IT or digital capability on your Board or governing group (Part 3). The how.

By Mark Nicholls, Partner, Information Professionals
Considering what options you have in order to add more IT or digital capability to your board? Great! If you haven’t had a chance, read our earlier article describing what capabilities you might need, and whether they might be a priority for your organisation/s. We also introduce the difference between the general IT skills and specialist skills of interest to Board Directors.  
digital strategy
Here, we define four approaches you can take for adding the capabilities you’ve identified.  None of them are mutually exclusive so you should mix and match them to suit.  

At times, multiple approaches may be necessary, as it may not be possible to have one person or one way that provides the right capabilities now and into the future. Some of these are better suited to building the general skills introduced in our last article, and some are more relevant to the specific or transient topics that can come and go in prominence from time to time.

The first option to consider is hiring Directors with the Digital/ICT capability who can inject their unique perspectives into your Boardroom.  As covered in our first article, this should not be at the cost of the corporate governance skills that all of your Directors should have.  You should focus firstly on the general IT/digital skills listed in our last article. If you feel you have these covered, then you could also consider specialist IT skills that your organisation will be focusing on over the coming years. 
The benefit of hiring is that there is no better learning than on the job learning. So having someone with good IT/digital skills can bring insights and perspectives that can help your entire Board to lift their own capabilities in this area. If you choose well, you may get someone willing to spend some time outside of the boardroom with your other Directors, to accelerate their learning.  This is a good step to building long term capability in your Boardroom.  Remember though, that depending on your Board culture, and the size of your Board, having one person on their own to quickly change the perspective of your Board, may be asking too much. 

The next option is the active development of your existing skills.  There are multiple ways of doing this.  On the job learning is one way through increased dialogue and discussion at the Board table, and increased discussion and information papers or presentations from the executive team.  As already mentioned, having Directors with more IT/digital savviness can help uplift everyone, either through Board discussions or discussions outside the Boardroom.
Additionally, there are significant opportunities for external training and education.  The AICD is one such body with increasing amounts of IT/digital education for Directors. Another option is coaching and mentoring for some Directors. If you have strong skills on your Executive team then building opportunities for high value contact time between specific Directors and Executive can be helpful. 
Skills development should be adopted by all Directors, as part of their continuous learning. And there is no better area to invest time than in IT/digital, given its changing landscape.

The third option is to extend the Board’s consideration of important or challenging matters through Board Committees or Advisory Boards.  This will be organisation specific, as one topic could be challenging for one organisation, but easy to deal with for a different organisation. 

This approach gives you flexibility to involve Directors (due to their special knowledge or interest, or to support their growth), Executive (due to their role, special knowledge, or to support their growth) and external advisors or experts.
Sometimes Boards may use Committees or Advisory Boards to assess candidates for future Board vacancies.  For those Directors or Chairs concerned about whether bringing in IT/digital skills means sacrificing basic corporate governance skills, then this could be a good testing ground.
Where you have existing Board Committees (eg Risk Management, Remuneration etc), it is prudent to consider how the IT/digital landscape may change their scope and role.  And in doing so, do they have the skills and capabilities to deliberate on this expanded scope.  For example:
  • Does your Risk Management/Audit Committees also cover Security/Privacy? How would this change the operation, make-up, reporting?
  • Does your Nominations/Remuneration Committees also cover IT/digital skill needs and recruitment/retention strategies? Have you got the skills on that committee to understand current and emerging needs in this area?

The final option to consider is consultancy or advisory input.  This could be used to accelerate the improvement in general IT/digital skills across the Board.  

It could also be used for specific topics that may be of interest from time to time.  It could take the form of research and discussion papers, presentations, hosted discussions, and guest presentations.  

About the Author:

Mark Nicholls, Managing Director, InformProsMark Nicholls is the Managing Director and a Partner with Information Professionals Group (IPG). He formed IPG in 2005, after a career of delivering software development and business transformation programs in the telecommunications, transport and government sectors in Australia and overseas including the United States.  

