Conclusion: Three previous articles on this topic were triggered by a January 2006 McKinsey & Co. survey1 on the IT spending patterns of 37 retail and wholesale banks. The survey revealed a surprising paradox. Those that were the lowest spenders were judged as delivering the greatest business value from their investment in IT.

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It may seem that recognition of the risks associated with a reliance on legacy application software systems and the need to migrate these systems should be obvious to an organisation. However there is often a reluctance among business users to move away from the familiarity of deeply entrenched systems that are seen to be delivering the required outcomes. To mitigate these risks it is necessary for the IT department to work with the business to promote an understanding of the risks and costs associated with running legacy systems and to migrate them into a fully supported and up to date technical environment This exercise should not be driven by horror stories of impending disaster which can lead to hasty, inappropriate decisions but must be approached in the manner of any software applications system implementation, with the appropriate governance and management.

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Conclusion: Authentication is arguably one of the biggest stumbling blocks on the road towards massive use of Software as a Service and Cloud Computing. Enabling authentication via the traditional login dialogue between individual systems and users does not scale anymore, and home-grown single sign-on architectures are largely limited to the corporate boundary. OpenID addresses the issue of establishing trust and credentials head-on, and makes use of a process pattern that is well established in the domain of financial transactions.

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Conclusion: Although Net Neutrality has had a much larger play in the US, some voices on this side of the lake are rationalising it’s imposition on the broadband market here. In sum the arguments to apply it in Australia are false, as are the facts to support the case.

Net neutrality will emerge more strongly in the next two years as Telcos believe they are suffering a loss of revenue, or that there are revenues they are owed. At this stage the advocates of net neutrality are lobbying from self-interest and hoping to persuade decision makers that they have a business case.

Policymakers, regulators and technology strategists at state and federal levels of government should review net neutrality in the context of the public good and consequences for the economy, not an individual Telco’s market share.

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Conclusion: IT organisations considering implementing Thin Desktops should first examine the three main architectures (i.e., Terminal Services, Virtual Desktops and Blade PCs), understanding the different costs, risks and benefits for each. These should be compared to the target desktop ‘use case’ (i.e., call centre, knowledge worker, engineer) to determine which architecture is the best fit.

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At AusCERT 2007, a software programmer from Australia’s Defence Signals Directorate delivered a fascinating presentation on a simple strategy they had developed to help manage the influx of malware, browser exploits and malicious web content. The strategy was designed around risk transference through personal accountability, rather than threat mitigation1.

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Conclusion: Mergers and acquisitions are an everyday occurrence in today’s business and public sector environment, where companies are bought and sold and agencies merged and de-merged to meet the government’s agenda. Whilst business leaders and ministers stress the expected benefits to clients, the impact on critical back office activities such as IT systems and infrastructure integration, rarely makes the headlines.

What is important in mergers or acquisitions is they be implemented with no unplanned business disruptions and, if likely they are likely to occur, stakeholders (staff, suppliers, clients and legislators) alerted well in advance, Similarly it is important, after the disruption has ceased, that the same people be thanked for their forbearance.

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

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Conclusion: Both black lists and white lists are effective security measures, but these two approaches are opposites and therefore, have different issues and applications. If only a few items need to be forbidden, then a black list is adequate. But if only a few items need to be permitted, then a white list is the efficient way to enforce policy.

When used in conjunction with business policy and procedures for acceptable content, white lists can be a very powerful mechanism creating a culture of individual responsibility that enables users to access necessary business information while holding individuals to account for the information they access.

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Conclusion: Two previous articles on this topic were triggered by a January 2006 McKinsey & Co. survey1 on the IT spending patterns of 37 retail and wholesale banks. In essence, it showed that the lowest spenders were judged as delivering the greatest business value from their investment in IT.

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Conclusion: The new government broom in Canberra will implement its policies and that means the telecoms market, and in particular broadband, is set for a clean sweep that may revolutionise the Australian communications market. Before the initial tenders close on the $4.7 billion broadband strategy, sometime after June 2008, it’s timely now to investigate the background to these policies that will bring big changes in Australia.

