IT’s Role in Performance Measurement and Management

By Peter Wilson

The creation of dashboards has increasingly fallen on the shoulders of IT. Yet this department has traditionally had more experience managing technical performance over business metrics such as project schedules and the budget. What is IT’s role in organisational performance management and how do you transform from simply being a metrics report generator to being an innovative creator of new business metrics? Undertaking a four-step process can help CIOs define their department’s role in managing and developing best practices for organisational metrics-based performance management.

1. Workshop it internally. Partner with your CEO and other members of the executive team to champion an organisational metrics initiative that involves an analytic framework and plan for implementation. The effort will need internal sponsorship at the executive level to drive employee-wide education on how the right metrics can be used to drive better results. Everyone on the team should be across the organisation’s information needs, desired outcome and the steps toward achieving it: What types of performance will be measured and how will it be done, for example? How will IT performance be tied to organisational goals?

2. Focus your metrics on the big picture. A mistake many organisations make is focusing on lag indicators. Do the metrics focus on the big picture, assisting in expectation management, or are they just trivial metrics reported because they are easier to measure? Performance management systems add real value when you can use them to change course mid-stream to minimise damage or maximise peak performance. Real-time data is the key here; it can help IT better react to application response times and help desk queues, for instance.

3. Develop and implement new business metrics. Your metrics should reflect what is driving your business strategically. Your guiding questions when determining these metrics include: Where is the business going, how will it get there, what indicates success? You will likely have a combination of IT and business metrics, such as resource allocation and customer satisfaction. Each metric should have a plan to back it up covering how it will be used and a course of action to correct any poor performance. Using 90-day action planning broken into 30 increments with granular plans is one way to use these metrics to manage performance.

4. Don’t report metrics – react to them. Reporting data or the metrics adds no value. The value comes from interrupting the combination of results, identifying the root cause and then implementing clearly defined service improvement programmes across the business. The key for IT will be to learn how to interrupt poor performance and even predict future states by analysing both trend and real-time data.

IT’s role in performance measurement and management is ultimately to advise the business what is working, what could be improved and what can be immediately corrected so it doesn’t spiral into a bigger problem down the road. By initiating this metrics programme from the IT department, you’ll showcase IT as an innovative department that is in tune with, and highly motivated to enable, the key business drivers of organisational success. You’ll also get a great education on the different groups within your organisation and what they are trying to accomplish. That’s not just IT leadership, it’s businessleadership – and it will be much appreciated by the powers that be.

Peter Wilson is Datacom’s CEO 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.

Do Australian CIOs Need to Think About Public Relations?

By Peter Wilson

The current tenure of CIOs in Australia and New Zealand averages 3.8 years, according to a new Gartner survey. That’s compared to a global average of 4.6 years. Why are CIOs in Australia and New Zealand stepping aside or getting shown the door faster than CIOs in other countries?

Perhaps CIO turnover is high in part because CIOs don’t spend enough time communicating their successes to their organisations. They are at the pulse of the enterprise, yet boasting about their wins doesn’t always come easily. And as we all know, you often have to remind executives and other departments at your business what you’re doing to get the proper recognition for your role. Part of the CIO’s time should be spent packaging up the good works done by the IT department and letting the organisation know what has been accomplished.

This is just the internal public relations – CIOs who want to elevate their profiles and become not just business leaders, but industry influencers as well, should also make their wins known to those outside the organisation, including your business’s customers. If it doesn’t give away any company trade secrets, it’s not a bad idea to get coverage in the media for your IT success stories. Of course, you’ll want to avoid doing this without the consent of your CEO and your in-house marketing team. Making an unauthorised end run to the media might backfire, resulting in a quicker exit than you had hoped for.

How does the IT department set about doing something that doesn’t come naturally? Start small and simple. It could be as easy as creating a list of projects on which the department is working and circulating it around the business. This also helps offset departmental complaints about why you’ve prioritised one business unit’s project over another’s.

If you’re not ready for press releases and newspaper articles, throw your project plans and successes up on the company intranet or circulate a company-wide email (or get the marketing department to do these tasks). It helps create buzz about what the IT department is doing – it also helps if you come up with a fun name for your projects or programmes. Customer testimonials are also essential for not only improving your brand within your organisation, but for getting potential clients to sit up and take notice of your company.

When you are ready to step into the real limelight, prep your entire team first. Get them excited about sharing the good word about their work. Once they have a few talking points, go out to networking and industry events, vendor and client gatherings and trade shows. Share your IT innovations on LinkedIn and other social media sites. Pitch thought leadership positioning stories to IT and technology publications and web sites. Better yet, get to blogging about IT on your own, either through your company’s web site or your personal one.

