Conclusion: Faced with a direction to identify and report on areas where IT costs can be reduced or contained, CIOs must respond by developing a comprehensive cost management program that considers all service delivery options and regards no area as sacred. To maintain credibility with stakeholders and get their buy-in the CIO must convince them every expense line will be investigated and ways to reduce it examined, without compromising essential services.

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Conclusion: As discussed in “Backup is not Archive!1 all IT organisations should evaluate deployment of an archival platform. However, based on numerous client conversations and a recent survey, it is clear there are significant project risks in implementing archiving. One-quarter of archiving projects take more than two years to implement and nearly half of IT managers state that they would not recommend the archiving product they had selected!

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Conclusion: Four years of Service Oriented Architecture hype and a middleware product diet rich in enterprise service busses are starting to take their toll. The drive towards service based application integration often goes hand in hand with unrealistic expectations and simplistic implementations. Instead of a reduction in complexity, the net effect is a shift of complexity from one implementation technology into another. The recipe to shedding spurious complexity involves reducing the (fat) content on enterprise service busses.

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There are many theories being thrown around at present on the reasons for the global financial crisis. One that is getting traction is that there is a significant relationship between high levels of testosterone and preparedness by male traders to take extra risks to get a greater return.

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Conclusion: Australian taxpayers should applaud the Rudd government for adopting in full, all the recommendations of the Gershon Report.1 As a consequence, IT savings of an estimated $1 billion are planned for realisation over the next 10 years. However, will the government be able to bank all these savings? The answer is probably no. Intentionally or otherwise, what Gershon proposes is nothing more or less than a wide-scale, transformational change program. These unfortunately, rarely meet with complete success2.

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Conclusion: Now, there is renewed pressure on new IT projects to prove their value. For IT security projects, managers may feel that they need to make excessively complicated calculations in order to prove a return on investment (ROI) and thereby justify the project, but this is an unnecessary complication. Rubbery figures will melt under close scrutiny – potentially sinking the project.

A security business case needs to communicate the fact that organisations must also spend money to stop losing money. Security projects are undertaken for loss prevention. Like all projects with soft benefits, an IT security project should be shown to be in alignment with, and supporting of, organisational values: specifically risk appetite. More mature organisations will have less of an appetite, particularly in challenging times.

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Conclusion: Despite considerable advances in the discipline of project management many organisations continue to report unacceptably high rates of failure for their IT projects. There are, however, a number of initiatives that organisations can take, particularly in the planning phase of IT projects, which can significantly reduce the likelihood of project failure.

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A monthly review of all of the sourcing activity, upcoming tenders and news items

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IT departments who start putting together their 2009-10 budgets early, plan carefully, fully engage with the user and understand, and show that they understand the implications of the economic downturn on the organisation will create better opportunities for the negotiation of a satisfactory outcome with their organisation’s senior management.

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Conclusion: Many organisations do not distinguish between backup and archive and assume their backup data is also their archival data. This makes the backup environment overly complex and difficult to operate and creates a very poor archival platform.

Organisations that separate these processes find that backups shrink significantly, resulting in much smaller backup windows and much faster recovery times. This also enables the archival data to be optimised to meet desired business requirements. That is, cost, retrieval time, compliance, discovery and so on.

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Conclusion: Security awareness campaigns are actually an effort to change an aspect of organisational culture. Cultural change is famously difficult, takes a long time, and will ultimately fail if it does not have senior executive commitment. Specifically, senior executives must be seen to be exhibiting the behaviour of the new culture. The implication for security professionals is that awareness campaigns must start at the top and not move out across the organisation until there is behavioural change at the top.

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

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Conclusion: Discontinuing a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (EA) appears to be a quick way to reduce IT spend in the short term – which is especially attractive in the current economic environment. However, there are substantial financial risks involved in terminating an EA and organisations must be exceedingly careful not to open themselves to licensing liabilities. Exiting a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement requires its own business case review, looking at not only the obvious financial savings, but also at the risks, change management and mid-to-long term impact.

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A monthly review of all of the sourcing activity, upcoming tenders and news items

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Conclusion: Nothing concentrates the mind of an organisational leader more than knowing that in all probability, in 12 months time the organisation will be smaller, or perhaps will not exist at all in its present form. In these circumstances, C-level executives will be measured like never before on their ability to contribute to their organisation’s survival. For the CIO, ongoing 360 degree appraisals whether applied formally or informally, will become commonplace. Senior executives and boards will want to know whether the CIO is made of ‘the right stuff’1 to manage through uncertainty. Staff will be seeking leadership with clear messages about what the future holds for the organisation and the individuals within it. As a consequence, CIOs driven by organisational and career survival will need to adopt new ways of leading and managing.

