Conclusion: Amazingly some senior business executives still proudly state, ‘I don't understand anything about information technology'. One can see how an executive might have thought this way in the 1970s but now some 30 years later and with ICT fundamental to day to day operations of every organisation such a view is just simply unacceptable.

In today's environment senior ICT executives should take every opportunity to make the CEO and board members aware of the business opportunities and risks associated with effective ICT investments. CIO's should also make sure ICT governance processes involve senior business executives in strategic not operational decision making.

CIO's need to encourage their CEO and other members of the Executive to start saying ‘I need to understand the impacts of information technology on our business'.

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Conclusion: Organisations that take the approach that they are just buying a software product rather than a solution to a business problem are under-estimating the complexities of technological change. Occasionally organisations find it tempting to take this approach at the end of the financial year when they may have a small budget available and a compelling interest in ensuring they achieve perfect budget performance.

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

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The information and communications technologies market is emerging from its torpor. After the spending excesses of Y2K, then the GST, followed by the bursting of the dotcom bubble and the demise of some major consulting practices, the past four years have been positively somnolent for an industry that has always enjoyed double-digit growth.

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Conclusion:The IT Contribution Model is the latest measurement performance model to be offered to managers in evaluating IT investment. Professors Marc J. Epstein and Adriana Rejc have created a highly abstract and all inclusive model of processes to classify and measure the role of IT in business outcomes, with a reference to profitability.

The quality of the model, however, and the argument to sustain it, is diminished by: the high level of generality and abstraction i.e. IT strategy as an input variable; and a naïve mechanistic explanation of the causal relationship between applied resources and economic results. The conceptual underpinning is not helped either by basic errors of logic, such as the expounded procedure to determine a metric which is circular and a formal tautology and cannot be used to derive what it lamely wishes.1 This inept thinking is compounded by the equally lazy use of these adjectives: ‘critical’, key’ and ‘careful’, to explain various aspects in the creation of the model’s implementation.

Managers are already obliged to do many of the things the Model offers, albeit at a lower scale, and not necessarily finding the linkage between IT investment and overall profitability. The IT Contribution Model is a conceptual system or engine for making a measurement although systems, such as this model, do not validate its own results, regardless of its own coherence.

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Conclusion: Last month I wrote advising IT practitioners to learn the language of risk management, particularly in the context of ANZ/NZS 4360:2004. The article also contained advice to ensure that IT has a place at the decision-making table when considering the implementation of corporate risk management software.

An assumption was made in the article that in your organisation some corporate risk management initiatives were already under consideration. However, suppose this is not the case. How can the IT practitioner pitch a case for an Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) project as a strategic system? This article provides a guide for doing so, allowing the IT practitioner to assert leadership in a burgeoning area of corporate practice.

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Conclusion: IT executives are often held accountable for the non-delivery of business benefits when in most cases they are not in a position to ensure the appropriate business process and behavioural changes are made to realise the benefits. To avoid being blamed for someone else’s non-delivery IT executives need to have the governance owners in their organisations introduce a benefits management regime. One useful approach was developed by Cranfield University in the late 1990s.

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Conclusion: It is unwise to initiate a requirements workshop with the view that participants will co-operate, work in harmony and not engage in organisational politics. In reality, the sponsor and the facilitator must assume organisational politics will play an important role and participants will use every opportunity to sell their ideas to their peers and as a last resort negotiate a win / win solution. Sponsors and facilitators of requirements workshop ignore organisational politics at their peril!

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For a long time now the organisational structure of the group of construction companies to which we belong has more or less flown in the face of what would normally be considered best practice. The holding company’s philosophy has always been that as three of the operating divisions compete against each other in the highly competitive Australian market place, they should, within reason, be free to leverage what competitive advantage they can.

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PC Virtualisation technology could make it possible to achieve effective desktop lockdown without sacrificing user freedoms. The result could be total cost of ownership savings for enterprises that have struggled to implement full desktop lockdown, as well as clearer definitions of IT responsibilities. This technology can be considered for desktop deployment where PCs are not currently locked down. However before doing so be sure to understand the additional complexity and costs involved before proceeding with testing and implementing.

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Conclusion: When executive decision makers review business cases and observe a ‘J' curve investment pattern, it generates immediate doubts regarding the project's value. On the other hand, ‘S' curves, which represent competitive advantage or increasing profit, generate enthusiastic responses. Unfortunately, too many IT infrastructure business cases are presented with ‘J' curve profiles due to high initial investment costs. In many cases projects with high initial costs and delayed profits can be legitimately restructured to reflect a better commercial outcome with forethought and strategy. Not every project can be transformed, but two methods of cost structuring and ROI analysis have demonstrated successful results.

