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.

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.

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. 

What ever happened to e- ?

What ever happened to e- ? You remember don’t you?

The time when everything that had some technology element to it was referred to as e-something…. e-enabled, e-business, e-reader, e-marketing.
How time moves on. We rarely see this now. Not only the technology develops, but I suggest the terminology moves even faster. Along with the popularity of the iPhone was the i-everything but that is now not fashionable either.

I was at an Australian Institute of Company Directors event this evening. It was on Digital Strategy, the impact that technology was having on business, on competitors, on industry structure, on internal risk management and a multitude of other critical business impacts. But No, it was not about these, or at least not all of them. It covered some of this ground but not all. It covered, what used to be called e-marketing or perhaps what we could call Digital (Marketing) Strategy.

This is an important area. Social media, marketing, employee engagement, customer intelligence are all critical. But there is more to the impact of technology than this.

My fellow colleagues at the event asked two questions in particular that I enjoyed that were reflective of this bigger picture. One question was about Board capability and competence in relation to marketing, technology and the like. Another question related to competitor behaviour and business model design, and I shall add to that with own interpretation of suggesting a link to industry structure. These considerations are all crucial to forming a complete view of the digital/technology/information age related change impacts on all organisations, and indeed on the community at large.

These change impacts are happening in waves. One of the latest waves is on marketing. Not that marketing hasn’t been impacted before. It has. But now it is gaining pace and importance, and in some quarters, the Chief Marketing Officer is claimed to be a bigger technology purchaser than the Chief Information Officer.

And so now we have the Digital Strategy. The “marketers who do technology” are now getting so powerful they too can reinvent their own terms. After all the “technologists who do marketing” have been doing this for a long time.

There is a broader picture here though. There was a time in history when finance was not a skill or capability pervasive to all business people. Today you would not get far without it. This evolution is happening with technology. Eventually technology related skills and perspectives, and being able to apply these into every role and every part of the organisation will be standard practice. This remains some decades away.

But stay tuned, the changes are continuous and there are many many steps ahead, despite what we have already seen. And whatever happens, there is bound to be a new name we can call it too.

Written by: 


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.

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Another project failure…yaaawn or should we?

The latest ERP or IT implementation failure has hit the news. This one is from the US and cost the company an estimated US$440M!

Apart from the attraction of a disaster story then why should this really be of any relevance to anyone in the industry?

1. Firstly because many of the risks that cause these are not understood or appreciated and so are never managed. And even if the project team recognises them, they may not get support from their management or executive team to proactively deal with them.

2. Secondly, even when some of these risks are recognised as being a risk, there is a view that they can be dealt with when they occur. Unfortunately, in some cases, this is impossible. In this case, the millions were lost within a minute as trading systems malfunctioned. In the case of the Queensland Health Payroll, once the system went live there was no path to turn back and no easy way forward, with more pain necessary before recovery could occur.  Knowing which risks can be managed post impact and which must be avoided is crucial.

3. And thirdly, and sadly, the expectations of what is normal in implementing IT is impacted by these and other less catastrophic outcomes. Standards drop and mediocrity becomes the new normal for IT implementations.  That could be the case in your organisation.  The accepted way of implementing change in some organisations is to struggle and accept that there will be delays and disruptions.  This creates a good case for avoiding change next time, which cannot be good for business long term.

Each of these failure scenarios are avoidable and unnecessary. And in many cases at minimal to no additional cost. The challenge for organisations like us at Information Professionals is getting organisations like yours (our clients and prospective clients) to accept that a better way is possible, in a world where the problem is not seen or accepted until it is too late.

So in that sense, these horror stories can help. But they can also not help. If they make us look like scare mongers, perhaps ambulance chasers, then they are not healthy for anyone including us.

But the issue is real, and it can be better managed, and we do help our clients do so.

Mark Nicholls

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 is the drive for efficiency harming our lives?

We hear about the need for efficiency a lot these days…projects being delivered on-time and on-budget, primarily an efficiency measure; companies announcing cost cutting and staff cutting, an efficiency measure; governments talking tough about budgets and about budget cuts, again an efficiency measure.

Where does effectiveness come into play in these decisions?  In each of the above scenarios, effectiveness criteria could also be applied but is not.  Is that a challenge in communicating value to stakeholders?  In many cases, efficiency measures are measures of inputs.  Effectiveness measures are more often measures of outputs.  Where efficiency (inputs) are targeted for improvement and effectiveness (outputs) are not, then the ramifications should be obvious.  We end up delivering less with less.

For instance, in a project, there are many examples of hitting cost and time efficiency measures by scaling back scope or quality.  The business then carries the overheads and workarounds to make the flawed solution work.  More effort is spent doing what they need to do (less effective) because someone else has needed to be efficient (deliver to budget).  The net effectiveness of the organisation drops.

Now I am not proposing that we drop budgets, but the ease of measurement of efficiencies such as budgets, or at least the habit by which we grab a hold of these measures is creating a distortion of what is important….in my view.

