Outsourcing’s five cast-iron rules: Break them at your peril

How do you get the best from outsourcing contracts without them getting the better of you? VocaLink COO Ian Guasden, who has worked on both sides of the outsourcing divide, offered me his key tips for a TechRepublic article:

CIOs face an expanding list of business objectives, which they have to meet by implementing a cost-effective and efficient tech strategy. Some IT leaders concentrate on inhouse development, but a lot of technology money is still spent outside the organisation.

With the pressure still on costs, analyst firm Gartner expects worldwide spending on IT outsourcing services to reach $251.7bn in 2012, a 2.1 per cent year-on-year increase from 2011.

The fastest-growing area is cloud computing, which the analyst expects to grow by 48.7 per cent in 2012 to $5bn. It’s a sign that CIOs are continuing to draw on external services and see going beyond the corporate boundary for IT as essential for ensuring value for the business.

Ian Gausden, chief operating officer at VocaLink, has overall responsibility for technology at the payments specialist. Here he provides his five top tips for CIOs looking to make the most from outsourcing contracts.

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Future IT trends: Experts pick out their top tips

Having a strong idea of the next innovation to affect the business can make the difference between a good and a great CIO. So, what’s next on the agenda for business technology? I asked five experts to try and predict the future of IT inside and outside the enterprise:

Denis McCauley, director of global technology research at the Economist Intelligence Unit, spends time researching future trends in IT and augmented reality – where computer-generated data is used to enhance live, real-world environments – is one of the areas that receives most attention.

McCauley says augmented examples might include additional information, such as facts and figures, being added to sporting broadcasts. “What you have there is something that is not totally virtual but which uses computer-generated data to enhance the viewing experience,” he says.

Businesses and vendors are expected to invest in new areas, with Juniper Research suggesting that mobile augmented reality revenues will approach $1.5bn by 2015. McCauley says some CIOs believe augmented reality could have an application in specific areas of business, such as customer service and staff training.

“Customer service reps could have multiple screens overlaid with increasing amounts of information,” says McCauley. “And gaming, which isn’t used that much in organisations yet, could be used as a tool to augment training and brainstorming activities.”

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Flexible working: Five top tips for bringing it home

For the IT department, successful flexible working is not just about getting the tech right. Toby Clarke, who has over a decade of developing flexible-working policies, offered me five key pieces of advice for other CIOs in an article for TechRepublic:

The 2012 Olympics have not just been about sporting excellence. They have also provided a useful test case for CIOs looking to establish an effective flexible-working strategy.

Businesses across the UK capital were warned of severe travel congestion in the run-up to the event. Many London-based companies saw the Games as an opportunity to create a flexible-working strategy, and to implement the technologies and policies that allow employees to complete tasks at home.

Some CIOs already have a long-standing interest in new employment practices. Toby Clarke, IT director at insurance specialist Abbey Protection Group, is a passionate advocate of flexible working. In line with legislative demands, the firm has spent the past decade honing its strategy.

“Flexible working is not simply about getting the technology right,” says Clarke, who draws attention to a series of performance, support and leadership concerns. Here, Clarke provides his top five tips for CIOs looking to establish increased flexibility.

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IT skills crisis? How coding and cool can crack it

The IT skills crisis is less to do with the quantity of candidates and more to do with the quality of their skills. That was the conclusion of a recent TechRepublic CIO Jury analysis, which highlighted how IT leaders are concerned about the lack of young candidates with an aptitude for technology. So, how do you solve a problem like the IT skills crisis? Three experts offered their solutions to me for a TechRepublic feature:

Paul Coby, IT director at retail giant John Lewis, admits he is concerned by the IT skills gap. He is chair of the CIO board of advisory body e-skills UK and wonders whether the upcoming cadre of IT graduates will satisfy economic demand.

The UK has a proud technological heritage, from the pioneering intelligence work carried out at Bletchley Park, to the first business computer in Lyons Electronic Office and on to Sir Tim Berners Lee’s ground-breaking work on the World Wide Web. “IT is a UK success story but we really need to generate excitement about the future of technology,” says Coby.

That failing, recognises Coby, is a significant part of the problem. While the younger generation is eager to get their hands on smartphones and social-networking apps, they are not necessarily as interested in the software that underlies such technologies.

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Curtains for CIOs? Five tips to put them back in the spotlight

Some say the rise of the cloud and BYOD will spell the downfall of the CIO. But could these developments in fact strengthen the CIO’s hand? My latest feature for Tech Republic investigates:

Technology is increasingly being purchased and consumed by the business rather than by the IT department. It’s a trend that has led a number of experts to believe that the CIO will struggle to survive. They see the only answer for IT leaders is to take an operational view and to become more involved in line-of-business activities.

