Why I LOVE Linkedin.

It was a problem in search of a solution.   

Communication Breakdown.
For Project Managers, the problem ‘bubbles up’ at an awful moment of realisation.  The new technology the project is installing and which will rely on collaboration and information sharing to deliver business benefits – is incompatible with your client’s business culture.  How could it have come to this and what do you do?  Compartmentalise the problem by calling it ‘out of scope’ or tell your client the truth – that their business won’t get a ‘bang for their buck’ from their investment because the culture gap is just too big to cross.     
It was during one of those discussions among peers that a ‘cut through’ insight about the problem came from an Enterprise Architect. “Why can’t change and benefits be integrated into enterprise architecture before the project starts, and before the influence of silo thinking and competing mindsets takes hold?
The chain of ideas was continued by a Change Manager and an IT Benefits Manager.  “Of course, integrating enterprise architecture and benefits goals would have a deeper and more effective impact on project viability, and it makes a lot of sense to assess cultural compatibility well before the project starts”.   This led to a more focussed discussion within the broader peer group about what this approach to change would look like, how it would fit together, how it could reduce risk and whether we could be certain that the problem IT Project Managers agonize over – and which our group had spent the best part of a month talking about – could be eliminated.   This in turn led to a realisation that we should develop these ideas further.   And so this is what I found myself doing in my spare time, contributing towards developing a better and more viable approach to change management in a project environment.
Chain of Collaboration.
The discussion did not take place in a workshop or a business strategy meeting.  The Enterprise Architect was in Montreal, Canada, the Change Manager and the Benefits Manager were in Brisbane, Australia.  Other contributors and reviewers were from Canada, United States, South Africa and the Netherlands.  It happened in one of those virtual networking spaces that we are increasingly gravitating towards to meet peers, build networks and collaborate around common interests – the linkedingroup for change management practitioners.   
These collaborations are commonplace nowadays.  New communities, causes and peer groups are formed everyday because technology enables it.   The tools we have at our finger tips are cheap, quick and effective.  And we like the speed at which we can connect, review others work, give feedback on ideas and contribute to innovation.   What started out as a professional networking space has literally exploded into a place of marketplace of ideas, debate and opportunity.   
I started taking cautious steps in this world, which led to more experimentation from increased confidence.   Here you interact, share ideas and participate in two-way communication.  It takes a leap of faith to do this with people you’ve never met.  But my experiences so far have taught me that the bad’s co-exist with the good’s.  Communication takes a constant effort, misunderstandings are frequent and disengagement is frustrating.  Continued engagement is vital, because without it, people do not share information freely or offer up the ideas needed to drive new thinking about the problems and challenges we face as practitioners.  

After each interaction, I resolve to get better at virtual communication.   I like being part of this world and am relaxed about where collaboration leads.  I am also curious about what it takes to build a cohesive team in cyberspace, a team that is robust enough to work through its creative tension and build the trust needed to keep engaged as volunteers.  So I keep engaged – contribute, learn, extend my network and try different things – some work and some don’t.   But I know we are a team and I feel confident that our work will contribute something important to the body of change management knowledge.  

– 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:  au.linkedin.com/pub/janet-crews/6/900/907

When a Butterfly Flaps its Wings…Big Data style…Financial Market Risk in Play

One of the biggest and most pressing issues in the financial and trading industry today is meeting all the challenges connected to high frequency trading or HFT. HFT is an ultra-fast, computerised segment of finance that is now accounting for most trades. Last May 2010, HFT was one of the reasons why the Dow Jones Industrial Average suffered from a sudden fall or a “flash crash”. This type of trading, however, is very different now from what it was three years ago because of one element — Big Data.

Big Data is a term used to refer to data sets that are too complex and large that they cannot be managed by just standard software alone. The financial market produces some of the biggest data of all with the trades, quotes, consumer research, earnings statements, polls, news articles, and official statistical releases involved.

When things go crash people go crazy.

