Can adversity drive innovation?

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What has become clear in the last few days is that things that we had previously though was impossible, are actually happening. Who would have thought 10 days ago that Australia would shut down its international boarders and seek to significantly restrict movements between states. The new normal for the world is the basis for innovation – consider what you though you knew to be a fact, it is often just a constraint of thinking. But how does this affect technology planning and strategy?

When we look at the short term we are often finding that assumptions around response planning has been unable to predict the impacts of this crisis. Digital supply chains are failing and we are needing to revisit the assumptions made for our existing plans. Directions by IT for staff to go down to Officeworks to pick up a screen and keyboard for your new work from home environment are being replaced with come to the office and take your monitor home as staff report that the shelves are bare at suppliers. Hotspot your laptop to your work mobile has been replaced with order a NBN service as network congestions hits mobile networks. Record highs reported by telco’s for voice traffic is changing our assumption about the role voice services play in these scenarios.

In the medium term we need to understand how the new work practices are changing assumptions that we made about collaboration and collaborative systems. We are seeing that the requirements of systems that supported face to face meetings are quite different from those that replace face to face activity. Systems that provide effective video collaboration between two people are not the same as those that can support effective communication between 15 people. Slack, Webex, Teams and Zoom may have previously looked like they were all solving similar problems, are being proven to be different on a regular basis.

Where some cloud providers have been able to keep ahead of the growth curve, others have not. When your scenario planning has now fallen down on assumptions that have proved inaccurate, it is vital to quickly identify the problem, and make a decision to remediate. The challenge is to make sure that these decision are based on knowledge and fact, rather than pivoting away from a poorly performing service to a completely failing one. Independent and experienced advice is key.

In the longer term it is all about understanding and preparing for the pressure of the recovery. Every year we see the subtle lift in business spirits on the break of spring, but the up turn from this recovery will be enormous. The pressure to delivery solutions at speed will be greater than we have experienced before and a disproportionate amount of this load will fall on the shoulders of your IT systems, infrastructure and capability. Decision support systems, data analysis and visualisation tools and massive changes to global supply chains and work practices will drive monumental change in core business systems. Poor advice by technologist due to inexperience of conflicted interests will deliver project and system failure. This has always cost businesses disproportionately to the expected implementation costs – add pressure, short time frames and lack of understanding and knowledge and we can reasonably expect some monumental stuff ups. Planning is essential, IT excellence is by design, not by accident.

Pandemic Planning

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With the general public seeming to be panic buying toilet paper and hand sanitiser many of our clients have been asking what should IT be doing to prepare. Although formal pandemic planning is quite an involved process, understanding your IT capabilities and governance processes is key to making sure that you are able to respond if required. With local authorities now predicting that peak risk of major disruption will be in August, we have come up with our top 5 questions that IT needs to be able to answer today.

They are:

  1. What percentage of your workforce would be able to simultaneously work from home with the existing remote access capacity? How many workers know how without instruction from IT?
  2. Has the technical architecture of your remote working systems been designed to provide the level of reliability required to support critical business tasks, or has it been design with a best efforts approach as you could “always drive into the office if it was important”?
  3. What IT capabilities are single man sensitive – does documentation exist to cover the recovery of failed key systems while key IT staff are on unexpected medical leave? Are security protocols robust enough to support mass remote working when key decision makers may be unavailable?
  4. What 3rd party suppliers or services are you critically reliant upon, and do they have a pandemic response plan in place? How easily is your off-site backup process disrupted?
  5. Is your IT support capability able to provide the required levels of service when a significant proportion of the workforce are not in the office? How many times are technical problems solved with a quick drop in to the IT guys desk?

Often these questions have answers that can surprise, and with the continuity of critical systems and IT services vital to the ongoing operation of any business we are finding many CEO’s are seeking to undertake an independent IT assessment to provide assurance that they are able to rely on those capabilities during an unexpected disruption. Fully understanding your existing capabilities and limitations, as well as reviewing your technical governance processes seems like a small step, however it can significantly improve an organisations ability to respond quickly and effectively to rapidly changing circumstances.

Are you getting value from your IT spend?

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No matter if your view of IT is as a cost centre or a potential strategic advantage, ensuring that you are receiving good value in your IT spend is critical. Reducing cost and improving service delivery through effective IT management and improved business alignment are key outcomes from undertaking an Independent IT review and health check.

  • We will assess your internal IT service delivery or external IT service provider to consider if improved services or technology architectures could provide efficiency or capability improvements.
  • We will review your technology roadmap, consider technology failure scenarios and insure that appropriate steps have been taken to mitigate those risks that are a real danger to the organisations wellbeing.
  • We will assess your business requirements, consider best practice, new technology architectures and service delivery models and provide actionable advice on how to improve your IT service levels and reduce cost.

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Can the Virgin Blues happen to you?

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Executives across the country could feel the hair on the back of their necks stand on end over the weekend on hearing the complete financial, PR, operational and reputational disaster that besieged Virgin Blue after a catastrophic IT failure. While the press was interviewing distraught travellers across the country that were asking “Why didn’t they have a backup”, the dirty secret across many Australian organisations is that their IT recovery plans are either inadequate, or reliant on 3rdparty providers whom they do not have the skills to audit. Read More