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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Conclusion: Mentoring key IT staff when they may be feeling insecure during tough economic times is of the utmost importance. With the proper mentoring key staff will remain motivated and be positive about their contribution as the business slows.

It is important that organisations hold onto their best staff and the temptation to reduce costs by offloading well remunerated IT staff is a short term solution only and should be avoided. This will ensure that the IT department will be in a strong position to properly service the organisation when the business grows again.

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Conclusion: In order to maximise the likelihood of a successful outsourcing initiative, your negotiations to finalise the outsourcing agreement should be based on processes that will lead to a Win – Win outcome. To be successful in such negotiations the buying organisation needs to understand a number of key concepts which can be used to establish the criteria needed for the development of the negotiation strategy.

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Conclusion: Economic downturns alter organisational dynamics and can herald changes in the executive power hierarchy. IT can be particularly vulnerable if seen as a cost centre and order taker. As economic forecasts darken, a common scenario is for the balance of power to swing to the CFO. Then, an economic austerity agenda is usually pursued, characterised by a program of across-the-board cost cuts that have Chief Executive imprimatur.

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In the numerous conversations I have had over the past few months, concerning the government’s ISP content filtering plan, a common pattern occurs. The people I’ve spoken to object to the plan, but when I ask what their specific objections are, nearly everyone provides ideological arguments – not technical. The most common ideological argument is a rejection of the government taking on the role of “Big Brother”.

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Conclusion:Deployment of Microsoft products in virtualised desktop environments requires careful consideration of how virtualisation impacts on an organisation’s Microsoft licensing costs. Even though Microsoft has introduced new licensing packages to address desktop virtualisation, it is not uncommon for organisations to significantly underestimate the licensing costs involved.

IT organisations must first properly understand how Microsoft structures its desktop operating system, productivity tools and server licences before they can correctly interpret them in a virtual desktop environment.

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Related Articles:

"Has Microsoft's desktop licensing got you on edge? Part II - licensing a virtual desktop" IBRS, 2008-11-30 00:00:00

Conclusion: Most major IT implementations such as ERP roll-outs, do not fully realise their original objectives. One symptom is that planned functionality is not utilised by staff to the fullest extent. Another is a tendency for staff to fall back to their comfort zones, using manually-maintained records, spreadsheets and the like. The root cause is that insufficient attention is paid to dealing with the human aspects of change. Knock-on effects are largely financial. If additional resources need to be brought in to effect lasting change, this action dilutes the strength of the original business case, not only in terms of outright cost but in the time taken to achieve desired outcomes. If left untreated, the full benefits may never be realised.

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Organisations which are in the market for telecommunications services should not limit submissions to solely tier-one vendors. Inviting submissions from tier-two, and even tier-three vendors broadens the choice and can result in cost savings.

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Conclusion: Deployment of a virtualised Microsoft desktop environment requires careful consideration of how virtualisation impacts an organisation’s Microsoft’s licensing costs. Even though Microsoft has introduced new licensing packages to address desktop virtualisation, it is not uncommon for organisations to significantly underestimate the licensing costs involved.

To avoid confusion, and potentially embarrassing licensing cost surprises, when evaluating a virtual desktop strategy IT organisations must keep firmly in mind Microsoft’s edge-centric (device) licensing model. Think in terms of licences and grants and not in terms of software.

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Related Articles:

"Has Microsoft's desktop licensing got you on edge? Part I: The structure" IBRS, 2008-11-30 00:00:00

Conclusion: The importance of web site usability has higher recognition now than it did a few years ago, but there are still several gaps in achieving an effective usability evaluation process. In order to improve site usability for end users, combining technology with survey research will help considerably.

There have tended to be two paths to examining website usability. The first is the use of Web analytics data, and other technology tools generally, to improve a site’s functionality. The second path employs consultants’ expertise in conjunction with research focus groups to address the usability and functionality of web properties. The integration of these two methods, on a case by case basis, would be more effective.

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Conclusion: During times of tight corporate budgets the IT budget is often cut down. Planned IT projects are deferred and in some cases selected running projects are cancelled. Unless a systematic and economically sound approach for allocating IT budgets is used, the result can easily backfire, leading to increased operational costs and unusable half-finished applications. Yet, if the right steps are taken, a reduced IT budget provides the ideal opportunity for decommissioning cost ineffective legacy systems and for refocusing attention on those applications that really matter.

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

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Conclusion: Whilst management might devise complex rating and weighting systems to rank proposals from managed services providers proposals, what matters in the long run is determining who can ‘walk the talk’ and manage the IT infrastructure successfully. Making this determination is not easy.

To make the right decision evaluators have to focus initially on ‘what will be delivered’, followed by assessing ‘how it will be delivered and by whom’, and lastly at what cost.

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Conclusion: Strong vendor management is essential in the successful delivery of critical IT-centric services. Before developing a business relationship or entering into a contract for goods or services it is essential that you have a complete understanding of any proposed supplier. A key part in any formal purchase of goods and services is a detailed understanding of the vendor, its ability to supply and support you, and the processes and resources it will use.