Mark leads IPG’s Programs, Projects and Change Practice.  He is a highly skilled program manager and adviser, specialised in leading, managing and advising organisations on the delivery of ICT, digital and business transformation.  

An active industry participant, Mark was elected to the QLD Council of the Australian Information Industries Association (AIIA) in 2013, was appointed as Chair in 2014 and to the Board of Directors in 2015.  

Mark is the inaugural Chair of the Qld Digital Economy Industry Collaboration Group, involving a range of industry groups that are supporting their constituents in the adoption of digital business.

IT or digital capability on your Board or governing group (Part 2). What capabilities?

By Mark Nicholls, Partner, Information Professionals

If you accept the need to improve the IT/digital capability on your Board or governing group (see our last blog) then a reasonable question is, what skills are required?

This article is unlikely to completely answer this question for your organisation, as all organisations are unique, but it aims to give you some prompts and guidance to assist.  Firstly, we’ll consider your organisation, then the range of skills in IT/digital.

Your own organisation

In considering your organisation, a good place to start is the Tricker Model.  It is one of many lenses you can use to determine where your Board priorities are and therefore where your skill priorities may be in relation to IT/digital.  Other areas to consider include your corporate strategy and corporate risk register.  These may provide guidance on where your priorities are.  You may also want to consider the confidence you have in various skills across your Executive team.

IT versus digital

Know your organisation

In considering what the range of IT/digital skills are, let’s unpack this IT/digital term.  As demonstrated, often when the term ‘IT’ is used, it is in the context of internal organisational capability.  Likewise, when the term ‘digital’ is used it is often in the context of how an organisation relates externally to its customers, competitors, suppliers and the broader ecosystem in which an organisation operates.

Of course the two are related, as it will be challenging to adopt digital externally unless you have the capability internally to deliver. 

When Information Professionals develops ICT strategy, some things we consider include:

  • Governance – how IT decisions are informed, made, implemented and assessed;
  • Alignment – aligning IT strategic priorities and intent with organisational strategy; and
  • Capability – the ability to deliver to the organisation’s needs, leveraging internal and/or external capabilities across infrastructure, security, technology, applications, data, business process and all other domains.

With digital strategy, we consider:

  • Digital marketing – to extend the sales and marketing capabilities into the digital world;
  • Digital business – to integrate digital strategy into business strategy;
  • Digital transformation – to drive digital across the enterprise along with the introduction of digital performance measures; and
  • Digital economy – to widen the scope of influence to the extended value chain and communities in which an organisation operates, and drive digital across this wider group.

How well informed are you and your Board in understanding your current and target state for each of the above areas of ICT and digital?

IT and digital topics

The AICD Essential Director
briefing (referenced in the previous blog) provides some guidance on where the peak body for Directors defines key areas of interest for the Director community.  Since 2013, these areas are:

Social Media; IT Governance; Current IT Issues (NBN, BYOD, Big Data, The Cloud, Cybersecurity, Innovation)
Governance Landscape (Innovation, Social Media); Technology Trends (Digital transformation, Data, analytics and the power of information, Mobile, Cloud computing, Cyber security and resilience, IT-enabled projects, 3D printing and additive manufacturing, Robotics, Quantified self, Australia’s place in the digital economy)
Risk Management (Cybercrime, Social Media, Real-Time Performance Dashboards); Technology Trends (Fintech Start Up Hub, Stone & Chalk, Crowdfunding, Retail Omni-Channel, Internet of Things, Live Streaming)
Exponential Technology” (how “Technology has become indivisible from how people, enterprises and governments operate); Digital Disruption; Virtual Reality; Machine Learning; Data Analytics; Blockchain

Amongst these topics, there are a few themes which repeat over multiple years. The bolded topics are a clue.  These themes form a guide on the general skills each of us need to have.  They are:

