Plain language about Digital Leadership and Governance of Information Technology for Executives and Directors  
20 December 2013: Eye to the Future PDF Download
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Welcome to the final Infonomics Letter for 2013, and the close of another year.

Before I do anything else, I want to wish each and every one of my 2,500 plus readers in more than 50 nations all the joy and peace of the Christmas season, and a most happy and prosperous New Year.

I will be taking a break for about three weeks during which time I will rejuvenate, enjoy time with friends and family, and do much-needed work on our house, getting it ready for sale so that we can move to our small farm, where Infonomics will continue to serve the world from a wholly rural setting.  I will also, as you will read below, have some clear time to wrap up a new book.

There are six significant items in this Infonomics Letter:

·         Announcement of my forthcoming new book: Digital Leadership Manifesto

·         Announcement of an education program with the Australian Computer Society in 1Q14

·         New research and guidance on competencies for governance of IT by company directors

·         New research and a university course on governance of IT in Uruguay.

·         Publication of a new Australia / New Zealand Standard for governance of IT Enabled Projects.

·         Recognition of those who help.

Digital Leadership Manifesto

Many readers will remember how I began 2013 with a new header and a broader focus for The Infonomics Letter – covering Digital Leadership as well as Governance of IT.  Learning and thinking about Digital Leadership has consumed a great deal of my time in the intervening months, and I am now more convinced than ever that the guidance in ISO 38500 is even more relevant as the global economy undergoes digital transformation than it was when first published.

Work on Digital Leadership Manifesto commenced a few weeks ago.  I expect to publish late in January.  In line with trends of the digital era, Digital Leadership Manifesto will be first published in electronic format.  Print editions may come – it will depend on demand.

I’m setting the price for the new book at AU$40, plus GST for buyers in Australia.  However, to give it the best possible launch, I am offering a pre-release purchase option for $30 plus GST.  To take advantage of the offer, go to the Digital Leadership Manifesto page on the Infonomics website.  And since we’re dropping prices, once again I’m going to reduce the price of Waltzing with the Elephant to AU$50 (plus GST if applicable) for the holiday season – until 31 January 2014!

To give you an idea of what the new book is about, I’m releasing here the draft preface.

Preface to Digital Leadership Manifesto

Looking back from the end of 2013, it’s clear that something major has changed in the way our society operates.  There is no clear marker for precisely when that change took place, and there probably never will be one.  The change is the product of numerous related but independent changes in the capability and use of digital technology for capture, transmission, processing and presentation of information.  The digital era has arrived – not as a thunderclap, but as a creeping osmosis that forever changes rules that may have previously seemed static.  And while the change clearly began some years ago, it is far from done – we are in reality still in the early days, because we have only barely scratched the surface of what is possible through innovative, effective, efficient and acceptable use of new technology.

There are many technological threads to the change: ubiquitous high speed fixed and wireless broadband communications; unremitting miniaturisation of devices combined with equally unremitting improvement in capacity and performance of those devices; the Internet; cloud computing as an overarching concept that is underpinned by increasingly mature technologies which allow massive farms of data storage and processing systems to be seen and utilised on a seamless basis; and our ability to incorporate low cost digital sensors and control devices into just about anything.

But these technological threads, while fundamentally important, pale into insignificance as enablers of the digital era, when considered in the light of the core change that has taken place.  That core change is the way that individuals and organisations in all corners of society are using technology to change the way that they operate, and to change the world around them.

No longer is what we once called information technology being used merely to automate and extend things we always did.  Now, the evolved versions of that information technology are being used to enable us to do things that we could not, practically, do in the past.  Digital automation has progressively given way to digital disruption and digital transformation.  Existing enterprises strive to reinvent themselves while new enterprises continue to emerge, both seeking to serve markets and communities in ways that were previously conceived only in fiction.  It is becoming abundantly clear that digital technologies are a pervasive and defining enabler of change – but it is also becoming increasingly clear that focusing on the digital technologies alone does not deliver successful change.

Through the last decade of the 20th century, concern emerged regarding the propensity of major IT projects to fail.  The pattern of failure has continued and may indeed have grown well into the 21st century.  Many organisations have become operationally dependent on their IT systems, to the extent that failure of a system for even a few moments can have serious consequences.

In parallel, we have seen emergence of concern and real issues regarding information security and privacy – challenges where society has encountered a real need to review and upgrade its rule books.  For the first time, we are seeing organisations being disadvantaged, losing market and ceasing to exist because they failed to adapt to a marketplace that is changing through digital disruption. 