Different generations of HFT have their different approaches as demonstrated by the unsophisticated speed exploits price discrepancies that the first generation of HFT had. Recent profits, in comparison with 2009, from the ultra fast trading firms were reported to be 74 percent lower by the Rosenblatt Securities, proving that being very fast is simply not enough now. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Marcos Lopez de Prado have argued that more and more HFT companies are putting their hopes on what is called “strategic sequential trading” which consists of algorithms that analyse financial Big Data in order to identify footprints left by certain market participants. For instance, when a mutual fund executes large orders in the first second of every minute before the closing of the market, the algorithm will be able to detect that pattern and anticipate that the fund will continue following that trend for the rest of the trade.

This type of HFT, however, can go wrong as reflected by what is referred to as the “hash crash” that happened on April 23, 2013. During this incident, a market drop happened because of a bogus tweet sent by the Associated Press talking about a terrorist attack on Barack Obama. It is different from the incident that happened on May 2010 since it was not caused by rapid sales creating more sales. Instead, it was triggered by a speed crash—specifically a Big Data crash.

Two years ago, it became common for hedge funds to get their market sentiment from whatever happens in social media. Here, trading algorithms based from messages posted on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and chat rooms are used to detect demand trends that might be related to certain companies. The downside is that these algorithms are making guesses on new information based on small sets of data. Recent months have also seen an increase on developing algorithms that do orders as soon as unexpected and unscheduled information is suddenly published such as terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

The bad news is that addressing this problem will need the ability to understand the mutating Big Data brings. The good news, on the other hand, is that regulators entirely acknowledge the need for the market to adapt to this problem. Commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Scott O’Malia recently said in a Big Data Finance Conference that something needs to be done about the fact that “reckless behaviour” is now used in exchange of “market manipulaton.” Even though trading using information collected from social media may be accepted, pre-loading sweeping market orders just because an algorithm detected something different is considered reckless.

The question now is how can regulators make sure that trading participants use Big Data in a responsible way? The CFTC have considered before whether regulators should start certifying the algorithms of traders. This, however, posed the potential for interference and intellectual property theft. A compromise proposed was for market participants to set real-time indices that track what is deemed reckless behaviour instead. Once a trader crosses thresholds, he would be prosecuted. These indices, of course, will evolve with the market and can be defined in consensus by the market participants.

Big Data has been transforming markets the past few years. However, there is also the need to transform with them, especially when it comes to their appropriate regulation. This defines the challenge for those who find themselves lagging behind the speed of these changes, with government naturally amongst them.

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.

 If you liked this blog check out our other material at Informpros.com
Don’t forget to post your thoughts and comments below…

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 www.BusinessDirectory.com – “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 http://www.qld.gov.au/dsitia/assets/documents/ict-strategy.pdf 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!

If you like this article, share it! 

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.

Government taxes, industry policy and the increasing relevance of ICT

Recent noise from the current federal government on various topics is increasingly seen as just that…noise. But that doesn’t mean that some of it is not without relevance and will become more so in the coming years.

I am referring to the discussion on tax minimisation by large corporates and in particular global tech corporates. It is a topic being discussed amongst all major western nations. This includes Australia, the UK and the USA where these tech corporates achieve solid revenue yet are alleged to pay just a fraction of tax in comparison to what would be their apparent profits. Of course their real profits are a lot less than their apparent profits, hence their ability to pay reduced tax.

One way they can achieve these lower real profits is through having to pay for the intellectual property that their products and services utilise. Local expenses include payments for this intellectual property, which is paid to the overseas owner of this intellectual property. The overseas owner of the intellectual property is an overseas entity of the same global corporate, and could reside in a lower taxing nation. Hence, via these payments, which are effectively an internal trading mechanism, they lower their profits in higher taxing nations and increase their profits in low taxing nations achieving a net global tax reduction.

This is not a new concept. It has been used for as long as I have understood such things, and probably a lot longer than that. For instance, Ireland became a hub for a lot of software development activities through the early to mid ’90s. This was due to Ireland’s tax and industry development policies, supporting its plans to grow its local software development industry. Many global, or global aspiring companies took advantage and started building offshore software and intellectual property development capability out of Ireland at that time. This dynamic remains in play today.