  1. IT Governance (2013: IT Governance; 2014: IT-enabled projects)
  2. Digital Transformation (2013: Innovation; 2014: Innovation & Digital Transformation; 2016: Exponential Technology, Digital Disruption)
  3. Digital Media (2013: Social Media; 2014: Social Media; 2015: Social Media)
  4. Security and Privacy (2013: Cyber security; 2014: Cyber security and resilience; 2015: Cyber crime)
  5. Data and Analytics (2013: Big Data; 2014: Data Analytics and the Power of Information; 2015: Real-Time Performance Dashboards; 2016: Data Analytics)
  6. Digital Ecosystem (2014: Australia’s place in the digital economy; 2015: Fintech Start Up Hub, Stone & Chalk)

Each of these themes will have varying degrees of interest to all organisations and will feature in some form, for many years ahead.  Therefore, it will be prudent to consider how savvy your Board is in being able to properly enquire on, consider and discuss them.

What is most important about these themes is that they can be applied to many specific technologies that you may be encountering now and in the future.

Other topics covered in the AICD briefings are specific and more transient technologies which will have greater or lesser prominence for your organisation, both now and in the future.  They include:

  • 2013: NBN, BYOD, Cloud
  • 2014: Mobile, Cloud computing, 3D printing and additive manufacturing, Robotics, Quantified Self
  • 2015: Retail Omni-Channel, Internet of Things, Live Streaming
  • 2016: Virtual Reality, Machine Learning, Blockchain

These specific topics and others may come and go in prominence for your organisation over time.  If any of these (or other areas) are a priority for your organisation, then please consider how well informed your Board is.  However just because there is a focus on, for example, cloud or machine learning, in your current strategy, it may not warrant bringing on a Director with knowledge in these specific areas.

There are multiple ways of ensuring your Board is well equipped to oversee its responsibilities in relation to IT and digital.  In our next blog we’ll discuss what they are and how you can apply them.

About the Author:

Mark Nicholls, Managing Director, InformProsMark Nicholls is the Managing Director and a Partner with Information Professionals Group (IPG). He formed IPG in 2005, after a career of delivering software development and business transformation programs in the telecommunications, transport and government sectors in Australia and overseas including the United States.  Mark leads IPG’s Programs, Projects and Change Practice.  He is a highly skilled program manager and adviser, specialised in leading, managing and advising organisations on the delivery of ICT, digital and business transformation.  

Mark is an active industry participant. In 2013 he was elected to the QLD Council of the Australian Information Industries Association (AIIA), was appointed as Chair in 2014 and to the Board of Directors in 2015.  

Mark is the inaugural Chair of the Qld Digital Economy Industry Collaboration Group, involving a range of industry groups that are supporting their constituents in the adoption of digital business.


IT or digital capability on your Board or governing group. Do you need it? Why?

By Mark Nicholls, Partner, Information Professionals
Considering whether you need information technology (IT) or digital capability on your Board? Then the first question to ask yourself is why.
It’s interesting how views have changed in just a few years. Take the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) over the past five years. Each year, the AICD runs their Essential Director briefing and produces the Essential Director Handbook.  This is a useful gauge of where the peak body sees the role of IT/digital.
Alan Cameron, NSW Law Reform Commission

When presenting the 2013 Essential Director briefing, at the Wesley Conference Centre in Sydney, Alan Cameron said: “IT is now such a critical issue that failure to monitor and govern it properly is likely to be a failure of the director’s basic duty of care and diligence”.

He reflected on his own perspectives, stating that when the Essential Director handbook was first drafted, he considered removing the IT matters from it.  On further consideration, he accepted that many IT issues confront all directors, not just those of IT organisations.
2013 was the first year where IT/digital was covered.  Since then this trend is demonstrated by the IT/digital topics covered within the Essential Director Handbooks.  Let’s take a look:
Total Pages
Dedicated to IT/Digital
8 pp
6 pp
In this past year, the % seems to have plateaued.  However, I will be interested to see where it lands in 2017 given the increased focus on digital both as a disruptor and an opportunity.  It is certainly now clear that IT/digital is firmly a key issue that should be continually addressed as part of a Board’s governance and strategy role.
IT management meeting

