Monthly Archives: February 2016

ICT Governance Best Practices

Information and Communication technology (ICT) is an emerging area as a delivery platform in public services mostly used by government organizations and also by the corporate. ICT projects and applications facilitate redesign of processes and convergence in the organization. In order to have an effective delivery of IT services for transitional and socio-economic change, a governance structure must be developed with specific focus to organizational goals. ICT projects are intended to bring transitional and socio-economic change, but they can be successful only when there is good governance.

The phenomenal increase of technology development, deployment and growth has given rise to a new emerging area known as information and communication technologies (ICT). In many countries including India, governments are exploring the potential of ICT to create new dimensions in economic and social progress. For example, the Indian railway’s online passenger reservation system, web enabled portals for the Right to Information (RTI) act provide information related to various government schemes, legislations, etc., are some examples of ICT applications deployment in public services.

The pervasive use of technology in ICT projects has resulted in a critical dependency on IT shifts with specific focus on IT governance. Governance refers to leadership and organizational structures and processes that ensure IT sustains itself while extending the organization’s strategy and objectives. Therefore, IT projects in public sector have extensive requirements and goals because here IT plays the role of fulfilling economic and political objectives.

Most of the best practices in ICT governance are developed to improve transparency and accountability and for reducing cost. Governance in IT also applies to all types of organizations (government, corporate and non-governmental organizations). Governance in ICT is essential for efficiency and to organize resources for the next growth of IT developments, keeping in view the costs and budgets for ICT projects. The importance and need for governance in ICT is due to the following reasons:

  • The role of IT is pivotal in achieving business or socio-economic objectives
  • Helps the organization to overcome IT risks
  • Creates awareness of ICT in public services
  • Reduces cost in service delivery

Due to these reasons ICT governance is becoming critical in organizations and hence an effective governance approach must first identify answers to three key questions:

  • What are the decisions required to ensure effective use and management of IT?
  • Who makes these decisions in the organization?
  • How can these decisions be implemented and monitored easily?

In ICT governance, decisions are highly important. Normally, IT decisions involves the role of management in IT objectives, architecture, business application requirements, infrastructure and investment. These important decision areas support organizations to understand whether their IT is able of deliver expected business needs along with resource management, performance and alignment. Therefore governance in IT is not just an IT management function instead, it is an ongoing activity with specific focus on enhancing and controlling IT for the benefit of primary stakeholders, customers and employees. Governance is the ultimate responsibility of the senior management or Board of Directors to ensure IT is adequately owned and used in the organization.

Developing and implementing ICT governance principles involves addressing a number of process issues practically. Some of the best practices or critical success factors in ICT governance initiatives are summarized below:

  • Enterprise wide IT approach should be adopted. IT along with business units must define all requirements and controls (in-house and external). A more cohesive approach to implementing governance will ensure clear understanding and approval of all involved parties on policies or directions and the scope of ICT in the organization.
  • Accountability and top level commitment. The management responsibilities and accountabilities must be clearly defined in the organization. ICT governance can be successful when there is clear direction and objectives from the executives or Board.
  • A framework for IT controls should be developed and required in the organization. This framework will be developed through consensus, by defining IT processes and controls required for managing the IT function effectively. Here again the processes in governance must be enterprise wide and not confined to IT functions. It is also important for the management to create awareness with all members involved in the organization so the objectives are understood and the practices are adhered to fully.
  • Gain trust internally and externally for IT functions. Trust is gained by aligning IT services with customer requirements. Here the IT Head or the CIO assumes center stage for developing awareness programs, workshops and acts as a link between business and IT.
  • Performance measurement in IT. In this practice, performance metrics are established on business terms and approved by stakeholders. This is a good approach to raise awareness of IT governance initiatives.
  • Costs play a big role ICT governance programs. ICT projects offer opportunities for financial savings when the project is implemented fully and when users are satisfied. Financial savings in the organization provide support and open new potential for more ICT projects.

ICT services are deployed to allow improved delivery of organizational objectives and goals. ICT governance structures are made to analyze and evaluate ICT investments, provide architectural guidance and guarantees quality assurance in projects. Governance best practices also helps the organization to monitor IT alignment with business, provides strategic directions for managing ICT investments and leadership.