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Conclusion: When outsourcing deals are not working, buying organisations often look at contractual remedies as a way of resolving their problems. This can have unintended consequences, such as a breakdown in the buyer/ service provider relationship or added costs due to contract termination.

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Conclusion: Many economists currently agree that the global economy is at least a year away from improving. Until the economy recovers, many IT professionals will have their positions made redundant and organisations must handle these redundancies with great care. The expertise of IT professionals who feel a need to take revenge means that the impact of an insider attack could be very costly to an organisation which may already be struggling.

Organisations which have already deployed technical controls, such as Identity Management suites, and procedural controls, such as separation of duties, will be better positioned to help close the window of opportunity against sabotage and fraud. But, inside attackers frequently have a pre-existing grudge which is work-related, and so IT management attention must be given now to dealing with the “soft side” of their staff and contractors.

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While some international analyst firms claim the economic crisis will cause Green issues to fall off the IT agenda, in Australia we beg to differ! In 2007 the Australian Federal Government introduced the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 20071. The key features are:

  • Reporting of greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption and production by large corporations.

  • Public disclosure of corporate greenhouse gas emissions and energy information.

  • Consistent and comparable data available for decision making.

Failure to comply can mean up to two years in goal and a fine of up to $220,000. What makes this Act so interesting is that the CEO is personally liable to ensure their organisation’s IT systems are capable of complying with these new emissions reporting requirements. In short, this Act puts the onus on the CEO to ensure their organisation has the necessary reporting and monitoring systems in place.

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Conclusion: Historically, operating systems and applications were the richest source of software vulnerabilities for attackers to exploit, but the problem organisations are now facing is that web browsers and plug-ins are being targeted; and this is a trend that will only increase in the near future.

Internet-facing browsers are effectively part of the perimeter, and organisations must have a strategy which will not only protect the browser, but also protect against a compromised browser. This has implications for all browsers – including those on portable electronic devices (PEDs) which are increasingly pitched as mobile web-access devices.

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Conclusion: To get the most from their IT vendors, buying organisations must understand the underlying importance of each of their vendors to the organisation, and their potential to work with the organisation to help achieve business goals. A structured approach to building a vendor portfolio will allow key vendors to be identified and for the process of building strategic, partnership type relationships to be initiated.

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

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Conclusion: Exploring better content management solutions to remain competitive and to raise the value of online investments is a wise policy to adopt now. With much slower economic prospects ahead, gaining greater efficiency or reaching users in better ways is going to be necessary.

For commercial websites the criteria to implement content management should be underpinned by usage – that is, click rates, content access and so on. The web sites that create dynamic – and personalised – online environments are more likely to outperform stale Web sites. Having a better content management system process may also use resources more efficiently and help align an organisation’s objectives to the new business conditions.

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Conclusion:The balance of information power is skewed in favour of knowledge intensive organisations, to the detriment of information-poor organisations and individuals. Reliable, high quality information distilled from Software as a Service users is evolving into a powerful currency that can be translated into financial profit via the sale of ad space and other techniques.

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Conclusion: Many organisations have made a major commitment to ITIL to lift their IT service delivery1 capabilities. ITIL is valuable in providing a lingua franca for IT service delivery professionals and is an excellent frame of reference for process improvement. However, a single-minded focus on ITIL to improve service delivery is akin to taking vitamins as the only strategy for improving our health. Extending that analogy, establishing an effective IT service delivery strategy first requires a general medical examination. Then, using the results obtained, a holistic and targeted program can be developed aimed at improving overall health outcomes.

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Conclusion: When IT related services are supplied by an external provider successful delivery hinges on the performance of the contract manager. Identifying the right person for the role of contract manager and helping the assigned manager acquire the skills needed is critical for delivery of quality services.

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Conclusion: When working on intranet and extranet initiatives – especially those involving collaborative applications – IT managers should appreciate that there will always be a significant gap between the views and priorities of IT and those of business unit managers. IT management will often be looking at infrastructure and governance issues, while line-of-business will be thinking in terms of unstructured, Internet-like applications. Overcoming the gap requires careful structuring of the intranet initiative’s planning and execution teams.

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During any economic downturn the IT departments, which as a standard process have been constantly reviewing their structure and value, will be better placed to ensure that any proposed cost cutting exercises do not inhibit their capabilities to deliver satisfactory support and service. Further they will be in a position to react quickly and efficiently when the downturn concludes and the economy begins to grow again. The IT department must be light enough on its feet to embrace and implement change when it is necessary.

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Conclusion: Reducing the environmental footprint of the Desktop has become an important topic for many organisations. Organisations that have undertaken a Green Desktop initiative report excellent returns from low risk operational and behavioural changes that avoid the massive capital projects associated with radical changes to the desktop deployment model such as Thin Desktops.

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Related Articles:

"Greening Your Desktop Part I: Gather the Facts!" IBRS, 2008-09-28 00:00:00

Conclusion: eLearning is re-emerging as a solution for effective delivery of online, hybrid, and synchronous learning regardless of physical location, time of day or distribution device type. eLearning can be used by the whole organisation for ensuring staff have and maintain the skills they need to deliver top organisational performance. Pending financial constraints provide an ideal stimulus to consider the increased use of eLearning in organisations.

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