But isn’t it inherently naive to suggest that the CIO role is on the way out? Who will manage remaining enterprise IT assets and who will provide a strategic take on the technology and applications of the digital era? We ask five IT experts for their views on the future role of the CIO.

With more than a decade of IT and finance leadership experience at Carphone Warehouse, Matt Peers is now CIO of consultant Deloitte. And he is adamant that the suggestion that the CIO’s career could soon be over is flawed.

“Never has the role of CIO been more pervasive,” says Peers. “There’s nothing in business now that does not involve IT. But that central role is not about bits and bytes. People have talked for ages about being customer-friendly – and IT is now finally about enabling people to serve customers.”

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Top communication tips for winning over the business

Does IT need an image make over? Here’s my latest feature for TechRepublic, which discusses the need for CIOs to develop a well-honed communications strategy.

IT tends to neglect its own PR – and often only steps up communications with the business when things have already gone wrong. That approach has to change, say a growing number of IT leaders.

Communicating the value of technology to rest of the business is tough. Other functions, such as accounts or facilities, exist in almost splendid isolation, but technology has become the underlying architecture of the modern organisation.

CIOs charged with running the IT architecture have to communicate value to an increasingly technically literate audience. They have to deal with high user expectations, pushed upwards as employees in the age of consumerisation often have better access to technology at home than in the workplace.

But help can come in the form of a carefully-honed communications strategy, and leading CIOs are already drawing on external expertise to prove the business benefits of IT. Here, three CIOs share their top tips for using communications to boost business perceptions of IT.

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Does CIO mean career is over?

Has the role of the CIO had its day? Or, is such a leadership vision needed now more than ever? In a recent column for IT Pro, I examined the future of the IT leadership role:

Regular proclamations throughout the media from so-called experts make the same assertion about IT leadership: CIO stands for ‘career is over’ and the technology chief is an endangered species that will soon be executively extinct.

Such a standpoint is, in short, ridiculous. The rise of the digital business means technology, and its management, has never been more important to a successful organisation. So, why is there a belief that the CIO role is on the way out?

One possible explanation is that, while technology underpins modern business, it has also become increasingly consumable. Long gone are the days when you looked forward to getting to the office so you could use a quick computer to surf the web.

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Want to succeed in IT? Five tips from the top

How to reach the very top of the IT profession may remain a closed book to most technologists, but leading CIO Paul Coby presented some simple advice to me for TechRepublic on the best way to get there:

So, you want to be a top CIO? Sounds like a reasonable career aim, but how do you climb the greasy pole and reach the highest echelons of IT leadership?

If you want best-practice career advice, it makes sense to listen to people who have already excelled – and are continuing to excel – in the technology chief position. Paul Coby is one such CIO, IT director at UK retail giant John Lewis and former technology chief at British Airways.

Coby spent a decade as group CIO of the airline, a role he prefaced with 17 years at the forefront of the UK public sector. As well as running IT for John Lewis, Coby holds a senior position at advisory body e-skills UK. Here, he draws on his experience and offers his five top tips to IT professionals looking to become a successful next-generation CIO.

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Five reasons why cloud computing won’t face a backlash

Business computing is slowly but surely moving on-demand, with analysts suggesting the cloud will be a standard way of sourcing technology over the next decade. So what will such a change mean for the IT organisation and the wider business? My feature for TechRepublic investigates:

Just as outsourcing experienced a backlash because of its effect on employees, will organisations and IT departments that externalise technology through the cloud also suffer a negative reaction? TechRepublic seeks the opinion of five IT experts.

Kurt Frary, ICT architecture manager at Norfolk County Council, is looking to develop partnerships with suppliers to improve services, and is considering the potential of approaches such as the cloud.

“At key decision points, you must consider all service options,” he says. ”There are some things we just can’t put into the cloud, like the social care system. You evaluate the decision point and work with that. Cloud is not always a risk to jobs, but it could be a risk in regards to a change in the type of jobs an organisation can offer,” says Frary.

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What will your next network look like?

My latest feature for TechRepublic includes conversations with five IT experts who demonstrate how the next-generation network needs to be flexible, responsive and ready for changing business demands.

It’s one thing giving your employees access to information on the move, but it is quite another to create the type of network that can cope with the continuing demand for data and devices, both now and in the future. How can CIOs create an information network that can deal with the evolving requirements of internal and external customers?

Analyst Ovum estimates 70 percent of large companies have extensive networking requirements, with CIOs at such firms recognising that increased complexity in business applications is pushing the demand for a more sophisticated management approach.

“Apps are cascading through the organisation in every way, from workflow and testing through to e-commerce and billing,” says David Molony, principal analyst at Ovum. “CIOs now have to deal with the interconnectedness of machines. And it means IT leaders are looking for more flexibility and responsiveness in the networks that their businesses use.”

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