SAP HANA Adoption Trends

All of us in IT are aware that better business decisions are made only when data is available in meaningful format and at the right time. Many vendors offer enterprise solutions for extracting useful information from a variety of data sources. SAP HANA is a RDBMS with potential to process huge volume of data in server memory by combing the capabilities of database, data-processing and application platform execution. SAP HANA is seen as the next major breakthrough in enterprise IT.

In 2011, SAP a major ERP and enterprise technology solutions vendor contributed their product offering known as SAP HANA. HANA is a High-Performance Analytic Appliance which is an in-memory platform for processing high volumes of transactional and operational data in real time. The in-memory technology provides instant responses to queries without any waiting time. This is considered a game changer in industry because the entire data base is stored on the server memory for real time analysis and processing as against data stored in disks where analysis is done in increments through repeated disk read-write activity.

In simple terms, HANA is a memory database which supports SQL standards along with multi-dimensional expressions (MDX). HANA provides columnar data storage and is compliant with ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability – guarantees the database transactions are processed reliably), an ISO standard which makes it a highly preferred platform by analysts and data scientists. In addition to these benefits, SAP HANA also has a programming component which helps the company’s IT unit to create custom applications on top of HANA database. The platform provides a suit for integrating multiple data sources and to perform various types of analytics (predictive, spatial, text, etc.). The appliance can run in parallel with SAP ERP software where analysts can access real-time transactional data instead of waiting to run daily or weekly reports.

According to SAP, customer adoption for HANA is constantly growing across multiple industries with already 6400+ customers using the platform and this number is likely to increase in the year as claimed by their CEO. Some of the key business drivers for SAP HANA adoption are explored, from the perspective of business.

Key business drivers for SAP HANA adoption

  • Analytics, Dashboards and Operational Reporting: Businesses look for in-depth information, and it is much better when information is available in real-time. HANA allows data to be displayed dynamically without aggregation and can be visualized in different dimensions for decision making and verifying business progress. Analytics can be performed using real time or historical data with prebuilt predictive libraries.
  • Data warehousing and data marts: This feature enables the streamlining of data in centralized store or in business departments for better management. SAP HANA offers predictive analytics to identify trends and decide on better business strategies. Data warehousing applications can be accelerated with on the fly aggregations and analysis. Analytics can be done using different types of data and also on streaming data.
  • Business Operations are optimized: With HANA, the company is enabled to quickly respond to changing business requirements or market trends to be more competitive. The in-memory technology accelerates application performance, provide real time reporting, offer BI tools and can also run complex ERP or MRP applications to customize information using live data. This feature is beneficial compared to conventional enterprise applications and analytics tools.
  • Support for big data: SAP HANA can acquire and process petascale data volumes from variety of sources containing different data formats. Big data analytics is sought by businesses to gain business insights and target customers with customized offerings. HANA suite offers big data development and analytics tools.
  • Operational intelligence in real-time: SAP HANA supports real time business operational intelligence through which insights can be derived continuously.
  • Automation and Simulations, Decision making: Advanced analytics feature in HANA can be leveraged to transform business insights into achievable actions. Decision support is offered by in-memory algorithms in SAP HANA which can simulate business scenarios and predict future outcomes, risks, all using real time and/or historical data.

Benefits realized from SAP HANA
The most notable business benefits derived from SAP HANA adoption include,

  • Rapid forecasting and business strategy development without delays
  • Business performance is better understood and monitored in real time
  • Improved marketing campaigns through data analytics
  • Prevent unplanned disruptions and avoid risks in business operations
  • Accurate business decision making

Businesses have begun to recognize the potential of SAP HANA as in-memory computing is an emerging technology area preferred by CTOs and IT executives. SAP HANA enhances productivity in the company and offers significant cost savings in both maintenance and development. In a Forrester study titled Total Economic Impact: Cost saving with SAP HANA, it was found that enterprise companies while using SAP HANA, the software development costs reduced by almost 70%, administration costs were reduced by over 20% and hardware spending reduced by 15%. Therefore, SAP HANA is clearly proving to benefit organizations in both ways, i.e., business and in technology.

What CEOs really want from CIOs?