Examination of a wide spectrum of issues associated with information technology reveals that, while there remain some aspects of technology that are not yet as stable as might be desired, the greater portion of issues that arise are due to matters that have little to do with the technology itself.  Rather, the problems that we experience arise from unrealistic expectations of technology and insufficient consideration of the broader business and societal context in which the technology plays a significant, if not defining role.

Just over ten years ago, in 2003, Standards Australia commenced work on what should now be seen as a visionary project – to independently develop an advisory standard that would guide corporate leaders in their oversight of the use their organisations make of information technology.  The resulting guidance, aimed to resolve the problem of business disruption arising from problems with information technology, was published in January 2005, as AS 8015:2005.  Following substantial international interest, AS 8015 was fast-tracked to international standard status and republished with slightly revised wording as ISO/IEC 38500:2008.

The preface to ISO/IEC 38500:2008 states: “Most organizations use IT as a fundamental business tool and few can function effectively without it. IT is also a significant factor in the future business plans of many organizations.

Expenditure on IT can represent a significant proportion of an organization’s expenditure of financial and human resources. However, a return on this investment is often not realized fully and the adverse effects on organizations can be significant.

The main reasons for these negative outcomes are the emphasis on the technical, financial and scheduling aspects of IT activities rather than emphasis on the whole business context of IT use.”

It should be clear from the ISO 38500 preface that to be successful with their use of IT, organisations must address IT from a business perspective.  Some organisations that have successfully adopted ISO/IEC 38500 frequently refuse to disclose any detail of how they have done so, because it has given them a competitive advantage.  In many organisations that has successfully adopted ISO/IEC 38500, there is one clear theme – that information technology is regarded as an enabling resource for the business and that responsibility for its use lies with the business managers, not with the technology specialists.

The same theme is emerging in research that explores the behaviour of organisations that are successful in establishing or repositioning themselves for success in the digital era.  Typically emerging from joint research venture between leading academic and consulting organisations, there is a very clear message that while digital (information) technology is enabling massive and disruptive change in virtually every field of human endeavour, the primary responsibility for planning, building and running the digital era business still lies firmly with the business leaders.  Increasingly, we are referring to these business leaders as digital leaders, because they are the ones who have overall responsibility for the safe passage of their organisations through their digital emergence and/or digital transformation.

Thus, the guidance in ISO/IEC 38500 is totally relevant to organisations that are being affected by, or are involved in, digital disruption and digital transformation.

ISO/IEC 38500 is extremely compact and abstract.  It requires those who use it to think hard and apply it to their circumstances.  It doesn’t prescribe any specific implementation model, but it certainly guides the development of a model in which organisations make effective use of information technology.

There is an emerging issue with ISO/IEC 38500: the language and framing of the standard is arguably too narrow for the Digital Era.  It was designed to guide directors in their oversight of information technology.  While deeper thinkers can expand on the core guidance to also find relevant guidance for managers, there is now a clear need for a more broadly based re-presentation of ISO/IEC 38500 that addresses the needs of all who are involved in planning, building and running the future of any enterprise – be it long-established or completely new, private, public or government, profit oriented or not, small, medium or large.

The aim of Digital Leadership Manifesto is to bring ISO/IEC 38500 to life for everybody involved in the governance and management of organisations in the Digital Era, and in doing so, to provide guidance that will help them deal with the tension between the tasks of building a digital era business and managing digital era technology. 

Those who are familiar with ISO/IEC 38500 will see immediately that this book follows the form of the original standard.  It carries the same fundamental messages, but now spelled out more clearly in the context of digital transformation and digital leadership.  It provides a broader context, focusing on what the organisation and its leaders should be doing, rather than just on the role of the governing body.  Finally, it extends the model for governance of IT by connecting it more explicitly to the business context and landscape in which digital transformation is taking place for individuals, organisations, markets and whole economies.

More information about Digital Leadership Manifesto

Click through for more information and to take advantage of the pre-release special price for Digital Leadership Manifesto.

Education program with the Australian Computer Society in 1Q14

EdXN is the Australian Computer Society’s Education Across the Nation program.  Having been a presenter in 2009, I’m delighted to be returning to EdXN in the first quarter of 2014, with an extended program on Digital Leadership and Governance of IT.

The primary element of this EdXN program is a briefing for ACS members and guests on the very topical issues in Digital Leadership and Digital Transformation.   The briefing will run for an hour, followed by time for questions, and is complemented by opportunities for networking.

