MYO IT – Building an IT organisation

By Tony Welsh, Associate Partner, Information Professionals

Imagine the excitement of starting again, no baggage, and building a new (or improved) IT organisation; Of being able to build the business from the ground up and manage the business of IT properly from the outset. A scenario like this offers immense opportunities but also prompts so many questions:

InformPros business transformation strategy
  • Is there a legacy to inherit or is it Greenfield?
  • Will we be a service provider? A service broker? A smart buyer? Or a mixture of each?
  • Will we do IT ourselves or get someone else to do IT for us? Which bits?
  • What will be our customer value proposition? How will we stay relevant?
  • Will we be on premise or in the cloud? In full or in part?
  • What capabilities will we need? Where are the gaps?

That’s a lot of questions and I’m only scratching the surface! So let’s take the opportunity to explore some of these issues and also some of the tools that might help us answer the questions. We’ll also consider IT operating models and industry frameworks and standards in an attempt to shine some light on the topic.

Contemplating an IT operating model?

When it comes to ICT management there appears to have been recent interest in filling the apparent void of IT standards and practices. For many who thought that the established frameworks such as COBIT® (by ISACA), TOGAF® (by The Open Group) and ITIL® (by Axelos), already filled that void, the news may come as a bit of a shock. 

The most notable new kids on the block include IT4ITTM (the recent offering from The Open Group) and Technology Business Management (TBM) headed by the TBM Council. In addition let’s throw into the mix a commercial take on ‘Enabling IT as a Service’ from a major IT service provider.

These new players seem to be concerned mostly with managing the business of IT or running IT as a business. Equally, both seem to be focused on emphasising the value of IT and showcase progressive approaches to IT such as brokering services, cloud, IT as a Service, DevOps etc. Both approaches are also ‘data-driven’ which resonates with me from my days in the eighties with LBMS in London who took a data-driven approach to its SSADM and LSDM development methodologies. Both approaches are agile-friendly.

Whilst other methods and frameworks have introduced standards for many of the processes in IT, (enterprise architecture, strategic alignment and governance, security, applications development, program, portfolio and project management, operations and support etc.), it is fair to say that for too long IT Managers, CIOs and CTOs have been left to link those standards together in the best manner they can. This has revealed some gaps.

Let’s consider the new players

IT4ITTM provides a Standard Reference Architecture for IT. This comprises an IT Value Chain plus service, information, functional and integration pillars. The IT value chain is based on the work of Michael Porter and it comprises four value streams being:

1. Strategy to Portfolio (S2P)
2. Requirements to Deploy (R2D)
3. Request to Fulfil (R2F)
4. Detect to Correct (D2C)

The primary value streams in the IT Value Chain are underpinned by five supporting activities. IT4IT models the functions that IT performs to help organisations identify the activities that contribute to business competitiveness.

Now let’s look at what TBM has to offer. TBM essentially defines the organisational elements, disciplines and value conversations of an effective TBM program.

Its apparent focus is (to a large extent) on the cost and value of IT. This includes:

1. Run the Business
    – Cost of Performance
    – Business Aligned Portfolio

2. Change the Business
    – Investment in innovation
    – Enterprise Agility

TBM uses ‘value conversations’ across all of these as well as four core disciplines – Create transparency, Deliver value for money, Shape business demand, and Plan and govern – to help run and change the business. These were certainly second nature to me as an ex-CIO.

Creating an IT operating model

In CISCO’s white paper ‘IT Transformation with Cisco’, they describe ‘Creating an operating model that enables IT as a service’. Email me for a copy of the white paper!

This diagram depicts the ‘Capabilities of a transformed IT organisation’.

Most noticeable is the resemblance between the IT4ITTM Value Chain and the Cisco Capabilities Model above. This suggests some element of synergy, intentionally or otherwise.

So which is the best framework?

To give a practical example it’s worth referring to a presentation on ‘How Shell IT manages data to bend the cost curve’. This is a case study of TBM presented by Shell’s IT4ITTM Team on the TBM Council website. They claim to have achieved a 20% cost reduction in applications run costs. As Shell is one of the principle architects and proponents of IT4ITTM this provides a good indication of how the two approaches might complement each other.

It is most likely that IT4ITTM represents a more extensive and comprehensive IT Management framework whereas TBM offers a richer coverage of specific features and disciplines. The latter would appear to be particularly true in relation to cost containment, business value and portfolio management. COBIT® v5 combined with Val IT (Business Value of IT) clearly offers additional perspective on those topics covered by TBM.

The short answer is to apply the best horse to suit the course you’ve set about travelling. If you’re specifically looking at cost containment or value management initiatives then the best short term approach will most likely involve TBM. If on the other hand what you crave is end to end IT service management and execution, then IT4ITTM would provide a more prescriptive platform.

Although these frameworks have been around (at least in part) over a few years, this does make them relatively immature when compared with COBIT® (v5) and TOGAF® (V9.1). At the same time, both IT4ITTM and TBM are heavily supported (and developed) by a range of significant industry leaders. Hence they are worthy of significant attention. In an industry that has long suffered the consequences of inadequate standards, it is reassuring to know that we (IT Professionals) may finally be headed towards the same standing that is enjoyed by the likes of HR and Finance practitioners.

IT operating model and organisation structure

The following diagram is an example of another IT operating model. It was designed for a client to respond to the internal and external drivers in their industry.

It generally reflects similar elements to the Cisco model, that is, strategy and planning, governance, IT solutions (i.e. service design and development), IT operations and client services (i.e. support). In addition, its features include Agile Development, Bimodal IT, I/S/PaaS and DevOps. Various frameworks and methodologies have been overlayed including COBIT®, TOGAF®, ITIL® and Prince2 (by Axelos).

It’s also worth introducing Gartner’s IS Lite and IS Lean models at this stage:

Over many years I have applied Gartner’s Lite and Lean models to assist in identifying the most appropriate allocation of capabilities to both in-house and outsourced IT organisations. This knowledge is a critical ingredient in building effective and efficient IT business models and structures.

With all of these models available, the task of designing an appropriate business model for your organisations should be relatively straight forward.

What’s the final step? 

Moving from business model, through macro and then micro structure design, is the last step before such things as job specifications, recruitment and so on. The challenge is to try to maintain the integrity of the underlying business model when building the structure. For example, a structure based upon the four IT4ITTM value streams might well be considered. However, an alternative functional structure might better suit the particular circumstances. The level of IT4ITTM maturity may also be a factor.

So what can we take away from this?

In order to build your IT organisation (MYO IT) you need to:

1. Understand the internal and external drivers for your IT business.
2. Contemplate your customer value proposition.
3. Initiate a change management process.
4. Identify your target capability profile and any gaps (See Gartner’s IS Lite and IS Lean).
5. Design your IT operating model (see IT4ITTM, TBM, Cisco and Client models).
6. Design your macro and micro organisation structure.
7. Complete role descriptions, sizing etc.
8. Build your core IT team.
9. Procure your partners.
10. Complete the change management process.

Now you’re ready to start!

About the Author:

Tony Welsh is an Associate Partner with Information Professionals where he leads their Strategic ICT Practice. He has over 30 years’ ICT experience gained in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia. Over half of that time has been spent working as a CIO for large and diverse organisations. In particular he’s been engaged in ICT strategic planning for organisations including a rural fire service, a union, a large government rail organisation and two large city councils.