However, one objection has been stated by some very experienced Directors. It is that bringing in “special” skills like IT onto a Board comes at the cost of “traditional” skills, like being able to read financials or understand risks.  In my opinion, this view is a little misplaced for a few reasons.  Firstly, it sounds like they may have experienced a less than optimal Director appointment process. Perhaps there was a requirement to populate the Board with only a relatively narrow range of capabilities and without sufficient diversity. That can happen.  Not having the minimum mandatory skills to be a Board member should never be sacrificed, and shouldn’t have to be. However, the ideal Board composition should contain enough diversity of skills and backgrounds to adequately address all the challenges that the organisation faces, and of course this should include IT. There are many capable people out there that have the basic competency requirements as well as that of ICT/digital.

Secondly, there is an error in thinking that an understanding and appreciation of IT/digital is a specialist skill.  It is not.  It is a new general skill for all managers and directors.  I am old enough to remember a time when some senior executives and managers had trouble reading a set of financial statements, leaving such an understanding to the “bean counters”.  These days this attitude would be rare.  Today, financial literacy is an accepted general skill.  I would argue that the same evolution is underway with IT/digital.
If you need any more convincing, and I am sure most of you don’t, ask yourself these questions… who are the global leaders in:

Bookselling, then publishing then retailing and more………………..Amazon
Video entertainment………………………………………………….Netflix
Music entertainment………………………………….iTunes, Spotify and Pandora
Movie production ……..……………………….. Pixar (bought by Disney)
Photography…………….…….Apple, Samsung plus Shutterfly, Snapfish and Flickr
Direct marketing ……………………………………………….Google, Groupon
Recruitment Company ….………….…………………………..LinkedIn
Taxi/Personal transport……………………………………………Uber
News media…..…………………………………….Google, Facebook, Apple
Each of these are leaders in a marketplace that used to be a physical marketplace, that is now largely a digital marketplace and they have leading IT capability to support them. 
If you accept the need for improved managed IT services capability on your Board, then the next question is, in which areas and how.  There are a few methods that are available to you to make these determinations.  We’ll cover that in an upcoming blog.
About the Author:Mark Nicholls, Managing Director, InformProsMark Nicholls is the Managing Director and a Partner with Information Professionals Group (IPG). He formed IPG in 2005, after a career of delivering software development and business transformation programs in the telecommunications, transport and government sectors in Australia and overseas including the United States.  Mark leads IPG’s Programs, Projects and Change Practice.  He is a highly skilled program manager and adviser, specialised in leading, managing and advising organisations on the delivery of ICT, digital and business transformation.  

Mark is an active industry participant. In 2013 he was elected to the QLD Council of the Australian Information Industries Association (AIIA), was appointed as Chair in 2014 and to the Board of Directors in 2015.

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 Next Step for the CIO

Has the sun finally set for the traditional CIO as we see him or her? Well the short answer is maybe. 


All you have to do is look back 10 years and you’ll find that the role has basically transformed, so it is not so hard to believe that it will do so again. With the onset of the Digital Age, we should really try to bring the CIO up to date.
Is it reasonable to consider the CIO in terms of a service rather that a person? Why not considering the CIO has been doing his/her utmost to translate everyone else’s job into a generic role and in turn to a generic set of services/components. The emergence of the service-based ICT organisation, together with the adoption of outsourcing and cloud, has facilitated this in the form of ‘ICT as a Service’.
So why not start by breaking down the service:



The next question is: can these services be delivered as a virtual service or set of services?