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In December 2004 I discussed the need for a degree of formal IT governance in organisations that spent a minimal amount on IT and could not see the benefit of spending more. Where a business was trading profitably not only would formal IT governance seem to them add little value but it would also seem to cost them more. I used as an example, a recent acquisition we had integrated into our network and were, in certain areas, having difficulty in seeing the benefits.

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Conclusion: BPM solutions essentially separate the business logic and activity flow from transaction management.  The latest generation of software applications operate through two key components, which are:

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IS organisations attack increasing client systems support costs by implementing a desktop "lockdown" or Standard Operating Environment (SOE). However, if they do not give enough attention to the process and planning that is required to lock down their desktops their project will fail because of political and cultural problems, and because lockdown may prevent users from doing their jobs efficiently.

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Conclusion: Immediately after the project Kick Off meetings, project managers find it tempting to hit the ground running and tackle tasks identified straight away to communicate a sense of urgency. However, without a comprehensive statement of requirements and having got consensus to them from stakeholders, the probability of design or programming rework is high.

Set out below is a process for capturing requirements and getting consensus to them from business managers. I have used the process successfully many times. It precedes, and must not be confused with, the JAD (Joint Application Design) activity.

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Conclusion: Organisations should not use old style systems development methodologies when implementing off-the-shelf packages. Package implementations need to tailor business processes to meet the operational characteristics of the selected package. Old style systems development methodologies assume a green field approach where the objective is to tailor the system to meet exact business requirements.

Heavily tailoring an off-the-shelf package will significantly increase ownership costs (by up to 10 times), while reducing the organisation’s ability to adopt future offerings that have been designed to work with the standard package.

Implementing a new package creates an opportunity to improve the way the organisation operates. Trying to fit a new package into old ways of working is an expensive exercise that invariably fails to take advantage of new business opportunities.

Business professionals must be involved in redesigning / changing business processes. As obvious as this sounds it is not hard to find example after example where it isn’t done.

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

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Conclusion: In business and government, the subject of risk continues to be a hot topic. It’s covered regularly by the commerce and technology-oriented sections of the media and is increasingly being discussed and actioned at Board and executive levels. Because of the corporate appetite for risk methodologies and tools, a burgeoning IT industry has developed providing risk management software.

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Conclusion: In management, the role of character has been understood for some time and is frequently covered in the business literature. It is also at the core of profile testing which is used to learn how adept people are for certain jobs in an organisation.

For most managers how and why they make certain choices, or decide to follow particular plans are based on demands and outside influences. Yet starting new initiatives, even embarking on a project that is genuinely strategic may be rooted in a manager’s motivations.

To successfully implement projects and set the feasible priorities over the next year; a clearer view of how and why you manage your job can be an effective way to do it better.

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Survey results are now reinforcing anecdotal evidence and supporting vendor marketing claims by showing that, when it comes to choice of an operating system platform for an ERP system, there is still a degree of choice. This is in marked contrast to the reduced choices available in ERP systems themselves. Linux will provide a very viable alternative to the entrenched Unix variants and the ubiquitous Windows. This has to be good for end users – particularly those in the medium size business category.

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Conclusion: The CIO Perspective, December 2004 entitled, 'IT Issues in Company Acquisitions' highlighted the CIO's involvement in two due diligence processes and having to provide an opinion on the state of the business solutions included in the assets being offered for sale.

In the article, two examples were quoted of small but profitable organisations which were being offered for sale and had immature IT service delivery systems and governance processes. In both cases the organisations used IT to provide business support or delivery systems. He was of the opinion the systems and process immaturity did not adversely impact the business performance of both organisations.

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

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Conclusion: Effective IT strategic planning is more relevant than ever in 2005 as IT budgets continue to be straitened and IT units remain under pressure to prove their corporate worth. Whilst there are many approaches to developing an IT Strategic Plan, a zero-based approach is more likely to resonate with business stakeholders and provide successful outcomes than other approaches.

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Conclusion: Contact update services attract users with the promise of instantly updating their contact details with almost no effort. Often free or at very low cost, their value proposition is they offer the potential to reduce every day contact management effort. These services effectively distribute the labour of updating contact details from the user to their contacts. The concept is attractive and the service easy to use.

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Conclusion: Too often project managers embark on programs of work without sufficient analysis on whether the organisation has the capability or capacity to implement the initiatives. When initiatives inevitably run late most internal observers cite poor project management as the cause of the problem.

