A strategy for IT improvement

In 2001, Paul Sheridan MBCS CITP won a channel alliance partnership with the world leaders in automated technical performance evaluation. His current interest lies in the modernisation of IT practice.

It’s reasonable to claim that computer systems have improved the way the world works beyond recognition. However, there are many well-documented accounts as to why Information Technology fails to deliver, not least the BCS Study by McManus and Wood-Harper. IT projects remain highly complex ventures, and as echoed in numerous more recent reports on the subject, early optimism for business and technical innovation often descends into troublesome, costly and embarrassing failure. Do we simply accept this as an inevitable part of applied computer science or can we do better?

The IT improvement strategy, described in this article, is neither academic nor is it born of executive management consultancy. Instead, it takes a practical approach, based on decades of varied and relevant systems experience acquired at leading multinational organisations.

Building greater confidence in information technology's capacity to create value more effectively opens the door to tackling problems that can only be dreamt of today. Providing management and practitioners with the means to address risk and deliver optimum value, say, by equipping them with an Enterprise Workflow Management System engineered for IT, is an appropriate way to make a significant contribution. 

Some problem areas:

  • Poor investment choice
  • Scant stakeholder involvement
  • Limited strategic alignment
  • Missed investment options
  • Lack of feasibility analysis
  • Poor capacity planning
  • Lack of appropriate skills
  • Faulty requirement control
  • Risk management failure
  • Inadequate security
  • Regulatory compliance failure
  • Poor technical performance
  • Inability to meet demand
  • Unclear methods and standards
  • Careless programming
  • Purpose deficient software
  • Scrambled analysis and design
  • Service level failure
  • Inadequate technical support
  • Failure to utilise capacity
  • Reactive management styles
  • No meaningful transparency
  • Failure to learn from errors
  • Poor responsiveness and ROI
  • Deficient resource planning
  • Lack of quality control
  • Poor cost management
  • Incomplete service assurance
  • Poor systems validation
  • Misguided development
 

The Proposed System

The key features of the proposed Enterprise Workflow Management System include:

  • A Business Process Framework for more effective IT practice
  • An Information Architecture for more efficient IT practice
  • A Standard Data Interface for workflow event capture and
  • An IT Resource Dashboard, for real-time reporting.
 

Business Process Framework

Information Technology is a demand-driven business process, used for transforming stakeholder requirement into computer services, to improve organisational value. Accordingly, the business framework consists of the four subsystems; demand, transformation, service and, value.

Each subsystem includes multiple feeder processes and a single control process. The user interface displays selected IT processes (standard or API adapted) in a way that facilitates the seamless capture of the event data needed for performance measurement and workflow control. Wherever necessary, the workflow control path is flexible, for example, the Variation Registration process offers the choice of development model, which includes; waterfall, build and fix, incremental, rapid, extreme, spiral and not defined.

Use the following link to see a diagrammatic representation of the business process framework.

Information Architecture

The content strategy allows for standard or site-specific narrative and structure-diagram configuration for practical process-instruction purposes. This facility also provides a text search and subject index for point of use information access to help answer IT practitioner queries. The user-experience design will enhance usability, accessibility and the fulfilment given by the interaction between the IT practitioner and content. Careful consideration of multimedia and communication styles (for example personal, intuitive, analytical and functional) will add to the aesthetic appeal of this system feature.

Standard Data Interface

The current design identifies around one hundred and twenty unique data flows, classified by subsystem, to seamlessly capture and monitor key IT activity-related events. A standard data schema (say XSD) verifies each data flow allowing transmission via the standard interface to a database for later use with process control and reporting. The system excludes the capture of personal behaviour data and has no impact on an employee's assessment; this function remains unchanged and is a separate managerial responsibility.

Real Time IT Resource Dashboard

The IT knowledge database is a repository for predicted and actual IT activity over time and supports standard, parameter-driven reports (say using periods, types, targets and so on). For example ‘Variation Request to Portfolio Investment Conversion Rate’ which indicates an installation's drive for competitive advantage and the ‘Active Protection Dashboard’ which identifies the enterprise risk level associated with security, compliance and performance. A Report Generator extends statistical analysis capability by offering custom defined reports. All the information provided by the reporting facility reflects the actual time during which processes or events occur.

Concluding Comments

The goal of the proposed system is to deliver successful IT solutions with the minimum of waste. Strategic factors that will improve IT practice include:

  1. Management integration to avoid localised thinking and disconnected decision-making
  2. Activity verification and authorisation for practitioner confidence
  3. Process transparency for accurate outcome analysis
  4. Better communication channels to enhance understanding
  5. Rapid and systematic risk assessment for increased productivity
  6. Knowledge-based intelligence for enhanced leadership
  7. Practice guidance for cost-effective job satisfaction
  8. Adherence to recommended processes for intended results
  9. Improved focus, for example, through the tactical use of indemnity policy number
  10. Practitioner feedback to encourage participation

The combination of strategic factors will produce a combined result greater than the sum of their separate effects.

Commercial computers were once considered to be corporate-sized calculators that were best suited to the accountant's department. Half-a-century on, they have advanced into being considered for the management of Information Technology effectiveness. The cost to develop and implement a system of this magnitude and complexity is likely to run into £10’s possibly £100’s of millions. However, we must balance this cost against the potential value that is going slip through our fingers if our industry maintains the status quo.

It will be necessary to initiate a purpose-designed forum where interested parties work together to create a direct, convincing and client-centric vision for IT practice improvement. However, a detailed model of the system that satisfies the above high-level requirements has already been developed and will act as a suitable foundation for any proof of concept. Those interested should contact paul.sheridan@itgis.org

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A regular look at how digital leaders can embrace and embed organisational change through their people.

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November 2018
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