Visioning a Stronger, More Strategic IT Department

By Peter Wilson

Are you ready for a seat at your organisation’s table, where you knock elbows with key executives and deliver a better enterprise IT strategy? If you’ve been imagining this vision for IT, I’m here to tell it’s possible. It just takes making yourself visible and continually engaging with the right people at your organisation to determine how your technology solutions can plug into the organisation’s overall plan to drive results.

Join them – because you can no longer beat them

The days of having more technical knowledge than everyone else in your company are over. The proliferation of personal mobile gadgets has made the workforce tech-savvier, to the point where employees are the ones lobbying for certain technologies so they can work the way they want, when they want.

You can no longer dig your heels into the ground – the only way to evolve is to embrace working with this more knowledgeable workforce. This evolution is a good thing; it allows you to become more strategic by road mapping programmes such as Bring Your Own Device. You will still be involved in the technical aspects of provisioning these devices, but you will also help lay out an overall blueprint for mobile solutions going forward.

Look past the short-term

Does your current IT management plan focus on keeping the lights on or does it align with the growth strategy of the business? Building a stronger IT department necessitates moving towards long-term business goals while balancing risk and C-level expectations. Research shows the most successful IT departments specialise in process management and qualitative skills, and focus on business results.

Imagine how strategic IT management goals can match up with overall enterprise goals so you can begin delivering on business outcomes. Assertively supply your input into the total business strategy and plan technology solutions where needed. Don’t forget that overall business performance measures and capital budgets should be aligned as well, in addition to risk management strategies.

Big-note yourself

The sad fact of Australia enterprise IT is that often the end-user doesn’t notice the material change or the value of the solution you’ve provided. It’s become your job to educate not only customers but the C-levels in your company and the marketing department so they can spread the word about what’s going on behind the scenes in the IT department. Demonstrate the value of these achievements beyond a revenue perspective; you may have provided a solution that allows a customer to do something in a tenth of a second, for instance, but if revenue has dropped, no one is listening. Show how improving system speed and usability will lead to improved productivity and, therefore, more revenue.

Show your face

In step with increasing the visibility of your hard work, another way to become a stronger asset to your company is by building relationships. Increasing communication and assertively pursuing sponsorship from executives and stakeholders will take you out of the back-office mindset and into a more dynamic discussion with your company. This extends to customers as well – you should find out what they want and need so you can begin building these aims into the business-IT strategy.

If you are not having customer meetings at the coalface, how do you truly understand the support you need to provide the business?

Be flexible

Transitions take time. As you make the move to become a more strategic asset to your company, be open to suggestions. Perspectives will likely change as the business-IT strategy unfolds. You will have continual meetings with the CEO, business unit heads and customers to solidify the most important objectives. Remaining open to this process will help uncover which business-IT goals are truly achievable and what it will take to execute them.

Are you ready to take your seat as a strategic business partner whose contributions are crucial to the business achieving its aims? Start the conversation with the key players now to turn your stronger, more strategic IT vision into a reality.

Peter Wilson is Datacom’s Managing Director of Systems for Australia and Asia. He helps ensure Datacom offers and fulfils technology solutions globally.

Peter strives to drive the success of the business across locations by strategically directing Datacom’s future. His vision ensures every Datacom location is equipped with the world-class knowledge and capabilities necessary to help enterprises transform their IT department.

News Roundup: The Latest in Australia Enterprise IT, Virtualisation and Technology

By Lauren Fritsky

We’re catching up on the latest technology and IT news — some of it serious, some of it a bit silly. What stories grabbed your attention this week?

IT Priorities: are security folk paranoid?

The ZDNet 2011 IT Priorities survey finds there’s more than just security on the minds of Australia enterprise IT leaders.

April Fools! Best online tech gags of 2012

A roundup of great tech gags for the prankster in all of us.

New Microsoft tool maintains Windows user settings in virtual environments

Windows users no longer have to manually configure settings when they log in from different machines thanks to a new product called User Experience Virtualisation, which keeps user settings on record.

Gadget planning for a long weekend road trip

It’s no longer about what books you need for the long drive – it’s which tablets and phones. Here’s how to plan your tech strategy, just in time for the Easter long weekend.

