In my 15 years working in a large multi-national, my focus was the implementation of technology to enable change across large Public and Private sector organisations.

Since leaving the large multi-national and starting a business, I have worked with over 100 customer communities across the local business ecosystem ie. local government, local businesses, nfp, schools, community clubs and associations. This has provided great insight into how the local business ecosystem works.

With respect to technology, the biggest difference between large enterprise and the local business ecosystem is that most often in the local business ecosystem, technology is adopted to digitise an existing function or process eg "I need to sell products, let's get a website with an online store".  In essence, it's the same process, just the user interface has changed. Rarely is there any consideration given to the opportunity to use the implementation of technology as a catalyst for change.  Whereas in the large enterprise domain, introducing change is the reason technology is adopted.

So, I have developed a methodology based on my exterprise experience that can be appled to any organisation and I have started a Blog to outline aspects of the methodology as well as provide insight into some of my engagements with my "CIO as a Service" offering.

SME - One step at a time

Creating and implementing a strategic plan are 2 very different things.  Often an organisation will create what they believe to be a strategic plan, but in reality, its implementation is impractical thus ivalidating the strategy.  For example, a small business looking to establish a market presence and grow requires a number of very different skill sets:

  • Executive - Leadership, Strategic Alliances and Partnerships.
  • Operations - Establishment and execution of business processes and practices
  • Finance and Planning - Keeping the business solvent and providing input to growth forecasts such as when the cash flow can support a new employee
  • Sales & Marketing - Ownership over the customers
  • and of course ICT.

There are certain functions that you just can't do without.  In a large organisation, these functions are grouped together and serviced by entire business units, often with multiple experts sharing the fundamental responsibilities. 

Smaller businesses rarely have the luxury of being able to employ people into the full time roles. Instead, cost dictates.


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Local Government - Smart City & Open Data Initiatives

By their very nature, planning and economic development functions within a local government are about driving change. Initiatives such as "Smart City" programs and "Open Data" are becoming more common and simply put, Smart City and Open Data initiatives implement technology to facilitate change. Therefore it stands to reason that technology needs to be represented at the strategic planning table.  The question is; how, without introducing significant cost.

This question has led me to consider how to deploy the ICT disciplines and work practices of large enterprises in the local business ecosystem, without requiring a large enterprise budget.  With that as a target, I believe that there are 2 equally important elements that if implemented, will set you going in the right direction

  1. Methodology
  2. Chief Information Officer (CIO). 

Having one without the other will not work as the key to any successful methodology is its implementation and implementation requires leadership, which is the role of a CIO.

There are a number of elements of the Methodology that are important (regardless of your organisation type), starting with the "higher intent" - why are we doing anything?   That's why I always start engagements with organisations by mapping out the organisation's Values and Guiding Principles, including those related to Technology.  The result is a one-page overview that represents the intentions of the organisation and the ethos with which it operates. In other words, "what the organisation stands for". This one page becomes the checklist for any decision, whether it be a new business opportunity, a piece of technology or anything in between.  The idea is that you test and validate decisions and if making a particular decision causes a compromise in the values or guiding principles, it is probably not the right decision.  

Please refer to this blog entry for a bit more about the methodology.

The Values & Guiding Principles also illustrate the desired organisation culture and become the basis for modelling the organisation's business processes.  For example, if you want a strong organisation culture where people feel empowered, then you need to promote a self-service model and importantly, have the systems to support it. Strong organisation culture has a significant positive impact on the organisation's brand from an internal (employee satisfaction) and external (market perception) point of view. A weak organisation culture, on the other hand, is more management driven, administrative and restrictive.

So, how does this fit in with Smart City and Open Data Initiatives ....

Smart City and Open Data initiatives use technology to facilitate change to deliver societal benefits.

At the core of Smart City and Open Data initiatives is master data and the master data elements are identified in the Values and Guiding Principles.

Every process has at least one master data element, however the challenge is to ensure that the representation of the master data is common across the enterprise.  In the ideal architecture, there is a single repository and all systems that use the master data are able to access the data directly.  This is the nirvana situation but not very common.  More often, master data stems from multiple systems and when updates are made, they are proliferated across the enterprise.  To get this in place is tricky particularly for local government where it is common to have lots of systems with duplicated data.  To keep data accurate across the enterprise is very expensive and the result is often that there is poor data quality.  

So, from a technology implementation point of view, the place to start Smart City and Open Data initiatives is by developing a master data strategy, which is a bi-product of the Values & Guiding Principles.  

The first master data component that should be considered are Identities, where we want to establish a single business representation of entities across the enterprise.  Different types of entities are:

  • citizens
  • businesses
  • suppliers
  • employees
  • other entity types

The establishment of a single business representation of entities is the basis for many local government processes, particular Smart City and Open Data initiatives.


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How To - Technology in the Local Business Ecosystem

Whether you think your requirements for technology are as simple as creating a Facebook page or as complex as a customer relationship management system, there is no escaping technology - like it or not, your business needs it. 

Too often, businesses fall into the trap of what I call demand and supply technology; the business identifies a requirement and a technology provider delivers.  Often the result is disappointment because after the technology is in place, nothing materially changes.  Effectively, technology for technology's sake.

What businesses need is a strategic approach to technology and in a large organisation, this is the role of a CIO.

The CIO evaluates, plans, implements and manages ICT to better enable the business to deliver.  The CIO also manages the daily operations of the IT department including traditional business as usual ICT functions of Lan/Wan/Desktop support.

So, the question is - how to have a CIO without the cost?  It is possible as long as you have a methodology.

The methodology I use combines a part time allocation of a CIO resource, with best practice business planning, led by the CIO including:

  1. The Organisation Values and Guiding Principles - This defines the "higher purpose", what the organisation stands for and how ICT is relevant.  An organisation's most valuable assets are employees, so broadcasting a higher purpose and a well defined set of Values and Guiding Principles shapes the organisation culture, enabling employees to feel empowered, motivated and rewarded whilst also establishing the organisation's brand.  It also provides a framework for partnerships and is the strategic "checklist" that is used to validate decisions.
  2. The ICT Roadmap - This is a subset of the Strategy and is guided by the Organisation Values and Guiding Principles. It defines the ICT plan to get from where the organisation is to where it wants to be and is the ICT blueprint to achieve the organisation's higher purpose. 
  3. Change Program - This compares the way things are currently done versus the way things should be done and then maps out how the change will occur, using ICT to implement best practice.



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