Plain language about Digital Leadership and Governance of Information Technology for Executives and Directors  

December 2012 Edition: New Horizons in English

Diciembre 2012 Edición: Nuevos Horizontes, en español.

Hello and welcome to The Infonomics Letter for December 2012.  Some people thought that the world would end today, but perhaps instead we are on the threshold of momentous change, on many levels.  I think 2013 is going to be a very significant year as the world continues to adapt to changes wrought by technology, and as new forces come to bear.

Social media has already wrought tremendous change, but many organisations are still struggling to come to terms with it.  Recently, an Australian Institute of Company Directors member asked on Linked In “Should directors be trained in social media risk management and governance”?  Social Media: Governance Opportunity offers some thoughts.

Much of the impact of social media comes from empowerment of the masses through ubiquitous connectivity, portability and accessibility of tools that enable unprecedented peer level interaction.   This is giving rise to another phenomenon – mass rejection of unacceptable IT.  We take a brief look in iDon’t.


Regular readers will remember how The Infonomics Letter reprised the governance failures documented in the Queensland Audit Office review of the Queensland Health Payroll project.  Concern about the system, which still doesn’t work properly, and the process which created it continues and the new Queensland Government has moved to establish a Commission of Inquiry.  See more in Deep Investigation.


Once again in 2013, it will be my pleasure to work with the Australian Computer Society on its Education Across the Nation (EdXN) program.  See Learning Opportunities for the schedule and other details.


The Double Elephant Sale continues – don’t miss out on the opportunity to buy two (PDF) copies of Waltzing with the Elephant in English or Spanish, for the price of one.  Give one to your boss, your CEO, CIO, CFO or even to one of your Board Directors.


One more thing: @LeadandGovernIT is slowly but surely coming to life on Twitter.


I’m looking forward to a short break from now until January 7. I will be on hand to service elephant purchases, but otherwise focusing on home, garden and rest.  And, as I wish all of my readers in more than 55 nations peace, hope, joy and prosperity for the Christmas season and the new year, I commend you all to give a thought also to the innocent lives lost to needless violence throughout the world, and especially twenty children and their teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School.


November 2012 Edition: Digging deeper in English

Novembre 2012 Edición: Indagando más a fondo , en español.

Hello and welcome to The Infonomics Letter for November 2012.

This month is dominated by the final instalment in the extremely popular Questions for Directors series.  Already, the questions are being republished with permission in other journals, and savvy specialists are using them to both explore IT as well as build stronger boardroom skills.  In this final instalment, we look at eleven questions to ask about operational performance and risk associated with use of IT.  As you read them, ask yourself how well your organisation fits the desired profile.

The Spanish Elephant is on sale, and personalised copies are heading out the (email) door on a regular basis.  We’ve just filled an order for 25 licenses from a university, giving some confidence that the next generation of Spain’s business leaders will be better equipped to govern that nation’s use of IT.

To help speed the Spanish Elephants, and to thank all Infonomics supporters from around the world, I’ve decided that for the month of December, all PDF editions of Waltzing with the Elephant sold through the New Infonomics Shop will double up – an unbeatable two-for-one deal.  Look for the special deal from December 1st.


We’ve also enjoyed a new experience this month, of providing intellectual property for use by a major consulting firm.  The Infonomics ISO 38500 Assessment Diagnostic was used by an experienced consultant with no other special training and just a little support from me, to explore how his client organisation goes about directing and controlling its use of IT.  Of course, the request for the review was driven by concerns about the effectiveness of the organisation’s IT arrangements, and feedback indicates that use of the tool gave a very clear understanding of the issues and underlying behaviour.  Of particular interest in this case was that the use of ISO 38500 was at the specific request of the client CEO, who had read the standard and considered it a useful framework in which to understand what was happening.


ISO 38500 has popped up a number of times recently.  I’ve seen the ISO 38500 model in documentation for a new approach to governance of IT in a major Australian university, and in the draft ICT Strategy for the government of Victoria.  A consultant in Queensland also reports using the standard to help frame new arrangements for governance of IT in one of his clients.  Is this a sign of things to come?  Where have you seen ISO 38500 being used?


October 2012 Edition: Advancing the Cause in English

Octubre 2012 Edición: Promoción de la Causa, en español.

Hello and welcome to The Infonomics Letter for October 2012.

It’s been a long time coming – and so I am extremely pleased to announce that the Spanish translation of Waltzing with the Elephant is officially on sale.  There are new pages on that enable people who prefer to operate in Spanish to learn about the book, and to buy it.  There’s more detail in Spanish Elephant.

Last edition’s Questions for Directors generated more than the usual amount of positive feedback.  This month, we continue the three part series, looking at questions that directors might ask about the next stage in the management cycle – the implementation of IT-enabled business capability, or change.