A “good enough” IT solution

Ovum’s Joe Dignan discusses how more educated CIOs are moving toward a trend of ‘all you can eat’ enterprise licensing models.

Big data has big possibilities: Microsoft

Big data will be a major game changer for businesses, says the company. What do you think?

What if Facebook were around in the ’90s?

No bells or whistles on this 1990s version of the social networking site. Reminisce with us.

Are Australian CIOs Underachievers?

By Peter Wilson

On average, Australian CIOs aren’t nearly as strategic as they would like to be or could be. Having spent countless hours advising CIOs across the country, I regret to report that the IT function at too many of our enterprises adds little strategic value and has been reduced in large part to a keeps-the-lights-on, back-office role.

This is an alarming finding. When IT is relegated to mundane tasks – like report generation, legacy application maintenance, keeping the corporate web site up and making sure that office PCs stay virus-free –, there is an enormous opportunity cost to the organisation and to the country. Don’t get me wrong – these functions are necessary to keep enterprise IT going. But CIOs can do so much more. They can be brilliant visionaries for the company, steering it through gale-force business changes. To grow a strategic IT department, however, they need support.

In the modern era, more than ever, IT innovation represents opportunity and threat simultaneously. If your competitor uses IT better than you, it can put you out of business. If, on the other hand, your organisation taps into the strategic power of enterprise IT to build competitive advantage, then IT can be the hero that singlehandedly delivers on many important business goals.

Which category does your IT organisation fall into – tactically-oriented resources or valued strategic partner to the CEO and other business executive leaders? For CIOs, answering these simple questions should allow you to self-diagnose the nature of your contribution:

  • Are you involved in executive new business planning sessions? If the CIO isn’t given a seat at the table with other C-level executives at business strategy sessions, odds are that IT is not viewed as a strategic contributor to business growth.
  • Is the annual IT plan driven by the organisation’s articulated business strategies? If IT priorities and work plans are not directly correlated to strategic business objectives, it’s a signal that IT has become little more than a support function.
  • Has IT ever created a revenue-generating product? In organisations where business and technology goals are closely aligned, it’s common for IT to build customer-facing applications that serve as revenue-generating profit centres and lead cost-cutting supply chain improvements. If doing that isn’t on your radar, chances are you’ve given up on being a strategic partner to your corporate executives.
  • Are business units bypassing IT to get things done? Right or wrong, business unit personnel often believe that “if we give this to IT, it will never get done.” If business unit leaders don’t tap into your advice and talents, and choose instead to work around you, this is a clear indicator that your IT organisation is no longer strategic. For example, are you leading the push towards business-as-a-service models that the marketing department can consume through new channels?
  • How often do you talk to customers and your business unit heads? By my estimates, a CIO should spend at least 30 per cent of his or her time meeting with business units and with customers. If all of your time is spent internally within the firewall of the IT department, you are deprived of the inputs that can enable strategic IT innovation and you will not have the relationship capital that is necessary to do great things in IT management.

The trap of becoming an operational resource is an easy one to fall into. I have seen CIOs who have all the makings of greatness fail to achieve their strategic potential as they are not able to navigate the relentless day-to-day grind of operational issues and come up for air.

Few excuses are legitimate, including, “The business units want too much from us – we can’t possibly deliver that quickly.” Or, “We don’t have the budget to deliver innovative IT applications.” These are merely rationalisations of a defeated CIO who has lost the energy to turn things around.

In my work with CIOs, I find it’s relatively easy to turn things around provided the CIO has the will. In working with CIOs, Datacom will first assess IT capabilities and ensure that basic IT management discipline and infrastructure are in place. We will ask questions such as:

  • Is there a business case template for IT initiatives that includes a business analysis of each IT investment, defining how it supports organisational goals, life-cycle costs, benefits, risks and expected ROI?
  • Are the right skills available from internal staff and external partners?
  • Are there metrics that track IT’s contribution to business results?
  • Is there a system for prioritising IT projects using a defined set of objective, weighted criteria, or does the loudest voice dominate the landscape?