For those seeking a deeper insight to the issues and how to deal with them, the EdXN briefing is supported by an upgraded two day class on Digital Leadership and Governance of ICT using ISO 38500.  Based on the established and proven Infonomics ISO 38500 Foundation class, this upgraded event adds new perspective focused on what is happening today, and will happen for some time to come, as organisations and whole economies undergo digital transformation.

Both the briefing and the upgraded class draw on Digital Leadership Manifesto – my new book scheduled for release at the end of January 2014.

Logistics of travel in Australia dictate that in some cities, the class will be presented before the briefing – but this does not detract from the opportunity for ICT professionals and their business leadership colleagues to gain new insight to what is happening and how to manage the increasingly rapid digital transformation of the world.

The program is locked in and ACS branches around the nation will, soon after re-opening for the new year, begin promotion and registration for their local events.  The full programme is:




Perth (WA)

24 – 25 February

25 February

Darwin (NT)

27 – 28 February

26 February

Canberra (ACT)

3 – 4 March


Adelaide (SA)

5 March

6 – 7 March

Brisbane (Qld)

17-18 March

18 March

Toowoomba (Qld)

Refer to Brisbane

19 March

Hobart (Tas)

27 - 28 March

26 March

Sydney (NSW)

31 March – 1 April

31 March

Melbourne (Vic)

3 – 4 April

2 April

Click through to the Infonomics Events pages for a detailed description of the briefing and class.  These descriptions will also soon be available on the ACS Events pages, along with registration and pricing details.

I must emphasise that these events are not just for ICT professionals.  Digital Transformation effects everybody – a fact perhaps best exemplified by the penetration of smart phones into the general population and by the turmoil in several sectors of the economy as some organisations adjust, and others fail to adjust, to the new realities of life in the digital era.  These events are entirely relevant to everybody who works in a technology-enabled or technology-dependent organisation, and I know that the ACS will welcome participation from people in many occupations.

New guidance on competencies for governance of IT by company directors

It’s been a great pleasure to work through 2013 with academic researchers from across the globe as they seek new understanding of how to govern and manage ICT effectively.

Elizabeth Valentine is one such researcher.  An experienced company director and chief executive officer, Elizabeth’s quest is to understand and provide guidance on how company directors can best fulfil their obligations in governance of IT.

On 6 December, Elizabeth, with support from her PhD Supervisor Professor Glenn Stewart, presented a substantial paper on Board competencies for effective enterprise technology governance - a new competency set.   

The full paper is also accessible here.

Elizabeth identifies three broad competencies that directors should develop and exhibit:

·         Competency 1: Govern technology for competitive advantage and business performance.

·         Competency 2: Make quality judgments and decisions in relation to business technology and data use, and oversee technology risk.

·         Competency 3: Oversee technology use to achieve returns and demonstrate value.

In the website article and in the formal paper, Elizabeth goes on to explain these competencies in terms of a definition, an organisational capability statement and a set of descriptors.

An important element of Elizabeth’s guidance is that she focuses on the use of technology to create value and advantage.  Consistent with my own long-standing advice, governing technology requires no specific knowledge of how technology works – rather it requires ability to understand and conceive how technology can be used.  It also requires understanding of how technology is deployed and managed.

Elizabeth’s website includes a feedback facility.  The competencies have also been raised on several LinkedIn groups, where discussion is also encouraged. 

New research and a university course on governance of IT in Uruguay.

As a person who is pushing the envelope of thinking about topics where the mainstream approach is on incremental improvement, it is always encouraging to discover that one’s work is being picked up and used by serious players in the market.

There is now a solid cohort of independent consultants – people who are not bound to a bland corporate standard – who are using Waltzing with the Elephant to help them formulate advice and solutions for their customers. 

Now those consultants are being joined by leading academics around the globe.

Just a few days ago, I was delighted to learn that ORT University in Montevideo, Uruguay, will in 2014 offer as part of its “Degree in Systems” (link is in Spanish) a class designed to give students an understanding of Governance of IT centered on the ISO/IEC 38500 standard and drawing from the industry frameworks like COBIT and Risk IT. The significant point is that the university is going to use “Waltzing with the elephant” as the text book for the course.

The person behind this initiative is Helena Garbarino, who is also conducting research on governance of IT in the SME arena.  Her PhD work is the result of a survey of Uruguayan SMEs with focus on IT Governance maturity and best practices use. These results and a systematic review of the literature, show the need for a specific framework. The survey engaged almost 400 Uruguayan SMEs and the results are used as an input to develop the framework. The main reasons because small and medium enterprises not adopting frameworks and sets of good practice are enterprise structure and company size, followed by a lack of training and knowledge relative to this topic.