I’m working on some “big fish” at present, so that’s it for this edition – not that it’s short on content or value.   Look for something interesting in the November edition, when I will also complete the series on questions for directors.

August / September 2012 Edition: Learning Opportunities in English

Agosto / septiembre Edición: Oportunidades de Aprendizaje en  español

Hello and welcome to The Infonomics Letter for August and September 2012.

Yes, a combined edition for the second time this year!  That’s because I’ve been learning some interesting lessons, like how long it takes to empty a property that has been home for 30 years and then integrate the paraphernalia of life from two homes into one.  That experience was immediately useful, as my daughter sought help to transfer herself some 4,000 km northward into tropical far north Queensland.  Along the way came a reminder that disaster can strike at any time, and often the most inconvenient, when a power spike blew through the surge arrester and trashed the inner workings of the primary Infonomics PC.  The live test of backup came through with flying colours – no data was lost, but it still required time to acquire the replacement PC and reload the data and all the requisite software. 

Given that it’s been a learning time for me, then, it seems apposite to put up some learning opportunities for Infonomics Letter readers. We begin this edition with the first of a three part series on Questions for Directors, posing seven questions which may help you in developing and evaluating a new or refreshed business strategic plan.

It’s been my delight during August to have received one of the Australian IT Industry’s highest awards – that of ICT Professional of the Year.  This adds to the recognition mentioned in the July Infonomics Letter.  Further Acknowledgment explains more and presents my thoughts upon receiving the award.

Two highly regarded colleagues are doing interesting things at present.  In Advancing Thought Leadership, we introduce an exclusive event “Collaborate or Perish! Close and Personal with Zach Tumin, global Thought Leader” organised by Margaret Manson of InnoFuture. Then in Improving Information Security, we talk about how Kevin Fitzgerald has packaged his lifetime of rich experience as a pioneer and ongoing specialist in all aspects of information security, for transfer to the next generation of specialists.

Past thought leaders can also teach us a thing or two.  Deming Revisited takes a lead from Basil Wood in New Zealand, to highlight Deming’s “five deadly sins of management” and six profound quotes from the grand master of quality.

Finally, we have some new group-based learning opportunities, all focused on Business Leadership and Governance of IT.

July 2012 Edition: Many Happy Returns in English

Edición de Julio : Muchos retornos felices en español

Hello and welcome to The Infonomics Letter for July 2012. 

Yes, I’m back, having largely recovered from the illness that struck while I was in Mexico City.  It turned out to be a fairly severe dose of influenza which was happily incubating as I boarded the flight from Melbourne.  Thanks to the help of a very skilled Mexican doctor, I was well on the way to recovery by the time I arrived back in Melbourne, though the secondary bronchitis has proven a little stubborn.

My return to Melbourne coincided with a very delightful experience – being named as the Victorian ICT Professional of the Year.  Details of the award are in “It’s nice to be acknowledged”.

Registrations are about to close for the next round of Aligning Technology to Business seminars – see the foot of page 1 for details.

A past colleague recently said: “I know you are an expert in governance of IT, but what do you actually DO?”  Hmmm – it seems like a good time to explain, in “How can I help you”.

Dilbert cartoons offer witty reflection on the stupidity which so often afflicts our use of technology.  The strip from Sunday 29 July is a case in point (click the link – I wasn’t prepared to pay the license fee).  It ties in very nicely to a brief review of Rob Livingstone’s very useful book, “Navigating Through the Cloud”.  I spent some time with Rob recently, and our conversation is now available as a podcast – details are in “Dialogue: Governance and Cloud”.

An interesting trend seems to be emerging in the marketplace.  It’s the real driver for the “many happy returns” tagline for this edition.  Major companies in Australia and other parts of the world are turning away, at least in part, from outsourcing, and are bolstering their in-house IT expertise.  We explore this emerging phenomenon in “Welcome Home”.

Success with IT seems as elusive as ever for many organisations, in all sectors of the economy.  Yet analysts tell us that effective use of IT is a key enabler to productivity and therefore to improving economic performance.  It’s been my view for some time that the reason for failure of so many investments in IT to deliver real value has less to do with the IT suppliers and a great deal more to do with the way business leaders engage on the IT agenda.  Next month, we will explore this, “Business Leadership and Productivity” issue in depth.

Finally, Colm Baldwin, a researcher at the Innovation Value Institute in Ireland seeks people who have been involved in major IT projects to respond to a short survey – please respond by August 3rd.

June 2012 Edition: A little help from my friends in English

Edición de Junio : Un poco de ayunda de mis amigos  en español

Hello and welcome to The Infonomics Letter for June 2012. 