What is changing however is the increasing reliance on intellectual property in our everyday lives, reflected via the increasing revenues of companies providing technology products and services. And these companies are now becoming the biggest companies in the world, and have the ability be as innovative with their tax practices as they do with their products and services.

It is a natural role for government to want to protect their revenue base, and perhaps natural from some sides of politics to kick those who are successful, but this ignores the real issues.

Senator John McCain, one time Presidential nominee asked a very valid question of Apple CEO Tim Cook, at a senate committee hearing last month on this very issue, asking “couldn’t one draw the conclusion that you and Apple have an unfair advantage over domestic based corporations and companies, in other words, smaller companies in this country that don’t have the same ability that you do to locate in Ireland or other countries overseas?”

If it does, and I think the answer is obvious, then this issue has implications beyond tax receipts, with implications for those who want an industry policy that support innovation, supports new entrants, by lowering economy of scale impacts, and lowering barriers for growth.

For instance, if a start up is forced to pay 30c in the dollar in tax, and its competitors pay 10c in the dollar, that is an extra 20c in the dollar that can be reinvested into RnD, into marketing, into customer service, and into investor returns, thus attracting more clients and more investors. The formula is simple. The start up has a steeper climb ahead.

The ability for some nations to produce tax policies which attract investment or industry development is not a new phenomena. Michael Porter published The Competitive Advantage of Nations in 1990. In my view this should form compulsory reading for all politicians.

This point seems to be getting missed in the current debate about whether these corporates pay their fair share. In Australia, it is common practice for states to compete for the attraction of head offices through the application of state tax policy, such as payroll tax. Yet, we seem to have forgotten that as a nation, we too compete with other nations, for our share of industry.

And in a world where the global value of technology based products and services are increasing, and where intellectual property forms a larger and larger share of these products and services, then the opportunity to move profits based on internal trading of intellectual property will only increase.

The question for government becomes less one of how do we punish corporates that are successful in navigating the existing regime (although that will always be an easy political play), to how do we construct a tax regime which caters for this new reality.

The new reality is that Intellectual Property has increasing commercial value and importance. And the ability a nation has to create conditions that encourage local development and retention of intellectual property will define its global advantage. Australian government policies have never been good at reflecting this understanding.

What they will understand is that tax revenues will come under more pressure as profit based taxes perform poorly. This will also distort the tax take between those with the means for international structuring from those that do not or cannot structure this way.

This bodes well for increasing the scope and rate for transactional taxes such as the GST to restore both equality and equity to the tax take. And hence rely less on profit based taxes as a result.

Protecting the revenue base is a defensive reaction of the type we are used to our politicians taking. So the above shift in tax policy is a certainty in the next decade.

Taking a proactive leadership role in repositioning industry policy to attract intellectual property development and exploitation is a whole other story. Yet, proactive leadership is what is required in an age when information and communications technology (ICT) is moving rapidly and creating industry and community change just as rapidly.

There are enough corporate corpses over the past few decades to show that being proactive and not reactive to these ICT driven changes is the only thing that gives a shot at survival.

It is this need to take proactive leadership by our politicians that will be a big test for Australia. Lets see how the next 10 years goes.

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.

 If you liked this blog check out our other material at Informpros.com
Post your thoughts and comments below…

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.

What do the ACC Sports probe, the NBN and Big Data have in common?