How many times do we hear governments announce programs based on budget allocations.  Budgets are an input measure not an output, and if it is the only measure available then that program can be subject to “efficiency” gains without a corresponding consideration of impact on effectiveness as a result of the efficiency drive.

It would be refreshing to hear new initiatives based on effectiveness or outputs, such as “improve approval times for 457 visa applications” or “reduce waiting periods on public housing for high risk people”.

This would also provide program and project teams with a more meaningful target that they were aiming to achieve, it may promote improved accountability, and may lead to more effective government.  Call me a dreamer, but anything that helps government and corporates alike achieve more with less has to be a good thing.

And the only way of achieving more is to focus on the outputs.

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.

Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things. – Peter Drucker

Getting behind the veil of public and private sector IT project performance

There has been some recent debate about project performance/failure rates and the difference between public and private sector project delivery performance.

Stakeholder complexity, procurement arrangements are valid differentiators in the public sector.

I would argue that clarity of objectives is one of the major challenges facing the public sector, with political and social outcomes sometimes driving certain initiatives. This is not to say that this isn’t the case in Private Sector. It can be, but I would argue that projects aimed at achieving political and social objectives (in full or part) are more common in the public sector than private. This is a big issue. Without clarity of objectives, and perhaps the ability to measure against them, then directing stakeholders towards a common objective is more challenging.

And in assessing performance how can one say that an objective has been achieved when they cannot be measured. Or perhaps in politics, if I become skeptical for a moment, how can one say it hasn’t been achieved!
While there is the apparent openness of project performance in the Public Sector through reports such as the Victorian Government Ombudsman report (which focused on 10 projects), and various reports surrounding Queensland Health (one project), these are all fairly catastrophic failures, and therefore have become quite public and could not be hidden, even if that was preferred.

At last count, Queensland Government is said to have over 1000 projects of a scale worthy of being included in the incoming government’s audit of IT. And if we apply this scale to Victoria, then the Vic Ombudsman’s report (which I would argue was a very broad public review in recent history of government IT reviews) only picked out 1% that they knew were worthy of using as examples.

I would also argue that this same inability to hide from the truth is what drives private company reporting, or at least private listed companies, if not privately owned companies. Think banks, Aust Pharma to see that statutory reporting drives the need to fess up to IT related project failures. Other than examples which come out through ASX disclosures and similar regulatory requirements it is rare for status to be reported.

So, as for openness, I don’t see much difference. As for performance, then I would think that it depends on the assessment criteria. If the criteria states that the inability to effectively measure project objectives makes for a project’s failure, then it is likely that the public sector would lose on the performance ranking.

As for the impact this dynamic has on attempted benefits management improvements in the Queensland Public Sector in the last few years, well perhaps that is a topic left to another time.

Economic Downturn: Who’s walking and who’s wounded…early views

It maybe too early to ‘post mortem’ the spate of job losses over the past few months, especially since it is not clear whether we’ve ‘hit bottom’ but it is possible to discern some general trends. Chief among these is the perception that ‘Generation Y’ (generally considered to be those born in the 1980’s and 1990’s) is going to have a tougher time than most.

A recent survey, conducted by the Young Emerging Professionals Initiative (YEP) of Spectrum Knowledge and the University of California Fullerton, showed that the Boomer and X generations have some very negative perceptions about the performance of Y’s in the workplace. These include:


    • Members of Generation Y are looking for instant gratification and therefore struggle to stick with projects over the long term.


    • Members of Generation Y feel entitled to job benefits that they have not yet earned.


  • Members of Generation Y are unwilling to ‘pay their dues’ in the workplace
    (The full text of the ‘Gen Y Perceptions Study’ can be downloaded here)


It should be stressed that these points are perceptions and that most Generation Y workers would probably disagree. However, perceptions can create realities and we are starting to see something that is looking suspiciously like revenge!

Several Australian newspapers are reporting that Y’s are being targeted for redundancy ahead of their Boomer and X’er counterparts. It is difficult to determine, beyond anecdotal evidence, whether this is really the case but it does raise interesting issues about how perceptions can actually have ‘real life’ consequences in the workplace. It is clear that at least some managers are thinking about using the current uncertainty to have a go at Generation Y’s perceived lack of commitment and loyalty. This is clearly borne out in the some of the articles discussing the issue. Business Day minces no words with its headline “Less Loyal gen Ys in firing line!” An interviewee in The Australian weighs in with: “…an employer isn’t going to make a commitment to you in tough times if you weren’t prepared to make a commitment to the employer in good times.”

The trend (if it is indeed what it is) towards the reaffirmation of ‘traditional’ business values could have interesting implications in the field of change management. This also raises questions regarding recruitment practices, and workforce planning. It is perhaps up to every manager to decide whether this is a good thing, but it seems that the move towards the much heralded ‘Brave New World of Business’ supposedly spearheaded by Generation Y is not going to happen without at least some resistance.


Perhaps that new office design with the beanbags and foosball table should go on hold…at least for this quarter!

