There has been much publicity of late about the issues surrounding Australia’s ageing population. Concerns which have been reinforced by our esteemed Prime Minister and which have lead him to encourage us to stay in the work force longer. This is a far cry from the days not so long past when anyone over fifty was considered to be over the hill and, if they were unlucky enough to find themselves out of work, the immediate prospects of an early return to full time employment were fairly remote.

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Conclusion: An often heard complaint from organisations, is that despite issuing an RFP, the process selecting an Outsourcing Service Provider took considerably more time than they had expected and consumed considerably more resources than were planned.

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Conclusion:The Federal Government is proud of its achievements in getting community acceptance of e-government. It has connected more citizens and customers over the last 2-3 years and e-government is proving to be an efficient means of processing transactions, and disseminating information.

The Government is on the brink of taking its activities online to a new phase, which will not result in a radical overhaul of current practice, but rather a consolidation of extant systems and delivery.

Yet despite the government’s success there is considerable criticism from SMEs of what it can offer them. The magazine CRN covered this story last year. The SME’s dispute with government was concisely summed up by one ICT executive as hinging on the perceived higher financial risk, or stability, of an SME. In addition the level of liability insurance the supplier must have as required by government – which for many SMEs inhibits their engagement – means the prospect of winning government business, is remote.

In the context of the challenges for SMEs, the imminent reappraisal of e-Government policy should take into account pragmatic methods to permit this sector of the market to compete with larger enterprises. It might do this by setting an objective for SMEs to win a percentage of business by a specified timeframe. This is not a new idea and since 1953 under the Small Business Act it has been legislated in the US. The ICT sector in France has formed the Richelieu Committee to implement a similar agenda.

Alternatively, government might modify some engagement conditions, depending on circumstances, for certain types of services. In developing policy allowance must be made for the large difference between hardware, software and intellectual consulting engagements; that is, between the risks associated with one service versus another. Such practical measures may improve the competitive field for enterprises competing for government business and be a boon for SMEs who can use government contracts to develop their businesses in other markets and overseas.

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Conclusion: Manyfirst-generation outsourcing arrangements have reached or are approaching their end dates. Users are taking fresh approaches to outsourcing with past lessons learnt being encapsulated into new deals.

What are the major lessons learnt? How will next generation outsourcing deals be constructed? What should be done differently this time around? Where to start?

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

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Conclusion:The analysis and discussion in the paper, The Role of Productivity (July05), examined how the productivity equation measures economic output. This paper extends that analysis to examine how productivity can and should be utilised in a business case.

Managers who use productivity as an objective in a business case would be advised to measure the current operational situation within their organisation. At first glance this may appear a difficult task but the reason is straightforward: any claim for a productivity gain will not mean what it declares unless an established benchmark is categorically defined. Moreover it will be useful in dealing with the aggressive productivity claims by vendors for their products when they can be judged in the context of an organisation’s operations.

In so doing managers who define their terms and the input criteria for productivity will be in a stronger position to make business cases and advocate investments in place of assertions.

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Conclusion: It is easy for software development teams to be preoccupied with, and to get lost in low level design. The simplest preventative measure to curb spurious complexity, without being prescriptive at the micro-level, is to consistently make use of a nested subsystem structure within the system architecture. The result is an architecture with fewer point-to-point interfaces. This strategy improves maintainability of code, and it works regardless of the quality of design at the micro-level.

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I have been involved in the provision of information technology solutions in the construction industry for twenty five years. In that time the industry has altered enormously and the model for delivery of information technology infrastructure has changed with it.

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Large vendors repeatedly make announcements of their intention to provide products and services to the large market that small and medium sized enterprises (SME) provide. Rarely however, do these marketing announcements translate into usable solutions for SMEs or marketing success for the vendor. Without identifiable returns, vendor SME initiatives are short-lived. To show a commitment to SMEs, IT vendors must identify their market and create products and services appropriate to the needs of SMEs. Vendors must not assume that their strengths and competencies in the consumer or large business market will automatically guarantee success among SMEs. CIO’s should closely examine any ''SME'' branded offering from a vendor for relevance to their business.