He led a team of consultants in developing an IT Sourcing Strategy for a large health organisation and he’s designed IT operating models and IT organisation structures for water and electricity utilities and higher education organisations. Tony is a Certified IT4ITTM Professional.

The Future ICT Organisation & the future CIO

Within ten years, (by 2025) the traditional internal ICT Organisation will cease to exist.


The statement might seem confronting and that is quite deliberate. The alternative to confronting the issue would be to bury your head in the sand. The writing has been on the wall for ten years plus and, like the paperless office, it hasn’t yet been realised. The stark reality is that 5 years to twenty-twenty should see the bulk of it shifted with the other five years to tidy up the legacy.

It is difficult to detach thinking about the future role of the CIO from that of the ICT organisation. Similarly, in order to anticipate where ICT organisations are headed, it pays to track their journey so far as a basis to predict likely scenarios in the future. So does CIO final stand for Career Is Over? This paper examines these topics.

The intention of this paper is to envision a way forward that will offer a viable and realistic future for ICT practitioners in the workforce.

Looking to the Past

Looking to the past has a habit of providing insight to the future. In doubting the potential extent of future change in the ICT world it is worth examining how far we’ve come.

I started in ‘ICT’ or ‘Data Processing – DP’, as it was then known, in 1980, working for a building society in the UK. In those good old days we had a mainframe with centralised Apps and a network of dumb terminals (Green Screens) and if you wanted to get anything done in the business you had to ask DP. As well as vesting us with great responsibility, this also vested us with considerable power.

The only suggestion of decentralised control was, I recall, over the Wang Word Processing minicomputer that would eventually replace the typing pool.

The late 80s and early 90s minicomputers started to increase in popularity and it wasn’t long before the first PCs started to emerge in the corporate world. Once they got a foothold, although initially under DPs control, some elements of distributed procurement gradually started to emerge.

Switch to today and consumerisation being what it now is, BYOD is now the trend. Businesses are going direct to the market to source Apps or even commissioning them through crowdsourcing and having them hosted in the cloud, often under the radar.

It’s truly a very different world. ICT practitioners need to demonstrate value and relevance in order to claim their place in this new world.

We’ve seen and we continue to see different models for ICT Organisations, with some working better than others. Examples include:

  • Centralised, Distributed, Federated and Centre-led;
  • Split Strategy/Governance, Projects/Change, Service Delivery/Operations;
  • Split between CIO and CTO – (often breeding adversity with the CIO often taking the high ground);
  • Shadow ICT;
  • IS Lite and IS Lean (Gartner);
  • In-sourcing, outsourcing and ICT as a Service (IaaS, SaaS and PaaS etc.);
  • Multi-Modal IT (Gartner);

Often ICT organisations evolve their structures and business models in line with these trends as they seek to move up the maturity curve. It’s also true to say that they tend to reposition themselves along the business value chain.

The key question is: what’s next?

Symptoms of change

Gartner’s IS Lite will move from IS Lean to IS Anorexic. Waves of Digital Disruption will rock the ICT boat and sink it.

We are likely to see the legitimisation of Shadow ICT – Mode 3? Co-design and collaboration will define the new way.

Potentially we will witness the re-birth of the ‘New Age Traveler’ or ‘Cyber-Hippie’ – Anywhere, Anytime. The difference is that mobility and virtualisation have come of age and with this; another disruption has taken place. The age of the virtual CIO is here!

In any event, the levels of business dissatisfaction that have plagued IT Organisations in recent years are more symptomatic of failings in the business model rather than mere failings in the IT personnel. Nevertheless, something needs to change if this situation is to be addressed. Current ICT Business Models do not and will not work for the New Age Business!

Traditional ICT Organisations

The traditional ICT organisation typically looks something like Figure 1 below:

(Figure 1)

Generally speaking, most have separation between strategic and governance functions and service delivery functions. Service Delivery functions generally include applications development, support and infrastructure. The service delivery functions may be in-sourced or outsourced to a greater or lesser degree with elements being hosted in the cloud.

This delivery approach, and this structure, is mired by the historical experience of the people now in the Cxx roles. It does not take into account the manner in which the new blood works, or wishes to work; providing the flexibility and intercommunication between the traditional functions that is mandated by the emerging IT professionals.

Looking to the Future

Transition Strategies

Organisations are at various levels of ICT maturity. Some are already following a path to create a Lite or Lean ICT Organisation as presented by Gartner (see Figure 2 below), whilst others have yet to embark on that journey. We do recommend that organisations attempt to apply the essence of these models as part of achieving readiness for establishing a Digital Business Centre (DBC). In doing so the will adapt for:

  • Strategic Sourcing;
  • Vendor Management;
  • Divesting commodity services;
  • Adopting a Service Management culture;
  • Optimising ICT Governance;
  • Developing new methods of working for professionals working on (and delivering) the service;
  • Embedding end user development in the business;
  • Establishing Centres of Excellence.

Each of these items will lead to a repositioning along the ICT Maturity Curve.

(Figure 2)
These learnings will serve them well in establishing a platform for new age ICT. Likewise, Figure 3 below demonstrates the migration towards becoming an IT Services Provider and Broker in a Hybrid Cloud Environment.

(Figure 3)
Drivers for Change

In order to consider what might be the next step in the ICT organisation maturity cycle, we need to understand the drivers for change. These include:

  • Business enablement;
  • Agility;
  • Market Responsiveness;
  • Need for Innovation;
  • Value for money.
The question is how best to position ICT to contribute in this environment?

The Future of the ICT Organisation

There are a number of potential scenarios for the future of the ICT Organisation. This paper presents one such scenario and provides some discussion to substantiate the outcome. In essence this scenario suggests that the traditional ICT Organisation will most likely be consumed and recycled as a new organisation; the Digital Business Centre (DBC) as depicted in Figure 4:

(Figure 4)

The Digital Business Centre (DBC)

The Concept of replacing the traditional ICT Organisation with a Digital Business Centre (DBC) recognises the tight interdependence between people, processes, information and technology in effecting business improvements and transformations. Indeed, it is the fusion between these components that is the essential step in the process. This exemplifies what Gartner terms the emergence of ‘Digital Business’.

The model recognises the need to blend these components together within and beyond the organisation to provide a holistic view and approach to bringing about transformational change. In essence for the evolving ICT Organisation, instead of being focused on decoupling and divesting core ICT competencies, the focus shifts to redefining the core function of ICT. It brings the pointy end to the customer, and lets the customer drive, if not design the services and products.

It also recognises a focus on change and transition rather than ‘Keeping the Lights on’, which becomes the domain of the standard ICT Cloud (Mode 1) operation. Here the focus remains on rigorous governance and service management and is measured and monitored against performance KPIs.

Business/ICT Fusion

For too long have organisations wrestled with the problem of trying to align business and ICT whether in terms of requirements vs solutions, resolving priorities, determining who should pay for what or simply interpreting language.

Business and ICT fusion is about the bringing together of business and IT functions and solutions. Functions that are most suited to fusion would include:

Retained ICT

The specialised ‘ICT’ functions should include:

These functions represent the core (mode 2) ICT elements that remain in-house although some external resources might be sourced as needed.

