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Automation of Consulting and Decision Making Processes

Tags: , , , , , Advance, Advice, Assess, Process Design, Strategy
photo credit: NightRStar via photopin cc

photo credit: NightRStar via photopin cc

In the early days of IT we saw the simple capture of data and automation of basic repetitive processes – frankly by around the 1990s this wave of automation was largely complete. We have seen in the subsequent years the rise of the automation of reporting and monitoring systems. It is now time for the automation of decision making. All around from the rise of Big Data to the social network, semi-automated decision making processes are now enabling sound decision making, e.g. where to invest money, who to connect with on Linkedin to where to have lunch.

Read the rest of the article at our sister blog Strategy4IT: http://www.strategy4it.com/automation-of-consulting-and-decision-making-processes/

Operational Risk and BCP

Assess, Assure, Data Centre, Process Design, Strategy
photo credit: rcbodden via photopin cc

photo credit: rcbodden via photopin cc

There is nothing like learning from mistakes and experience.  Strategy and process design is best grounded in the reality of experience.  I would like to share a real story of an incident that I remember to often when looking at plans and remind myself that there is always more than the obvious to learn when things go wrong. On the surface this story has one key learning point but digging deeper revealed three.

A major trading organisation data centre loses their air con system to one of the two chillers that cool the data centre.  Most people even in IT are not aware that air con is as fundamental as power in data centres. Put simply, 10,000 servers produce a lot of heat.   In this case the temperature in the cabinets furthest from the working units reached 120 degrees Celsius – despite emergency fans being added to circulate the air and direct the hot air to the cooler end.  120 degrees – oven temperature!  To keep temperatures down all non essential systems had to be shut down, all live BCP running was removed to reduce load and as many as possible MIS and other non core transaction processing systems had to be shut down; as the incident constitutes an emergency.

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Out of Control Projects

Tags: , , Advice, Assess, Business
photo credit: wwarby via photopin cc

photo credit: wwarby via photopin cc

While writing the previous true story about the real world of IT financing, I was inspired to share another horror story that I’ve encountered in my years in IT. It begins with being sent in to sort out a major counterparty risk project in one of the banks that was supposed to be delivering a solution for Basel 2 compliance.  What the project was is probably irrelevant to the story but anyone spending money on a project that at that point had been running for 18 months and not delivering anything – spending in excess of 10 million Euros per annum – must ask serious questions.  It quickly became clear that the project had only 4 internal staff with more than 50 externals.  Cynically, one could say that the externals were milking the programme for whatever they could get.  Slashing the project to 15 people delivered more in 6 months than 60 people had in 18.  Adding a proper steering committee and asking real questions rather than the previous “nodding dogs” meant real focus on value for money.

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The Real World of IT Financing – A True Story

Tags: , , , , , , , , Assess, Business, Strategy, Uncategorized
photo credit: Steve Snodgrass via photopin cc

photo credit: Steve Snodgrass via photopin cc

Inspired by recent projects being undertaken by cibsys, I started thinking about some war stories I have heard through the years. The following blog post looks at an example of what could and does go wrong if you don’t ask important questions about IT financials.

The outline of the story was to resolve an IT budget crisis, where the COO was forecasting 10% over, dealing with figures in excess of ten million. In other words, there was a pressing need for fast remedial action to prevent disaster.  The regional CIO was a brilliant technical lead with fantastic ideas, who delivered amazing software surrounded by like-minded technical staff.  The one lonely voice in his management team who was screaming to be heard was his business manager who could see the pending crisis of budget and funding but was not being listened to.  The reality was that the forecast was way off, there was no real spend tracking and that the ledgers actuals were so far behind the reality of spend that no one really knew what was being spent and where the money was going.   There was dire need for proper departmental financial controls and proper forecasting in addition to the basic ones in finance department.

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IT Strategy and User Behaviour

Tags: , , , , , , Assess, Data Centre, Strategy
photo credit: redjar via photopin cc

photo credit: redjar via photopin cc

Many CIOs will look at their IT Strategy as portfolio optimisation, choosing the most effective tools for each area of the business. However, an effective strategy with a holistic approach should also attempt to look at the way the tools are used and adapt the behaviour within the organisation.  In this blog entry I am going to look at a couple of examples of ways that behaviours can influence IT cost-effectiveness. Let us start with a topic that is driving up costs in all organizations worldwide – storage.  We are all guilty of poor storage management, myself included.  For a simple presentation for the team, how many of us add a photo to the cover page of our PowerPoint presentations? Do we really need that degree of prettiness to create an impact? Perhaps for an external presentation but for our own team? Not really.

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Procrastination is Not a Strategy

Tags: , , , , , , Assess, Business, Strategy, Strategy4IT
I was avoiding writing my next blog post, by doing anything except concentrating on the job in hand when I came across this interesting article on the BBC website. So, what has that got to do with strategy decisions and implementation? In this case, I guess it comes back to pro-actively setting aside time to focus on doing what, at times, can feel like an extra task that no one needs. As I have discussed previously, your business can drift without a strategy for a while. In the short term, it will probably be fine just to patch up the holes and fire-fight any major issues.Deep down though, you know as well as I do, that time and tide waits for no man (or woman for that matter), and that something will eventually have to be done about the ancient servers, the underused data centre and the ancient operating systems on the employees’ desktops.  

How Do Your Systems Bricks Align?

Tags: , , , , , Advice, Assess, Business, Strategy4IT
photo credit: davidhc via photopin cc

photo credit: davidhc via photopin cc

Here we go with another organisational analogy, this time, visualising your organisation as being a house made of LEGO.

Typically, there should be large rectangular bricks underlying the business structure as a foundation. The finance systems for example, the payroll, and even the IT infrastructure services, can be visualised as long oblong bricks at the bottom of the value chain, the structure upon which the rest is built. However, it is amazing how often this structure is full of gaps, holes and misalignments. These problems lie in various sections of the business, whether specific locations, parts of the process, or product areas. Naturally, without a solid underpinning foundation, the business will have issues. Like a child building a LEGO house without looking at the instructions, the result may be rather shaky if not collapse entirely. Do you know whether or not your business structure has a solid foundation?

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The Cost Allocation Challenge

Tags: , , , , , Advance, Advice, Assess, Business
photo credit: me and the sysop via photopin cc

photo credit: me and the sysop via photopin cc

Following on from my last post about getting funding for your strategy, I am going to explore one of the big barriers to approval that you can face.

Strategy plans will often involve some kind of consolidation process; whether it be centralising a common service, or realigning architecture processes. This can often run into what I call the allocation conundrum. Typically, different areas in a business, whether departments or locations, will receive a cost allocation for the IT services they consume.  In terms of technologies and their champions, winners and losers will emerge from every consolidation programme; there will always be risk-takers and risk-adverse parties in any organisation. Where the challenge comes, is in handling the costs. The last remaining customer cannot be expected to carry the cost allocation of the whole service.

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Securing Funding for Your Strategy

Tags: , , , , , Assess, Business
photo credit: Images_of_Money via photopin cc

photo credit: Images_of_Money via photopin cc

We have talked a fair amount about the planning side of building a strategy, but what about the funding?

It is not much use having a wonderful vision without at least some execution capacity, and that means hard cash. Any CIO or Project Manager will know, extracting money from a tight fisted Board with conflicting priorities is never easy, and grandiose plans do not always convince. I believe there are a number of things that you can do to help this process along.

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