Conclusion: Stories of late and failed projects are legion within information technology. Whilst there are may be many reasons for project failure, a key root cause, largely overlooked in the literature, is failure to correctly enunciate user requirements. A less than satisfactory outcome at the requirements definition stage can only become magnified as the project proceeds.

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Users are demanding, and gaining, more IT flexibility in order to attain greater business flexibility. It''s not yet clear in many industries how and where users will require such flexibility, but buying behaviour is usually an indicator of emerging business strategy. However, it is clear that flexibility is the strategy du jour. In this environment, users are adapting their business and IT investment behaviours to enable flexibility, and to pay for it. The move to tactically strategic IT and business change is a direct response to the desire for flexibility, and its inherently higher investment costs to achieve.

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

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Conclusion: Astute managers know that by developing comprehensive requirements for an RFP for IT hardware or services and engaging potential providers so they understand them, the probability they will get the best deal for their organisation is high.

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Marketing is a sometimes crude means of meeting new people and businesses must invest in it, or they wither. For instance there are many brands that have loyal customers, who have used the brand for up to 40 years; but customers don’t live for ever, and the brands inevitably suffer declining sales.

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Conclusion: Benefit management should be an integral part of every organisation’s project management methodology. Its application provides organisations with a clear view of the benefits being realised by their IT projects. It also ensures there is a continuing focus on benefit realisation during the project lifecycle and issues that arise are highlighted and addressed.

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Conclusion: It is time for a major stock-take of model driven software development approaches within software intensive industries. Progress in the last few years in terms of developing interoperability standards for model driven tooling has not been spectacular. The term "Model Driven Architecture" has gone through the usual hype cycle, and the dust is in the process of settling. Model Driven Software Development is about breaking the 1-fits-all approach to implementation languages when needed, and entails the use of small, domain specific languages.Only in some cases can domain specific languages be bought off-the-shelf. Model driven approaches have come a long way, and enable the incremental creation of strategic software assets that can be used across a large number of applications.

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Conclusion: Marketing can seem the very opposite of IT: lots of look and feel and rather intangible when compared with systems that must deliver on time. Yet IT can inject ideas and methods into marketing across an organisation, and an organisation that harnesses the expertise of its distinct and specialised divisions can realise positive results.

The product of greater cooperation may be several and various in the role of marketing. IT specialists may offer knowledge and expertise with practical effect for marketing strategies. Many marketing solutions involve technology solutions, and coupled with a thorough understanding of processes and the implementation of technologies, an IT manager can play an influential role to a marketing team.

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Those of you who have taken the time in the past to read my ramblings on these pages will be aware that the business for which I work has gone through some tough times recently, with a number of significantly bad construction projects contributing to a loss of some magnitude a couple of years ago. This has led to a business re-engineering exercise which has resulted in a restructure of the business including changes to the Corporate Services function which includes Information Technology.

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Conclusion: The literature is replete with reasons why projects fail but strangely one that rarely gets mentioned is, ‘appointment of an inappropriate project manager’ or equivalent. Picking the right person for the right project is not difficult providing some guidelines, related to identifying the skills, attributes and personality type preference of the person, are followed and the type of the project is clear.

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Conclusion: An ongoing process of Project Portfolio Management, managed by a Project Management Office (PMO), can lead to significant improvements in the returns achieved on funds being invested in your IT projects.

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Conclusion: The CIO organisation can be considered as the CEO organisation in microcosm. Both domains encounter similar issues: strategy, market penetration and credibility, cost reductions and so on.

As with last month’s article, this one draws on insights gained from studies of major corporations and is intended to provide inspiration to CIOs keen to improve practices and lift performance within their domain.

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Over the last four months we have been working on a project to upgrade our existing platform at the same time as relocating our NSW Branch and Corporate Offices

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Conclusion: By the end of this decade, blade servers will have become the standard form factor within most datacentres. Driven by convenience, manageability and price/performance, most IT organisations will choose blades over rack-optimised to build out a low cost, highly flexible computing infrastructure. Over 90% of these systems will be based on industry standard servers (i.e. x32/64 based systems) running Windows or Linux.

As the existing IT infrastructure begins to reach the end of its economic life IT organisations should re-examine their architectural standards and evaluate the benefits of bladed based computing. They should start by first understanding the new trends in server infrastructure (see, “Refreshing IT Infrastructure? First Break All the Rules!” Feb-2006) and then comparing the value proposition of blades compared to traditional rack-optimised servers.

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With the release of Microsoft Vista and Microsoft Office 2007 early next year IT organisations should take this opportunity to review their desktop strategy. Early indications are that both products are significantly different from the current versions and, as with the prior major releases, will involve significant time, effort and money to implement.

