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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Friday, March 02, 2007

Project Management at UK Ministry of Defence

Graham Lay presented on "Joint Personnel Administration (JPA) Initiative - Case Study" at the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM) Canberra Chapter, 28 February 2007. Graham is Managing Director of EDS Defence U.K. EDS won a contract to redevelop the UK MoD's personnel and pay system.

EDS arranged to install Oracle's personnel package for the $4B project. But Graham emphasized that a military personnel has to handle complexities unknown to a civilian system, such as issuing medals. Pay is very important to military personnel, who will not perform at their best in a remote and dangerous environment if worrying that their families have no money or their car has been repossessed back in the UK because they were not paid on time.

... EDS today announced a major enhancement to its relationship with The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) that will vastly improve the service provided to sailors, soldiers, and air force personnel by the Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency (AFPAA).

EDS will implement a Joint Personnel Administration (JPA) system for AFPAA which will deliver GBP600 million savings to the MoD over 10 years. The JPA implementation - rolling out across the RAF, RN and Army in turn between 2006 and 2007 - will modernise and harmonise what are at present multiple standalone systems. This implementation is consistent with the terms of the service delivery contract awarded to EDS in Nov 1997 and which runs to November 2009.

JPA represents a key element of the MoD's Defence Change Programme and, as a flagship project, is being cited as a benchmark for future relationships between government and the IT supplier community.

Under the terms of the JPA enhancement, EDS and AFPAA have made a joint commitment to overhauling the Agency's end-to-end processes and delivering an improved and dynamic service that will benefit all UK armed forces personnel.

Graham Lay, Managing Director of EDS Defence, said: "The relationship between AFPAA and EDS on JPA marks a turning point in the way suppliers and government work together to achieve the maximum benefit from partnering with each other. ...

Key facts

- Administers more than 340,000 live pay records
- Maintains over 570,000 master personnel records
- Maintains more than 725,000 pension records
- Accounts for GBP5.7 billion in military pay and allowances
- Provides IT services and supports over 8,000 desktop PCs

From: EDS Strikes Strategic Partnership With Ministry of Defence to Deliver Joint Personnel Administration System for UK Armed Forcese, News Release, EDS 28 October 2004
Graham emphasized that while the IT aspects of the project were challenging, the major problems were with organizational change and staff motivation. The system's aim had to be seem by the military as aiding their mission of defending the country, rather than just saving some money for the Treasury. The rivallray of the army, navy and air force had to be overcome to unify the pay and conditions of the tree services so a single simplified system could be used.

Graham explained it was not all without problems. As an example personnel were told to log in to the new system to change their password after a particular time. In the civilian environment, staff could be expected to do that throughout the day. But military people are trained to carry out tasks precisely at a specified time. So all the personnel tried to log on at the specified time, causing a system overload.

The RAF has declared it will have its stalled human resources computer systems fully operational by the end of the week, seven weeks after it went live.

But the MOD still has to determine what the problem was before it can guarantee that the Joint Personnel Administration system (JPA) can be rolled out on schedule to the Army and Navy later this year.
Click here to find out more!

The HR system, installed by EDS, has only been able to manage taxiing speed while engineers figure out what went wrong.

Wing Commander Trevor Field, a RAF spokesman and administrator, said he was unhappy with press interest in the delay and "bored" RAF "whingers" on chat sites like the Professional Pilots Rumour Network (PPRuNe), which he said make things appear worse than they are.

"It adds fuel to a fire that is now smouldering, and by the end of the week will be solved completely," he said.

EDS and RAF staff are also trying to figure out why JPA was unable to cope with its inaugural workload, Field said. It was supposed to allow personnel to do their own "self-service" HR administration, but the system buckled with the effort of servicing them. That meant they had trouble checking their personal information to ensure the system did what it ought to on their behalf.

Approximately 1,000 personnel subsequently had problems with the basic payroll, which Field said involved less than 0.2 per cent ...

From: EDS's Air Force system should fly by 'weekend', Mark Ballard , 11th May 2006
Graham is in Australia to talk to the Australian Defence Department about systems. One of my first jobs on joining Australian Defence Force HQ in Canberra was to help review the personnel system then in development. My report was not favorable a the project was canceled. The replacement project started out well, but was then canceled after a few years. After I left Defence they had more success adapting an off-the-shelf package, much as Graham recounted for the UK.

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