This isn’t shameless self-promotion; it’s letting the world know about the great things IT is doing and giving full credit to all involved parties. If a firm gains a reputation for using IT strategically to drive business achievements, it increases the valuation of the company and it attracts talented workers. The alternative is to do something incredible and have it go unnoticed and unappreciated. When CIOs do that, they can’t be surprised when they are eventually let go for not having a positive impact on the fortunes of their organisation.

Peter Wilson is Datacom’s CEO 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 Considerations for Finding the Right Disaster Recovery Solution

Now that disaster recovery (DR) is as big a concern among CIOs as it is for potential customers, a piecemeal solution combining in-house servers with several off-site backups will no longer suffice.

Ensuring business continuity for internal and external customers in the midst of a disaster can separate your business — and your leadership — from the pack. And, in a short manner of time, it will be a minimum requirement for even the SME crowd.

According to a study by KPMG, 20 per cent of all organisations will undergo some type of disaster during a five-year period. And 40 per cent of businesses that survive a disaster will go out of business within a two-year timeframe. As businesses become more aware of their vulnerability, the demand for comprehensive disaster recovery will only escalate.

As your organisation considers a disaster recovery plan and begins vetting solution providers, question their ability to meet these DR requirements.

1.  Do they cover the DR gamut? Before diving into the details of each component, make sure you’re dealing with a full-suite DR solution. Verify they offer:

  • Server infrastructure services that cover assessment and reporting to demonstrate the state of your data, optimised server architecture to create the appropriate solution and hosting/management of systems infrastructure to ensure your data isn’t compromised if your location has been compromised.
  • Enterprise storage infrastructure, primarily data security and management, that guarantees the data that supports the processes is unharmed and available.
  • Strategies and solutions for DR as well as business continuity that go beyond hardware and data to prescribe the actions everyone from senior management to the janitor should take in the event of a disaster.

2.  What recovery time does the provider offer? The answer will vary from organisation to organisation and situation to situation. But after providing a glimpse of your services and size, expect fairly concrete answers during the proposal process. Focus on the two key areas of recovery time:

  • Recovery Time Objectives (RTO) – the time necessary for your business systems to return to functionality after a disaster.
  • Recovery Point Objectives (RPO) – the time necessary for the most recently saved data to become available after a disaster.

Of course, the time necessary for recovery goes hand-in-hand with the DR system’s availability. As you negotiate the service-level agreement, look for an extremely high guaranteed server and network availability number, usually 99.9 per cent. During the 2011 floods and cyclone that hit Queensland, Datacom was able to help one metals producer maintain 100 per cent uptime throughout the disaster and offer 24/7 remote support.

3.  What stability and scalability do the company offer? The concept of stability goes far beyond hardware, processes and data recovery for a quality DR provider. You’ll need a service provider that can grow with your organisation and remain in it for the long haul. Be sure to discuss scalability and flexibility. Can the provider adapt to your evolving organisation? Is it at the bleeding-edge of technology, procedures and thought leadership? Is it prepared for your pending expansion?

If the DR provider you’re evaluating meets these criteria, you’ll be well on your way to launching a comprehensive DR solution that ensures business continuity during the unexpected.

3 Steps to Simplifying IT Management

Last week, we started looking at how IT complexity can cripple your organisation. This week, we look at additional actions you can take to start simplifying your IT environment.  

Your IT department’s expansions might seem at odds with one another. Just when you’ve upgraded the servers and introduced a robust redundancy system, the emphasis has immediately shifted to providing your employees with mobile productivity tools. And once you’ve launched a mobile solution for your organisation, it’s time to move an in-house solution into — yes, you guessed it — the cloud.

And all of these IT functions demand:

  • Allocating the budget for hardware,software and licensing
  • Scoping projects, evaluating options, deploying the solution and testing
  • Training end-users and refining processes and workflows
  • Keeping trained and available support staff on hand to maintain all systems — and field your employees’ questions

While it might be tempting to just issue a slate and chisel and abacus to each employee and call it a day, you’re well aware your employees need every technological advantage in order to compete. But staying abreast of tech trends doesn’t have to be as onerous and costly as you’ve become inured to.