While Microsoft assures us there is significant new value in these new products, particularly from “integrated innovation”, none of the IT managers I’ve spoken to were able to translate this into business value. In a recent interview with Peter Quinn, former CIO of the State of Massachusetts, he said when they looked at how staff actually used their desktops “most of the people don’t use all those advanced features [of MS Office] so it begs the question as to why I would spend all that money”. With the trend to web services (i.e., services delivered over the internet) and the availability of MS Office alternatives such as OpenOffice, he seriously questioned the value of remaining on the Microsoft upgrade treadmill.

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Though the costs of acquiring storage hardware will continue to decline during the next five years, any savings for users will be exceeded by the additional costs that will be incurred in the ongoing management of increasingly large disk farms. Storage will require significant investment in tools, development of processes and retraining and recruitment of specialist staff. New models for procurement of storage capacity and storage management will become a viable alternative to in-house management of storage.

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Conclusion: Over the last five years agile software development approaches have become more popular, and are increasingly replacing heavy-handed methodologies. At the same time there is a growing interest in benchmarking the productivity of software projects, and in achieving process maturity that can be measured against certification standards such as CMMI. At first sight it would seem that these two trends represent two mutually exclusive philosophies. When taking a closer look it becomes clear that both trends can indeed complement each other.

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Conclusion: Five years ago portals were essential to any worthy online strategy; without one, an organisation was not serious about the Web. That sentiment dissipated as portals were seen as symptomatic of the cyber land grab that failed. In the last two years they have quietly reasserted themselves – or perhaps never went away: Which begs the question: How does an organisation plot a course for its portal?

A portal ought to be created with a business objective, not because it’s fashionable, or competitors have one, or it’s possible with a large amount of content that is underutilised elsewhere in the organisation. From inception the portal should be planned to provide value to users, and in this context focusing on their requirements will produce a portal users keep using.

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

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Conclusion: Some of the lessons from corporate management literature can be applied to the successful running of an IT shop. This article contains insights gained from studies of some of the world’s most admired companies and provides new ways to think about planning for the future through the application of the ‘three horizons’ technique.

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Conclusion: A Project Management Office (PMO) built to a model that is in sync with the organisation’s culture can, over time, have a major impact on project outcomes. To achieve this, the role and responsibilities of the PMO must be defined so that it addresses priority project related issues within the organisation. The office must then be resourced with personnel who have the skills and experience capable of undertaking the role allocated to the PMO.

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Conclusion: The emphasis on marketing eGovernment has dropped in priority. There was a Community of Practice on Marketing E-government run by Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) but that government-only group is no longer meeting. In addition there is no specific area in AGIMO responsible for marketing e-government, yet marketing activity is critical to building usage, adoption and education of a product or service.

As the government is committed to delivering services on the Web, it should, as a business would, create the necessary structures for professionals to market the services. To ignore marketing wastes investments in the websites. Currently, the so-called 'operational' areas have some marketing inbuilt into their projects but there is no overall responsibility to oversee standards and market online services.

In addition a complete review of all government website usability should be undertaken to assess weaknesses and client usage. Such a review may entail revising sites. Thirdly the definition and application of “access’’ through the sites ought to be clarified: is it published information; transaction for payment, or email contact with government officers. The fulfilment of any one of these actions should be measured to report if the objective of access has been successful.

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

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Conclusion: After 5 years of tight IT budgets many IT infrastructure components are reaching the end of their economic life and recent surveys suggest IT organisations intend to begin refreshing key systems this year. The path of least resistance is to replace these components with new items, staying with the “status quo”. However this may not be the best strategy!

Due to significant changes in technologies over the last 7 years we recommend IT organisations challenge their existing infrastructure assumptions (formal or informal) and create new rules to guide construction for the next 7 years. The greatest obstacle is not changing technologies but overcoming people’s resistance to changes in their environment.

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In February 2006 Oracle announced its intention to buy California-based Sleepycat Software, a leading provider of embedded open source database products, for an undisclosed sum. While this acquisition marks another signpost on Oracle''s broader acquisition binge, it also signals a deeper and more aggressive strategy to leverage and co-opt the growing open source movement to its advantage.

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Conclusion: Organisations, which enable customers to transact business over the phone must continually re-evaluate the effectiveness of their business model and exploit emerging technologies to enhance the customer’s experience. Failure to do so will put them at a competitive disadvantage.

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Conclusion: Open Source Software Development Tools are becoming mainstream. In the Java space, the number of available tools is mindboggling, and keeping up with the latest developments is becoming more and more a matter of being well-connected to the Open Source community and receiving tips and suggestions from trusted colleagues about the best and latest tools. It is no longer true that it is sufficient to keep monitoring the developments of the five largest tool vendors. Amongst the best tools some are being produced by small teams and individuals. The use of Open Source tools is also becoming established practice within traditionally conservative organisations in industries such as banking1.

