Currently there is much scepticism about I.T. and much frustration with the steady stream of Information Technology projects that fail to deliver material value or which fail outright
Is this the way I.T. investments must always be?
Not at all, there IS substantial opportunity out there, but business must define that opportunity and manage the technology and the technologists
In previous newsletters I have explored the high level of information technology failure, examined this information technology failure as an indicator of corporate governance under performance and in general looked at aspects of information technology that may be viewed as casting a negative light on I.T.
In other issues I have explored strategy and examined the determination, planning and execution of strategy and suggested that the fundamental definition of strategy is "why the organization exists and how it thrives".
In this issue of StratNews I would like to make the point that information technology investments appropriately conceptualized, designed and executed can generate substantial value for the organization making the investment. I will also explore what is required to achieve this.
Appropriate, well implemented information technology applications can add substantial value
Appropriate, well conceived, well designed and well implemented information technology solutions can add substantial value.
In order to achieve such an outcome it is vital that the investment is made for the right reasons.
Investing in new information technology in reaction to advertising hype or as a fashion response is NOT an appropriate driver for new investment.
A clear and pragmatic view of a business opportunity that will deliver value and which requires the support of some component of information technology IS the only driver that will deliver value.
Value is a human characteristic generated by human beings and assessed by other human beings. Without the involvement of human beings nothing has value.
Used by a properly trained and equipped medical practitioner a stethoscope can be instrumental in saving a life. Without an appropriately trained person to use it, a stethoscope is of no value no matter how ill the patient. So it is with all technology, from a simple nail to the most complex space equipment, without a human being to use the technology in a way that other human beings experience as value adding, technology has NO value.
In other words, the most important requirement for an information technology investment to generate measureable value is that key people in the organization define this value and define how the technology will facilitate unlocking it as a first step.
Sometimes I.T. can add dramatic value
Sometimes information technology can add dramatic value.
My benchmark for value delivery is the first I.T. project that I undertook in a commercial setting in the early 1980's.
The software solution was designed, developed and deployed in about four months.
In the first year of operation the business was able to double its turnover by taking on major new clients because it was able to offer a service that was not available from competitors. The solution delivered a material economic contribution to the business for nearly a decade.
The key to this success?
An insightful realization on the part of the chief executive that there was something that computer technology could deliver that would be valuable to customers and solid alignment of the solution with the strategic driver of the business.
The technology has matured and the opportunity has long since reached a level of commoditization such that every player in that particular market segment can, today, do far more than was undertaken then. But the key consideration is that very substantial value was unlocked by creative use of a piece of technology that is tiny by current standards.
I have been involved in other projects that have also generated substantial value and so in every engagement I seek to identify what the critical piece of strategic thinking is that will unlock the true value of the investment (what will contribute to the organization thriving).
I.T. solutions can be delivered successfully
The above mentioned example is one of many successful I.T. projects that I have experienced.
A larger project involved the bespoke development of a comprehensive business information system for a particular service industry. The software developed in that project subsequently went on to become a successful product which is today in its second major generation in use by over 70 commercial organizations in South Africa in the industry concerned and currently being marketed around the world.
Getting to this point required huge energy and time investment by many people over a number of years in order to create a solution that could be used effectively in support of day to day business operations.
Executive custody on behalf of the managing director of the company that commissioned the original project was key to achieving success as was a clear understanding of what would assist the organization to use the technology.
I.T. solutions can be delivered economically and in realistic time frames
These and other experiences indicate that with clear strategic alignment and robust executive custody it is possible to deliver I.T. solutions economically and in realistic time frames.
In order to achieve time and cost objectives it is vital that project scope is ruthlessly contained by focus on the core strategic driver for the investment and that there is clear focus on the core strategic drivers of the organization -- why the organization exists and how it thrives.
A close knit team energetically lead by an empowered and enthusiastic business executive is a vital requirement of success.
This does NOT require huge amounts of executive involvement, executive custody is an intuitive state of mind not a grind. Custody requires a clear executive vision of the desired future business state and the manner in which this will deliver value and then clear uncompromising leadership.
Technology specialists who demonstrate a clear understanding of the strategic drivers of the organization are a vital further requirement for a successful outcome.
Doing it right is cheaper than doing it wrong
I regularly encounter people who do not think that they have time to do the right things in order to make I.T. projects succeed. Somehow there seems to be a widespread belief that it is possible to undertake a project without clear strategic definition and without clear executive custody and the project will succeed anyway.
This attitude is a major contributor to the 70% of I.T. projects that fail outright and the further 20% that fail to deliver on the orginal business expectation.
As with everything else which involves time and money, once the effort has been inappropriately expended the resultant non-delivery cannot be simply wished away. It may be easier to hide an I.T. project failure but it is more difficult to turn a failed project into a successful outcome than it is with something that is more visible and more tangible.
Accordingly, it is vital to ensure that the critical foundation elements of a successful project outcome are in place before embarking on any significant investment.