Building on the research, Helena has proposed a framework for Governance of IT in SMEs, complemented by a maturity model and an implementation guide.  The framework was implemented in a pharmaceutical laboratory in Uruguay. Some results have been published quite recently in the International Journal of Human Capital and Information Technology Professionals (IJHCITP).  The specific article written by Helena is IT Governance and Human Resources Management: A Framework for SMEs.

Universidad ORT is the second university to independently adopt Waltzing with the Elephant (or more specifically, the Spanish version, Bailando el Vals con el Elefante, as a core text for serious instruction on governance of IT.  The first was Universidad Politécnica Madrid – the Technology University of Madrid, or UPM, where the initiative was launched in 2011 by Professor Jose Carrillo.

Perhaps 2014 will see more universities around the globe recognising that governance of IT is different to management of IT, and thus exploiting the increasing body of knowledge on governance of IT as described in ISO 38500.  That body of knowledge is being developed by an expanding group of specialists including Jose Carrillo, Helena Garbarino, Carlos Juiz at UIB in Barcelona, Elizabeth Valentine at QUT and Shafi Mohammed at Griffith University, to name just a few with whom I have a current and ongoing dialogue.

New Australian & New Zealand Standard for governance of IT Enabled Projects.

AS/NZS 8016:2013 was released for general adoption on 18 December 2013.  This marks the climax of hard work dating back to 2003, when development of AS 8015 began. 

I have been involved in development of AS/NZS 8016:2013 from the outset, and have seen the challenges involved in standing above the temptation to write yet more guidance on project management, and focus on the higher level issues which can enable good project management to succeed, and poor project management to flourish on its path to project failure.  I congratulate Max Shanahan, who has persisted for more than four years as the lead author of this new standard.  Where the interim document published in 2010 lacked, in my view, significant additional value over the ISO 38500 standard, Max and his helpers have now compiled a very useful resource that will help organisations be more successful when they invest in IT-enabled change.

The timing could not be better.  Digital Transformation is the new name for IT-enabled change, and it’s a topic at front of mind for many commentators on business today.  Digital Transformation will involve many organisations undergoing IT-enabled change – sometimes in isolated areas, and sometimes on a whole-of-organisation basis.

No doubt, AS/NZS 8016 will be a useful additional resource for those who invest in my forthcoming Digital Leadership Manifesto.

Further Acknowledgments

Throughout this Letter I have mentioned a number of people who are playing a part in building global understanding of the value embodied in ISO 38500, and the techniques for gaining value from its guidance.  While I know I will miss many others who have helped, I want to acknowledge more of the people who help.  They include:

·         Carlos Francavilla in Buenos Aires, who tirelessly translates these tomes into Spanish;

·         Juan Pardo, in Madrid, who provides backup for Carlos and who, in collaboration with Jose Carrillo is working on exciting new developments for early in 2014;

·         Amrik Sohal and Carla Wilkin from Monash University and Paul Couchman and Ambika Zutshi from Deakin University, who continue research into governance of IT and adoption of ISO 38500;

·         Alistair Urquhart, at Affairs of State, who has remained an unstinting supporter over many years and who endeavours to spread the word among his vast array of political, government and business connections;

·         Sofie Sandell, who is a new connection and a leading luminary in the Digital Leadership space, and another brilliant encourager of my work;

·         The Australian Computer Society for believing in my work and helping me access ICT leadership communities throughout the nation;

·         ISACA’s South Africa chapter, which whisked me across to Johannesburg late in August, to not only explain new ideas on Digital Leadership, but also to enable me to meet leading figures in the South African Government’s whole-of-government adoption of ISO 38500;

·         And far from last or least, my beloved partner Leonie, who allows me the space to work in my office under the house and encourages me to persist;

·         There are many others – you know who you are, and I thank you.

And that’s it for The Infonomics Letter, 20 December 2013.

Once again, I wish all of my readers and supporters a very merry Christmas and a safe, happy and prosperous New Year.

Mark Toomey.

Melbourne, 20 December 2013

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10 October 2013: Advice for Government on Governance of IT

PDF Download

10 de octubre 2013: Recomendación al Gobierno


Government is a major consumer of information technology, and many governments around the globe have experienced considerable difficulty with delivery of new IT solutions for business requirements.  Some also experience unacceptable levels of operational disruption due to unreliable and inadequate IT systems.