Lite Governance

Lite governance recognises the need for organisations to demonstrate agility in responding to market opportunities and circumstances. This is not the same as inadequate governance. It includes setting up lite governance structures, streamlining decision-making processes, allocating responsibility and accountability and maximising individual authority. It also involves governing on an exception basis. It indicates the breaking down of programs and projects into manageable sizes.

People Impacts

So what are the implications for people? I guess those people affected include:
• Management and staff from the ICT Organisation – Impacts might include:

  • New ways of working to match the emerging drive and direction of up and coming IT professionals;
  • Retrenchments/redundancies;
  • Outplacements;
  • Transfers out (e.g. to service providers);
  • Re-skilling to take on new roles;
  • Departures (i.e. choosing to leave).

• Business management and staff – direct impacts of the change e.g.:

  • Changes in roles/responsibilities (e.g. expansion/redefinition);
  • Changes in relationships (e.g. new IT Service Provider(s));
  • Changes in ways of working through co-design.

• Customers

  • Changes to the way in which they transact and interact;
  • Requirement to upskill and or reskill;
  • The need to take on more responsibility i.e. self-serve.
What will be essential is to place importance on:
  1. Understanding the emerging professional and customer ethos, the way in which they work and the manner in which they expect services to be delivered;
  2. Managing the change process and bringing people on the journey;
  3.  Opening up communications (bi-directional and multi/omni-channel) to create a dialogue and to manage expectations;
  4. Establishing a support network for those that will be affected by the change;
  5. Marketing and selling the benefits to the various stakeholders.

It is the combination of people, process, information and technology that will be the key to the success of Digital Business. As such the people factor cannot be taken for granted.


The following conclusions have been drawn from this assessment:
  1. The ICT Organisation is a shifting organism that morphs to suit changes its environment.
  2. The emerging way that people work and customers interact with organisations is driving a new paradigm.
  3. To optimise alignment of business and ICT, we will need to fuse the separate parts.
  4. A new ‘hybrid’ organisation should replace the more traditional ICT organisation over the next ten years, with bulk of the transition occurring over the next five years.
  5. The bulk of traditional ICT functions will be migrated to outsourcing with many of these services being provided over the cloud.
  6. New capabilities will need to be acquired by business and ICT in unison in the future.
  7. The transition should be managed as a major change initiative with a focus on delivering business benefits.


Testing the Scenario(s)

Before proceeding to divest your ICT Department, terminate your CIO or strip back your ICT Governance you may want to test out some of the theories. Some form of Scenario Testing or perhaps Guerrilla Testing might fit the bill. An initial step might involve identifying those key components that you will need to test before considering an integration test of the whole i.e.: 

  1. Divesting the (Mode 1 – the BAU) ICT Operations;
  2. Validating the new ‘core’ ICT Capabilities (Mode 2);
  3. Validating the ‘fused’ business ICT Capabilities (Mode 3);
  4. Evolving the cloud broker role;
  5. Designing effective ‘lite’ governance;
  6. Shaping the DBC.

In approaching a test of each of these components, we would suggest defining for each:

  1. The objectives;
  2. The problem(s) you hope to resolve?
  3. The perceived value or benefits;
  4. The risks, constraints and/or obstacles and potential mitigations;
  5. The people to be involved and the people that will be impacted?
  6. Steps involved (e.g. building capability, re-engineering processes etc.);
  7. Interdependencies (i.e. with other components);
  8. Roadmap and Action Plan.

The process should be approached in an agile way, not getting too engrossed in the detail. It should be structured but not process bound. Once each of the components has been assessed, a consolidated view should be taken in order to get the total picture and to determine the most preferable sequence of changes. 

About the Authors

Tony Welsh – Associate Partner, Information Professionals:

Tony has over 35 years’ experience as an ICT professional including 15 years in Chief Information Officer (CIO) roles. His particular skills include ICT and business strategic planning, program management, business and ICT alignment, stakeholder management. He is particularly valuable for organisations seeking to get more out of their ICT investments and/or to use ICT to transform their organisation. He has extensive experience in the management and design of ICT organisations.

Lynn Kincade

Lynn Kincade – Managing Consultant, Information Professionals:

Lynn has over 25 years of professional experience, with over 10 years’ experience in executive management positions leading people and change across commercial and government organisations. In undertaking transformation of IT and business services and initiatives, Lynn has transfigured IT organisations and their service delivery, developed and implemented IT strategies and the change programs underpinning those strategies, and managed the program delivery to make those strategies a reality.

How do I manage change for organisational renewal?

During and beyond transitions to ICT as a Service. 

cloud computing model

CIOs and business change leaders will face many challenges when moving to ICT (Information and Communications Technologies) as a Service. The momentum for change in public sector organisations and the pressure generated by expectations for action and results have been accelerated by recent government decisions and a growing sense of urgency that we need to get on with this.ICT as a service is commonly referred to as cloud hosting, cloud solutions or cloud outsourcing Put simply, it means that your organisation has decided to meet all or some of its ICT needs by purchasing services and/or renting assets, applications and storage space from suppliers rather than by owning and managing them. Transitions from one business model to another are commonly referred to as cloud deployments. Such transitions require a fundamental shift in your ICT and IM (Information Management) strategies and the business processes, stakeholder relationships and resources that support them.

Future directions set by state and federal governments are the main drivers for change. The Queensland Government for example, has adopted a cloud first policy to enable it to transition to lower cost, standard and interchangeable services, where quality improvement and cost reductions are driven by competitive market forces. Market forces, increased market share, profitability and growth remain the main drivers for private sector organisations to adopt cloud solutions. Other drivers may be known or will emerge as business leaders make decisions that will guide their ICT as a Service strategy and set the scene for renewal of organisational mission and purpose. Together they create a compelling case for re-thinking your information management (IM) strategies and the capabilities you will require to deliver them.

Transformational versus incremental change

TransformationThe approach to change that will best support a successful transition to a new business model is transformational rather than incremental although transformational change is usually implemented in manageable stages. Transformational change disrupts the current state and the roles, working relationships, business processes and behaviours that are embedded there and where the capabilities developed from your business technologies have become self-sustaining. The focus is on wholesale business changes that will be required to ‘unfreeze’ the current state and transition to a future state, while ensuring that your people will be ready to embrace a new business model and new ways of working with stakeholders and suppliers.

Transformational Change

What transformational change means will be understood differently from department to department and program to program. There is no one-size-fits-all template. The dynamics of transformational change may also be different from your previous experience with change management. Your business drivers, the type of cloud/s you decide on, the services you will purchase, deployment and migration complexity, unique workforce impacts and contractual relationships with your suppliers will guide your decision making and signal what your transition planning will need to cover.

Transition planning
transition planning
Moving to ICT as a service is a transition that takes your organisation to a desired future state. One of the main transition activities will be to build strong and lasting relationships with those suppliers or cloud hosting organisations who will become your service delivery and information partners. Another is the alignment of your people, processes and systems with your new cloud architecture and your new business or service delivery model. These alignments are important because of the role they play in stabilizing the business environment as the transition occurs. They may take more than one developmental step, depending on how embedded the current state is, the complexity of the transition and how ready and motivated your people are.

Building new capabilities

building new capabilitiesWe are working more and more with clients to help them get their people from where they are to where you need them to be as ICT as a Service transitions occur. We recognise that each business environment is different and that the pathway for a successful transition will vary. Above all, it requires business leaders and sponsors who can articulate a clear vision of their future state, the rationale for change and the plan to get there.

