Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Helping Managers Achieve Value from ICT

Diagram showing the six guidelines of the Victorian Government Investment Management StandardLast night Peter Outteridge presented a Seminar on Achieving Value from ICT at the ACS Canberra Branch. This was based on a study sponsored by the federal government and conducted by the ANU and company Opticon Australia in 2005. Peter argued that this overlooked study had valuable lessons for helping ICT professionals assist their clients to get maximum benefit from ICT. The full text of the study is available online, along with an accompanying Achieving Value Booklet and the dataset for additional analysis.
Peter warned at the beginning that there would be nothing new for experienced ICT professionals in the talk. But what was new was having one's experience of the value of properly worked out business cases and project management confirmed by careful, detailed empirical analysis. However, what was missing was some idea of where to go from here to have these things implemented widely: if project management is clearly essential to getting value from projects, then why isn't it happening? What do we need to do to make it happen?

One concern I have is that ICT professionals may be expecting too much from the non-techncial managers of their clinet organsiations. The average manager has not been trained in the type of rigirous project management processesd which ICT professionals are. It may be too much to expect them to know how to look after such a project. Perhaps the average company or government agency should simply not do ICT development, and instead only purchase off the shelf, pre-proven hardware and software.

As a bonus at the end Petertalked about the development of the Leo computer, by the Lyons catering company. He humeriously described this as the first example of a vertically integrated computer business applciaiton and outsorucig company. Lyons build their own computer, modelled on Cambridg University's EDSAC and programmed it for oders in a call center and payroll. This was so succesful the company undetook payroll processing for other companies. But this was an exceptional company and I don't think the average organisation today should be doing software development, let alone hardware design. ;-)

Peter also recommended the Investment Management Standard (Victorian Government). However, even here, while the step by step process seems logical and simple enough, this is not an easy task. By making this look easy, this may well lead organisations into difficulty development processes. In many cases ICT will get the blame when the project goes wrong, even though it was a failure of management, not of technology. A case in point is Victoria's troubled Myki transport smartcard project. Like Sydney's failed transport smartcard, the problems are not with the technology but the business model built into the project.

Achieving Value from ICT: key management strategies (April 2005)
While there’s clear evidence that information and communications technology (ICT) can substantially improve firm productivity and performance, it’s wrong to assume that the introduction of a new technology alone is sufficient to provide these benefits. Organisations gain the greatest productivity and other benefits from ICT when it is accompanied by complementary management practices and strategies. This was demonstrated through research based on a survey of 1050 firms from 15 industry categories. Achieving Value from ICT: key management strategies examines the types of benefits organisations gain from the use of ICT and the management and organisational strategies that accompany effective ICT use.

The This link opens a documentAchieving value dataset (File format: ZIP, File size: 319Kb) from the survey of ICT use in organisations that formed the basis of the Achieving Value report is freely available for fair use by researchers provided the results of any further analysis are shared with DCITA. An accompanying Achieving Value Booklet (File size: 356Kb) is also available.

From: Firm level studies on the influence of ICT on Australian productivity growth, DCITA Archive website, 5 February 2008

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