Yet every cloud has a silver lining, and in the case of government IT failures, the value comes from the reality that in most nations, government is open to intensive and ongoing scrutiny.  Government IT failures are given little mercy in the popular press as the money perceived to have been wasted is compared to social welfare outcomes it might have bought, such as hospital beds and education.  But far greater rigour in analysis of government IT misadventure comes from those charged with responsibility to ask hard questions – the government auditors, consultants engaged to find answers, and sometimes, high level investigations headed up by eminent persons such as active or recently retired members of the judiciary.

While every investigation carries its own fascinating stories of who did what, and how things went wrong, it is important to consider the overarching lessons that come from aggregating the findings from a collection of investigations.  Look at the 2008 Gershon review into the Australian Government’s use of ICT and the follow-up Reineke Review of 2011, and contrast that with reports from the Victorian Government’s Auditor General and Ombudsman.  Add in multiple layers of investigation from the payroll system debacle experienced by Queensland Health, and the parallel failure with the Ministry of Education payroll in New Zealand.  Australian Customs’ effort in closing down the national supply chain in October 2005 produced substantial insight, as did one of the globe’s highest profile and most expensive IT failures – the United Kingdom National Health Service Program for IT.  South Africa has its cases (as illustrated in its plan for governance of IT) and no doubt do many other nations.

The patterns are clear.  When the IT agenda is controlled by the IT specialists, and the people who run the government agencies are not engaged, things often go wrong – sometimes horribly.  None of the investigations that I have seen describe a significant government IT failure arising from a situation where the business leaders are firmly in control of the IT agenda.  That should not be a surprising result.  IT is fundamentally a tool of business.  An IT solution on its own doesn’t deliver value or any other outcomes.  Results come when the new or changed IT capability is complemented by change in the overall system of business – its design, its processes and its people.  And that’s not rocket science – the foundation of knowledge for business change was laid down in the 1960’s by H.J. Leavitt.    Successful business change comes from a whole-of-business approach, not a piecemeal one! 

Governance of IT is the system by which we direct and control our use of IT.  What we should have learned from Leavitt in 1964, and what has been reinforced time and time again through major government IT failures since then, is that we must direct and control our use of IT from a business perspective – not an IT perspective.  And that doesn’t mean IT specialists pulling on a cloak that somehow endows them with top flight business skills.   It means top flight business leaders coming to terms with what they can achieve by harnessing the capability of IT, and focusing on delivering the most valuable outcomes.

Many say that business leaders cannot govern IT, since they don’t have technology skills.  Frankly, that’s rubbish!  We make decisions all the time without technical knowledge of the key elements in those decisions.  When we dress for the day, we don’t leave that task to a tailor, because only tailors know about clothing.  When we drive to the station, or the office, we don’t expect the car manufacturer to organise that journey for us as only they know about how to design and build cars.  Let me be absolutely clear here: we do not need to know much at all about how to design, build or operate information technology in order to understand the capability that information technology brings, or to plan new and improved business capability enabled by smarter, more effective and innovative use of IT.

No doubt, years of looking at technology the wrong way – focusing on the technology rather than its use – have enabled development of a culture in government and, most likely, in other fields of endeavour, where business leaders resist the notion that they should be involved in leadership of the IT agenda.  This culture is starkly evident in many of the reviews of government IT failure.  Government business leaders have found many ways to absent and excuse themselves from what should be core responsibility – to drive the agenda for business performance and capability through effective and integrated use of all available resources, including IT.

The International Standard for Corporate Governance of Information Technology (ISO/IEC 38500) was developed by experts from government and industry who understood at a deep intuitive level the critical importance of resetting the focusing the governance of IT on business issues, without losing sight of the technology issues.  While it doesn’t say so explicitly, careful consideration of the guidance in the standard leads to one inescapable, three part conclusion, that business leaders must: take up primary responsibility for setting the agenda for use of IT as an integral aspect of business strategy; business leaders must take primary responsibility for successful delivery of investments in IT-enabled business capability; and business leaders must take up primary responsibility for ongoing successful operational use of IT in the course of routine business activity.

For technology specialists, there is an equally inescapable conclusion.  Like finance and HR specialists, their job as stewards of a vital resource is to help business leaders perform their roles of primary responsibility as effectively as possible, without ever over-reaching and exceeding their role.  Doing so creates the opportunity for business leaders to avoid and abdicate, with the eventual and seemingly inevitable consequence of disharmony, sub-optimal outcomes and, in the worst cases, major IT failures.