Some programs cannot be implemented on time no matter how well they are project managed. These programs go wrong at the planning stage when people fail to identify the work that needs to be done before the proposed project can actually begin.

To avoid inevitable project management failures strategic planners must firstly determine what can actually be achieved in year 1, year 2 and year 3 of the ICT strategic plan. When implementation constraints are known planners can develop a base program of work that is achievable. Once this is done planners should then fine tune the priority of each initiative based on its contribution to business value.

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In December 2004 I discussed the need for a degree of formal IT governance in organisations that spent a minimal amount on IT and could not see the benefit of spending more. Where a business was trading profitably not only would formal IT governance seem to them add little value but it would also seem to cost them more. I used as an example, a recent acquisition we had integrated into our network and were, in certain areas, having difficulty in seeing the benefits.

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Conclusion: The arrival of weblogs over the last two years has opened new opportunities for communication and is a well known marketing device aimed at audiences outside an organisation. The principles of a blog: direct contact and debate are applied at online message-boards where company executives answer questions and take advice on new software from users.

An intranet blog used however, as another form of internal public relations, with comments posted by executives aimed at employees, may only serve to uncover the assertive self-promoters within an organisation.

Within an organisation blogs may be used to disseminate information to groups of staff and replace group emails. A blog to share expertise among staff may be more productive and useful because the volume and flow of information in companies is large and an electronic noticeboard in a blog offers a medium to manage the information.

In considering blogs for staff to use it must be clear what medium the blog will replace, to some extent email, and consequently, what rules will govern its use. Select a small group to trial its introduction and from that experience use the feedback to expand the use of a blog to other relevant groups.

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Conclusion: Delivering real business improvement in Workforce Automation & Management practices has proven elusive for many organisations. Two principal factors seem to have been at play. Firstly, a piecemeal approach seems to have been taken with a focus on rostering rather than on the entire process chain (see diagram). Secondly, the organisational change management effort seems to have been underestimated. With so few opportunities available to businesses to deliver bottom line savings from application software initiatives, it is now timely to revisit this area. Further, increasing safety-awareness in sectors such as mining, construction and transportation, have highlighted the need to achieve success with WAM initiatives, in some cases driven by the need to comply with fatigue management standards for rostered staff.

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The challenges facing the CIOs of midsize businesses are not expected to become easier. Continuing requirements to support the growth of their businesses by adding new offices, new applications and more staff mean that they have to increase the capabilities of the IT, probably without the benefit of increased staff and budgets. They will also have to deal with new vendors, sales channels and disappearing vendors.

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Conclusion: For many years organisations and agencies engaged a single IT provider when they lacked the wherewithal to integrate the services and used the engagement to manage the organisation’s risks. As organisations acquired the skills to integrate systems services and manage the risks, many opted to selectively source expecting to reduce their costs and get the right solution. A new management debate ensued.

In some ways the debate parallels that situation which occurs in organisations with operationally critical equipment and where management is unsure whether to enter into a maintenance agreement with one supplier or opt for a per call service arrangement with multiple suppliers.

While the maintenance versus per call service debate focuses on risk versus cost, the analogy unfortunately trivialises the efforts needed to integrate complex business solutions or implement multiple systems components of an end to end IT operation service with ambitious performance objectives.

Implementing complex solutions typically involves integrating offerings from multiple software and hardware vendors, directing the activities of specialist technical staff and coordinating multiple project management activities. The aim usually is to meet a scheduled completion date or deliver a system response time consistent with the project’s objectives.

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From time to time our company looks at opportunities to grow the business through the acquisition of other organisations. When this occurs we are asked to review the information technology infrastructure of the target organisation. Our brief is to assess their IT health and identify areas where there may be significant expenditure required to ensure it achieves a level which complies with our standards. We are also expected to recommend how IT should be structured following the acquisition. For example should the company continue with its current processes or should it be partly or wholly, integrated into our network and be subjected to our governance procedures.

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Conclusion: The speed and ease of use that broadband delivers is still a rare commodity amongst the majority of Australian businesses, especially the SME. A constant refrain is that broadband must be pushed into the bulk of Australian organisations and for sound commercial reasons. It’s not clear that many businesses are interested; however, to ensure that broadband is a common standard. In the B2B marketplace organisations do not seem to be adversely affected by suppliers that do not have comparable communications infrastructure.