It is also important to realise that in the long run doing things right from the start is cheaper than doing things in an inappropriate way -- the wrong way may seem simpler and cheaper at the time but when no value is delivered or worse still, value is destroyed and the organization damaged or put out of business the real cost is substantial.
With the appropriate approach and appropriate professional team, it is always easier and cheaper to do things right.
Doing it wrong is always more expensive than the client organization can afford
As noted above, doing the wrong things can damage or destroy an organization.
At a less dramatic level, the wrong things are always expensive, whether measured in terms of reduced business efficiency, red tape that obstructs or drives away customers or in terms of other inefficiencies.
At some level a failed I.T. project will compromise and damage the organization.
Conviction that it can be done
As evidence of my conviction that dramatic success is economically attainable it is important to note that I have spent most of my career seeking ways of undertaking I.T. projects in such a way that clients get it right first time reliably and sustainably.
Critical factors for a successful outcome include effective executive custody and clear and effective strategic alignment.
Executive custody is an attitude on the part of executives in which they take full responsibility for defining and achieving a business outcome that delivers real value.
Strategic alignment is a clear definition of why the organization exists and how it thrives, coupled with a clear definition of the future strategic state of the business that an I.T. investment is intended to support.
Niether of these components require major time or effort, they do require concise, focussed time and effort which is directed at charting the course of the business solution in such a way that it will create sustainable value.
Conclusion -- I.T. CAN add value
I hope that the above discussion will assist you to effectively position information technology as a value adding part of your organization.
There is no doubt that there are amazing things that can be done using information technology, yet it requires the business genius of the people who have built the organization to effectively define the role that information technology should play in the organization and then to use the people in the organization to unlock the potential.
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Business Systems NOT delivering?
Call the Business Systems Specialist
Dr James A Robertson -- has been involved in the effective application of Business Information Systems, including but NOT limited to ERP, since 1987 and in the profitable and effective use of computers in Business since 1981.
Drawing on a diversity of experience, including formal military training in Quick Attack techniques at the Regimental Commander level, Dr Robertson has developed highly effective methods of investigating any sub-optimal Business Information Systems situation -- be it an established system or a stalled project or any other source of Executive frustration -- quickly and concisely diagnosing the root cause of the problem and prescribing concise practical actions that Business Executives can effectively act on see the Pulse Measurement page and also the Sample Reports page for redacted real reports.
He has also developed highly effective methods of strategically enriching systems to unlock the full potential of existing investments, see the Precision Configuration page and couples this to architecting small pieces of clever software that harness the full potential of your investment, see the Software page.
If you are having problems with your systems, your project or your IT Department, call The Business Systems Specialist
Business System Failure is RIFE -- we offer insight into why this happens AND WHAT is required to prevent it.
Failure is at epidemic levels with massive damage done to client companies -- if you are NOT aware of the extent of the problem please visit the About Failure page for a catalog of major failures running to billions of Pounds and Dollars.
All evidence indicates that the established players do NOT know how to deliver stable, reliable high value solutions that WORK.
There HAS to be a better way!
This website provides information relating to that way with a large collection of white papers, presentations, standards documents, etc that you can use to start bringing the situation under control
We also offer high level advisory services with regard to the application of the principles advocated on this website
We offer an ENGINEERING APPROACH to addressing these issues
By Engineering I mean the formal, structured, highly disciplined, highly systematic, highly practical approach that consistently delivers results in ALL areas of human endeavor where formally trained and certified engineers are the ONLY practitioners permitted to operate -- think large buildings, factories, motor vehicles, aircraft -- highly complex systems that work at a level that we take it for granted that they WILL work and where failure is all but unthinkable and, when it happens, attracts immediate public attention and rigorous investigation directed at ensuring that such failures are prevented in the future -- in fact, everything that the management consulting industry that implements complex software systems is NOT
This approach is discussed further on the Engineering Approach page.
In 2003 I undertook an in-depth analysis of all the information and experience that I had gathered with regard to the factors giving rise to Business Information System failure including ERP and general IT and classified this information into a number of categories including "The Factors Causing Failure" and "The Critical Factors for Success" based on this I developed a two day Course "The Critical Factors for Information Technology Investment Success" which is still offered today.
Based on this I wrote the book of the same name, which is available in electronic form here for download:
James has a very detailed profile on LinkedIn should you require further information about him.
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There is a large body of white papers, articles and other content produced by Dr James Robertson available on this website
Please click here to visit the detailed listing of articles
About Dr James A Robertson PrEng -- The Business Systems Doctor -- and Other Topics
Catalogue of Major Business Information System Failures
About the Engineering Approach
James Robertson's Value Add
Attributes of a HIGH VALUE solution
Recognizing Business System Failure
The Critical Human Foundation
Old Software IS Viable
From South Africa
Competencies of Dr James A Robertson PrEng
About Professor Malcolm McDonald
Table of Contents
About my relationship with the Almighty Creator, Yah the Eternally Self-Existing
Comments relating to the Business Systems Industry and other topics
Testimonials and other positive material regarding James Robertson
List of Articles
Achieving High Value Business Information System outcomes
Executive Custody -- What is it and HOW do you get it?