Achieving best practice in governance of IT demands a fundamental and comprehensive rework of the mindset in both business and technology leadership circles.  Business leaders must learn and understand new responsibilities and develop the capability to discharge these responsibilities effectively.  Technology leaders must relinquish some of what they thought (and in many cases were taught) was their primary responsibility.  Both business and technology leaders must build new models for engagement, so that they can work effectively together to the benefit of the organisation and its stakeholders.

Such change takes time and effort, and requires intensive management, from the top.  South Africa’s Department of Public Service Administration reports that two prior attempts to overhaul governance of IT across the South African Government failed, with the cause clearly being in failure of the change management program.  South Africa’s new initiative for upgrading governance of IT now recognises the importance of first establishing the highest levels of business ownership, at ministerial and department head levels.  Australia’s response to the Gershon Review has not delivered all of the intended outcomes because, as identified by follow-up reviewer Ian Reineke: the top level business ownership at pan-government and agency levels has been allowed to drift into a largely disengaged, all care – no responsibility administrative exercise.

What governments must learn from contemporary experience is that transformational change in governance of IT is critical to future performance and success of their investments in IT-enabled business capability, and that transformational change in governance of IT is itself immensely challenging, demanding substantial skill, significant time, and deep commitment.  In addition to focusing its own energies, government should also send a message to the consulting sector specialists and to the IT industry overall – that government needs a new level of help, with deep understanding of best practice governance of IT as defined in ISO 38500, if it is to achieve the transformational change that is necessary.

You can help government get this message.  Send it to somebody who can help make a difference!

Mark Toomey

Melbourne, 10 October 2013

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September 2013: A New Approach, in English

Hello and welcome to The Infonomics Letter on Digital Leadership and Governance of IT for September 2013.

Once again, I’ve skipped a month.  While I could blame a technology failure, there has been a fair bit of good old-fashioned writer’s block as well.  I have ideas, but by the time it comes to write about them, it gets rather difficult.  So I conclude it’s really a case of time for a new approach.  This will be the last edition of The Infonomics Letter in its present form and somewhat of a transition to the new shape. 

In future, there will be more frequent and topical, but smaller Infonomics Letters.  They will remain free to receive and share, though probably now with embedded sponsorship. 

Complementing The Infonomics Letter will be a new product, tentatively called The Infonomics Report, for which readers will be asked to pay a modest per-edition fee.  The first of these is under development, and will focus on building further understanding of Digital Leadership.

For this month, the focus is on Capability Stripping – something I mentioned back in July.

I also take the opportunity to introduce the valuable research work and governance insights of Elizabeth Valentine.

And as always, there’s an update on where I’ll be speaking in the coming month.

Please enjoy exploring the discussion, and keep  sending thoughts on Digital Leadership to

Click here to read The Infonomics Letter

July 2013 Edition: Back in Harness, in English

Julio 2013 Edición: Vuelta al trabajo, en español

Hello and welcome to The Infonomics Letter on Digital Leadership and Governance of IT for July 2013. 

Did you miss the May and June editions?  So did I!  As happens from time to time, pressure of effort required for some activities results in other activities – typically those that don’t directly generate revenue – being set aside temporarily.  This is the longest break since 2008, and I sincerely hope, the longest break that we will see for some time.  If you’re not sure why you have suddenly (re) appeared on the mailing list, you might find The Great Contact Cleanup useful.

Early in 2013, I began discussing the concept of Digital Leadership.  It’s a topic that seems to warrant substantial exploration, and that’s where my attention is going for the immediate future.  I’ll be doing some research and perusing a lot of material, as well as further sorting the thoughts that are consuming much of my limited mental capacity.  From the outset, I’d like to know your thoughts too.  Unstructured input is welcome now, and there is sure to be a survey in the next few weeks.

As I explore Digital Leadership, I am coming to better understand the extraordinary dependence on IT that seems typical of organisations that are disrupting established markets and setting new standards for performance, service and competitiveness.  The further I go in exploring this, the more I wonder at a paradox which is emerging.  I call that paradox “Capability Stripping”, and I’ll explore it next month.

Just a few weeks ago, I participated in a global webinar event organised by itSMF in Spain.  Rather than a prepared presentation, my part was set up as an interview, in which I responded to questions from a panel set up by the organisers.  I’ve taken the questions raised and expanded on the verbal answers in The itSMF Interview.