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Conclusion: In recessions focus falls on efficiency and productivity. It becomes fundamental to a survival strategy. Designed to assist organisations with the productivity concept, Telstra’s Productivity Indicator1 offers some solutions but fails on methodological grounds and therefore on the application of its tool.

Now is the time to understand productivity because if not already, then it will become the dominating idea of business for the next two years. Firstly it will be used to make some drastic decisions and secondly it will be applied on the other side of recession. Knowing well and measuring productivity will be essential to manage organisations through this crisis and beyond.

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Conclusion: The successful IT (line) manager and CIO is one who can comfortably operate in the technical arena and political (organisational) domain at the same time. Whilst the skills to operate in the technical domain can be acquired, those needed for the political domain are more elusive.

In the article entitled, ‘Making the Transition from IT professional to Line Manager’,1 I focused on what IT professionals moving to a line management role needed to do initially to build a foundation for success. In summary the new manager needs to understand the technical requirements of the role and its political dimension and establish effective relationships with major stakeholders.

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Conclusion: Success in negotiating an outsourcing agreement requires a well thought-through negotiating strategy supported by an appropriately structured negotiation process. To achieve this the buying organisation must develop an understanding of the negotiating style likely to be adopted by the service provider, as well as any other characteristics that are likely to influence their approach to the negotiations.

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Conclusion: The number of documents (reports, email, TXTs, other written material) managers read every day amounts to a huge amount of textual information. All of us are now 2.0-conditioned and are more used to absorbing sound or word-bites and less sympathetic to struggling through long documents. So you can be certain that, no matter how important the substance of your reports, your audience will not read them with as much care and attention to detail as you spent writing them. Even the management summary may get the 10 second treatment: a once-over-lightly scan to determine the document’s usefulness before giving it a proper read – or not if it doesn’t grab attention.

Bloggers know all about the 10 second treatment and the good ones construct their blogs to capture and hold their target readers. (If they don’t they lose the revenue from selling their products or the advertisements on their blog sites). Competent bloggers use successful attention grabbing and holding techniques to help ensure that their communications get the attention they deserve and convey their intended messages.

Observations: Thanks to the 2.0 world most people have learned to skim-read really quickly. This is a problem for those writing reports for management. It means that if they haven’t made the important parts easily findable and accessible then the whole report becomes invisible. Write reports, and especially, management summaries, expecting their readers initially to only scan them. Once the report has captured their attention, they will return and read more closely what they initially scanned.

The medium is the message. Marshall McCluhan1 meant by this that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role, not only by the content delivered via medium, but by the characteristics of the medium itself. The widespread acceptance of PowerPoint last century (!) resulted in many documents and reports being produced in a PowerPoint-like format. Now, the ubiquitous influence of the Internet and Web 2.0 means that reports and documents are being delivered and presented in web-influenced styles.

It’s a 2.0 world, so cater for speed readers. Managers have to wade through scads of written material and become proficient speed readers, scanning at about 900 words per minute, rather than reading at about 240 words a minute. (It is likely that you will spend about 10 seconds scanning this entire note to determine its usefulness and, if it has captured your interest, will return and spend four or so minutes giving it a proper read.) Therefore, if your writing is initially going to be speed-read it is wise to write it on this assumption.

Learn from bloggers. Expert bloggers capture their readers by making it easy for them to scan the blog and find the key elements in the approximately 10 seconds they’ll initially allocate to the blog’s content. They attract the reader’s eye with:

  1. a catchy blog title,

  2. subtitles or subheadings within the blog

  3. bold, underlined, quoted, or otherwise highlighted text and hyperlinks

  4. pictures, graphs, charts, or images

  5. a summary of key findings/points/recommendations

If their scan suggests the blog is likely to meet the readers’ interests they will then go back and read the article in more depth.

Copy the bloggers. By including these keys in your document, your target audience can rapidly appreciate its value and assess the relevance of the content. After that, those who are interested will re-read it, this time in more depth, understand the message and act accordingly.