The availability of various technologies for almost all business functions is shifting the responsibilities of a traditional CIO who is normally involved in technology selection, purchase and IT management. According to Gartner CEO Research, almost 60% of CEOs view IT as a key constraint to implementing business changes in the organization. Recent trends in business IT systems and CEO perspectives on IT place enormous expectations on the CIO to enhance business value and use technology effectively for overall growth in the company.

As technology permeates almost every business area and functions, the board and CEO are taking active interest in usage of technology. Technology of today is viewed by business leaders as indispensable and an active source of competitive advantage. Business disruptions due to technology are becoming an accepted fact across many industries and at times the impact is quite significant. The CEO of today understands the potential of new emerging technologies when their competitors are able to generate more value using digital channels. However to leverage technology for business success and to execute emerging strategic priorities, the CEO or is more dependent on the CIO.

According to CIO Magazine, a number of CEOs are quick to embrace the impression that CIOs are strategic business peers. This is because their companies engage customers using technology and social media hence the role of CIO is highly important. For example, the CEO of Bayer explains that CIOs can play an important role in the executive table by providing the right technology conclusions to achieve business strategies. Therefore, CEOs look for IT leaders who are accountable not only for IT management, but can also fuel innovation, growth and enable change to develop competitive business advantage – all using technology.

The role of CIO as perceived by the CEO is to focus outside on markets, customers and opportunities and suggest strategies for product development. CIOs by virtue of their technical background often face difficulties while communicating with non-IT people and customers. This is often debated as the main limitation that widens the gap between business and IT. CEOs address and treat everyone as peers to generate business value and this includes customers, vendors and employees. This approach by CEOs increases the expectations of CIO in managing these areas along with managing IT, costs and internal reporting.

In today’s complex business scenarios, CEOs are fully dependent on CIOs for business success. Hence, CEOs place certain strategic priorities for CIOs that include,

  • Enhancing the potential of technology: It is a proven fact that digital strategy is highly important for effective execution of business if the company needs to remain competitive. IT creates new opportunities to deliver enhanced customer experience and services to transform business value. Here, CIOs can facilitate the development of digital roadmap by which the company can collaborate with customers, vendors and all stake holders to support business initiatives. CIOs can play the role to generate new revenue channels by the use of technology.
  • Transform the digital environment: This is another challenging area where CIOs have to ensure the transition from a legacy environment to a more nimble and flexible IT environment. The transition should be made without disrupting business operations. CEO expects the new IT environment will assure relevance in business departments and will support in active decision making. The CIO has to further ensure the required skills are available in the company to handle new business needs.
  • Decision making through business intelligence (BI) and analytics: Many enterprise companies make use of BI tools and analytics to cover a wide range of functions such as finance, SCM, marketing, HR, etc., and are recognizing business benefits. CIOs should work closely with business units to implement these tools for analyzing data to show useful information to the CEO and in turn recognize data as an invaluable asset in the company. BI and analytics tools when used effectively will definitely have a positive impact on business bottom-line and in customer services.
  • Secure the business from cyber attacks: The substantial increase in use of new technology makes the business vulnerable to attacks through IT. CIOs can guide the management in this critical area by developing strategies to deal with risks posed by cyber security threats. Employee training on security matters is highly essential to protect all vital information assets available in the company. Cyber attacks are possible when the company is not fully prepared to deal with it. CIOs should proactively implement effective IT security for mitigation of attacks and have comprehensive disaster recovery measures to ensure business continuity and protection of data.
  • Fulfill business needs by transitioning to vendor outsourcing: Outsourcing key business functions is popular in business organizations and this is proving to be beneficial. CIOs can consider outsourcing as an option to transform the company from traditional legacy environment to a more flexible infrastructure such as cloud computing. The CEO expects this transition will be smooth which offers an advantage for the CIO to reduce existing IT costs and increase overall business value and expansion by deploying cloud based solutions in the company.
  • Business growth and innovation: CEOs expect IT to innovate and create new growth opportunities for the organization. Nowadays IT is used extensively in innovation therefore, the expectations on the CIO are high to play a dominant role to drive innovation and create new opportunities for business growth.

In addition to the above expectations, the CIO is also expected to deliver safe IT solutions in a cost effective manner, for example, BYOD. CIOs must consider redefining their roles to be more business centric in order to create valuable assets through data management and effective implementation of technology.