wait for prices to fall which is likely as with most new technologies of which DVD is an example

  3. Wait for better applications, which may come on stream but to date have not materialised.

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IT Asset leasing has for a long time been a very topical issue for our organisation – is it better for the company to lease IT assets or to own them? The current model for procuring and managing IT Assets in the company, is based on the user owning the assets, and is as follows:

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Conclusion: The two components of any online advertising campaign to get right are the communication objectives and the exposure frequency. This determines the number of times the audience will be exposed to the ads.

The communication objectives comprise the market or sales position of the brand and in tandem with levels of frequency are the two major variables to accomplish any advertising objective

In many campaigns frequency is generally ignored and also as it relates to particular creative work. Media planning must integrate both facets to the complement of the other to maximise the marketing investment.

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Conclusion: For the medium-sized enterprise investing in marketing channels entails a high exposure to risk because the investment consumes a larger portion of available capital than is the case for a larger company. Determining obvious returns in customer usage and communication from each channel is critical for prioritising investment. As most competitors have instigated similar customer channel opportunities, and there is a high degree of peering between competitive firms, the cost of maintaining the status quo is nearly the same for all players.

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Conclusion: Integration, Optimisation and Functionality are the three concepts to drive growth in technology investment in the future. In the tactical sphere these drivers of growth can be applied in planning the overall channel strategy. Technological implementation has mandated that efficiency gains ought to be made from the capital invested and that will be derived from either Functionality or Integration and Optimisation or a combination of all three.

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