|Research, training, consultancy and software to reduce IT costs|
Minimal IT newsletters 2006
In IT we are obsessed with projects. Focusing your effort on the systems themselves, not just on projects, can deliver significant tangible benefits.
Many persistent IT problems relate to the qualities of the systems themselves. Tackling these is not a technical problem, but a management problem of communication, justification, control and accountability.
We apply governance to IT investments, change projects and service delivery. Extending governance to include the systems themselves can give us the management tool we need to overcome many persistent problems in IT.
Project management and architecture are two of the main tools we use to manage IT. To manage systems better, we need another tool that is simpler and more direct.
System governance is not an expensive new bureaucracy to be imposed on IT. It is a way of cutting costs on work you would do anyway.
System governance does not need heavyweight methodologies. It needs a lightweight framework of guidance, processes, materials and tools.
Defining criteria for system governance involves looking widely to get a long list of possible criteria, and then filtering to focus on what is really important to your organisation.
Criteria used for system governance must be defined in detail. This includes their business significance, what questions you would ask, and model answers.
There are a lot of problems in IT that we find really hard to fix. You can make a huge improvement just by measuring how well systems fit your standards.
You can use system governance to identify and prioritise improvements to your systems, and justify your improvements. Automating this helps you tackle all of the problems, not just the obvious ones.
Free and open source software is a viable alternative to commercial products. Once you have switched to free software, you are unlikely ever to switch back.
Cheap IT helps small companies compete on a technologically equal basis with large companies. As well as cutting costs, cheap IT helps you beat your competition with innovative products.
I have an admission to make. I tried to fix a system assessment so that I would look good. But in the end I had to accept and act on the recommendations.
There are surprising similarities between system governance and agile methods. Although they address different problems, they share many core values.
To get closer to the business, IT must recognise and promote its role as stewards of the business' IT systems.
To gain the benefits of system governance, you only need simple materials, processes and tools. Anything more complicated would get in the way.
System governance solves problems that affect everyone in IT. But it is hard to position system governance because few people are directly responsible for solving the problems.
Writing a single, definitive list of the IT systems within your organisation is a simple task that can deliver significant long term benefits.
IT risk management overlooks critical long-term risks. With system governance, you can identify and manage these risks.
Current IT governance frameworks such as COBIT focus on IT's internal processes. Governance can be made even more effective by including metrics structured around systems.
To govern outsourcing you need to establish service levels, check the supplier's development skills, and negotiate costs. But how can you make sure that the supplier will maintain and improve the systems?
Simple, direct websites work. Complicated, vague websites fail.
To make your website simple and direct you have to focus on a simple message. You can't be all things to all people. You have to make hard choices about what to leave out.
Lead your readers on a path through your website. Follow them to make sure they don't get lost.
If you want a website for your young company, do not waste money on elaborate design. A simple design will be more effective. And cheaper.
Web accessibility is not an expensive imposition just to make your website usable by a few visitors with special needs. It makes your website more effective for all your visitors, and pays for itself.
We think of governance as a long-term strategic initiative. But governance of IT systems also delivers short-term tactical benefits.
An effective system review reduces risk and cost in your project, and helps you make the best use of scarce technical staff.
When you are selecting a new software package, do not rush the preparation of your vendor questionnaire. A well-prepared questionnaire helps you review the impact of each option easily and effectively, and saves you time in the long run.
There's no such thing as a future proof IT system. Good design can prolong the life of your systems, but what's really important is that you care and know about the state of your systems.
Projects are not investments, and "project portfolio management" is nonsense. Misunderstanding this leads to serious problems.
IT managers are often enthusiastic for a broader business role. But this can undermine the value that IT can bring.
We find it hard to save money in IT because big cost savings threaten our jobs. But if we want long-term job security we must reduce costs, even if it means we lose out in the short term.
There are six ways to cut IT costs. Two of them are well known. The other four are yours for the taking.
If you want to cut costs, you have to be prepared to descope and cancel projects. You have to avoid heroic project management that battles on against all odds.
If you want to cut costs, you need to make your IT easy to understand. You need to think of your IT as a collection of business systems, not a collection of technologies.
IT needs clear and strong business ownership. We must structure IT so that ownership is possible, and avoid IT structures that weaken ownership.
If you want to increase IT value and reduce IT cost, be realistic about what IT can do. Limiting your view of IT to automation helps you spot unrealistic requirements that IT can never deliver.
IT departments waste money by running themselves as a business within a business, selling IT to their business "customers". You can slash costs by turning this around, and seeing the IT department as customers, who buy IT on behalf of their colleagues.
If you are starting a project, or even if you are part way through, try some simple checks to see if you can cut out costs. If you have not got time, or think they are not relevant, the checks will bring you even more value.
You will achieve significant long-term IT cost reduction when you can see the essence of your IT, not its complexities.
We can build a future with deep and effective use of IT that is much simpler and cheaper than today's IT. We don't need new technology to get there, but we do need to let go of our view of IT organisations.
Walking home one evening, I found a man crawling about under a street lamp. "Are you OK," I asked. "I've losht my key," he replied, obviously worse for a few drinks. "Where did you drop it?" "Over there," he replied, pointing to a dark patch of bushes nearby. "Then why are you looking over here?" "I can't see over there. It's too dark."
The Minimal IT cost model shows you where to look for IT cost savings. You can try it for yourself for free.
We need a new word - stupidclever - to describe stupid things that clever people do. There is a lot of stupidclever in IT.
StupidClever is something that starts off clever, but ends up stupid. IT design methods and working methods become stupidclever when they are applied on too large a scale.
We can get carried away with clever ideas for design and technology. So often this ends up as stupidclever.
We use the phrase "islands of automation" to describe systems that are not connected. We all know that islands of automation are a bad thing. Or are they?
Some of the best programmers seem to do the least testing. Rather than criticise them, we should learn from them.
Politics, bureaucracy, unrealistic projects and over engineering are all blamed for IT's problems. But these problems can not be solved, and we have to learn to work with them.
Are you stuck for ideas for presents this year? Give your loved ones Linux!
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