The capabilities required for ICT as Service environments are likely to be different from those that have served your organisation well in the past. The pathway for building or acquiring new capabilities will be an important part of your workforce transition. Common practice nowadays is to use a methodology or framework that leads to soundly based decisions. Gartner’s IS Lite approach for example, enables business leaders to formulate their vision for optimal information systems (IS) performance and decide which services can be exited and which capabilities should be retained and attained internally. This vision can then guide workforce transition strategies and plans to define and build new capabilities from old.

Building new capabilities also requires a depth of understanding about what new skills will be needed and whether these can be developed internally and/or acquired. A good starting point is to understand and respect the capabilities that are embedded in your current state plan for the retention of critical skills and knowledge.

Lessons learned

lesson learned

Case studies in Australia and elsewhere have already revealed some of the challenges for cloud deployments. Not surprisingly, a common feature is the imperative to get the deployment done quickly and successfully while also containing costs. Change management, infrastructure, migration complexity, vendor and supplier relationship building, time taken to build or acquire new capabilities and what to do with owned ICT assets, all feature in the literature that is available. Enabling changes required for procurement policy, capital versus expense cost structures and understanding current and benchmark costs for new business models have also arisen.

Case study 1

For a state government department, cloud hosting services provided an opportunity to integrate a myriad of different systems, each with their own administrative processes, into one. The current state was characterised by cumbersome and manual processes, difficulty in getting accurate information and embarrassing delays when responding to routine requests for information. The preferred option was software as a service hybrid solution which comprised of a private and a public cloud for different user audiences and information security standards.

Implementation of the solution took place within an aggressive timeframe and was widely regarded as a successful example of how to do large-scale software as a service (SaaS) deployment. It was not however without its challenges. Lessons learned revealed that change management was the biggest challenge and that implementing cloud best practice required a major and continuous effort to ensure that new practices were adopted.

Next Steps

the next steps

Your organisation may already have a change management methodology that has served you well in the past or a preferred approach to managing either incremental or transformational change. Information Professionals recommends that you familiarise yourself with our other publications and consider your approach against the following business change principles. They will serve as a reality check and guide you on the right path:

• Know your business risks, drivers for change and your cost structures and choose the pathway to ICT as a service that provides the best fit solution. What has worked well in one organisation may not necessarily work in another.

• Plan your transition around the program and project management life-cycle. Project management, business change, infrastructure optimisation, supplier engagement and workforce change products will overlap. They should be integrated for best effect.

• Treat your cloud deployment and transition planning as a business transformation project rather than an ICT project

• Be ready to communicate concepts that may be unfamiliar or not understood by your staff, stakeholders and suppliers, clearly explaining what they mean and who and what will be impacted. Focus on communicating the vision and rationale for change, what will happen and why. Be honest and keep expectations realistic about what is to come.

• Define the capabilities required for your future state and plan to build new capabilities from old. Keep in mind that these types of transitions are new and that it will take time to build or acquire new capabilities as your new business model takes shape.

• Know the value and cost structures of your ICT and IM assets and show that you understand and respect what is embedded in the current state. Aim to preserve the ‘know how’ that is there for continuing internal use or knowledge transfer to vendors and suppliers.

• Help your stakeholders – including future suppliers (where this is in your interest) to get ready for ICT as a service. Use these interactions as opportunities to build and strengthen the working relationship.

Success criteria

nailed it

Increasingly being successful at transformational change relies on speed of adaptation and the avoidance of lengthy and de-motivating implementation cycles that can undermine your transition planning and stakeholder engagement efforts. There is a constant need to balance immediate and longer-term interests. Successful transitions to new business models also require thought, care and attentiveness to planning and sequencing of business, deployment and workforce change initiatives. Most importantly, the people impacted need assurances from change leaders and business sponsors that their work efforts are valued, that no-one will be left behind and that there is a clear rationale for the changes they are being asked to embrace.

Janet Crews
Written by: Janet Crews 
Senior Consultant – Information Professionals
Janet is a storied, qualified, change management professional, with many years of both commercial and government based experience.
You can connect with or find out more about Janet on linkedin:

Business Strategy vs. ICT Strategy vs. Digital Strategy.

Business Strategies have been around for a long time.  ICT Strategies less so.  But the new kid on the block is the Digital Strategy.  What is it, and how does it differ from the first two.
The Oxford Dictionary has two primary meanings associated with Strategy.  The first is below.  The second has a military context.  This is understandable as many management concepts still in use today originated from the military.
Definition of Strategy: a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim.  Definition
It makes sense that a Business Strategy is therefore a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim for a business, or an organisation.  Their names may vary from Business Strategy to Corporate Strategy, Organisational Strategy or something else.  However, most of us know what these look like even if their name may vary.  It is usually developed, or at least lead by the Chief Executive, and it may have extensive input from the Board.
An ICT Strategy can take a number of forms.  In many organisations it is a response to the needs of the Business Strategy.  That is, it defines the ICT plan of action designed to achieve the ICT related aims of the business.  It is usually developed by the Chief Information Officer (CIO) or an equivalent role.  The Chief Executive is often consulted and involved to varying degrees depending on the organisation and on the Chief Executive.  The Board could also be involved, although in my experience it is rare for most Boards in Australia to play an active role in the preparation of an ICT Strategy.
In my view, this approach to the development of strategy has been a big weakness for many organisations.  It is based on a flawed assumption.  And that assumption is that ICT can only form an output from Business Strategy.  By definition, that means that ICT is not a useful input into Business Strategy.  This is flawed thinking, and has been for many years.  ICT has the potential to impact on Business Strategy.  And this effect is becoming more pronounced with each passing year.  For instance ICT innovations are allowing new entrants to enter existing markets, the creation of brand new markets and the creation of new business models and industry structures.  ICT is changing our expectations (as clients and potential clients) for how we interact with organisations.  If you have any doubt, you would know that you and most of your friends use ICT daily to buy, consume or research various products and services.  If you still have doubts, read Marc Andreessen’s article, Why Software Is Eating The World.  I have put some direct quotes from this article below.
Despite this flawed assumption, Business and ICT Strategies have largely been developed in this way for many years.  In more recent times, and perhaps for only the past five years, the Digital Strategy has come along.  It primarily came out of marketing departments who realised that there were more digital marketing and advertising options that they were having to consider.  But beyond that, they also realised that customers wanted to interact with their companies in multiple ways, including digital and online ways.  In some cases they also saw their own market share being eroded by these new entrants that were capitalising on Digital approaches to doing business, and these Digital approaches were being very successful.
Hence we have seen the rise of the Digital Strategy.  While its development may be lead by the Marketing Department, it is increasingly becoming of major interest to Chief Executives and Boards.  There have been enough company failures caused through being blindsided by Digitally enabled alternatives that it is worth them taking a keen interest.  This also means that the Digital Strategy is taking on a broader view, not just a marketing view but a broader strategic view of the organisation, and considering things such as industry structures, competitor behaviour, organisational capabilities, organisational structures, and many aspects of an organisation’s business strategy.
This evolution of the Digital Strategy is now becoming what the ICT Strategy could have been, and perhaps in some rare cases, has always been.  The Digital Strategy is now becoming an input into the broader strategic view of the organisation, helping to inform the Board and Executive team, and providing an input into the entire organisation’s strategy.
A word of warning: Be careful assuming that the above descriptions apply in every organisation though.  In some cases ICT and Business Strategy formation does happen in concert with each other, but this is rare.  And in some cases a Digital Strategy remains a marketing only view although this is becoming less common as a broader view evolves of what a Digital Strategy should be.
Can all three strategies sit side by side?  The easy answer is yes.  But over time, it is natural that they could merge.  For instance, would Amazon or Google or Netflix or Apple or Skype have a Digital Strategy and a Business Strategy.  I cant say for sure, but I don’t believe that they would think of strategy in two separate domains in this way.  In most organisations, it will be useful to have a Digital Strategy.  It will introduce new ideas and concepts and challenge the existing organisation and hopefully have a positive impact on the overall strategy for the business.