Queensland Health’s payroll system disaster is becoming increasingly well known.  As the Commission of Inquiry draws to a close, it is being hailed as one of the most profound lessons available about the risk of IT.  Next month, we’ll tackle the big question it begs: can we learn from it?

The rest of 2013 is building to be a busy period in terms of talking about Digital Leadership and Governance of IT.  Where in the world might I see you?  Melbourne? Hobart? Johannesburg? Elsewhere?

Please enjoy exploring the discussion for this month, and consider sending some thoughts on Digital Leadership to

April 2013 Edition: Matters for Debate, in English

Abril 2013 Edición: Cuestiones para el debate, en español

Hello and welcome to The Infonomics Letter on Digital Leadership and Governance of IT for April 2013. 

It is sometimes said that one of the reasons we experience difficulty with information technology is that it is such a relatively young field.  We simply have not had the time to learn about how to use and manage information technology.  By contrast, in the fields of finance and human resources, we have had substantial time to learn and develop the roles and behaviours that are needed throughout the organisation.  Debate is a key tool for learning, in which we explore issues from two or more points of view.  Considering the reality that information technology is a critical resource for business, government and society today and into the future, it is important that we pursue debate on a wide range of matters that seem as yet unresolved in the way that we plan, build and run IT-enabled organisations.

This Infonomics Letter tackles three areas of debate. 

Is IT the Information replays a conversation between me and Mark Smalley in which we look at how information fits into the governance guidance of ISO 38500. 

Bad Habits builds on a discussion in which Gartner’s Mike Rollings sought to identify factors contributing to Australia’s IT talent shortage.

Out of Africa replays some of the debate that arose after I posted news of what the Government of South Africa is trying to achieve on a LinkedIn discussion forum.

The Queensland Government Health Payroll Commission of Inquiry looks like grinding on for some time yet.  But the lack of formal findings to date is not stopping us from being amazed at some of the behaviour that is being uncovered.  Nor is it stopping some commentators from drawing potentially useful inferences, pointing to how excessive reliance on a contract workforce can result in decay of essential management process and controls.

I’m holding over for a month with comments on the ICT strategy for South Australia, but that will give me time to also comment on a strategy update for New South Wales.

We ran a very successful ISO 38500 Foundation Class in Melbourne during April.  Next confirmed item on the Future Events agenda for developing Digital Leadership and Governance Skills is at the end of August when I deliver three sessions at the ISACA South Africa annual conference in Johannesburg.   

Please enjoy exploring the debates this month.

March 2013 Edition: Breakthrough! in English

Marzo 2013 Edición: Breakthrough! , en español (gracias a Juan Pardo en Madrid para cerrar la brecha de traductor, mientras que Carlos Francavilla no está disponible ).

Hello and welcome to The Infonomics Letter on Digital Leadership and Governance of IT for March 2013.

It’s been five long years since ISO 38500 was signed off for publication as an International Standard, and eight years since the original AS 8015 was published.

We saw Sir Peter Gershon reference AS 8015 in his landmark review of the Australian Government’s use of IT and thought that would mark the first major adoption – but we are still waiting in that space.

Several nations have adopted ISO 38500 as a national standard.  There have been spurts of interest in the guidance it offers from all over the world, but none of that has resulted in a major move to adoption.  We know of organisations (we helped some) that use the standard to guide their own activities, but none of them will talk about it because it gives them a competitive advantage. A while ago, I found a small consulting company which has built its methodology around ISO 38500.  More recently, I’ve come across independent consultants who use ISO 38500 and my book, Waltzing with the Elephant, to help their clients.  One of them wrote a very nice endorsement for me on LinkedIn recently.

Then the Victorian Government adopted a new ICT strategy which mandates best practice governance of IT and mentions ISO 38500 in the same sentence.  Perhaps this is a pointer to widespread adoption of the standard in Australia.  But now we have discovered that South Africa is months ahead of Victoria!  In what I believe is an immense breakthrough, the Government of South Africa has adopted and will implement, throughout government, a new model for governance of IT that has ISO 38500 at its core.  There’s an extensive review of the published material in Clear, Specific Instruction.

Boardroom Skills tells of a plea for help from an academic researcher. We look at the potential negative impact of poor and outdated advice for directors about how they can govern the use of IT.

Strategy South Australia announces the opportunity to comment on a new draft IT strategy for the state.

Extended Reach announces that our Questions for Directors are being republished by a highly respected international journal.

Remember the Queensland Health Payroll debacle.  The Commission of Inquiry is under way!

Don’t miss your opportunity for Developing Digital Leadership and Governance Skills.

