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

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Conclusion: There is still more hype in the media about cloud computing than uptake. Advocates promise dramatically improved ease of use, lowered costs driven by economies of scale, and much greater flexibility in sourcing and adapting to change. Nicholas Carr in his latest book2, predicts that cloud computing will put most IT departments out of business. "IT departments will have little left to do once the bulk of business computing shifts out of private data centres and into the cloud," Such arguments make it likely that organisations will increasingly place some or all of their IT supported services in “the cloud”. This makes these organisations dependent on the reliability of the vendor’s cloud offerings. If an organisation moves all or part of its IT services to a cloud environment it must first identify and understand the new risks it may be exposed to.

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Conclusion: Most decisions to outsource IT projects or functions offshore are based around the potential to make significant cost savings. There are however a number of other considerations that should be addressed before any final decision is made. If your organisation takes a measured approach to the activity, uses outside experts where necessary, and develops rigorous plans to address issues identified in the planning and successive stages of the project, then there is a high probability that your offshore outsourcing initiative will be successful.

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Conclusion: Management generally has a tendency to engage IT management consultants when an ill-defined problem exists and a solution seems intractable. Ideally consultants are expected to act as fog busters, demystifying the situation and proposing innovative solutions that ‘blow the client away’.

In reality consultants can only meet the client’s expectations if ‘all the cards’ are laid on the table and they participate in the demystifying activity. In contrast, little participation yields little reward for the client.

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Conclusion: Judging whether an organisation’s existing service management platform and processes are adequate and efficiently moving to an ITIL compliant service management platform is not a trivial task. An ITIL implementation can be likened to the implementation of an ERP and should be approached as such.

Implementation should be planned to provide quick wins with a longer term aim of complete process improvement.

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Conclusion:Despite the challenging economic climate, the data centre is a hive of activity with many organisations taking a strong interest in consolidating the data centre and running it as a shared service. Savvy manager will take the current economic slowdown as an opportunity to rationalise, consolidate and optimise the existing data centre infrastructure before the next growth cycle starts.

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Conclusion: Building valuable software solutions increasingly means building solutions that run on the web, and that are not dependent on any particular operating system. Pervasive web connectivity leads to a new paradigm for building software architectures that is based around the availability of high quality web services and around the conscious use of Open Source software in selected areas to reduce vendor lock-in.

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Conclusion: A decision to migrate an enterprise’s desktop operating environment from Microsoft Windows XP to Windows Vista in the near term, or to wait until Windows 7 is available, is both technically and politically complex. The final decision depends heavily upon many interrelated IT infrastructure factors, as well as business issues, not in the least of which are end-user animosity against Vista. However, senior IT executives and Enterprise Architects should not dismiss Vista as an option, nor rush to Windows 7 without first a careful evaluation of the risk and benefits of each.

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Conclusion: Microsoft’s Forefront Client Security will need to achieve a “better than” market perception before security professionals will consider it to be a reasonable and acceptable enterprise response; and this relates to both its anti-malware effectiveness, as well as its ability to be managed and automated in a heterogeneous environment. Obviously, security is a sensitive subject for Microsoft, so its efforts in achieving a “better than” market perception will be considerable, but it will also take the healing passage of time.

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Conclusion: IBRS believes the global financial crisis has heralded a new era in IT. Cost sensitivity will remain a key theme; cautious behaviour will predominate and the margin for error allowed by senior management in key areas such as IT project and service delivery will drop to unprecedented lows. To assist the CIO and others responsible for managing IT, IBRS has identified a series of maxims to serve as a source of reference to IT executives navigating through economic uncertainty.

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

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Conclusion: While the total cost of ownership model is helpful in an initial comparison of products and services, the familiar problem with TCO as an analytical methodology is evident1. This problem is especially clear when dealing with Google Apps because its costs of production and distribution are atypical of the software industry.

The assessment of price should be done in relation to, or in the context of features and benefits. These may be itemised as utilitarian functions and therefore it is possible to assign costs to each feature. The differences in requirements for each organisation mean that to a large degree, TCO evaluation should be done in the context of an organisation’s own situation.

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As we bid “adios” to Sol and his amigos it is appropriate to pause and reflect on the state of the telecommunications industry they leave behind in Australia.

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Conclusion: Many technical, and systems related, documents are hard to read and authors run the risk only a fraction of their target audience read them. Those that do read them have difficulty reading them with understanding. The problems with hard to read technical documents are likely to exacerbate as an older age group remain in the workforce and they represent a challenge for workers whose primary language is not English.If we are to have an efficient and productive workforce, we must ensure that those who need to can both read our documentation and understand it.

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Conclusion: As the economy enters recession both public and private organisations are trimming costs. There is emerging evidence that Google Apps Premier may have some appeal compared with other vendor products. Despite questions over Google’s capability and experience with channel partners, deeper investigation is worthwhile.

Organisations assessing Google Apps Premier must determine not only total cost of ownership, as Google does not have a model template to assist with that, but also whether the channel relationships will endure, as Google has almost no experience in running such programs.

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Conclusion: There are considerable efficiencies and cost savings to be realised through the implementation of robust IT asset lifecycle management processes in the desktop environment. Organisations which have not already done so should move to ensure the consolidation of these IT assets into a single repository, managed by the IT department through a set of well-defined processes. It is important to ensure the total support of the CEO and the acceptance and understanding of the requirement for formal IT asset management from the organisation.

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Conclusion:SharePoint is rapidly becoming a victim of its own success. Rapid tactical deployments and uptake by individual departmental teams has led to pockets of isolated information, which are growing in size at an alarming rate. Also, lack of understanding and planning when developing SharePoint-based solutions is leading to unexpected licensing costs. Organisations must re-evaluate their SharePoint deployments and, if needed, step back and architect their SharePoint implementations if they are to avoid being bitten by their SharePoint projects in the future. Following are four SharePoint deployment scenarios that bite.

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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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