Overall, the emergence of the Digital Strategy having a whole of organisation view, and even taking an industry and marketplace view, is a good thing.  It helps organisations to see the opportunity and risk that is in front of them.  The view of many commentators is that eventually every company will have to become a technology company or they will no longer be around.  If that is true then the sooner you start this evolution the better off you will be.  And if a Digital Strategy helps get you started then that is great news.

Business Strategy
Digital Strategy
ICT Strategy
Developed by the Board and Chief Executive
Strategy Development is Lead By
CEO and Board
Was Marketing, Increasingly CEO & Board
Implications for every aspect of an organisations
Considers Client and Market Needs
Considers Industry and Competitor Behaviour
Considers new technology opportunities

Article Written By: Mark Nicholls.

Managing Director, Information Professionals. 
Mark is one of Australia’s most trusted IT Change Management advisors. He also has other entrepreneurial business interests that he operates through MaidenVoyages.

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Excerpts from “Why Software Is Eating The World” (WSJ OP )
  • More and more major businesses and industries are being run on software and delivered as online services—from movies to agriculture to national defense.
  • The world’s largest bookseller, Amazon, is a software company
  • Largest video service by number of subscribers is a software company: Netflix
  • The most dominant music companies are software companies: Apple’s iTunes, Spotify and Pandora
  • The fastest growing entertainment companies are videogame makers—again, software.
  • And the fastest growing major videogame company is Zynga (maker of games including FarmVille), which delivers its games entirely online.
  • The best new movie production company in many decades, Pixar, was a software company. Disney—Disney!—had to buy Pixar, a software company, to remain relevant in animated movies.
  • Photography, of course, was eaten by software long ago. It’s virtually impossible to buy a mobile phone that doesn’t include a software-powered camera, and photos are uploaded automatically to the Internet for permanent archiving and global sharing. Companies like Shutterfly, Snapfish and Flickr have stepped into Kodak’s place.
  • Today’s largest direct marketing platform is a software company—Google.
  • Today’s fastest growing telecom company is Skype, a software company
  • LinkedIn is today’s fastest growing recruiting company. 
  • If you still need convincing or want to read more, read the entire article.

So you want to be a CEO?

This is a question that frequently raised its head during my tenure as a CIO. Almost as frequently as: does CIO stand for ‘Career is Over?’
There are certainly examples in which CIOs have risen to the rank of CEO. Generally these tend to relate to either company restructures that have seen the emergence of new business subsidiaries under a larger parent, or more typically internal ICT organisations that have restructured as ICT Companies, possibly from what Gartner terms as Internal Services Companies (ISCos). So, yes it can happen!
If that is your aspiration, I’ve provided five tips below to help you to make it happen.  They comprise:


·        Step one – Gaining Acceptance

·        Step two – Achieving Parity

·        Step three – Adopting a CEO Champion

·        Step four – Extenuating the Positives

·        Step five – Establishing your Virtual Footprint

Each is outlined below.

1.     Gaining Acceptance
The fact that CIOs are generally well represented around the ‘Top Table’ these days, removes one significant barrier to career escalation. As senior executives, CIOs get the opportunity to get to know the CEO and possibly members of the Board or Government whichever it happens to be. At the same time, they will have dwelled in the same pastures and to a large extend fed from the same trough as their senior executive colleagues. Above all else they should (if they’ve done their job well) have gained a whole of business perspective as well as fostering a degree of mutual respect and support.
2.     Achieving Parity
At least CIO’s can consider themselves to be alongside the likes of the Chief Finance, Strategy, Operating and or Procurement Officers in the line to the Head Hunter’s door, or can they?
I’ve worked with at least one CFO who has subsequently been appointed as CEO for another organisation and I’ve worked with a variety of other business executives that have done the same. Backgrounds have included Procurement, Engineering and assortment of Business Operational Executive Managers. The experiences differ but they do tend to have some things in common:
·        Most have a solid tertiary qualification;
·        Most have done more than one senior executive role;
·        Most have taken the lead in a significant change/transformation program;
·        All have been driven towards CEO attainment.
3.     Adopting a CEO Champion
Another important factor is that all of them have been mentored and supported by a sponsoring CEO. There is nothing quite like having a well-respected CEO in your corner to champion your cause, to mentor you through the teething troubles or to kick start you on the trail to being a CEO. It is a sure way to attach credibility to your aspirations.
4.     Extenuating the Positives
But there are also a few factors in your favour as a CIO:
·        Likelihood of a strong connection with transformational initiatives?
·        Familiarity with many other parts of business operations and offering a unique perspective?
·        Experience with good governance and service delivery and/or shared services?
·        Tertiary qualified?
·        More than a passing familiarity of the potential for ICT to generate business value.
The first thing to do is to articulate your value proposition.  I suggest using, practising and refining this as an elevator pitch. Then you’ll need to find a nurturing CEO (not the simplest of task in itself) to get you moving in the right circles and elevate your profile. In the interests of achieving parity, a sideways step into an alternative Executive Management role might round-off your preparation.
5.     Establishing your virtual Footprint
Today the tools are at hand to help you to establish and raise your profile on a local, national and international basis. Tools like LinkedIn, Twitter and even Facebook are all at your disposal through which you can boost your virtual presence. Twitter and Blogs especially offer a means to get your views and opinions across, all of which can help to establish your reputation. You may also want to investigate how to accumulate your Klout score via to represent the extent to which ‘you influence the world!’ Keep in mind of course that both good and bad reputations can be made over night!
At the same time, presenting at industry events and getting involved with industry bodies and associations can create openings through which you might display your talents. In other words, plan to migrate from being seen as a company champion to being revered as an industry champion.

In the meantime, as for me I think I’ll just stick to my ‘vowel theory’. That is in terms of my aspirations of moving from ex-CIO to CEO, I’ll continue to dispute the rule that suggests it should be “I comes before E, except after C”!


Tony Welsh
Associate Partner, Information Professionals

Tony has over 30 years experience as an ICT professional including 15 years in Chief Information Officer (CIO) roles. His particular skills include ICT and business strategic planning, program management, business and ICT alignment and stakeholder management. He is particularly valuable for organisations seeking to get more out of their ICT investments and/or to use ICT to transform their organisation.


So you still want to be a CIO?