Having identified some areas for improvement and having shored up critical weakness, we then work with CIOs to define a desired future state for enterprise IT management. What will a more strategic IT organisation look like? This exercise involves meetings with the CIO, business unit heads, the CEO and even customers. The key output is a tactical roadmap that explains in detail how to deliver on IT’s strategic promise.

Finally, we look for quick wins. Early strategic wins must solve an acute business problem or immediately lead to increased sales. For CIOs, having priorities out of order can be fatal. A failure to be strategic endangers not only their organisations but also their personal career prospects, as Australian CIOs need to undertake an extreme makeover of their IT departments now…before it is too late.

Peter Wilson is Datacom’s Managing Director of Systems for Australia and Asia. He helps ensure Datacom offers and fulfils technology solutions globally.

Peter strives to drive the success of the business across locations by strategically directing Datacom’s future. His vision ensures every Datacom location is equipped with the world-class knowledge and capabilities necessary to help enterprises transform their IT department.

3 Long-term Cost Benefits of Cloud

By Lauren Fritsky

Many Australian enterprise IT departments are unaware of the potential long-term cost savings of cloud, according to Gartner Australia. While you might incur some upfront costs, cloud services can boost savings for your organisation in three primary ways.

1. Less investment in infrastructure

While initial savings tend to be less with enterprise clouds, the eventual cost benefits over a three-year period amount to about 25 per cent. Cost savings come primarily from a reduced need for capital investment and low setup costs, according to O’Reilly Media. This allows you to redirect funds to other projects.

2. Reduced energy costs

Using the cloud for business applications could decrease the carbon footprint at companies by 30 to 90 per cent, according to one Microsoft study. Part of these savings comes from reduced hardware use, less heating and cooling in data centres and pooling of resources in one place. Choosing a cloud services provider with a robust cloud will help maximise these costs thanks to supply-side economies of scale, says another Microsoft report.

3. Fewer in-house IT needs

Cloud can shave 30 per cent off Australia enterprise IT costs in the first three years, according to Forbes. The reason: you no longer need in-house staff to troubleshoot individual computers and systems.  This can be especially true if you go with a provider like Datacom that not only handles your cloud but also supplies other managed services. At the same time, you can begin shifting IT staff into more consultative roles so they can assist with overall IT strategy and technology integration.

How has your organisation saved money with the cloud?

Are You Merging Your Business? Check Your Software Asset Management

By Tracy Toth

There is a lot that needs to get done following a merger or acquisition and, unfortunately, software license management usually doesn’t rank high on the to-do list.

But ignoring software assets post-merger is a mistake — software facilitates workforce productivity and the failure to properly manage software assets can bring productivity to a grinding halt, jeopardising the organisation’s ability to achieve targeted goals and business objectives.

At Datacom, we regularly guide enterprise organisations through the process of addressing software assets post-merger. In our experience, there are at least five software asset management tasks that need to be performed immediately following a merger or acquisition:

  • Software Audit. Right out of the gate, the organisation should perform a comprehensive software audit. By auditing the enterprise’s current software, licenses and related assets, the organisation gains visibility into the existing enterprise software environment and sets the stage for an informed strategy development process.
  • Policy Review. A comprehensive software policy review should be another post-merger priority. Whether the organisation realises it or not, there are likely discrepancies in the way software assets are being utilised in the two organisations. If those discrepancies aren’t resolved, it could result in internal confusion, productivity losses and other negative outcomes.
  • Role Review. In addition to reviewing the organisation’s software asset policies, it’s important to review the roles and responsibilities that are connected to software asset management across the enterprise. In some cases, it will be necessary to assign individuals to fill gaps in coverage; in others instances, it may be helpful to combine redundant roles in order to create a more efficient SAM system.
  • SAM Assessment. It is absolutely imperative for the organisation to perform a full-blown SAM assessment post-merger. Assumptions that existed when the organisations operated independently may no longer apply and it’s likely that the merger will create opportunities for additional software-related efficiencies, which can be accessed by evaluating and adjusting the organisation’s SAM plan.
  • Desktop Support. Finally, ongoing desktop support must be delivered without interruption. While it can make sense to rationalise and consolidate the help desks, the initial priority must be on ensuring that all workers are able to productively contribute to the business via their hardware and software assets. Moving too soon on desktop support consolidation, without a well-structured plan, is not advised.