This edition hasn’t worked out quite as planned.  Many will remember my scheduled visit to Mexico City at the end of the month.  The travel time was supposed to provide a great opportunity for some new content from me, building on some very interesting material just released in Australia. However, for the first time that I can recall in over 25 years of offshore ventures, I have been caught by a travel bug, and have spent much of the time in Mexico City flat on my back fighting off a severe bronchial infection. 

Thus it was that I issued a plea to four points of the globe for thoughtful contributions on matters of success, value and business change.

Fortunately, I was able to mostly complete my obligations here.  It was rewarding to speak about governance of IT to the 100-member conference in the Mexico Chapter of the Association of Enterprise Architects.  Perhaps better was the investment of my hosts here, Dux Diligens, as they brought their local consultants and colleagues from Costa Rica and Colombia to learn about ISO 38500.  With two academics from ITAM and three other consultants (including a senior gentleman from KPMG), there can be no doubt that Mexico has taken a giant step forward in its potential to improve performance of investment in IT-enabled business and change, through effective adoption of ISO 38500.

The Spanish Edition of Waltzing with the Elephant draws inexorably closer to completion and should be on sale by the end of July.  And the education program continues with events in Malaysia and Australia during the coming few weeks.

And now, I invite you to enjoy articles from The Netherlands, Argentina, UK and Australia.

Click here to read The Infonomics Letter

May 2012 Edition: Winds of Change in English

Edición de Mayo : Vientos de Cambio  en español

Hello and welcome to The Infonomics Letter for May 2012.  As winter descends on Australia, the winds of change are blowing strong, on numerous fronts. 

In Queensland, a new state government elected in a massive landslide has moved to seize control over the state’s use of IT.  Like many other governments in Australia, Queensland has been remarkable for the frequency and extent of major problems with IT-enabled business. The 2010 Queensland Health Payroll debacle became one of our favourite illustrations of the consequences when the principles for governance of IT in ISO 38500 are ignored.

In one of her first decisive steps, Queensland’s new Minister for Information Technology, Ros Bates, has ordered a major audit of the state’s use of IT.  In Queensland’s new Broom, we suggest that the audit needs to look at the context in which IT is used, as well as the IT itself.  And to prevent problems in the future, we suggest that the Minister should also obtain a comprehensive picture of the behaviour exhibited by agency leaders as they make key decisions about the government’s use of IT.

Prompted in part by further questions now being asked regarding the Queensland Health Payroll, we seize the opportunity to look again at a topic that seems to vex many in the IT world – the relationship between Responsibility and Accountability.  The new Queensland Premier wants to know who was responsible for the failed project, so that they can be brought to account (that is – made accountable).  We don’t know what the legal advice says, but we wonder if it will lead to any financial settlement, given that there was clearly a massive failure in assignment of responsibility for the project, and with responsibility both wrongly assigned and unclear, it becomes difficult to understand who can and should be held to account.  But perhaps the exercise can lead to better future practice with assignment of responsibility for future investments.

After a marathon effort by Juan Pardo Martinez in Spain and an eclectic team of reviewers from around the globe, we are greatly pleased to announce the Spanish Edition of Waltzing with the Elephant.  The free download is available now.

The continuing Infonomics Events Agenda takes me to Mexico in June to speak at a conference and present an ISO 38500 Foundation Class, then around Australia in August to deliver another seminar series with Australian Industry Group.

Finally, Infonomics and its owner are On the move to a new home – and we thought IT projects were hard work!

March / April 2012 Edition: Talking about Governance in English

Edición de Marzo / Abril 2012: Hablando acerca de Gobierno en español

Hello and welcome to The Infonomics Letter for March and April 2012. This is one of the rare cases where circumstances force a combined edition.

Some months ago, the Australian Institute of Company Directors embraced the online world through adoption of an established LinkedIn Group, which now has over 7,400 members.  That’s a substantial percentage of the overall membership, and the group engages in wide ranging and lively discussion.  More recently, after triggering vigorous response to a question about ongoing engagement in the development of standards for governance and management of IT, AICD created a subgroup – the “Company Directors’ IT Governance Community”.

My initial reaction to the new subgroup was one of despair – it looked like the IT topic was being pushed outside the mainstream of boardroom discussion again.  But a rapid rise in membership to the current 315 indicated that I may have been wrong.  More importantly, the discussion has again been vigorous and many useful points have been made.  The challenge remains in respect of engaging the wider director community, but this looks like being a very useful step along the way.

To broaden engagement for those discussions, I’ve chosen to repackage here some of the posts I have made in the company director forums during the past few weeks.  First we look at the distinction between management and governance, then at the way the board discerns IT, and finally at the proposition that all IT projects are really business projects.