Each of these topics: The ACC (Australian Crime Commission) Organised Crime and Drugs in Sport investigation, the NBN (National Broadband Network), and Big Data are all very topical right now.  So what do they have in common?  I argue that they each relate to one of the latest emerging challenges associated with technology.
In Australia, the NBN is argued about every day, what technology at what cost and various options around how to do it better.  While most agree on the benefit, most arguments surround the cost and the approach being taken.  Just last week there were claims and counter claims about using Cable TV Coax as a stepping stone to a faster broadband rollout.  Albeit not as fast as fibre but quite possibly existing infrastructure that could be put to better use than it currently is.  Of course Telstra do use the Foxtel cable to provide cable internet to some degree.  In considering the best option to improve internet speed quickly across Australia, accurate data on the existing infrastructure is important.  But what happens if that data is wrong?
Well it is wrong.  How wrong I don’t know but completely wrong in some cases.  I recently moved home.  The new apartment block I moved into was ADSL only…no cable, ADSL over copper phone line.  On moving in, I plugged the usual array of cables in and Foxtel worked straight out of the wall…great!  Made we wonder what the Foxtel guy was going to do when he turned up.  He did show, and berated me for choosing ADSL over cable.  “I didn’t request ADSL” I said, “Telstra says that’s all the building has got”.  Well this bloke persisted, and I half paid attention, until he said “Give that a go”, pointing to my recently retired cable modem that he had plugged in.  He was right, Telstra was wrong, I had internet via cable! 
So how wrong are the records on what IT infrastructure exists in Australia?  Anyone who has developed business cases and considered investment scenarios know that you can change any decision with a few tweaks of input data. What impact could that have on sound investment choices, particularly a $40B investment choice? But in some respects, errors of this type in corporate data is quite normal.  So this should be expected and should (hopefully) have been catered for in every Business Case
But this use of data is a rather conventional one.  Big Data concepts take another step.  With Big Data, there is the promise that with increased data we can gain more information, more insights, make better decisions, see things that we could never see before, or if we could see them, we can now prove them as fact.  It can allow us to move beyond big monolithic data use, such as an investment case, and look at finer trends that we can apply to individual circumstance.
Big Data problem solving allows us to make decisions with more precision based on individual circumstances.  This more granular decision making can define how we treat certain customer groups, certain profiles of people, pulling apart the broader community and understanding the parts that make up one.
It could be used for instance to move beyond an Australia wide internet business case and look at internet use and needs by geographies, by profession, by family type and many more criteria.  Services can then be targeted more specifically to specific granular groups.  The more detailed the definition of the group, the more potential for more personalised services specific to each of our particular needs.  We could understand behaviours by a suburb, by a street, or an apartment block, or perhaps a family group.
The challenge when we get to this level of granularity is that error rates can skyrocket.  For instance, if there is a 5% error rate in the data stored about cable TV infrastructure in Australia, then for that 5%, the data is 100% wrong.  Let’s take my new apartment building.  Telstra’s records aren’t 5% wrong here, they are 100% wrong.  So if a marketer or a service provider or a government department was making decisions about people here based on that data they would be completely wrong.  If they told the world about that then they would misrepresent us.
So in theory, while Big Data concepts sound full of promise, small error rates on a big population group, can turn into huge error rates on a small population group.  So the quality of data and the assumptions and definitions about that data start mattering a whole lot more.
If the granularity of the data starts approaching very small groups, perhaps even groups of one, then at some point we stop being a statistic on customer behaviour and start becoming tracked, personally.  In this case, those using that data are no longer doing statistical analysis, they are starting to do personal analysis. 
If you stop to consider the type of data that is easily collected about you, then a picture can easily be built about you based merely on:
1.       Topics of interest and personal/professional relationships 
(from Phone calls and emails and other electronic communications)
2.       Financial situation and financial relationships 
(Banking and Financial transactions)
3.       Where you have been and who you have visited
(Location based tracking from smart phones)
Information gathered by a bank and a telecommunications company could easily be combined to create a picture of you based on the above.  So where should this line lie between you as a statistic and you being revealed and tracked as a person?  What rules should therefore apply to that data as it approaches the level of detail that says something about you?  This is an area of interest to policy makers, legislators and privacy advocates and understandably so.  Information at this level of granularity would need to have some obligations and responsibilities that go with it.
Data gathering and analysis at this level has typically been the province of intelligence gathering organisations.  They are regulated and trained in the appropriate use of such intelligence.  The recent Australian Crime Commission announcements have upset some that feel they have been unfairly smeared as guilty when they are not.  This has created debate about the way information of this nature should be managed and released. But these issues and the risks associated with them are moving beyond the specialised and highly regulated world of intelligence organisations and law enforcement.
Drugs in Sport
Big Data concepts will allow analysis by organisations (or groups of organisations) to approach analysis of a group of one.  And it is not currently governed by the type of control that the ACC operates under.  And as my experience of Telstra data shows, in some cases they can have the most basic of data very very wrong.  
Some people don’t care about privacy, they have nothing to hide they say and they stand for the greater good theory.  But what happens if the data held about you is wrong.  And what happens if that becomes public, or worse still, conclusions are made about you based on that flawed data. How do you defend that, and perhaps why should you have to?
With Big Data techniques, poor data integrity, lack of control and a lack of foresight by regulators about these emerging challenges, we may find that it is more than a few footballers and sports administrators facing reputation challenges in years to come.
It has been said that many technologies do not change human behaviour but accelerate or magnify the effects of it.  False rumours have been in society for ever and a day.  Will we now start facing false rumours, spread globally, and substantiated with specific facts…facts that are based on data that is fundamentally incorrect?  Is anyone looking forward to a magnified future that looks like that?