The REAL Issues in Integrated Business Information System Success
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2 -- Mythology and Lack of Executive Custody
Part 3 – Strategic Alignment and Precision Configuration
Why your ERP is NOT delivering and HOW to FIX it
IT Project Management
CEO Anthony Lee Comments on his experience of the Pulse Measurement
No Charge Guarantee on the Pulse Measurement Service
Examples of Pulse Measurement Outcomes
Critical questions regarding the Pulse Measurement™
The Pulse Measurement Workflow
The Critical Factors for Business System (ERP+) Investment Success in the Pulse Measurement
Indicative Pulse Measurement Durations
What is a JAR&A Pulse Measurement?
Survival of the fittest – why it makes sense to measure the pulse of your business
Examples of Pulse Measurement Outcomes over 24 years
Sample Pulse Measurement Reports
Strategic Essence: The Missing Link in Business Information Systems
Strategic Essence: Overview
Strategic Essence: Part 1 -- Strategy Defined
Strategic Essence: Part 2 -- Differentiation
Strategic Essence: Part 3 -- The Essence IS Different
Strategic Essence: Part 4 -- The Essence should be the Point of Departure
Strategic Essence: Part 5 -- Discovering Strategic Essence
Strategy -- the Essence of the Business: What is it and how do you develop actionable strategic plans?
Simple Steps to Increase the Strategic Value of your ERP Investment
Free Strategic Snapshot Toolset and Manual
A strategy focused planning system beyond traditional budgeting
Tough IT and ERP Procurement and Contracting that Works
Robust Business Systems Procurement
Part 1 -- Introduction
Part 2 -- Bill of Services, Laboratory, Go-live Certificate, etc
Part 3 -- Executive Engagement, Bid Compliance, Adjudication and other matters
Guidance and Advisory Services
The Art of Project Leadership
Why Regular Communication with the CEO is Vital
The Business Simulation Laboratory
Precision Configuration and Strategic Business Information Architecture
Precision Configuration based on Strategic Engineered Precision Taxonomies
The JAR&A Cubic Business Model
Highly Structured Strategic Chart of Accounts -- a Vital Element of your Corporate Information Arsenal
The Product Catalogue -- an Essential Element of any Precision Configuration
Attributes -- answers to the questions you have NOT yet thought to ask
Case Studies of Notably Successful Projects with high value Precision Configuration
092 Doing things differently and better -- ASCO Case Study 2-- BPM Summit 2013
088 Strategic ERP Invesment -- ASCO Case Study -- Service Management Conference and Exhibition Africa
026 Information Architecture and Design of FIS for Rennies Group -- Financial Information Systems Conf
018 CRM Risk Control: Designing and Implementing an Integrated Risk Mgmt Sys -- Integrated Risk Mgmt Conf
011 V3 Consulting Eng: Benefits of MIS to Professional Practice -- SAICE 15th Ann Conf on Computers in Civil Eng
Strategically Enriching your Business Information Systems
Part 2 -- Principles of Data Engineering
Part 3 -- Steps in applying these recommendations
Simple Steps to increase the strategic information value yield from your Business Systems Investment
The Full JAR&A Taxonomy Manual
Part 1: Introduction, Problem Statement, Definitions and Examples
Part 2: Why Use JAR&A, Required Knowledge and Experience, Cubic Business Model and Chart of Accounts and Taxonomy Software
Part 3: How to do it, Case Studies and White Papers and other References
Example General Ledger Manual
Business Process -- Irrelevant, Distracting and Dangerous
The RIGHT Approach
Custom Strategic Software Design and Oversight of Construction
Standards for Custom Software Specification
What IS Software?
Critical Factors for I.T. Success
A Moral and Ethical Dilemma -- Systems that Fail
Case Studies examining Business Information System failures
The BBC Digital Media Initiative Debacle
The Bridgestone -- IBM Conflict
Speaking and Training
Showcase of Conference Presentations
Most Viewed Presentations
Briefings and Seminars
Why your ERP/BIS is NOT delivering and HOW to FIX it
ERP and IT Procurement that Delivers Results
The Critical Factors for IT and ERP Investment Success
Conferences and Public Presentations
Conferences 80 to 99 -- 2009 to Present
Conferences 60 to 79 -- 2005 to 2009
Conferences 40 to 59 -- 1996 to 2005
Conferences 20 to 39 -- 1994 to 1996
Conferences 01 to 19 -- 1989 to 1994
On-Line Seminars (Webinars)
Webinar on Preparing and Presenting Webinars
Contacting James A Robertson and Associates Limited