The board view of IT has also been discussed in the April 2012 edition of the AICD magazine, Company Director.  IT Under the Board’s Microscope looks at the advice provided in the article of the same name.

April has also seen the emergence of a new international community focused on Strategy and Enterprise Architecture.  See inside the overview for details and your invitation to participate.

The “Events Season” is getting serious again.  This month, you can see details of my forthcoming activities in Adelaide (ISO 38500 Immersion), Darwin (Company Director’s Conference), Korea (ISO meeting), and Mexico (conference paper), with more in the pipeline.

This edition includes a request for contributions to an international survey IT Service Management, an update on how I am now engaging in the ongoing development of standards for governance and management of IT, and a brief update on how and why Infonomics selected a new IT host provider.

February 2012 Edition: Winds of change in English

Edición de Febrero: Vientos de cambio  en español

Hello and welcome to The Infonomics Letter for February 2012.  No, I wasn’t caught out by the leap year – but others were, and I decided to delay this edition and include that problem in the discussion.

Just for this month, I’ve also inverted the sequence of content in The Infonomics Letter.  First comes the Infonomics Education Program.  I’ve given it prominence this month because in March I will be on deck in three Australian cities, talking about governance of IT.  I hope regular and new readers of The Infonomics Letter will give serious consideration to the small investment required for participation, and that you will also recommend the sessions to your colleagues and customers.

Late in 2011 I mentioned my interest in the work of the Innovation Value Institute, which is based in Dublin.  Now I’m very pleased to announce in A New Partnership  that Infonomics has signed up as a Contributing Member of IVI, and that I will be participating in their efforts to develop pragmatic and useful guidance on governance of IT.

Governance of IT is a significant issue for company directors.  Efficient, effective and appropriate use of IT is fundamental to current and future performance of business – much more so today than when I first took on the role of representing company directors in the Standards Australia and ISO committees that developed first AS 8015 and then ISO 38500.  As IT has become more deeply embedded as an operational tool of business, and as IT has become more significant in formulation of business strategy, it has become increasingly clear that the bodies which develop guidance on governance of IT must have an effective balance between the supply and demand side perspectives.  Recently, Standards Australia has acted to revise the constitution of its primary committee in the field, and the Australian Institute of Company Directors has reconfirmed that it intends to have a strong voice on that committee.  Company Directors Engage on Governance of IT provides some background, and explains why governance of IT must now be seen as a business leadership discipline, rather than as an IT supply discipline.

Good governance of IT should, among other things, ensure that business does not experience major IT-linked operational problems.  Regulators Intervene in IT Issues looks at what happens when governance arrangements are not working well enough, resulting in business disruption and customer inconvenience.  The discussion is driven by the fact that Australian regulators are, right now, beginning to intervene in problems with banking systems.

January 2012 Edition: Looking Both Ways in English

Edición de Enero: Mirando a ambos lados en español

Hello and welcome to The Infonomics Letter for January 2012.

Casting an eye back over the corresponding edition for 2011 might cause one to wonder if we have made any progress in the past 12 months.  Indeed, looking through the full set of 2011 editions we can see many more case examples of lessons provided through failure of operational IT disrupting business, and through failure of IT-enabled business change that renders the investment waste and denies access to potentially substantial benefits.

Current history – that which is too new to be yet dismissed as the folly of the past, continues to tell us that we must learn to do better when it comes to maximising the current and future business value of our investments in information technology, in the private and public sectors.

One person who knows all too well that we must learn from current history and adopt better practice is the Auditor General of Victoria, Des Pearson.  Des has been a long-time champion of improved governance in the state’s use of information technology.  Late in 2011, he and the Victorian Ombudsman, George Brower, co-authored a major report on Victoria’s less than satisfactory performance in delivering value from IT investments.  That report was the focal point for discussion in the November 2011 edition of The Infonomics Letter, under the heading “A State of IT Failure”.  It is my very great pleasure to now welcome Des Pearson as a contributor to The Infonomics Letter.  His article, “A Victorian Public Sector Challenge: Delivering and Realising Value from ICT” adds further depth and guidance for government business leaders in particular, and includes useful guidance of all business and technology leaders.

Several other developments through late 2011 and on into this year give confidence that there is more attention now being given to learning lessons.  In “Stepping Boldly Forward” I look across a range of developments, from a major business newspaper getting very aggressive in discussing the value of IT spending, to two universities investing significantly in research, and new behaviours emerging in Australian state governments.

Finally, may I share just one tiny example of how we can learn from experience?  Today I am in a serviced apartment in Brisbane.  The apartment has a broadband internet service.  The desk is positioned near the door, but the internet access point is on the farthest opposite wall leaving a gap of about four metres.  How does that meet the intent of the ISO 38500 Performance Principle, meeting business need?