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.

 If you liked this blog check out our other material at Informpros.com
Post your thoughts and comments below…

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. 
 If you liked this blog check out our other material at Informpros.com
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IT and finance issues…is this going to be an issue for you?

A topic that is gaining lots of interest of late is the financial treatment of IT investments. Sound boring, well maybe, but if you need to find funds from year to year, or one off for a crucial project then this topic may be crucial.

What we are working on right now is the financial treatment of IT costs as it relates to capital versus operational expenditure. This impacts many people, often in different ways due to varying interpretations.  And the impacts (and no doubt interpretations) will only increase as the use of service based IT (i.e. cloud based computing) becomes more prolific.

Is this an issue in your organisation? We will be keen to hear your views.

And don’t think this is a trivial issue to solve. Firstly there is the interpretation element, and the need to comply with accounting principles and perhaps tax and other regulatory requirements. Then there is the innovative financial structuring options available from finance experts which can package products and services to meet buyers financing requirements. And then finally, there is internal budgeting and funding policies and rules where central finance and treasury departments have long justified and funded IT in particular ways, and are used to constraining operational and capital funding based on the historical treatment of IT expenditure.

There is quite a few issues to understand. My views are:

  1. These issues do need to be understood to remove artificial impediments to organisations generating Return on Investment (ROI) for their business. 
  2. Cloud based computing will heighten the need for improved understanding of this issue.
  3. Financial structuring options will allow most things to be done, in most cases, offering ample flexibility
  4. Central financial and treasury departments will need to learn to adapt, otherwise they will soon be holding their organisation back

If you have your own view about this, or are seeing some impacts already across industry then let us know.  Tell us:

  1. Have you had or have you seen others experience roadblocks in this area?
  2. Are you aware of what solutions are being adopted?
  3. Do you think this problem will increase or decrease in the future?

We are in our Research phase on this right now, your input would be valued.

Post your thoughts and comments below…

Project Manager…or are you?

As management practitioners of all things ICT and business change, us IPers read with note recently that the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM) recently held their annual ball, and that it was a masquerade ball.

Now all sorts of thoughts ran through our mind about this..and the funny puns we could make.  Then came the reality of playing this out on social media and the dangers involved in misfiring jokes.  So as management consulting types, what did we do. Well we talked about it.  And after a quick debate we thought we could make some comments, but they had to be good taste and they should not be personal in any way.  Certainly we had to be thoughtful and responsible citizens on social media.

Recent news has highlighted many reasons to stay away from social media, particularly if your name happens to be Jones, Gillard or Abbott, and the last thing we wanted to do was open up a can of worms that we couldn’t close.  But we also know that social media isn’t going away, and every opportunity like this is an opportunity to test the waters of what we could and could not say, and be lively vibrant members of the communities we are involved in.