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Conclusion: While the introduction of Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) will have a significant impact on the storage environment though 2006/7, over the next 12 months clients should be wary of the hype vendors will use to promote it. By year end 2005, technical staff should gain a basic understanding of the key features/benefits of SAS. Though 2006/7, IT organisations should begin using SAS, in conjunction with SATA, in DAS, SAN and NAS configurations when it provides a lower cost storage alternative [i.e. than Fibre Channel (FC)] while still meeting application and data service level requirements.

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Conclusion: Most organisations (and agencies) use a formal staff (including management) performance review or appraisal process to give everyone feedback on their contribution and insights into their strengths and weaknesses. While most organisations publish procedures on how the process should operate, it is typically left to busy line managers to implement it albeit, in my observation, in a patchy way, eg because many work on long term projects their immediate contribution is hard to assess.

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For the federal government, the forthcoming sale of Telstra has taken the Industrial Relations debate off the front page of our newspapers. This must provide some relief at a time when they were faring poorly in the public relations debate with the union movement. Whilst the legislation is still being drafted and is not expected to be available until late October, the central proposition is to deregulate the labour market.

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Conclusion: At the big end of town some remarkable process improvement breakthroughs are being achieved with a combination of Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma philosophies. However, the benefits that can be realised from these techniques can also be enjoyed by medium sized enterprises. Using recent work carried out by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) through its Commway initiative, this article briefly charts their journey to date and provides advice for those who wish to embark on similar journeys.

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Despite the "On-Demand" type services, many organisations will continue to own and manage their server platforms. With cost-cutting directives still an issue for all our clients, understanding future events in the server markets and their impact on buying decisions is essential.

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Conclusion: The mid-1990s was a gold rush for ERP vendors. The ERP concept of integrating disparate corporate applications was right for its time and was superbly promoted by major players such as SAP who ran saturation campaigns directed at CXOs. I experienced it first hand, being one of them at the time! The gold rush continued through the decade. Drivers included the market momentum the ERP storm had generated coupled with corporate anxiety about legacy system’s likely inability to meet Year 2000 compliance requirements.

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In his excellent book on workplace change management titled, ‘Managing Transitions’, William Bridges focuses on the need for change agents to get the 4 Ps right when promoting their program.

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Conclusion: When it comes to design and implementation of an Enterprise Architecture, traditionally the key decisions regarding software systems have been around building vs. buying, and vendor selections based on criteria derived from business requirements.

In the last five years however, many Open Source infrastructure software offerings have matured to the point of being rated best-in-class solutions by experienced software professionals. This means that build vs. buy decisions need to be extended to build vs. buy vs. Open Source decisions, a reality that has yet to sink in for many organisations.

Interestingly, the key benefit of using Open Source components is not necessarily cost savings, but reducing vendor lock-in, and the risk the vendor may go out of business or discontinue support for a product line.

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Conclusion – Organisations that that have a clearly developed software release management strategy to help decide when to implement new releases will find it will easier to manage their inventory of mission critical software, keep their TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) under control and gain industry recognition for their proficiency in managing their IT investments.

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Conclusion:There is conflicting evidence on the role of IT in delivering higher productivity. Some studies attribute productivity gains almost entirely to IT, yet two recent surveys have found that astute management may have played a vital role.

For technology managers it’s important to understand how technology affects productivity because the argument that productivity gains can be realised often underpins business cases and investment decisions. Technology alone may not produce higher productivity but simply make the input component of the productivity equation more efficient. Under these types of conditions, therefore, the role of management becomes a key variable in realising productivity growth.

To understand how productive they are, managers should examine their organisation’s business processes and management practices over a number of dimensions. These dimensions would include business processes in conjunction with personnel quality and management; the aim of which is to know how an organisation functions as a whole and therefore to know how and where improvements to productivity may be applied.