Gartner Symposium ITxpo – November 2007

Gartner Symposium ITxpo (Sydney 20-23 November 2007), held annually is touted as “the single most trusted source of knowledge and advice in the technology world”. Press coverage posted diverse views. We summarise some key points here.

Disruptive discontinuities and altered identities
According to Gartner, dramatic shifts will occur in the near future (up to 2011) which have been termed “Disruptive Discontinuities”, driving new ways for acquiring and overseeing information technology. They are likely to question the business models of suppliers, as well as the ways in which technology is used by their clients. In particular:

  • Software as a service (SaaS) allows business units to detach themselves from the central IT department
  • Web 2.0 proposes new ways of communication and collaboration, and may change ways of doing business
  • “Global-class systems”, i.e., massive platforms that deploy applications well beyond the enterprise
  • Consumerisation means that experiences from the private and leisure use of information technology are being transferred into the enterprise, along with corresponding demands and expectations on IT departments.
  • Open source software underpins each of the other four discontinuities.

These discontinuities should be integrated into the enterprise by:

  • The central IT function not be catering for the organisation entirely; due to the availability of services over the internet, policies and governance principles should be reassessed.
  • Senior IT staff should forget about their affiliation with technology and identify themselves with their vertical industry.
  • Adopting web 2.0 technologies into the organisation for experimenting with new forms of communication and value creation.
  • Empowering users to explore web-based applications for potential innovation
    Differentiating users according to their responsibilities and requirements to amplify their individual effectiveness.
  • The IT unit to focus on its core capabilities, while users assume responsibility for applications accessed over the web. IT managers should follow this direction, or face obliteration.

Economy and government
Gartner analysts branched into economics and policy advice, firstly with the view that APAC (Asia-Pacific), is supposed to sustain its momentum of economic growth, unaffected by developments to the contrary in the United States and Europe. IT budgets in Asia are to increase during the next three years at a rate of nine per cent per annum. On the other hand, Australia’s prospects for growth are forecast to deteriorate, since it is based on the resources boom and not on productivity and innovation.Secondly, Gartner recommended that whole-of-government CIOs in Australia have the same status as in the United States. This would make government CIOs affiliated with the government in office, comparable to secretaries, and in case of a change of government would have to move on. Gartner proposes that government CIOs should become CIO 2.0. This encompasses diverse roles, such as “venture capitalist, economist and political visionary”. Instead of being a manager of supporting infrastructure, the CIO would mediate the department’s requirements with external suppliers, while projects would not be owned by the IT function, but by the business units within a department. The CIO 2.0 might also have been devised as a remedy for procurement challenges. In the past governments have been regarded as homogenous, while they actually are an assemblage of vertical industries leading to departments adopting applications that did not fit them. This has lead to Gartner predicting that “70 percent of whole-of-government integrations will fail by 2010”.
Web 2.0 and Security 3.0
Analysts warned IT managers not to prevent users from accessing web 2.0 applications. Applying zero tolerance on security, meant foregoing opportunities to new ways of operating and resulting in high costs protecting against threats that are not of material consequence. Nowadays, security should be understood by business units rather than IT, and viewed as a managed risk. The alternative approach is now labelled as Security 3.0. Security delivered against any potential threat is difficult and costly yet this is typical. Security 3.0 entails determining acceptable risks and looking beyond the current state by anticipating future threats. It is suggested that this would allow security professionals to stay further ahead in the security “arms race”, where each time a defence has been implemented this is soon being cancelled out by a new means of attack.
TaaS and software prices
Companies’ budgets are said to be under attack by software providers with shrewd licensing and discounting tactics. Veiled behind the offer of a considerable discount on the initial purchase price, usage rights are vague, which may affect licensing costs adversely for the client. Then, companies may be locked into paying ongoing maintenance and support fees, as well as mandatory upgrade cycles with additional charges. However, conditions are supposedly to change for the better within the next ten years. Stronger bargaining positions for the purchaser emerge from business process outsourcing, software-as-a-service, open source software, and the supply of maintenance by third parties, plus competition by new companies from India, China and Brazil. By 2011, a significant portion of IT products is predicted to be sold as a service. This mode of delivery, re-badged by Gartner as technology as a service (TaaS), will upset present market conditions.
Take away
Other themes touched on were Green IT, the emergence and impact of the virtual generation, or Generation V, in particular communication and consumption patterns, as well as the agendas of CIOs for the next three years. This included joining the Business Intelligence bandwagon, which recently attracted attention through acquisition by major developers. So, in summary, what did attendees receive? Firstly, new or altered “terms”, such as ‘TaaS’ instead of SaaS, and the category of ‘global class systems’! Secondly, there was some ‘vendor’ bashing. Thirdly, a name for self promotion, the ‘Government CIO 2.0’, which has been borrowed from a briefing by Deloitte. ‘Security 3.0’ appears to be a daring proposition, and it remains to be seen whether it will gain acceptance. Still, with all this versioning going on—Web 2.0, CIO 2.0, Security 3.0—presenters failed to mention the big one: Bubble 2.0.