The Reflective CIO – So you still want to be a CIO?
Welcome back! I figured it was about time to follow up on my original blog. Last time I discussed six time-tested observations I have made over fifteen years as a CIO. This time I thought I’d offer my perspective on a couple of topical subjects:
·       The evolving role of the ICT Organisation
·       The evolving role of the Chief Information Officer
You might believe that the two subjects are intrinsically linked and I would agree but I would suggest that the linkage will be radically redefined over the next couple of years.
1.     The Evolving Role of the ICT Organisation
First off, what are the main drivers for change? Well that might include:
·       Increasing the focus on business improvement
·       Freeing up scarce resources
·       Reducing the costs of running the business
·       Gaining access to a wider pool of capability
·       Refocusing on core business activities
·       Maximising profitability
·       Improving service quality
·       Achieving profitable growth
·       Differentiating products/services
·       Increasing customer self-service
·       Reducing risk
·       Increasing customer loyalty
At the same time you need to respond to emerging trends and realisations:
ICT Commoditisation
Let’s start with a clear definition.  I like the definition provided at – “Almost total lack of meaningful differentiation in the manufactured goods. Commoditised products have thin margins and are sold on the basis of price and not brand. This situation is characterised by standardised, ever cheaper, and common technology that invites more suppliers who lower the prices even further.
That same definition that applies to products can be applied to the services that are associated with those products.  Hence the trend in organisations to divest those services which have traditionally formed the backbone of the ICT Organisation.
BYOD – Now-Generation Outsourcing
An appropriate response to Gen Y and Gen Z consumers (i.e. staff and/or customers) is to let them redefine ICT as we know IT. The hardware is now user defined and supplied. The software and operating system is outsourced and managed over the cloud and Apps are readily available to download to devices of their choice.
In this scenario, the potential responsibility of the ICT Organisation or entity becomes that of providing secure (i.e. portal) access and facilities to update corporate information. BYOD is not without its challenges and it needs to be carefully planned and executed (see 10 Steps to a Successful BYOD Strategy)


Customer Self-Service –ultimate Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)?
An undeniable trend is that of customer self-service. How can it be possible that you can get customers to answer their own queries or choose their own product, at their own expense, in their own time? And there’s more: they can process their own payment, up front, and even make their own arrangements for delivery. Yes and we will rate those businesses very highly!
The world is changing!
Strategic Sourcing
Whereas organisations were once faced with two primary options:
a.     In-house – The generally low value, low cost option
b.     Outsourced – The generally higher cost, higher value option
There is now a multitude of variations available including:
c.      Sole-Sourcing – Outsourcing to one principle vendor
d.     Multi-Sourcing – Outsourcing to multiple vendors
e.     Co-Sourcing – Partnering with a firm that employs staff to meet your long term needs
ICT as a Service
With the emergence of the cloud, a proliferation of ‘ICT as a Service’ variations have emerged providing choices to organisations. These include:
a.     Software as a  Service (SaaS)
b.     Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
c.      Platform as a Service (PaaS)
d.     And other variations are emerging such as Data Centre as a Service (DCaaS).
The theme of ICT as a Service features throughout the Queensland Government ICT Strategy 2013-2017 and increasingly of those in other jurisdictions.
In essence, these services provide for organisations to procure ‘turn-key’ solutions on a regular (eg. monthly) subscription basis. As a consequence the assets remain the property of the service provider as with the responsibility to apply upgrades and refreshments over the contracted term.
In some cases, these services can also be integrated with buy back and leasing arrangements to facilitate flexibility with financing and for those with existing assets.
The Overcoming of the ICT Stigma
Fairly or unfairly, many ICT Organisations carry a reputation for underperforming and failing to deliver business value. Some are judged to be expensive and lacking in capability and frequently external service providers are viewed through rose coloured glasses.


Implications for the ICT Organisation
When you add it all up, it would seem that the writing is on the wall for the ICT Organisation. Indeed, it’s fair to say that the writing has been there for some time. Certainly, as a CIO I have been presenting that message to my teams since at least early 2000. As I look back now, those teams bear very little or no resemblance to the teams of today.  On and off-shore outsourcing and more recently the cloud, have played a major part in redefining them.
In Gartner’s IS Lite publications from 1999, they have espoused the virtues of a slimmed down IS/ICT organisation. Much of that work continues to be relevant today. However, things look to be destined to move to yet a new level. I would expect to see:
a.     Acceleration of the slimming down of ICT organisations
b.     The emergence of new governance structures to accommodate what I refer to as ‘External Trusted Advisors’ (ETAs)
c.      Further divestment of ‘demand-side’ responsibilities i.e. some aspects of architecture and strategy development, business enhancement (e.g. project management) and technology advancement (e.g. prototyping)
d.     Emergence of new roles and capabilities to generate business value in areas such as data analytics, open data, business intelligence, social marketing etc.
They have been saying that the “mainframe is dead” as long as I can remember. The reality is that they are still around but their role that has changed. Likewise, ICT organisations can survive but not in their present form. How will you and your organisation be impacted:
·       What’s your value proposition?
·       Are you relevant?
·       What differentiates your services from those of others?
If your organisation has the right answers to these questions, you might survive and even prosper.
So what will this mean for the staff of the ICT organisation? Well, the technical skills will still be needed but those opportunities will mostly be with ICT Service Providers (SPs) including Cloud SPs. There will continue to be a place for high value capabilities including vendor management, strategic planning, relationship management and portfolio management. Otherwise, it will primarily be those occasional bad experiences with vendors that will slow down the inevitable transition to outsourcing and particularly ICT as a Service.
2.     The evolving role of the Chief Information Officer
So, with the prospect of his/her empire crumbling, will “CIO” finally stand for “Career Is Over”? Well, in some cases the answer is yes. For others it will depend on two main factors:
·       How progressive is the CIO?
·       How aligned is the CIO with the CEO?
Progressive CIOs will be reflecting on this blog as confirmation of the career development strategy that they already have in mind. Others might re-think theirs and start getting on board. The remainder I will call Blue Sky CIOs – because they see no room for the cloud – are most likely to dismiss the scenario I’ve outlined as being unrealistic. Well, to each, their own. What is for certain is that the role of the CIO is evolving. What is equally certain is that the role is evolving in different directions. These include that of:
·       The Chief Digital Officer (CDO)
CDOs will typically have experience with digital technologies, e-commerce and digital transaction processing, social media and online marketing. They will be concerned about how digital changes marketing, recruitment, procurement, sales and finance. They will be heavily involved in data analytics and in employing Business Intelligence and influencing business strategy to adapt to the Digital Age. The CDO’s focus is customer-focused (front end) technologies.
·       The ‘Traditional’ CIO/CTO
CIOs/CTOs toil to keep leading companies abreast of cumbersome, enterprise-wide technology upgrades and efficiencies – virtual servers, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and IT infrastructure of all kinds. The domain includes the maintenance of Enterprise Architecture, policies and standards was well as traditional ICT services such as Desktop support, telecommunications management, applications development. As these services increasingly become the domain of external service providers over the cloud, the role will become less relevant.
·       The ‘Hybrid’ CIO
The ‘Hybrid CIO’ reflects the evolution of the CIO as a business leader, tasked with leading business transformation with equal focus on business process optimisation, information exploitation and technology innovation. In the scheme of things, this will result in the technology taking a back seat with emphasis switching to stakeholder management, vendor management and cloud service brokering rather than ICT service delivery. Business Process Management and Data Analytics (as with the CDO) will be at the forefront.
·       The ‘Virtual’ CIO
It’s also worth contemplating the role of the ‘Virtual CIO’. For SMEs unable to retain a permanent CIO and for larger organisations requiring CIO capabilities to plan or oversee transformational changes, this might present an answer. It might apply for traditional, hybrid or even Digital nuances. Essentially we’re talking about CIO as a Service (CIOaaS) which may have particular appeal to organisations contemplating a move on from their current arrangement but being less certain of the flavour they need next.
With each alternative role I expect significant change. The likelihood is that the traditional CIO/CTO will operate with a reduced sphere of influence – to a large part reverting back to the role of ICT Manager and being consumed within the domain of the CFO, CMO or even the CDO. Not all CIOs will make the transition to CDO and many will choose not to. For those that don’t, I suggest that transition to the ‘Hybrid CIO’ role would offer a better alternative and (possibly) a transition step to being a CDO.
Final Word

