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Articles by James A Robertson and Associates

SNw 007 Where in the World is I.T. Going?
Created by James on 6/13/2013 2:18:33 PM

Continuing from the subject of the last issue which examined information technology as a judge of Governance

This issue examines the question of "where in the world is I.T. going?"

this article is in response to the statement that "I.T. is moving so fast it is not possible to keep up with it"



Earlier this year I examined strategy, its definition and determination.  Then, in the last issue I examined the relationship between I.T. performance and corporate Governance and suggested that I.T. is the harshest judge of corporate governance.  This may appear to be a complete side track from strategy but, since I.T. investment failure is generally a failure of corporate strategic capability, the topic remains within the broad subject of strategy.

A conversation some time ago posed another question that fits in with the current side journey and I would therefore like to discuss it today.

Statements are frequently made along the lines of "I.T. is moving so fast it is impossible to keep up with it!"

In this issue of StratNews I would like to discuss this issue as this statement, IF true, has huge strategic ramifications for many organizations -- in the sections that follow I point out the reasons why it is a myth that business cannot keep pace with technology.


What IF I.T. IS Moving SO Fast?

If it is true that information technology is moving so fast that business cannot keep up this suggests a "mouse on a treadmill" situation --  huge sums of money being poured into hopeless projects that are obsolete before they are complete.

Inability to make reasonable judgment calls on the future direction of business insofar as the use of I.T. is concerned.

Dependence of business executives on technology guru's who have crystal balls that are the only way to foretell the future and therefore the only hope of I.T. salvation.


The connotation of "too fast to keep up with it" carries with it an implied hopelessness that is cause for serious concern.

IF it is valid?

In the sections that follow I aim to persuade you that I.T. is NOT moving so fast that business cannot keep up but rather that I.T. is advancing in predictable ways and that the REAL issues with I.T. are issues that business executives are well equipped to understand.


I.T. Failure is a Consequence of Failure of Corporate Strategic Capability

I have been speaking at conferences for over a decade now on the 70% outright failure rate of I.T. investments and the accompanying further 20% of sub-optimal outcomes.

My analysis of the factors causing failure has not changed materially in that time although my understanding of the detailed dynamics has grown dramatically.

The essential reason for I.T. investment failure is a failure of what I term "Strategic Capability", the ability of organizations to determine their core strategic drivers, determine where they are going and plan and execute measures to accomplish desired change.  These change initiatives may include I.T. but this must be seen in the context that 90% of strategic planning initiatives fail to deliver the desired outcome and 70% of business process reengineering projects also fail -- so these failure statistics are NOT exclusive to I.T.

One of the reasons these failures occur is as a consequence of a degree of governance abdication by executives trapped in the myth that I.T. will solve problems they don't understand and cannot solve themselves and that the mystical beast that I.T. has become through powerful and seductive marketing and advertising is capable of solving problems that the founders and leaders of the corporation are incapable of comprehending let alone solving.  These myths are just that, myths.

Human beings today remain the most powerful cognitive and strategic thinking super computers on planet earth and will remain so indefinitely.  It is up to corporate executives to once more take charge of their organizations and put the I.T. dragon in harness to do what they strategically define as necessary.


What are the REAL Causes of Failure?

The factors that really give rise to I.T. investment failure are as follows:

1. Information technology mythology (30%)

2. Lack of executive custody (governance) and inappropriate policies (20%)

3. Lack of strategic alignment (15%)

4. Lack of an engineering approach (12%)

5. Poor data engineering (10%)

6. People / soft issues (8%)

7. Technology issues (5%)

Notice that technology is only 5% of the source of failure and, accordingly, technology is unlikely to be driving the effective application of the technology in a way that makes it difficult or impossible to manage.  These factors are discussed in detail in my book "The Critical Factors for Information Technology Investment Success" which can be purchased by replying to this email.  They are also discussed in detail in the various courses that I run, including the Executive Masterclass which will be held next Tuesday (7 November 2006).

Note that once one understands the causes of failure it is possible to understand what is required for success.


What are the REAL Requirements for Success?

The factors that must be effectively managed for successful I.T. investment outcomes and, in fact, successful strategic change initiatives generally, are underpinned by a general principle that in everyday life buildings stand up, aircraft fly, ships float, machines work, motor vehicles operate, houses keep out the weather, etc and they do so reliably, dependably and profitably -- we know how to use them effectively.

It is reasonable to expect the same level of reliability from I.T.  A successful solution is one that does NOT FAIL.