Established frameworks such as TOGAF, P3M3/Prince2, ISO/IEC, COBIT and ITIL/ITSM offer guidelines to codify Strategic Planning, Program Management, Risk Management, Governance and Technology Leadership. 
Organisation Design and Development are largely experiential with models and frameworks widely available. Stakeholder Management can also be imported as this is based around relationship management although the level of intimacy might be difficult to emulate.
It is also true that many CIOs already import many of these skills through the engagement of consultancies. This demonstrates that virtual capabilities may already be in place at an additional cost to the organisation. This is to some extent understandable as the CIO role has expanded exponentially over recent times.
It is worth considering what the potential constraints to setting up a virtual CIO arrangement are?
  1. Cost
    The likelihood is that the cost of not having a full time CIO can be more than offset with having a Virtual Substitute for 50% of their time.
  2. Loss of business intimacy 
    Whilst this is probably the hardest to replace, having best in class Strategic Planning and Architecture frameworks in place will enable the essence of the business to be modelled.
  3. Loss of accessibility (i.e. to strategic ICT adviceThis facility can be available ‘on tap’ with the added advantage of having multiple CIO substitutes available to consult.
  4. Loss of capability 
    As above, expect to extend capability by assembling the combined expertise of 3 or 4 Virtual CIOs.
There might be other constraints but these are most likely to be the most significant. In summary, the Virtual CIO service offers the potential advantage of being more cost effective, equally business intimate and substantially more accessible and capable.

To really step up to the Digital Age, it seems that the next logical step is to create the Digital CIO. This would require the ‘CIO as an Avatar’ to be created before teleporting him/her/it into the stratosphere – an area 10km to 50km above the Earth’s surface that has no Clouds.
About the Author
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.

Self Improvement – A Bakers Dozen

Personal, professional and team growth is a foundation upon which an organisation innovates, elaborates and expands. A key component of this process is the commitment to continuous improvement even when managing change across the organisation, and more importantly, by the people within the organisation.
A quick survey across the web highlights a plethora of tips, tricks, hints, and clues to help one continuously improve one’s performance. All of these may be summarised into three actions:
  1. Do better at what you do
  2. Use your time well
  3. Give yourself space to create.
These actions, and the activities within each of these three actions, provide a Bakers Dozen guide to continuous improvement.

Do better at what you do

ONE – Listen: Listening is the cornerstone for any improvement. Through it comes feedback on what others perceive is done well, what is not done so well, and what can be improved.
TWO – Set milestones and reward yourself: To improve on what one does, it is necessary to be able to measure what is done and provide self-feedback on the success, or not, of completing those tasks. Milestones provide a clear baseline that indicates when tasks are completed or not, and provide a method by which one can deem the completion of those tasks a success.
THREE – Learn when to sprint: Everyone works at a different pace. Sportspeople learn to conserve their strength for when it is crucial to have that last kick. Business people would do well to learn the same. If one works at full capacity for an extended time, the ability to “put in” when it is crucial is diminished. It is important to learn how to muster ones energies.
FOUR – Clean your space: Although some believe that a messy work area is conducive to creativity, studies show this is just not the case. A tidy work area, where things come easily to hand, will help you work better and more efficiently.
FIVE – Close the feedback loop: As with listening, once feedback is received, it is important to close the loop, providing a response to the feedback that was received – either through actions or words. This can better one’s performance and the perceptions of those around a person.

Use your time well

SIX – Plan and prioritise: Planning puts in place the framework for performance. By putting ones efforts into the most important activity first, it improves ones performance.
SEVEN – Run a better meeting: Estimates on the time people spend in meetings range from 25% to 80%. To run a better meeting improves everyone’s performance.
EIGHT – Know yourself: One often over estimates or underestimates the time needed to complete a task. By understanding ones’ bias, then the probability of meeting timeframes and delivering as expected will improve.
NINE – Do one thing at a time: There is a theory that multi-tasking is a skill which is easy to develop and necessary as part of the business world. However, as with a messy/tidy desk, the research does not support this assumption. There are very strong indications that a minority of people can actually multi-task effectively. For most people, it is inefficient, as the process of putting down one task and picking up another requires re-orientation that wastes any time that may have been saved by trying to do more than one task at a time.