It’s going to be an interesting time ahead for both CIOs and ICT organisations. Now would be a good time to contemplate what the coming changes will mean for you as a CIO or an aspiring CIO and to position yourself to make the most of it. Thanks for reading!

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Comment, please leave us your thoughts.


Tony WelshTony Welsh
Associate Partner, Information Professionals

Tony has over 30 years experience as an ICT professional including 15 years in Chief Information Officer (CIO) roles. His particular skills include ICT and business strategic planning, program management, business and ICT alignment and stakeholder management. He is particularly valuable for organisations seeking to get more out of their ICT investments and/or to use ICT to transform their organisation.

What happens in the Bahamas?

I cant claim to being a fashion guru.  I hope I dress well enough but I dont know that industry from an industry perspective, fashion seems to be such a complex and multi-layered industry.

How they decide that “silver is in this year” or that “the 50s is making a comeback” is of a complete unknown to me.  But I am thinking that I should start working on that.

After all, the fashion industry is not so different from the technology industry.  Each year the IT industry decides upon its own “fashionable” IT investments.  This year we are being told that Big Data, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), Cloud, among other are on the top priorities for IT decision makers this year.

Cloud was on the list last year.  BYOD has been a recent addition.  What will survive to next year, what will get dropped and what will come along new.  Should we be looking forward with anticipation?

Where do these IT fashions get decided.  It is a global phenomena.  What we get on the IT Fashion hit list in Australia comes from a global list.  Who decides this, how is it decided, and where?

The list doesn’t seem to come from the IT purchasers themselves, eg. CIOs.  They may have some influence but they don’t decide it.  Whatever the list contains, we know that the biggest technology industry players have got their marketing plans set based on the IT Fashion list.  And the IT Fashion list comes in a suitably substantiated way with the support of the major research firms.  Yes those research firms that receive some of their research funding from those biggest technology industry players.

So maybe that’s where this list comes from.  Maybe the big technology industry players and the big research firms gather, perhaps with a token top end CIO or two and they decide upon the IT Fashion list?

I think that this is what happens.  And my guess is that they do this at a lovely annual event in the Bahamas. 

Fair enough if that happens.  But lets bring it out in the open. 

Why not make an industry event from this, “The Global Technology Direction awards”.  We could have the nominees, and the winners.  We could have the life time achievement technologies, like the HP Scientific Calculator or the Relational Database.

We would all get to see what was coming, we could prepare, we could make some decisions and help our business colleagues reconcile the facts amongst the eventual hype.  How we invest in IT could be based on much more considered grounds and how well they suit our industry and business priorities.

But then maybe that would not work so well.  Cant let the purchasers think they have a choice.  Much better to have them follow the crowd, even if it is a global rent-a-crowd.


Mark is the founder of Information Professionals and Managing Director. He is one of the most trusted IT management advisors in Australia, and has managed, advised or reviewed some of the most complex IT and Change Management projects in Australia. A full outline of Mark and his Bio is available here.

Big Data – Business or Technology Problem?

Big Data – the technology challenge for our age, or part of the ongoing development of the art of management?  You get a strong technology push if you listen to the messages coming from the ICT vendor, enterprise software and consulting communities.

We have a different take on Big Data – we see it as a bigger challenge and opportunity than just transmitting and storing large amounts of data.
For many years now, the teaching of business strategy has been about looking at the environment, identifying the relevant signals and then acting on them.
We liken this to the historical challenges faced by the explorers setting out on sea voyages of discovery.  At the outset, they may not have known their destination – indeed the very nature of exploration is to see what’s out there.  However, they did not set out blindly.  The captain, navigator and crew all had their particular skills to help drive the ship, and in doing this they had to take in, act on and manage lots of signals – the weather, the sun and stars, their food supplies, enemies (and pirates!).
Isn’t this akin to today’s business planning and management?  Todays’ business managers have to do their job in a world where the data that’s available is growing exponentially.  Still, their challenges remain the same – managing the torrent of data and turning it into useful information.
So now, we come to big data.  The challenge for management is to both manage this data (and that includes the technology issues to do with bandwidth and storage) and to use it to their advantage.  Analysing and acting on Big Data enables more real time decision making, insight discovery and process optimisation.
How do we address the big data challenge??
Well, the storage vendors say “buy more”.  They may even be joined by the CIOs in saying this. The CEOs are saying “how will this benefit us”?  The CFOs, on the other hand, are saying “how do I pay for this – where’s the financial return”?  The HR managers are saying “who’s going to manage this – who has the skills”?  And the customers (and corporate lawyers) are saying “what about the privacy of my information”?
So senior executives can be forgiven for asking “What’s going on? Who else is working on this? What information is out there that I need and what would we do if we had it?”
This brings us back to the original question.  Is big data a technology issue or a wider management challenge?  We believe that the technology cannot be ignored.  However, we also believe that there are bigger problems to solve – management, skills, planning – to name a few.
That’s our thinking.   
What’s yours?  
Are you doing anything in the big data space? Do you have any successes that you would like to share?  What do you think is the biggest roadblock to embarking on your voyage of big data discovery? 



Written by Information Professionals – Senior Consultants, David Ekert and Tom Collins.

David is an experienced Program Manager, CIO, business manager and a CPA (Certified Practicing Accountant). David has a broad range of Finance, HR, IT and Program Management capabilities, having provided well considered opinions and trusted advice to others over a period of many years. David maintains his CPA and AIM memberships and keeps his knowledge current on emerging issues for his government and business clients.
Tom has over 11 years Organisation Development and Project Management experience leading and managing business improvement in large and medium size organisations. Tom’s key consulting expertise includes business process review, customer relationship management, change management, workshop facilitation, systems planning, development and implementation. 
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So what’s up Doc! Why aren’t you sleeping?

Written by: Georges Cascales

I was asked not long ago what kept me awake at night as a CIO. This is a great question, but an even more important question is, what helps me have a peaceful sleep.

I can recall all of those times where I tossed and turned, too tired to get up, but unable to go back to sleep. And I can say with certainty, it isn’t much fun.

I refer to those things that can keep me awake through the year as my unwelcome stimulants.  Those things that help me sleep are my relaxants. I will cover my first three unwelcome stimulants below along with the very welcome relaxants I have used with success.  