Simplicity is the name of the game among CIOs for companies ranging from startups to McDonald’s. And how do most of them accomplish this seemingly Herculean task? In our experience helping IT executives reduce complexity, we’ve identified three common areas to cover:

1. Take a comprehensive inventory of everything IT-related: infrastructure, cloud solutions, desktop programmes,custom apps, peripherals — everything. Most IT managers and executives are amazed at how cumbersome their organisations have become. And, if your company has been involved with a merger or acquisition, be sure to tally all IT levels. After aquiring another business, one Australian financial services company was able to achieve greater IT simplicitiy in just six weeks by outsourcing the integration of the new service into their existing environment. By leveraging IT outsourcing to integrate disparate networks and systems and improving core network and storage network capacity, the company was able to consolidate and optimise their entire IT infrastructure. Just ensuring unwanted redundancies are eliminated, unnecessary programmes aren’t renewed and unprofitable processes are abandoned can greatly reduce complexity.

2. Consider what infrastructure is necessary, and what’s necessary to keep in-house. Once the inventory is complete, we like to roll up our sleeves and help our clients design an infrastructure strategy and design. With the move to cloud solutions and virtual networks, you’ll likely find your intricate systems of servers and hardware can be reduced to a few easy-to-manage systems. And it’s almost always at a lower total cost of ownership than purchasing and maintaining everything in house.

3. Determine who’s supporting what, and what’s not receiving the proper support. It’s hard to keep your organisation running smoothly and efficiently when managers and specialists are spending time assisting the help desk. We’ve found many of our clients are pulling their hair out at the cost of continuously training employees to provide phone and support  — not to mention the scheduling nightmare of maintaining the proper amount of support staffing during working hours. When you opt for desktop support services, you place the onus of training, staffing and hiring on your vendor.

Ideally, you’ll want to find one vendor that can hold your hand through every step of your complexity-reduction checklist and serve as the sole point of contact for your IT needs. That’s ultimately how organisations can transform their IT operation into simple, manageable environments.

Why It’s Easier Than Ever for Australian CIOs to Be More Strategic

By Peter Wilson

In the early days of Australian IT, CIOs who wanted to deliver strategic value to their organisations came up against a brick wall. IT had a very specific function in those days and it was mostly operational, not strategic, in nature.

Today, it’s easier than ever for CIOs to achieve results that drastically transform their companies for the better. Here are the top three reasons CIOs are able to add more strategic value in 2012 than their predecessors could.

1. Greater expectations and increased CIO empowerment

It wasn’t too long ago that many companies didn’t even have a CIO. The Management Information Systems department often reported directly to the CFO, a talented financial executive who, unfortunately, didn’t have the foggiest idea as to how computers might be used to build competitive advantage. Today, the CIO is treated with respect and often attends board meetings. The executive suite and the board have, more often than not, grown up with computers and understand their potential. Plus, they’ve seen companies thrive through smart use of IT, and they are willing to vest CIOs with the authority and the resources to deliver strategic value. This fundamental shift in perspective from “IT as necessary evil” to “IT as growth enabler” makes it much easier for today’s CIOs to define a strategic vision and chase after it.

2. Agile development processes and off-the-shelf software

Ages ago, CIO responsibilities were largely curtailed to keeping existing systems running. Even when ground was broken on new IT initiatives, custom software projects often took years to implement. By the time the software was done, the business had changed and the software was often no longer aligned with the strategic objectives of the business. Today, software projects can be defined and delivered at a fraction of the price, as well as order of magnitudes faster, than in prior decades. Agile development methodologies, outsourced development and robust, off-the-shelf software solutions that can be used as a starting point have made it much easier to create a strategic solution that drives positive business results. “It can’t be done by then” is no longer part of the CIO’s lexicon, and the ability to get great things done quickly makes it possible to deliver on the promise of IT’s strategic potential.

3. A seismic shift in human-computer interaction paradigms

It’s hard to build something strategic in a static environment, but when the world is changing at a rapid pace, opportunities abound to create strategic IT assets and use IT to drive enhanced revenues, profitability and competitive differentiation. With the Internet still presenting incredible opportunities for strategic IT initiatives, and social, mobile and cloud convergence transforming the way business is done, a CIO that can’t find strategic IT projects to be done might well be accused of IT malpractice. Couple those changes with rapid globalisation and evolved approaches to supply chain management and customer service, and, make no mistake, there is plenty of opportunity for CIOs to build strategic valuefor their employers.

Switching gears: transitioning from tactical mode into strategy mode

Are you strategic enough in your approach to IT? We’ve helped our clients seize the opportunity to conceptualise andimplement visionary IT projects. Seismic changes in technology and its role in everyday life have created opportunities for even the most tactical CIO to transform the IT department into an organisational superpower that strategically enables business success.

The key takeaway here is that CIOs have no good excuse not to deliver strategic value to their organisations. Australian IT is no longer just part of the value chain. For many forward-thinking companies, it is the value chain.

Peter Wilson is Datacom’s CEO 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.