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Conclusion: As executive management become more cynical about technology’s ability to deliver change, they continue to depend upon it as an enabler whilst keeping a closer rein than ever on the IT spending component of change programs. This places enormous pressure on the IT Executive. However, change programs are not just about technology. The problem is that the IT component is usually the most visible, and often the most expensive part of a change program. In my experience, if an IT-based project fails to deliver, though the Project Sponsor may nominally be responsible, the technology is often blamed and it is the IT Executive who may well be brought to account by association.

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Conclusion: When asked to give a succinct report on the organisation's (or agency's) IS investment strategy to the Executive or Board one of the dilemmas managers face is what should be included and excluded. For the purpose of this publication the strategy report is quite different to the report on operational matters envisaged in the IBRS March 2004 article, 'What do you tell your peers every month'.

While the context and business imperatives might vary by organisation, such as the competitive environment and whether the organisation is in containment or growth mode, I believe there are common elements of a strategy report and have set them out below.

For the purpose of this article assume the presenter is allocated has 40 minutes to one hour.

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

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Alan Hansell’s paper in May 2005 entitled “Chief Knowledge Officer – Needed or Passing Fad?” has prompted me to share some of the experiences we went through when we went down the path of appointing a CKO some four years ago. That position is still retained today and, while it has not yet had the influence we had originally anticipated, it still has the potential to deliver the benefits we had hoped for and it is intended that we continue with it for the foreseeable future.

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The next ''Big Thing'' in business computing is more about new IT deployment, sourcing and management models than about the evolution of technology itself. Vendors such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard have continued to fine-tune products and services that were announced in 2001 to a point where they are now viable choices for technology buyers. Given labels such as ''On Demand'' by some, or the Adaptive or Agile Enterprise by others, they can all be considered part of the Utility Computing paradigm.

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Conclusion: Much of the work undertaken by IT Departments (systems development, maintenance, systems upgrades, selection of new technologies, etc) could well be managed under a project framework. Instead many organisations choose to manage this work using permanent teams under a hierarchical structure. This is serious mistake that inevitably drives higher than necessary IT costs.

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Conclusion:In May 2005, Google released Desktop Search for Enterprise for organisations to use Google without using their public toolbar. The enterprise search market is well served and there are a number of tools which serve particular functions depending on the requirements of the organisation. Google’s objective is to capture the enterprise search business and consolidate their dominance of the entire search function market.

As the Google Press Release disingenuously phrased the announcement:

With the addition of Google Desktop Search for Enterprise, businesses of all sizes can offer their employees one-stop Google search for the desktop, intranet, or web." Google’s aim is to enlist everyone to the use its brand and so aggregate every possible eyeball in support of its main advertising business.

One-stop use of a single brand is one of the reasons for the stock markets sentiment in pushing the Google share price to nearly US$300.

Google’s intention is to encircle individual consumers and businesses so they use Google automatically when they need information. As an information intermediary Google can capture; although it’s unclear just exactly how, information about users and connect it with businesses.

To avoid reliance on Google, examine how many of its products are used with the organisation. While there is nothing sinister in what Google are offering, managers must ensure security and privacy concerns are assessed and addressed now. Guidelines for employees using Google applications should be clarified to minimise potential risks.

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

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Conclusion: The capacity to understand and transform business data into knowledge and use it for commercial gain is one of the differentiators of a well performing organisation or agency. How this might be achieved is the focus of this article.

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Conclusion: Putting forward arguments for IT business/process improvement can sometimes bring about eye-glazed responses from senior executives. ISO/IEC1 15288:2002 ‘Systems Engineering – System lifecycle processes’, hereafter ISO 15288, can be an ally in terms of providing an authoritative source of reference when putting forward a case for change. It is a comprehensive standard that covers all system life cycle processes from Stakeholder Requirements Definition through to System Disposal as well as providing guidance on essential governance matters.