Even if there is a real problem of efficiency between business, changing conditions in the market is not easy. Pushing attitudes to change rapidly when the cost is borne by someone else won’t happen. The telecomm landscape is settled and the power of Telstra, directly and indirectly through its infrastructure affects, pricing to other suppliers of broadband.

Individual organisations could only use their voice through lobbying. So far, the loudest voices in the broadband debate have been from self-interested parties and they haven’t been able to state absolutely clearly why and how broadband will improve productivity. Their appeal to redress Australia’s relatively low standing on the international broadband league table relies on simple chauvinism.

The widespread low broadband usage in business is not a concern, despite its coverage, and it’s nearly impossible to know what the economic benefit would be if broadband was in every organisation in the country. Where companies and organisations do have broadband efficiency problems with their business partners they might work together to resolve them.

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The recent report* published by the Institute of Chartered Accountants on the role of the CFO is of significance to all who interact with the CFO on a day to day basis. In 2001, in a comparable report, the researchers found the CFO’s focus was on ways to enhance business performance and reduce costs through vehicles such as Shared Services units and getting the benefits expected from their ERP software implementations.

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Conclusion: Customer relationship management, business rules, and portals are typical examples of expensive technical solutions that require strong business leadership to deliver their promises of return on investment. Many IT executives have become aware of such solutions and seen their potential well ahead of their operational counterparts. However, many of these innovations have failed to achieve traction in the first instance as a result of poor socialisation prior to project initiation. Often, organisations shelve these projects for several years after initial failure and kick-starting them again is difficult.

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Conclusion: Recently I was at a Christmas party with several 30 year IT Veterans. As usual a few war stories were shared. This paper contains two of the more bizarre stories. Unfortunately neither of these stories would exist if a formal peer review process had been in place in the organisations concerned.

IT departments should have some form of peer review for all initiatives and this should include operations, systems development, purchasing, communications, etc. Failure to implement a peer review process may result in your actions being recounted in war stories some time in the future.

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Conclusion: Cross-agency initiatives are high-risk endeavours that can deliver significant community and financial benefits. They are extremely challenging because they require a coordinated approach across Agencies as well as high levels of business and technical capability.

Failure to establish high Capability Maturity Level (CMM) processes and to acquire / develop key skills is a major reason why managers involved in many cross-agency initiatives encounter problems.

Before work on an initiative begins program directors should review the capability of each participating Agency in the areas of: project management; risk management; financial management; strategic planning; and, benefits management. If the capability of participating Agencies is not up to the level required, then a capability development program must be undertaken before major work can begin.

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Conclusion: Reference checks are rarely a key differentiating factor in an evaluation, but they can prevent unpleasant surprises. Use reference checks when evaluating new or unfamiliar technology. A good reference check can be helpful in substantiating claims of viability, validating specific functions or capabilities, and reducing risks of unknown or unforeseen problems related to a technology or architectural design. Poorly executed reference checks fail protect the organisation from sub-standard service and support, poor quality control, and chronic understaffing.

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New server assessment and acquisition practices are often ignored in preference to a "speeds and feeds" focussed, "hardware is cheap" mentality. This focus is supported by the constant bragging by server vendors about their latest and greatest TPC1 Benchmark figures. Unfortunately, these benchmarks and the technologies that enable them have little impact on most workloads. A better purchase can be made by understanding the application characteristics and how server technologies will benefit performance.

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Conclusion: Increasing competition and the need to engage skilled people on demand will drive the need to form virtual teams. Those engaged must not only be appropriately skilled, but confident and adaptable people who can work successfully in isolation.

To succeed managers of virtual teams must treat every member of the team as an equal, respect their opinion and let them know they are trusted. Conversely, command and control style of management will de-motivate the right people and fail.

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Conclusion: A common complaint from IT specialists is that "the business" doesn't understand what they can deliver to an organisation nor fully comprehend what their capabilities are. A direct result of an organisation's internal dysfunction in this regard is that projects and teams fail to deliver timely and effective work.

According to IT Skills Hub, a not for profit organisation set up by the Commonwealth Government and the Australian Information Technology and Telecommunications (IT&T) industry to deal with education and training in the IT sector:

"IT managers can't translate a project into a business outcome. So team members don't know what's expected of them or the project. IT managers […] need to be your best managers since all projects rely on people working together to deliver a product/solution. They also need to be great communicators who can manage the relationship with the customer and the teams."1

The ways and means of solving the problem, both in work practices and overall management between departments are possible using the basics of communication and cooperation. Managers must take the responsibility of identifying the problems and then establishing a process to cure it.

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