Software Deployment Best Practices

By Tracy Toth

Enterprise-wide software deployments are important milestones in the life of growing organisations. Whether the company is facing the deployment of a Microsoft volume licensed solution or the enterprise-wide implementation of another software solution, it’s imperative that the deployment occur on time, on budget and in a manner that optimises the return to the organisation.

In enterprise organisations, successful software deployments are typically grounded in a handful of best practices:

  • Strategy Development. Effective software deployments hinge on sound strategy, including the development of a robust Software Asset Management (SAM) plan. If it’s done right, SAM has the ability to optimise the organisation’s software investments and create a solid foundation for a more intentional deployment process.
  • Process Clarity. Many organisations prioritise the development of a deployment strategy, but then fail to communicate the details of the process to stakeholders across the enterprise. The best enterprise deployments priority organisational clarity in the roles, responsibilities, procedures and intended outcomes associated with the deployment.
  • User Engagement. The ultimate gauge of success for any software deployment is its value to end-users. Consequently, effective deployment processes look beyond the mechanical aspects of the deployments and target user engagement through end-user training, help desk support and other features.
  • Asset Retirement Planning. First-rate software deployments address the full lifecycle of software assets, including software retirement planning. Organisations that don’t pay sufficient attention to the redeployment, transfer or disposal of deployed solutions eventually suffer from cost inefficiencies and other endgame snafus.

Finally, collaboration with a qualified software deployment consultant can also be an essential best practice in enterprise organisations. Datacom consultants are available to help your organisation master the deployment of Microsoft volume licensed solutions and other software assets that are integral to your enterprise.

Software Licensing Mistakes to Avoid

By Tracy Toth

Software licensing is a core competency for any business, but especially for enterprise organisations that rely on widespread software deployments to achieve targeted business objectives.

Poorly managed software licenses result in real, yet unnecessary, costs to the enterprise. To derive maximum value from your organisation’s licensed software assets, including Microsoft volume licensing, you will need to leverage strategic processes and avoid several common mistakes associated with licensed software assets in enterprise organisations.

  • Cost Inefficiency. Too often, a lack of planning causes organisations to purchase software licenses in a piecemeal fashion and incur cost inefficiencies, simply because they lacked the foresight to take advantage of volume licensing and other opportunities.
  • Inadequate Documentation. All software and related assets (including licenses) need to be meticulously documented, creating highly accessible audit trails for vendor requests and other purposes. In complex organisations, license documentation also plays a key role in planning for the retirement of software assets.
  • No Tracking. The best software licensing programmes feature strong tracking tools, giving the organisation granular visibility into renewal dates and license details. This information is vital in helping the organisation become more strategic in its approach to Enterprise Agreement renewals and other license-related activities.
  • Poor Monitoring. Software licensing is a fluid business area since licensing rules and product offerings routinely change to keep pace with vendor policies and the evolution of the enterprise software marketplace. This underscores the need for active monitoring programmes that enable the organisation to stay abreast of new licensing developments.
  • No SAM Plan. The worst mistake enterprises can make is to neglect the creation of a Software Asset Management (SAM) plan. When it comes to software licensing, strategy and planning are your friends — and nearly always result in greater returns on your software license investments.

Datacom consultants specialise in helping enterprises conduct comprehensive software asset management and avoid the pitfalls associated with software licensing initiatives, including the negotiation and deployment of Microsoft volume licensing.

Organisations that leverage third-party software licensing and deployment consultants tend to experience lower overall costs and more highly-optimised software environments than companies that rely exclusively on internal IT resources.

Software Asset Management Roles and Responsibilities

By Tracy Toth

Software Asset Management (SAM) optimises the value of Microsoft volume licensing and other software deployments in complex, enterprise-level organisations.

Yet many SAM plans fall short of delivering desired outcomes because internal stakeholders focus exclusively on the technology and fail to discern the roles and responsibilities associated with a robust SAM strategy.

In general, SAM roles and responsibilities can be broken down into two broad categories: (1) The role of the SAM owner, and (2) Local roles and responsibilities.