To a large extent the broadband initiative is based on foreign experience; both South Korea and Japan being important influences. In those countries the superficial evidence of investment induced benefits to the economy from high speed broadband has captured the imagination of Australian policymakers, yet the measured economic benefits are not clear, despite the enthralment of superfast broadband and its promise for the future, and to uninvented industries.

As the scale of the projects and the size of investments are so large, the arguments about economic advantage, and lessons from foreign experience to date, and into the near future is critical; otherwise it will be difficult to dispel the impression that projects have been undertaken without adequate understanding or that simple gullibility has prevailed.

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Conclusion: Public sector IT projects can often have a range of characteristics different to their counterparts in the private sector. These can lead to project failure if the issues relating to them they are not appropriately addressed. The adoption of the following set of best practice principles can significant reduce the risk of project failure.

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This article is indebted to the Monty Python team and their infamous sketch on the Ministry of Silly Walks, which remains a cross-generational favourite with comedy audiences worldwide some 37 years after it was first broadcast.

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Conclusion: It is well known that the cost to rectify a defect increases significantly the later the stage in the systems development life cycle it is discovered. At the same time it is well known that software requirements can only be reliably uncovered when an iterative process of validating software under construction is used. Taking full advantage of iterative requirements validation while minimising the costs associated with late defect discovery requires a 360 degree perspective on requirements and testing that goes beyond the scope of individual projects, as well as a realistic perspective regarding the (in)ability to foresee future requirements.

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

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Conclusion: Most organisations recognise the need to better align their IT environment to the business’s requirements, however many struggle to achieve this. A key step towards better alignment is the creation of an IT Strategic Plan. A “best practice” for creating this plan is to define a desired IT Future State that supports and enables the business objectives, and then perform a gap analysis between that IT Future State and the IT Current State to generate an IT Transformation Plan (i.e., IT strategies and IT projects).

Great IT Strategic Plans follow the principle of “Just Enough Planning, Just in Time”. They are very short and concise, have a well articulated “Future State”, and are action oriented, forward looking documents. Some common failings of IT Strategic Plans are too much detail (especially in the “Current State”) extensive justification of the decisions and detailed analysis of the history of the current business and IT circumstances.

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Conclusion: There is ample evidence from industry studies 1 that the IT systems environment is becoming more complex to manage and this is unlikely to change. Reasons for extra complexity vary from the need to offer enhanced services to clients to legislative compliance to the need to manage an increasing number of interactions between people in today’s workplace.

Unless the impact is addressed systems support costs will increase, availability of enhanced client services with a systems component will become slower and cost competitiveness adversely impacted.

Put simply, IT management’s challenge is to minimise the increasing cost of systems complexity, while ensuring the organisation’s information systems deliver quality solutions. Business managers for their part must minimise exception processing and include realistic systems life cycle support costs in their evaluation of enhanced client services.

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It is essential that IT develops the agility to keep pace with business as it changes and that IT is seen to be making a positive contribution to business success. This can be achieved through the establishment, publication and continual review and enhancement of an Enterprise IT Architecture Model. Organisations should undertake a review of the state of their current Enterprise IT Architecture, identify any gaps between the current and desired architecture, and develop a roadmap to implement the desired architecture.

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Conclusion: While wikis are certainly an important new approach to information management, they should not be considered as a replacement for enterprise content management systems (CMS). Instead, wikis should be considered an adjunct to content management, providing added flexibility and collaboration where needed. Understanding the differences between CMS and wikis is vital.

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Conclusion: In 20-30 years time Generation Y will be running not only IT departments (in whatever form that takes) but they will also be running other business units, and in fact entire organisations. How we engage with them, train them, empower them, and become mentors to them; will sculpt their ability to make decisions. It is vital that the hard-earned knowledge of the last 50 years of IT is not lost from lack of mentoring and succession planning by the retiring Baby Boomers. This research note looks past the immediate skills shortage and into the area of lost industry knowledge.