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Almost overnight our organisation became a $3 billion a year company with staff numbering 3,500 and in excess of 100 locations. This all occurred despite a business plan which stated that we would not be seeking revenue growth over the next three years but rather seeking, greater profit on a steady turnover through increased efficiencies. However when opportunity knocks it is not easy to turn it away, particularly when you are under clear instructions from the parent company.

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2006 marks a significant 50 year anniversary for computing in Australia. On July 4th 1956 it is claimed that the first program was run on SILLIAC, a valve computer that was assembled and housed at the Physics Department of the University of Sydney. Over the years much political mileage has been made on both sides of politics, about how Australians have often been at the forefront in pioneering new technologies, but have been slow in exploiting and commercialising them. However, these assertions need to be tested, certainly as far as information technology is concerned.

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Conclusion: Providing it has strong management support and is resourced with the right mix of personnel, a project management office can produce major benefits around:

  1. management of your organisations IT project portfolio; and

  2. the outcomes from these projects.

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Impressive ROI reports based on nebulous benefit predictions often slip through the approval process at big organisations. The numbers presented are often so impressive, or so difficult to understand, that no one bothers to question them. Organisations launch big software projects such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) - which can easily cost $50 million apiece at a large organisation - with a completely false sense of whether the project will pay off. For anything but minor projects, the ROI analysis is essential to the business case. But with the CIO responsible for delivery of the IT component of the project within budget, and a business manager responsible for the realisation of the benefits for the project, finalising the ROI analysis is often difficult.

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Conclusion:Government websites are not reaching the public as effectively as they might. This phenomenon is common around the world and while some sites have functional value to the public, research shows that people are confused, ignorant or unable to find what they need from many government sites.

To improve their usability government should examine practical steps to reach citizens, firstly by marketing the sites in conjunction with improved navigation and, if required, re-designing sites for users to know what they can find on them.

Secondly, refine the execution of the sites, with special reference to improving the quality of sophisticated interaction that is possible between citizens and the administration. This process of should be conducted in the context of the strategic objectives of e-government policy if they are to achieve that particular policy target.

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Conclusion: 2006 will be the year that server virtualisation technology becomes mainstream on x86 based servers. IT Organisations are combining commodity x86 based servers with virtual machines and Storage Area Networks (SANs) to build agile, low cost server infrastructure. They are reporting many benefits including excellent TCO, rapid provisioning, increased resource utilisation and simple, low cost high-availability and disaster recovery.

Of the three core technologies used to build this infrastructure, virtual machines are the newest and most rapidly evolving. In 2006, IT organisations must understand this technology, and the vendor landscape, to ensure they make the right strategic choice for the next 5 years.

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Conclusion: Within the software engineering community only few people fully understand the difference between the traditional use of models in software engineering, and newer so called "model-driven" approaches. In particular the discipline of Enterprise Architecture makes extensive use of modeling techniques, and mainstream practice has not yet caught up with the model-driven approaches that are possible with today's leading edge software tools.

The problem is largely educational, and is compounded by a reluctance to step out of the comfort zone and rise to the challenge of producing precise and unambiguous models that can be used to power a highly automated software production facility. In model-driven approaches models and model transformations take on the same role as traditional source code - requiring a mindshift comparable to the one that was required in the transition from assembler programming to modern 3rd generation programming languages.

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

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The media was replete in November of reports that Telstra would be replacing and decommissioning approximately 1200 legacy systems. For instance, Mike Sainsbury in the Australian Business Section on 17 November, compared the systems to a ‘bowl of spaghetti’ on the assumption they were entwined and it would take a mammoth job to untangle them.

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In the December publication I referred to an IT Strategic Planning exercise we are currently undertaking. We have engaged the services of a consultant with a proven track record to assist us in putting together a strategy which allows the business to enter the 06/07 financial year with clear and agreed strategic directions, projects, priorities and funding to proceed on a one to three year strategic plan. The plan would be refreshed annually. This is a fairly new departure for the business, although each year we produce an IT Business Plan which attempts to complement the Company Business Plan. As in the past the Company Business Plan has basically simply stated that we will do more of the same at a bigger profit it has been difficult to produce an IT Business Plan which is any more imaginative than to say much we will support this increase albeit at a proportionately higher cost.

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Conclusion: There is an increasing trend for the IT function to become decentralised. Feedback from IBRS clients indicates that more than 60% of organisations have elected to adopt some form of decentralised IT responsibility. Our observation is that this figure is increasing, driven by:

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Conclusion: Without a support strategy for legacy systems and technology, organisations run the risk of getting caught short when a vendor withdraws support or staff maintaining the systems, the problem is compounded when few, if any, staff have the support skills required, which is often the case for legacy application systems.

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Once again some recent high profile failures of IT projects have raised the issue of good project management and its impact on project outcomes. Those organisations that have yet to establish an effective Project Management Office (PMO) should consider the benefits that can accrue in IT projects through the correct application of a PMO.

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