The SAM owner, or the individual(s) responsible for the governance of software and related assets across the enterprise, plays a pivotal role in the development of the organisation’s SAM plan and the deployment of the resources that will be necessary to ensure its execution.

As high-level stakeholders, SAM owners shoulder the final responsibility for the MS volume licensing compliance, the achievement of targeted software asset management outcomes and seamless SAM coverage across the enterprise.

Local SAM owners and stakeholders, on the other hand, play a more granular role in the software management process. Typically, these individuals are responsible for documenting software assets and assigning management activities to specific individuals in the organisation.

In most enterprises, local SAM stakeholders are also responsible for the implementation of SAM policies and procedures, the management of vendors, contracts and internal customer relationships, MS licensing needs assessments, and other essential software management functions.

In our experience at Datacom, effective software asset management boils down to planning and strategy. By carefully delineating SAM roles and responsibilities, and communicating them clearly across the enterprise, you can lay the foundation for optimised software deployments and SAM success in your organisation.

Out to Pasture: Planning Software Asset Management (SAM) Retirement

By Tracy Toth

Most organisations are heavily invested in the process of acquiring and implementing enterprise-level software solutions, leaving no stone unturned when it comes to MS volume licensing and software deployments.

But what happens when it’s time to deactivate software and hardware? Does your enterprise have a plan in place to effectively retire critical and non-critical IT assets?

At Datacom, we’ve discovered that many enterprises don’t — and it’s an oversight that can have important ramifications when it comes to asset redundancies, the purchase of Microsoft volume licenses and system functionality.

A robust Software Asset Management (SAM) retirement process involves the development of approved policies and procedures for retiring software as well as the hardware on which enterprise software has been installed.

It’s important to make sure that your software asset management programme and your software asset retirement plan cover all the essentials, including the possibility of Microsoft license redeployments, asset transfers, the proper disposal of assets that can’t be redeployed or transferred and the creation of a software audit trail that documents the disposition of retired assets.

Datacom consultants frequently assist enterprise clients in the development of SAM retirement plans. In many cases, optimised asset retirement planning results in significant cost savings as the organisation’s existing software and related assets are utilised more efficiently.

How Software Asset Management Reduces Enterprise Risk

By Tracy Toth

 

Software asset management (SAM) is a critical business activity for enterprise organisations. The inadequate or unsuccessful management of software licenses and other software-based assets can have a crippling effect on the enterprise, resulting in operational rigidity, inefficiencies and impaired returns on software investments.

If it’s done well, SAM also mitigates many risks typically associated with enterprise-level software deployments, including these four enterprise IT software risks:

  • IT service interruption risk – Since SAM leverages a coordinated, strategic approach to software, it is less likely that the enterprise will experience IT service disruptions that can occur when software is utilised in a random or haphazard fashion.
  • Risk of deterioration in the quality of IT services – Interruptions are one thing, but it can be equally or even more damaging if software resources are available but there are quality issues. With a properly executed SAM plan in place, software tends to do what it’s supposed to do — facilitating business operations and never putting organisational quality at risk.
  • Legal and regulatory exposure – In many enterprises, the labor-intensive demands of legal and regulatory compliance can jeopardise the integrity of the organisation’s software licensing programme. A robust SAM agenda, on the other hand, promotes full compliance and organisational efficiency by leveraging technology to automate the enterprise’s licensing environment.
  • Risk of damage to public image – Perhaps the most important way that software asset management reduces enterprise risk is by protecting the organisation’s most valuable asset: brand reputation. When software and IT assets function poorly or fail to comply with regulatory requirements, there is a very real risk that the brand will sustain a blow to its public image — an outcome that can be easily avoided by prioritising a software asset management programme across the enterprise.

In addition to addressing these critical risks, SAM lowers the financial risks related to the acquisition and licensing of enterprise solutions. By matching licenses and software deployments to the organisation’s precise needs, SAM allows the enterprise to avoid the risk of overbuying licenses or purchasing software that won’t be adopted across the enterprise.

For organisations that are positioned to leverage Microsoft volume licensing, enterprise risk may be further reduced by maximising the value of software deployments through access to Microsoft or third-party desktop support/technical support.