Best wishes to those celebrating Easter and Passover. Until the end of April – enjoy!



February 2013 Edition: More Digital Leadership in English

Febrero 2013 Edición: Más Liderazgo Digital , en español.

Hello and welcome to The Infonomics Letter on Digital Leadership and Governance of IT for February 2013. 

We are so dependent on technology today, aren’t we?  Take it away for even a few moments, and we are often helpless.  We had one of those experiences at Infonomics on February 28 – the day we should have mailed out this journal.  The tree wasn’t that old, really – maybe 25 years.  It was tall and healthy.  It had survived severe drought, and our recent dry spell.  But this week it rained – long periods of steady, soaking rain that changed the soil from concrete-like hardness to something quite different – something that offered little resistance to any force.  Then came the southerly wind – not strong, but persistent.  There may have been a gust. That magnificent tree gracefully collapsed onto the high voltage lines adjacent, and at once the area’s residents were again reminded that nature has a way of prevailing.  The working day ceased immediately, and production of the February Infonomics Letter deferred until today – with electricity supply restored.

Last month, I opened a new theme for The Infonomics Letter, and a new pitch for my work – with an increased focus on Digital Leadership.  It’s becoming apparent to me that the organisations which are winning in the transition to the Digital Era are the ones which have a Digital-Savvy leadership team, and do not depend wholly on the innovative insight of their most senior IT specialist.  In Digital Leadership and the CIO, I suggest that many IT industry commentators are barking at the wrong tree when they argue that the CIO is the prime mover for digital transformation.

One of our readers asked for some help this month.  She’s confronted by a situation where her client’s senior IT person might be taking them on a dangerous journey, and a digitally unaware leadership may not see the danger signs.  No Testing Required looks at the situation she raised.

John Beachboard and Kregg Aytes are doing their part to help build digital-savvy business leaders for the near and more distant future.  In Peeling the Onion, I share my thoughts on their book of the same name.

Following postponement of the ACS Education Across the Nation series, it’s good to be able to announce a new ISO 38500 Foundation class for ACS Victoria members and friends.  Developing Digital Leadership and Governance Skills also announces a commitment to speak on Digital Leadership at the ISACA Conference in South Africa at the end of August.

January 2013 Edition: Digital Leadership in English

Enero 2013 Edición: Liderazgo digital, en español.

Hello and welcome to The Infonomics Letter on Digital Leadership and Governance of IT for January 2013. 

Well the world didn’t end in December as some had predicted – at least, not for all of us.  But for HMV, an iconic brand known throughout the United Kingdom and some other parts of the world, the story is not so good.  HMV succumbed to the changing times, unable to sustain itself in a changing market – a market that has seen new competitors and new forms of competition.  HMV certainly isn’t the first – indeed it has a companion in the near simultaneous announcement that the UK arm of Blockbuster Video is also in trouble – and it won’t be the last.  But there are some aspects of HMV’s failure that resonate, for here is a business which had plenty of early warning, yet its leaders chose to reject the warnings, rather than act on them.  The same thing happened to the Fairfax publishing group in Australia.  In HMV’s case, an insider’s blog reveals that it was the CEO who rejected the warning.  In the Fairfax case, it was the board of directors.  In both, the failure to recognise the warning signs and take action was, fairly clearly, a failure at the top – a failure of Digital Leadership.

Contrast this with what we have seen at CommBank (Commonwealth Bank).  Over several years, that bank has undergone a total renewal of its business engine – the IT systems that manage its customer accounts, the systems that manage its assets and the systems that deliver its products and services to the market.  On the back of the overhaul, CommBank has launched aggressive market campaigns trumpeting its superior capabilities.  CommBank has transformed itself into a lean, mean competitor in the Digital Era, and its customers and staff can feel the difference.  And while CommBank’s CIO has been prominently visible throughout the transformation, those with a keen eye have seen that the CEOs – first Sir Ralph Norris and now, Ian Narev – have been deeply involved in orchestrating the transformation.  These two bankers have shown by their actions and in their words their understanding that leading organisations in the digital era focus on information technology as a core resource and enabler of business capability, and not something that should be isolated.  They have given us an outstanding illustration of Digital Leadership.

So Digital Leadership is now a core theme for Infonomics.  Digital Leadership embraces Governance of IT.  It is time for governing bodies, executive teams and owners in all enterprises to come to grips with Digital Leadership.  This month begin exploring aspects of Digital Leadership.  We will continue to develop this theme in coming months.