At the same time, we are very fond of our Project Manager sole mates, in fact we have many of them among us.  I even count myself amongst this crowd, presenting to the AIPM Queensland State Conference last month.  And as we are fond of them, then the brotherly and Aussie thing to do is to reflect that love with a joke or two.  Besides, if the comedy, “Big Bang Theory” can be tastefully funny, rejoicing the diversity of professional life, and do so in a way that is non offensive then isn’t it worth a try?

The question then became, what kind of jokes.  How can we be tastefully funny, non-personal and avoid the cans of worms?  After all, social media seems to have increased the available cans of worms which can be easily and unknowingly opened.

We had a nice repertoire of one liners ready, just perfect for a bunch of Project Managers dressing up in masquerade!  Lines like:

  • I think they should have used a risk avoidance rather than risk mitigation strategy on that outfit; or
  • I doubt they got change control approval from their wife/husband on that dress; or
  • I don’t know whether he has realised he has moved from risk management to issue management as soon as he stepped into the ballroom tonight; or
  • The way she is dressed there could be any number of successor relationships lining up on her schedule tonight

But in the end, we became too concerned about causing offence to anyone .  We gave up.  We have the brain power of multiple CIOs, CFOs and more serious management grunt than many ICT shops in Australia could poke a stick at, but we took the easy way out.  Yes, the risk of social media is a tough battle ground.

This is very much unlike the PMs.  They may have debated the moral hazard of wearing masquerade.  But their own unique style of being PMs allowed them to deal with such matters as being irrelevant.  They were focused, just as PMs can be, on one thing, and that is on having fun, completely oblivious to the world around them.

And good on them for that.  Stand proud PMs, stand proud!

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.

How can the world’s best be the worst?

I am just back from a long overseas holiday and enjoyed the wonderful differences and equally, our similarities as humans, across various parts of the world.

One of these occured at the Musee du Louvre, arguably one of the greatest museums in the world, certainly one of the largest, and apparently the most visited.  This was my first time here and I really loved the place, but there was one part that I didnt love….their IT facilities.  Yes, even when I was on holidays, I was working, it’s true.

I am referring to the IT facilities they provide to their clients (visitors) in the form of their electronic guides, an audio and visual handheld Nintendo device which guides you through the museum, tells you about exibits etc etc..

I consider myself fairly tech savvy when it comes to dealing with tech devices, but I struggled, really I did, they were hard to use…confusing…misleading.  Both Patsy and I had one.  It took me a while but I did manage to navigate through their hard to use screens to get both of our devices to a place where it tracks us through the museum.  I held them side by side walking through the Louvre under the Pyramid, heading to where I thought we wanted to go, only to have both devices say we were in different places in the Museum and going in different directions.  It was at this point I packed them in the bag and gave up.  The old school paper map became my friend.

‘A crack in the organisation’

When we finished our visit, I handed these Nintendo devices back in and provided some feedback.  Initially the response was a standard “OK, thanks”, but I said a little more firmly “No, they are really bad, hard to use and confusing”. I then got a great bout of honesty, being told “Yes, we know, none of the customers like them, many of us staff cannot use them.  They were from Head Office.  They never come down here, they dont know what its like to use them here.”  Wow, I just discovered a big crack in that organisation with minimal effort apart from the 5 Euro a piece they charge for them!

If I compare that to MONA (Museum of New and Old Art) in Tasmania, the IT and device support is superb, easy to use, playful, interactive, it really adds to the experience, and at no extra charge.  Plus you can revisit your experience afterwards online via their web site…just superb.

We all know that customer service is crucial today, but how much do you know about the way your IT is supporting or restricting your clients from having a great experience.  And how often have you asked for an honest view from those who interact with your customers every day.  Clearly The Louvre, despite them being a museum for over 200 years, still have things to learn. 

Maybe they could call David Walsh’s team at MONA, I am sure they would be happy to help.  And from what I know about David, I am sure he could cut a nice volume based pay as you go deal for The Louvre too.

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.