The critical factors for a successful I.T. investment are:

1. Executive Custody (Governance) (25%)

2. Strategic Solution Architecture (18%)

3. Strategic Alignment (16%)

4. Business Integration and Optimization (14%)

5. Project Management (12%)

6. Information Management and Data Engineering (10%)

7. Technology Components (5%)

Once again technology is only 5% of the issue, the primary issues are around corporate governance and strategy and the ability to determine and execute strategic change initiatives effectively.  Yes, there is a continuous whirl of innovation and glamour around the I.T. industry but in terms of the fact that most of what most organizations use the technology for it is as a mundane set of tools where the added functionality is seldom of real value to businesses whose personnel do not have any real level of mastery of the basic functionality of the tools.

What is the point of advanced glamorous functionality when many users cannot use a keyboard fast enough or accurately enough to capture meaningful and reliable information to be processed by the technology?  Touch typing courses rather than new software are in order for many organizations to improve I.T. value delivery.


SO -- Where is I.T. Going -- REALLY?

The I.T. industry is an industry driven by marketing and hype in many respects, it does not have the robustness or accountability that the medical, legal, accounting and engineering industries have where significant failure is accompanied by significant legal consequences for the practitioners responsible for that failure.

In considering the question of where I.T. is going it is useful to consider the air transport industry.

Did you know that the Boeing 747 is over thirty years old and is the most economically successful aircraft ever to fly?

Did you know that the Concorde flew about four years BEFORE the 747 and was a dismal failure economically notwithstanding the fact that it was technologically far more advanced than the 747?  The last Concorde was placed in a museum in 2005.

The military aircraft used by the United States of America are orders of magnitude more advanced than the Concorde but the bulk of that technology is not commercially relevant -- we do not need "stealth" airliners.

It has taken over thirty years for the airline industry to learn how to use the Boeing 747 to full capacity to the point where it is now economic to produce a larger aircraft and the design of that aircraft is being driven by increasing passenger volumes at congested international hubs NOT by technology.  Yes, advanced technology is being used but the business case is a commercial one -- more passengers on more routes more frequently and at lower fares, profitably.

I would like to suggest for your consideration that the I.T. industry is where the aircraft industry was about twenty five years ago.  It knows how to produce technology that is way more sophisticated than business needs (Concorde), the challenge is now for business to learn how to operate the mundane technology profitably and effectively (747).


The Real Direction of I.T.

The real future of I.T. looks something like the following:

1. Dramatic failures

          Corporate collapses, litigation, legislation, statutory liability and licensing

2. Software company shake outs

          Mergers, acquisitions and failures leads to access to source code, multiple versions supported, configuration management

3 Long software product life spans

          10 years plus for word processors, spreadsheets, etc, 20 years (50?) for core E.R.P. systems, Diversity of high value third party add on tools, standard data models

4. Less is more

          Stripped down software, lean, mean, competitively priced software companies, algorithm brokers and traders, multiple utility libraries competing for business

5. Executives take custody in response to massive corporate failures or near failures

          Understand the essential fundamentals of the technology, highly competitive strategic capability, define, design and execute strategic plans reliably and effectively

6. Emphasis shifts from routine transaction processing to decision support and decision MAKING

          Constant churn in the operational software space diminishes, emphasis on decision making and decision support, how to support the corporation to be more effective and efficient -- about people NOT technology

7. Corporate level solution innovation

          Technical professionals become real business partners, high investment success, reliability and sustainability, practical application of realistic and pragmatic I.T. solutions makes a positive dramatic difference to the organization, end of the I.T. "special case syndrome"

          The true potential of I.T.

Overall, an exciting and empowered place for business users of information technology to be but an uncomfortable journey to get there as human beings resume control of their organizations and cease abdicating in favour of the mythical ability of computers to solve "people"problems


Conclusion -- Where in the World is I.T. Going?

I hope that the above discussion will assist you to effectively position information technology in 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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Random Selection of Articles by Dr James Robertson

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Dr James A Robertson PrEng The ERP Doctor

Business Systems NOT delivering?

Call the Business Systems Specialist

Dr. James Robinson

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

Click here to read more about the Engineering Approach

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.

Book -- The Critical Factors for Information Technology Investment Success

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:

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James has a very detailed profile on LinkedIn should you require further information about him.

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Articles by James A Robertson and Associates

There is a large body of white papers, articles and other content produced by Dr James Robertson available on this website

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Table of Contents


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

Reference Articles

List of Articles

Article Catalogue

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

Pulse Measurement

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

Procurement Documents

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 1 -- Introduction

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?

IT Effectiveness

Organizing Outlook

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

Other Seminars

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