Give yourself space to create

TEN – Read something new: To continue to improve ones’ performance, one needs to expand ones knowledge and experience base. An easy way to do this is to read something new, or see something new, or experience a new thing.
ELEVEN – Ask a question: To grow, one needs to be challenged. One of the easiest techniques to challenge ones position, and to create a new position, is to ask a question.
TWELVE – Get out of the office: A response to a situation, a person, or a problem is often constrained by the environment. Stepping out of that environment, be it the office, the home office, or the home, can create an entirely new environment and a new mind set for looking at an opportunity or a problem.
THIRTEEN – Stay healthy: As passé as the saying “healthy body health mind” is, there is much truth in it. Keeping an active and healthy body improves the health and quality of the mind. A healthy mind can lead to a creative mental life.
There are obviously more than 13 points to continuously improve ones’ performance, and different ways and methods for consolidating these points to best suit each individual. These 13 points may provide ideas for continuously improving ones’ personal performance, that of the company one works for, and the people with whom one works.

Are there any missing that are important to you?

Lynn Kincade managing consultant information professionals group

Written by: Lynn Kincade – General Manager, Managing Consultant, Programs Projects Change Practice.


Common Questions about Project Assurance, Answered.

When we do Assurance work on Programs and Projects we sometimes encounter questions which reflect some misunderstanding of the role of Assurance.

This is a few examples along with our answers.
Q. The assurance team has the right of veto over key decisions such as go-live?
A. No, this is highly unlikely.  An assurance process only provides a report, which should include recommendations.  It is then up to the accountable managers or groups to make decisions as it sees fit.  Most projects do go live with some risk.  It is up to the accountable managers to make well informed decisions on behalf of their organisation.  The Assurance team helps them to be well informed.  If, of course, the project is that much in bad shape that it shouldn’t go live, then the assurance team should make this recommendation.  It doesn’t always mean that this recommendation is followed through on though.
Q. The assurance team can impact on contract milestones and whether suppliers get paid?
A. It is unlikely that this would happen directly, or that this would be a recommendation.  If an assurance team was asked to comment on the achievement of a milestone, and a supplier had a payment linked to that milestone, then this could occur.  But the accountable managers overseeing the project can always choose to ignore aspects of an assurance report, if they wish to.
Q. The assurance team can provide opinions on your performance and potentially your tenure?
A. Most assurance work is not about individual performance, but team or program/project performance.  If you are concerned about this, you can always ask the team what aspects they have been asked to review.
Q. The assurance team decides whether the project gets shut down or funded?
A. The assurance team doesn’t decide these things, but could make recommendations which have a direct impact on these decisions.  If you are concerned that the project may get shut down, or may not get funded there will be a reason for that.  Ultimately the accountable managers will need to consider their options and make a decision.  The assurance report will be an input into their decision making.
Q. The Assurance team is like an auditor and will report non-compliance?
A. It depends on the type of assurance requested as to whether it has a strong compliance focus or not.  Where there are defined standards or processes not being followed, they will likely be reported upon if they are material to the overall findings. 
Q. Is it mandatory to turn up to an assurance interview?
A. That does depend on your organisation, but it is normally accepted practice.  You have been selected for a reason.  If you do choose not to attend, it will depend on the organisation and the Program/Project Sponsor and potentially on your boss as to whether there will be any ramifications.  It can also provide some insight into the team work on the program/project if some team members don’t want to attend an assurance interview.
Q. Is it mandatory to provide requested documents/deliverables?
A. If there is no apparent reason to withhold access then this won’t go down well, as it kind of wastes everyone’s time.  If you feel you have a good reason for withholding access, then you should let the Assurance team know, seek direction from the Sponsor or your boss, and then comply accordingly.  If the Assurance Team can’t get access to some documents for a variety of reason than this would be reported upon and it may change the complexion of risks and issues reported upon.

Article Written By: Mark Nicholls

Managing Director, Information Professionals. 






Founder 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.

