It's That Alignment Thing - AgainAdopting and using an IT investment portfolio model to define the IT agenda in alignment with the company's business objectives helps CIOs to establish credibility with senior business executives, gain and maintain the confidence of that executive team and achieve effective leadership over the IT agenda.
It has certainly worked out that way for the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), which has won recognition around the world for its IT leadership. CIO Jonathan Palmer says the ABS has always managed its software portfolio well. Now it is rolling out Novadigm's Radia to allow it to adopt more sophisticated practice around software installation, including remote administration of desktop configurations and automatic provision of environments to roaming users.
Palmer says software portfolio analysis saves the bureau money because it reduces the need to physically move desktops around - an unpleasant job at best. It certainly improves quality of service because it is easier to make tools available to people when they need them. And, although he suspects the ABS already manages its software licences "pretty well", anything that contributes to efficiency also helps the bottom line.
"We do some really interesting things in software portfolio management," Palmer says. "We cost recover our application development support and we've got registers of all our applications, which are clustered primarily by the owner group. Every year we put together work programs that look at the overall portfolio of those applications, and we talk to our clients about which bits require redevelopment and which bits are now obsolete."
The Department of Defence, the Directorate of Defence Information Environment Architectures Support (DDIEAS) recently released a request for tender for software portfolio management software or an application to manage its software portfolio. It expects to have the first version of its software running by the third quarter of this year.
The director of DDIEAS, Lieutenant Colonel John Ramsay, says since Defence requirements are so specific, the department chose to map all Defence functions, then allocate those functions to a range of supporting software, including commercial off-the-shelf software, bespoke software and also various significant spreadsheets and databases that have been developed in Excel or Lotus Notes, some of which are complex enough to be regarded as applications in their own right.
He says achieving software portfolio analysis capability will help Defence drive down the total cost of ownership of the IT environment, and in particular the administrative overhead associated with database management and training overheads. It will also save money on software development. "Once this management application software is in place and supported by policies, the first port of call of anyone who thinks they've got a business problem that needs a solution will be to go into the Defence application management system and in fairly clear language explain what business function they're trying to address," Ramsay says. "Our system will pass that query and give them back all the known applications that support similar business functionality along with points of contact they should pursue before they consider resourcing application development."
The application management system under development will capture information according to business function and enable Defence to do portfolio analysis on what business functions are being performed by what applications. Once this is done it plans to begin some solid analysis and rationalisation. The Queensland Department of Main Roads has adopted a similar approach. Katherine Dann, principal adviser (information strategy) performance and information division, says the department has gone through its corporate strategic plan and identified its information requirements. These were then mapped onto an information framework.
Dann says the department believes the business owners should also be the process owners, so it was keen to identify how information is transferred across the state and who uses it, in order to get a better handle on its application portfolio. "Then we audited all our current applications with details, including who owned them from a business point of view and who uses them across the state," says Dann. "Next we tried to identify what information items these applications created, and we now can map the applications onto this information frame and see the duplication in application function, where, for example, we might have 10 timesheet dissection systems."
She says as well as allowing cost savings and efficiencies, the approach is expected to provide major benefits in reporting. "If you've got different information items meaning different things then your rollup information isn't going to be too good. And if you've got systems that people use for different purposes then the data entered might not mean the same thing. Having everybody using the same application for the same data process gives you consistency."
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.