Content is king is a web catchcry, generally focused on ensuring that the web sites are easily indexed by search engines. The same meme2 applies to blog writers, wanting to ensure that blog readers see the value of the blog’s contents and return for more rather than ensuring search engine optimisation. The whole point of a blog (and your report) is the message. The person reading the blog (your report) wants to learn something or have something they ”know” confirmed – they are reading it for the content. That is why bloggers use the approach described above.

Rule number 1: Remember, busy people never read beyond the first page or maybe (the diligent ones) the second. You may still have to provide all the expected back-up bulk, but the serious content must appear early. Help the diligent ones find all the detail by using hyperlinks to the relevant components.

Rule number 2: Follow the Three Rules of Targeted Traffic to ensure those you want to read your material do so:

  1. Determine the audience you are writing for – write for them.

  2. Stay on-topic – don’t introduce irrelevant distractions.

  3. Write the document – and its title – so that your targeted reader finds it as interesting as their favourite web page.

Rule number 3: review your final document – and edit if it needs be – to make sure your target audience will read it. Check that:

  1. You’re making a unique and new point and not just regurgitating information,

  2. You’ve clearly summarised the point of your article in 2 – 3 sentences,

  3. the point you’re trying to make is apparent.

And: Move all those boring front pages containing the revision history and sign off details to an appendix with a hyperlink to them. Put the most important part of your document right up front!

Next Steps:

  1. Determine your target readers’ views of the readability, clarity and value of the documents/reports you provide them, and how they think they could be improved.

  2. Determine if a “blog-like” approach would improve their perceptions.

  3. If “Yes” set up a pilot program to “blog” a particular set of documents and monitor the response of the target audience.

  4. If it is successful, expand the program, possibly placing your non-sensitive “blogs” on your intranet.

What about – Start now – explore the option of blogging your approach as you develop your 2009/10 IT budget3.

2 Meme – A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another. Coined by analogy with `gene', by Richard Dawkins

3 See Start to prepare IT Budgets for 2009/10 Now IBRS February 2009


The rule of three is a principle that suggests that things that come in threes are inherently more memorable and attractive to us than other numbers of things.

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Conclusion: One commonly used approach for model management in Unified Modeling Language (UML) tools centres on using package-based modularisation and versioning of models – but this leads to a complex and unlimited web of inter-module dependencies. Another approach consists in the use of a scalable multi-user repository, and versioning at the level of individual atomic model elements. The latter technique, although largely eliminating practical contention and consistency issues between users, still does not encourage good modularisation, and gives no indication as to the state of completeness of a model. Fortunately, there are a set of best practices that can be applied to ensure modularity is treated as a first-class concern, such that model versioning is adequately addressed with standard version control software and minimal additional tooling.

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Conclusion: Several models exist for planning mobility around broad categories of mobile worker. While useful, these models are being overused, placing emphasis on the wrong aspects of mobility without deep consideration of the processes and applications being addressed. The basic tenet appears to be ‘build it and they will come.’ That’s fine if you are building a field of dreams, but not so good if you are spending $1.5 million on a new IT architecture. Instead, strategic plans for mobility should consider that different workers will use different applications at different times for different purposes. Planning for mobile collaboration must start with a thorough understanding of staff functions, their information and application needs, and then apply these information needs and applications to categories of mobile usage, not users.

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Conclusion: A carefully thought through negotiating strategy building on the concepts needed for a Win – Win result will provide the basis for a successful outcome to your outsourcing agreement negotiations. It will also provide for the opportunity to think through what will need to be done if a successful outcome cannot be negotiated.

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Conclusion: Virtual Desktops was one of the hottest infrastructure topics of 2008. However, tight IT budgets due to the economic downturn, and mounting evidence that Virtual Desktops are more expensive that well managed full desktops, will dampen enthusiasm for this technology in 2009.

Based on recent discussions with a cross-section of large and small organisations we confirm our long held view that Virtual Desktops are not a general purpose replacement for a Full Desktop and that reports of mass rolls-outs of Virtual Desktops are pure vendor hype! As predicted, we did find some organisations using Virtual Desktops in a limited fashion for a specific niche.

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Conclusion: Despite the vendor and media hype around malware threats to the hypervisor, the biggest risk to IT departments from virtualisation is insufficient procedural controls.

The risk stems from virtual machines being poorly managed, growing in number, and the consequent haemorrhage of money to support them. Virtual machines should be processed through a planned, and managed, lifecycle so that they do not sprawl out of control and absorb excessive resources. By using a chargeback mechanism, CIOs can ensure that each virtual machine instance is not further depleting the capacity of the IT department to support the organisation.