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Conclusion: Open Source software is demonstrably successful in specific business and government areas (think of all those Linux and Apache servers humming away!). However, apart from these, MySQL and a few exceptions from, for example, the Mozilla stable, Open Source systems have not yet had a significant impact in the mainstream world of business IT. The one exception is in Government where there is a world-wide trend to espouse Open Source Software. Government agencies are reporting what they see as compelling arguments for adopting Open Source. Those in the Government arena who have not yet considered this option may wish to re-examine their stand.

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

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Conclusion: There are two ways to implement SharePoint: as an enabler of departmental point solutions, or as a set infrastructure components for collaborative knowledge management. Organisations looking to implement SharePoint for collaborative knowledge management must possess skills well beyond those needed for departmental solution implementations. It is highly improbable that any one person – or even a single development team - will possess all the skills required to implement SharePoint for collaborative knowledge management. Organisations should consider the establishment of a cross-departmental group dedicated to SharePoint deployment, integration, maintenance and training throughout the organisation.

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Conclusion: Public sector IT projects have been found to have similar rates of failure to their counterparts in the private sector, however they also have a number of characteristics that are different to private sector projects. Project related issues that arise from these characteristics have been found to be the drivers for the majority of public sector project failures.

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Conclusion: As the realisation dawns that x86 server virtualisation is a key component of a modern infrastructure stack, and not just an operating system feature, the major software vendors have rushed into this billion dollar market to stake out their claim1. While this will result in significantly increased levels of vendor FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) over the next 18 months, it will also significantly increase competition that will further lower cost and drive greater innovation.

Savvy IT organisations recognise that server virtualisation is the most important data centre infrastructure trend since the shift towards Wintel servers in the late ’90s and will leverage the vendor’s “gold fever” to their financial benefit. This will require experienced technologists who can navigate the FUD and seasoned negotiators who can safely drive a bargain with these vendors.

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Just a week has passed since the election, and the Australian population can switch off their PCs (and Macs too) and Web connections as they have blogged themselves into exhaustion; debating and understanding the policies; been involved at the grass roots level of political and social debate, all in all, thoroughly engaged in the of political process.

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Conclusion: Multi-channel CRM is an area in which technology has to serve people, and when it does not, the disappointment and failure is measurable. In call centres, and in the growing, though underutilised implementation of Web based contact, CRM can be tuned to customer needs, if an organisation has made adequate plans, based on customer behaviour and usage.

If CRM solutions are chosen, for example, Interactive Voice Response technology, organisations may find a cost-effective solution over time, but one that short changes them in their ongoing relationship with customers.

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Conclusion: Last month’s article on this topic was triggered by a January 2006 McKinsey & Co. survey1 on the IT spending patterns of 37 retail and wholesale banks. In essence, it showed that the lowest spenders were judged as delivering the greatest business value from their investment in IT.

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Conclusion: Implementing a web service oriented architecture leads to more maintainable application systems that are cheaper to operate - if you can afford to wait three years or longer, without resorting to cutting corners, or even pulling the plug. Reduction of risk exposure is the real and immediate reason why consumption and creation of services should be an essential part of renovating and evolving the enterprise application landscape of a software intensive business.

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Conclusion: Organisations, especially in the public sector, are increasingly sensitive to the possible, potentially visible and embarrassing, failure of large IT projects. It is now customary to include independent quality assurance (IQA) of the project management for such projects as an added insurance to prevent failure. Lesser projects may not be able to justify such IQA and the PMO may be too involved with the projects to be able to give an objective view.

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Conclusion: Data leakage prevention (DLP) it is an information management tool, not a threat mitigation tool like anti-virus or intrusion prevention. The DLP market is still very immature, and the products are not integrated with other related technologies, such as: enterprise content management (ECM), enterprise rights management (ERM), and identity management systems. When the vendors who specialise in information management have integrated DLP into their existing suites, then the story will be compelling. We’re not there yet.