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Several years ago I was in the UK visiting construction companies to discuss and understand their major drivers and issues in their deployment of strategic IT infrastructure. In one company I talked to an Information Systems Manager who was most insistent that unless total user sponsorship and involvement in the analysis, selection/development and implementation of a business application is guaranteed then the project should not even be considered. I can remember thinking at the time that the position he was taking was extremely inflexible as sometimes this is just not possible.

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Conclusion:In the last three years company mergers in the IT industry worldwide have shrunk the number of technology related brands. New brands arising from the acquisition of companies, such as HP and Compaq, need to be reinforced by a renewed marketing effort to convey what the new brand means i.e. its service offer, value proposition, product range, style and so on.

The new merged brands are not the sum of their two parts. In some cases these brands have to reorganise their products and redefine how to sell them to achieve what they expected as a consequence of the merger or takeover. The effort on branding, that is on the style and presentation of a brand is not always persuasive on its own. A focus on product and service is essential, yet can be overlooked, even though consumers are now more able to assess the value of brands than in the past.

For buyers of technology products, whether for home use or business, the value of a brand is an essential element in the decision to buy. But as Chris Morris discussed in “What to do when your Vendor gets Acquired” (IBRS July 2003) a company’s product is a real thing, with services and functional components and management has discretion on whether to change it or let it stay, based on the design of the new business model after a merger or takeover.

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The ongoing war for market share in the server platform market will continue to present vendor-sponsored programs for migration to their favoured operating system platform. While these programs offer real assistance in evaluation of new options for your organisation, they require thorough evaluation and significant allocation of resources. If tempted by a vendor offer for a migration evaluation, it is essential that the scope and limitations of the model used by the vendor to build their conclusions includes meaningful measures of business benefit rather than just infrastructure cost savings.

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Over the last few years I have grown to learn that there is this thing called ‘Real Work’. I haven’t been able to identify what ‘Real Work’ is but I can tell you this, ‘Real Work’ must be very very important.

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

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

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Conclusion: Recent media coverage has highlighted a shortage of qualified trades’ people in the labour market. The technology industry has not had a problem in attracting people; however, with an aging population and other market forces at play, the ICT industry also faces shortages.

In February CIO magazine reported that the ATO had moved a software development project from Canberra to Melbourne because it couldn’t fill 100 new positions required to complete the project. This instance may be exceptional, and Canberra is an atypical labour market, but nevertheless it is a sign. <p ">   <p "> With the overall available labour falling in coming years, business and IT managers will have to plan new ways to attract and retain a scarce resource. A new competitive pressure will be thrust on IT departments.

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Conclusion: System erosion concerns the run down state that systems decline into when improperly tended by management, users and IT staff. Whilst there are many characteristics that describe eroded systems, the common theme is that these systems fail to provide the value originally ascribed to them when the business case to develop them was prepared.

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Conclusion: Most senior managers are unclear whether their organisation is investing too much or too little in Information Management (IM) (IT plus business solutions with redesigned business processes). For some managers who cannot get resources to automate a process or get extra information on their desk tops, too little is being invested. Conversely, other business managers claim IT gets more than its share of resources and they are starved.

A common response when requests for extra investment in IT are made is, “How much are our competitors investing and are we at a competitive advantage or disadvantage?”

These are difficult questions to answer because I have observed:

  • It is hard to get sound and comparable IT related investment data from competitors

  • Published reports provide few performance metrics facilitating comparison

  • Although organisations may be in the same industry, differences in their management priorities and use of unorthodox accounting practices frustrate comparison.

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VOiP is apparently, “the only sexy thing out there” in technology today. Decoded, this quote means that it’s VoIP is apparently, “the only sexy thing out there” in technology today. Decoded, this quote means that it’s growing quickly. Telephones and sex go back nearly a hundred years so the metaphor is not surprising.

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April is the month when we put together preliminary budgets and business plans for the following financial year, which commences in July, to be discussed, analysed, dissected and finalised over the ensuing three months. Generally we have struggled to align the Information Technology Budget and Business Plan with company strategy as, in the past there has been no real strategic direction available from the Company Business Plan which has tended to be more a financial statement of anticipated/desired/planned turnover and profit.

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