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A monthly review of all of the sourcing activity, upcoming tenders and news items

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Strong and clearly defined account management governance procedures are vital in helping to ensure a continuing good and professional relationship between customers and their outsourcing supplier. However merely defining these procedures in the successful tender and in the outsourcing contract is insufficient without strict adherence to them. An acceptable level of adherence can only be achieved through commitment and governance from both sides to ensure processes and procedures are followed rigorously

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Conclusion: In recessionary economies, as in war, values and behaviours change in response to the times. Formerly valued business success factors may no longer apply; management thinking once considered outmoded may now have new relevance. At an organisational level, focus is likely to be on the lower strata of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs1. Indeed, C-level executives will be appraised on their ability to contribute to meeting these needs.

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

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

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Despite the generally positive press coverage of Windows 7, its widely reported performance improvements are already being questioned by independent testers. My own tests on a dual-core Intel box and 2GB of RAM suggest that Windows 7 may indeed be a tad faster than Vista, but only by a fraction.

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

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

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

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Conclusion: The differences in roles and responsibilities between an IT professional and line manager are many and need to be understood by new managers and the manager’s manager. Not only will the understanding help both managers make the appointment work, it will also help the selection panel choose the right person.

A line new manager needs to be aware that the behaviour and strategies adopted in the IT professional role are unlikely to guarantee success in the new role. This is because the new role is typically a multi-dimensional one in which there are more stakeholders, outcomes are elusive and feedback is minimal.

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Conclusion: It is now increasingly recognised that small (domain specific) modelling languages hold the key for improving productivity and quality in software design, development, configuration, interoperability, and operation. Little custom-built languages can be introduced and exploited without necessitating any changes in architectural frameworks or run-time technologies – a characteristic that painfully lacking in the vast majority of software products and tools. One of the first steps to get started with domain specific modelling is the selection of an appropriate DIY tool kit to build software power tools based on little languages. Currently there are three mature tool kits in the market that are worthwhile considering and the number of contenders is increasing.

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Conclusion:The recession has brought the prophets of gloom out in force, all predicting massive cuts in the IT budget, with many of them also telling us how to address this. Their solutions are often facile and naïve, most boiling down to “do this to be more efficient”, ignoring the fact that most good IT shops have already made themselves highly cost-effective and have little room to move to reduce costs. Other commentators have recognised this and are predicting that the major savings in many IT shops will be by stopping or deferring projects.

Most IT shops have a range of projects on the go at any time, all with committed teams and management support. Determining which projects should be stopped or deferred may require the judgement of Solomon, and like Solomon, the IT manager should not be the one to make the decision. The projects are all, presumably, business focussed and the business should make the decisions.

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Conclusion: Interacting continuously with difficult people (also known as ‘jerks’) has the potential to make the workplace an unpleasant environment and sap the energy of those around them. Astute IT managers and professionals must understand the reasons difficult people behave in the way they do before they can develop coping strategies.

If UK and US based research quoted by Robert Sutton1 is a guide, difficult people also represent a hidden cost to the organisation through higher staff attrition, lost productivity and lower job satisfaction.

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Conclusion: To be successful at an enterprise level, SOA (service oriented architecture) requires a backbone to provide integration between applications, transport of events messages and data, and manage deployment and (optionally) discovery of applications. The deployment of an Enterprise Service Buss (ESB) is essential for enterprise SOA, yet no single ESB product can magically turn an organisation into a SOA powerhouse.

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

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

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A monthly review of all of the sourcing activity, upcoming tenders and news items

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Conclusion: Organisations are potentially at risk from employee fraud, and a frequent motivator for the perpetrators is their gambling problem. While not all employees who gamble are going to commit fraud, it is imperative that the subject of gambling by employees is addressed as part of any organisational risk assessment. The subject is sensitive and complicated, but must be considered because of the direct cost of fraud.

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Conclusion: While much has been written about the release of Microsoft’s hypervisor into a virtualisation market already dominated by VMware, there is a quite battle being fought for third place between XEN and KVM.

With KVM stealing the open source thought leadership from XEN, and XEN being acquired by Citrix, which is better known for desktop products, the position of third place is now up for grabs. The net result is that XEN will remain a niche product in the virtualisation market.

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