What is Data Migration? – Confessions of a Data Migration Dummy

Confessions of a data migration dummy
I remain forever grateful to a Data Centre Team Leader who helped me understand data migration. 
“Janet” he said “the data has to have a home to go to”.
And at that moment I finally got it.  Before that I had been going to meetings, reading documents and simply not understanding what people were talking about.  Asking questions just created more confusion. My role at the time was change support for a Data Centre during and after a major migration exercise, so I really needed to understand this, what would happen and who and what would be affected so I could communicate this to others and help everyone get ready.

What the Team Leader did was what we often have to do in IT projects – use a metaphor or analogy to get a point across. For me, the main barrier to understanding migration was the limitation of my own mental models. So when the team leader talked about the data finding a home, this bought forward an image of many different houses and their contents moving to a large apartment block. So from thinking about this I understood how migration happened, why clean data was important, and why care and attention that had to be given to timing and managing business continuity risk.
Catering for different mental models is nothing new in IT projects.  Whatever our speciality we all need to understand who and what we are dealing with and pay attention to the language we use.  From time to time, I notice the tendency to feign understanding and not ask questions for fear of looking ignorant. I prefer tolerate the eye rolling reaction to an admission of ignorance simply because the explanation is important to me and the people I work with. I wonder sometimes what George Orwell would make of the language of IT. 
I think that he would like the precision and clarity of some technology terms but would be quite dismissive of words or expressions that mean nothing. When communicating IT concepts or complex project management processes, we all need to be good communicators who think about the audience.  This is especially so for cloud deployments which come with new concepts and language that take time to grasp.
A good rule of thumb is this.  If you don’t understand it yourself, you won’t be able to explain it to others. And if stakeholders don’t understand you – in time they will disengage – which is a major risk for projects who need engaged stakeholders to be successful. 

Nothing is lost by asking the question – but a lot can be gained from making the effort to understand something new.    

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:

Farewell to a friend.

Farewell to a Friend.
We lost a friend recently in Greg McCallum, who sadly passed away on the 13th August 2014.  Greg became an Advisory Board member in 2012.  I first met Greg in 2010 at an AICD (Australian Institute of Company Directors) organised site visit to Rio Tinto Alcan’s Gladstone facilities, and we shared each other’s company over a beer on the charter flight back to Brisbane.  It was then that I learned of Greg’s roles in government and industry and in particular his role as CEO of Citec, overseeing that organisation’s journey from internal government service provider to commercial organisation.
Since then, Greg and I, attended a number of industry events.  This included CeBIT in Sydney in 2011.  It was at that time over breakfast that I learnt of Greg’s special appetite for Vegemite.  Greg had a enormous appetite for this Aussie icon, and a special talent for consuming it the way he did.  But he was equally polite, gently requesting that one avert their eyes, prior to him enjoying his favoured breakfast food.
It was at a Premier Campbell Newman lunch, one of his first after being elected in 2012, where Greg’s ability to provide a short frank assessment on a topic can be best illustrated.  Premier Newman spoke of the need for cultural change in the public service and increased risk taking and innovation by Public Servants.  Turning to Greg for his opinions on this view, Greg dryly stated with his well entrenched understanding of public service “Well it will only happen if he (the Premier) supports it.  So he has made a start.”.
For those who have known Greg, it was obvious that he had battled with his health for many years.  But despite his degrading body, his mind was always quick in wit and observation.  He dealt with his physical challenges in the same way that most of us deal with our daily commute….sometimes annoying and occasionally frustrating, but always nothing more than a necessary part of the daily routine.
Last year, talking to Greg in the lead up to one of our Advisory Board meetings, he listed a number of recent health challenges he had faced in the preceding months.  Some of them moderate, some serious.  But in typical Greg style, it ended with the statement “but I should be right for next week’s meeting”.  And he was.
Greg and I had exchanged emails several times this year, the last in this previous month.  This year seemed to be presenting a few more health challenges than normal for Greg.  With little regard for these obstacles, again in typical Greg style, he was stoically determined to make it into the city and meet as soon as he could.  Sadly he never made it. 

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.