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Conclusion: Many consulting firms, software suppliers and industry associations promote their version of what constitutes best practice in a discipline such as IT, Finance or Human Capital Management.

What is often not mentioned to the client is that there is no world-wide repository of best practices for a discipline and the definitions put forward typically assume the client has no operational cost constraints and the highest quality services must be delivered.

This is not to say that time spent understanding what constitutes best practice is wasted. Indeed it is most valuable as it helps management identify the practices and their attributes it must strive to implement to deliver quality services at an affordable price.

Without knowing what constitutes best practices for the organisation, management is in the dark when determining service level priorities. Furthermore knowing the attributes of best practice for a discipline helps management do continuous self-assessments, identify the gap between actual and expected performance and develop action plans to bridge the gap.

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While sophisticated Knowledge Management Systems have proved to date to be a bridge too far for many organisations the use of Document Management and Collaboration Systems can provide an acceptable alternative.

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Conclusion: With a degree of inevitability the Web 2.0 bandwagon has reached CRM. And the reason is obvious: with so many Web 2.0 applications and media moving users to be engaged in some way, either by posting to blogs, or video and creating their own mashups, the engagement is interpreted as a sign of reinvigorated possibilities through CRM channels. Such diverse and disparate potential is however unlikely to be pursued by most organisations, although new approaches in communications are worth examining.

While for some businesses the mania over 2.0 apps is of value, in the main the hype is just that, and for one important reason: users may engage with some sites and corporations as friends might, but not with others, where the relationship might be described as nothing more than transactional. In other words it’s not an equal opportunity for all players and it would be unwise to accept the apparent 2.0 opportunity regardless of business sector and an organisation’s habitual relationship with its customer.

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Conclusion: A McKinsey & Co. survey1 of the spending patterns of 37 retail and wholesale banks, published in January 2006 revealed a startling paradox. Those banks judged as delivering the greatest business value from their investment in IT, were also among the lowest spenders.

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Conclusion: There is never a good time to break the legacy cycle. A significant number of the core systems used in large corporations today have a history that extends over two or three decades. New applications, implemented in modern technologies, often still require additional functionality to be added to legacy back-end systems. But new is not necessarily better, and an educational deficit in the IT workforce is a major part of the problem.

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Conclusion: Rather than resist selective sourcing, IT organisations should accept that many IT tasks are either highly repetitive or commoditised; and are not unique to your organisation. These tasks do not need to be done in-house and by IT professionals whose value is high because they know how to deliver quality while respecting organisational idiosyncrasies. Managed Service Providers (MSPs) could be an excellent ally in augmenting internal IT resources. Once freed from the routine tasks, internal IT staff can be assigned to high value tasks or implementing innovative solutions: these help organisations to become better at what they do.

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Conclusion: When outsourcing arrangements fail it is tempting to blame the service provider for the failure. Reasons put forward include overselling by the service provider’s sales group, inadequate service provider resources allocated to the client or problems with service provider management. In our experience, an analysis of the situation often finds the reasons for the failure are rarely one-sided.

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Conclusion:Rather than developing their own systems, many Australasian organisations are adopting commercial off-the-shelf software (COTS) to implement or enhance their business applications. So strong are the perceived COTS benefits that US government agencies (including Defence agencies), in line with the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996, are now mandating COTS to take advantage of the significant procurement, implementation, and maintenance cost savings they offer.

While a COTS approach can bring many benefits, it can also bring many problems. Organisations considering using COTS as a way of improving their IT support of business operations must consider carefully the costs, benefits and risks.

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Conclusion: As organisations rely increasingly on specialist services and differentiated software or hardware the need to maintain sound business relationships with the suppliers grows as a management priority. Merely insisting a supplier deliver services based on the contract and keeping them at an arm’s length until something goes wrong, is in nobody’s interests.

Put simply:

  • Clients want suppliers that will help them succeed.

  • Suppliers want profitable clients who are prepared to recommend them to others.

  • As an outcome both parties want a long term business relationship, based on trust and meeting mutual interests.

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