Availability of systems: A major outage of critical systems would be materially disastrous for the organisations we work for or large transactions of data which failed overnight processing would have grave consequence on the next day business operations. My relaxant is Operational Change Management. It is a critical process to mitigate this concern. If I have confidence in it and how effectively we are doing it then I sleep well. 

Security: Environments are getting more complex and the risk and number of threats is increasing all of the time. One slip may have disastrous effect on systems availability and therefore impact on the business. Well-designed security architecture and up-to-date operational systems can avoid this and hence is my relaxant.  This means being on the front foot and thinking ahead of the threat rather than being responsive to them.  If I know we are doing this then I can be at peace. 

Program Delivery: There is always the need to ensure that large programs are delivering expected benefits. However, delays in programs or programs can have the reverse effect and actually cost the organisation money. Effective and transparent program/project assurance is a critical relaxantfor me.  Knowing qualified others are looking inside the engine room of each Program and Project ensures I get my much needed beauty sleep.     

In my next post I will cover my last four unwelcome stimulants, that include my concerns for Staff Well being, Stakeholder Engagement, Vendor Relationships and Ethical Behavior.  Plus the must have relaxants that are tied to each.

I’m also aware, from experience, that there are perhaps things that I don’t know.

This means I need a general set of relaxants to help me rest easy at the end of most days. I’ll also cover what works for me in ensuring I uncover these unknowns in a following post.


IP Senior Consultant, Georges Cascales 

Georges has held senior positions for over 30 years in the ICT Industry. This has included CIO roles with Endeavour Energy and Queensland Urban Utilities. Georges has a particular understanding of the utility (energy and water) and Health industries. He has particular interest in program and project delivery and methodologies, and providing assurance and peace-of-mind for CIOs and business executives.

So you want to be a CIO?

The Reflective CIO – So you want to be a CIO?

Welcome to my premiere blog post. The theme is “The Reflective CIO” for those who have considered the question: “I want to be a CIO?”. I will present views based on my own observations and first hand experiences.

Over a 15 year period, across multiple organisations, my own CIO roles have been quite diverse. This includes very large public sector ICT environments in both NZ and Australia. I’ve driven rapid transformation of ICT services, reinvented an organisation using Business Process Reengineering (BPR), leveraged ICT to transform business operations, commissioned data centres, and managed all facets of ICT operations, projects, strategy and architecture and stakeholder relationship management. Acting as a change agent and a change protagonist has been a common feature throughout my CIO career. I see leading change as a prerequisite quality for a CIO.
Being a CIO has presented me with many challenges. Many of these are as relevant today as they have always been and include:
  • How to be seen to reduce ICT costs without sacrificing service levels
  • How to improve business and ICT relationships and collaboration;
  • How to bring a commercial focus to public service ICT;
  • How to refresh capability and right-size ICT.
Plus there are many more and I will eventually cover them all in upcoming posts.  Through these experiences I have gained a damn good education as the top ICT decision maker in several excellent organisations.  This is an education I am happy to pass on, to fast track your own path, and improve the practice of the Chief Information Officer.

To get started, I have outlined my retrospective CIO wisdom to serve as food for thought.  In doing so, consider what type of CIO you are, or would you want to be?  We all have our strengths and weaknesses.  And yours, just like mine, mean that you will be better suited to some challenges than others, and will best solve these challenges in your own way.  As you ponder this, consider these, the things in my view that will never change:

1. You will need dogged determination if you are to succeed as a CIO

I rate ‘dogged determination’ as the number one prerequisite attribute for a CIO. The lyrics: “I get knocked down, but I get up again” come ringing in my ears like a resounding anthem. You have an undeniable duty to take your organisation on a journey. That journey may involve smooth sailing or, more likely, a rough crossing through unchartered waters. 

2. Should the Business drive ICT or should ICT drive the business?

Current technology trends include the needs to navigate through the cloud, embrace (or contain) social media and exploit Big Data. In the past, equivalent evolutions might have included such things as: client server technologies, ERP and wireless networks. At the same time CIOs need to be intimately connected to the business with their fingers on the pulse, formulating approaches to help differentiate the business in the market, support operational improvements, or help protect market share from companies or products that didn’t even exist last month.
it is clear that ICT is indeed driving every business, many markets and whole industries.  Technology and business challenges are irrefutably and increasingly linked and paradigm shifts will continue to emerge. But one thing should always remain constant.  All ICT should always be approached from the business perspective.

3. Success will be measured through the eyes of your customers
Achieving 99.9% server availability alone doesn’t cut it anymore. In fact such service levels will be assumed and organisations will look to source such guarantees over the cloud. Only end to end service availability counts. That includes the servers, the applications, the structured and unstructured data and records, the web services, the networks and the tools that bind them all together. Add the business processes and the performance of staff and the value chain is complete.
Ultimately it’s about the number of repeat orders, the number of referrals and/or the value and volume of sales. It’s about the utilisation of assets, the return on investment and the value of shareholder earnings. In short, it’s not about technology at all.  ICT organisations will need to significantly redefine themselves if they are to have relevance. New value propositions need to be devised and new business models need to be created to ensure your organisation is gaining the value from ICT that it will need not only to survive, but to prosper.

4. You’re only as good as the team you lead

ICT in a large and complex organisation generally extends well beyond the capacity of even the most seasoned CIO. Inevitably the CIO’s role must elevate to that of a ‘Lead CIO’ with ‘trusted advisors’ taking their places as Subject Area CIOs – example subject areas could be Strategy/Architecture, Portfolios, Programs and Projects, Capability Development & Sourcing, Service Delivery, Relationship Management.

As you decide what type of CIO you are going to be, it will be important for you to appoint complementary skills to your team. If you are a big picture conceptual strategic thinker with a mission to transform the business, you will need to include some ‘finisher’ traits with attention to detail. Likewise, too much technological competence and not enough business and customer affinity may seriously hinder stakeholder management and relationships.

5. Don’t expect recognition and you won’t be disappointed
Once you have dusted yourself off from all the knockbacks and redefined your purpose in real business terms you are ready for your due recognition. Surprise! It’s not coming. In actual fact it’s your peers on the executive team who are basking in his/her new found glory. Sales targets are being trumped month after month. Customer satisfaction is reaching new heady heights. The share price is 20% up for the year and a generous bonus is winging its way through in bits and bytes to their bank accounts. You’ve done well!

6. Talk the talk before you walk alongside your customers
For many years observers have marvelled over the seemingly irresistible tendency for ICT people to riddle plain English sentences with incomprehensible jargon. This trait singularly accounts for more broken relationships with business associates than any other vice. Why do we do it? Well apart from attempting to preserve the mystique behind our craft, it seems that we have a belief that it elevates us to a specialist status. In actual fact it simply reveals our craft to be more of a black art than any science, rendering it and us to be untrustworthy and unreliable. If ICT is to be an integral part of the business and not stand apart then using business language that business people can understand will get you there more quickly than anything else.  If you feel ready to take on that challenge, perhaps you’re ready to be a CIO.
Well that’s my starting post. I would welcome your thoughts.

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Tony Welsh
Associate Partner, Information Professionals

Tony has over 30 years experience as an ICT professional including 15 years in Chief Information Officer (CIO) roles. His particular skills include ICT and business strategic planning, program management, business and ICT alignment and stakeholder management. He is particularly valuable for organisations seeking to get more out of their ICT investments and/or to use ICT to transform their organisation.