Current Trends + Priorities in IT for Today and 2015
(With Tamara Abdel-Jaber (CMC, Jordan), and Fred Nagy (CMC, Canada)

IT departments today are very small when compared to 10 years ago.  Large main frame systems, internal software development requirements, etc. used to require a lot of internal staff to manage and develop.  Today these functions are mostly outsourced.  Many IT departments today no longer yield the same power as before, owing to their smaller size and perceived impact on their organization.  But they can continue to demonstrate relevance and importance to their organizations by managing the key priorities of the organization and employees.
-    Michael Stanleigh; CMC, CSP, Canada

For this month’s theme of IT, Org Effectiveness Systems and Software, we wanted this topic to be interesting and informative to ALL CMC’s, not just those involved in IT consulting.

As a result, we reached out to two of our CMC experts to discuss some of the key issues and priorities in IT today. Tamara Abdel-Jaber a CMC from Amman, Jordan, brings an Arab perspective and one that is “plugged-in” to major organizations in several countries across the region Etisalat (UAE), Qatar Islamic Bank (Qatar) and Islamic Development Bank (Saudi Arabia), as well as several international IT vendors such as IBM, Metasonic, and Software AG.
Fred Nagy, a CMC from Toronto, Canada works with clients on IT architecture, business engineering and IT Governance in retail, financial services, health & public sectors, and manages Solutions in Context, a management and I&IT consulting firm
CMC Today: Tamara, and Fred thank you for joining us for this article. I’d like you to reflect on the work you do with your clients in the corporate/major organizational world today. 

Q1 - What do you see as the Top 3-5 issues or trends in organizational IT for 2014-15 forward? Please explain the real issue for each that challenges you as the CMC/IT consultant professional.

Tamara Abdel-Jaber: I would sum up the issues and trends I see in organizational IT in the following:

  1. Change management and lack of leadership support and sponsorship. Many organizational IT projects are driven by the CIO organization and often lack an effective change management strategy and activities. Accordingly, only those directly involved in the project are aware of the project activities and expected benefits, while other users perceive the project as a burden. At the same time, ensuring support from the leadership of the organization is an important issue we face in several projects whereby the CEO’s role stops at approving the budget for the transformation project, or attending the kick-off presentation. When business users see weak support from leadership, they don’t appreciate the value that the project brings.
  2. In many cases, an organizational IT project is perceived as a purely IT project, so no representatives from business organizations are involved. And vice versa, when business users run an organizational IT project without involving the IT organization, this results in missing requirements, delays due to internal politics, and putting the consultant in a position where he/she is a mediator between departments. This not only decreases the chances of project success, but also cuts down on the benefits that the customer can realize at the end of the project.
  3. In several projects we face the challenge that the customer considers enterprise architecture implementation as pure IT work, hence only the CIO organization is involved in the project. The impact is noticed immediately when we try to involve business people in creating their business architecture or identifying business services for which baseline and target architectures can be created. 

Fred Nagy:  The real puzzle continues to be how to effectively deliver and manage I&IT services of value to users. I&IT organizations in North America are focusing on delivery of services as a utility over a hybrid network (partners, suppliers, people, processes, technology).  Consultants can assist organizational I&IT with:

  1. “Keeping the Lights On” - I&IT needs to ensure productions services are available and work properly all the time. Most I&IT organizations are working their way up the infrastructure, platform, application, ITSM and business process levels. Non-functional requirements and new business service solutions are needed to balance service stability, resilience, agility, and economic value.
  2. “Simple, Anywhere, Anytime, Any Device” - Consumer devices have raised the bar and are challenging the approaches for IT- User service.  Service Solutions need to be more elegant.
  3. “Integrated but Protected” - Service integration is increasingly complex, while tolerance for customer information breaches continues to drop.  I&IT organizations need security architecture and solutions for end-to-end information protection.
  4. “I&IT Business Value” - I&IT organizations regularly need to justify their business existence and their Department’s future. They need to effectively integrate the user application, personal device, managed service, shared service, cloud computing, partner and outsourced models of service delivery to provide measurable business value.
  5. “Effective Program and Project Management” - All projects are “business” projects, not just “IT” projects, and must be able implement tangible business change – either directly to the organization’s business or to the business of I&IT in the organization.  Planning and managing business change is still a critical challenge for most I&IT organizations.

CMC Today:
I see both of you have highlighted the need for both the consultant and the organization to see that an IT solution/project is also a “whole business” solution, and one that will drive change throughout the organization. Indeed a new IT system or architecture will always require new procedures and behaviours from the users. Forgetting to plan for training and “change management” of individual and team work-processes/behaviour often derails a project and can lead to wasted time and money if the line-users don’t fully adapt to and adopt the new systems.

Q2 - How are clients today changing their view and utilization of IT consultants today?

Fred Nagy:  Clients engage Consultants and Contractors to augment staff, obtain subject matter expertise, complete specific deliverables, and/or provide independent recommendations (assessment, advice, and guidance). They work with the contracted legal entity (Provider) to establish the appropriate relationship as well as select the right individual(s).
The pendulum of client perspective on I&IT consultants continues to swing between:

  • Pairs of Hands – discretionary commodity to be used sparingly or minimized by hiring more staff, establishing new service contracts (e.g. offshore) and/or changing the workload.
  • Skilled Pairs of Hands - necessary commodity required to make effective use of people, processes and technology 
  • Subject Matter Expert  - necessary value added service for specific knowledge (e.g. Industry, Method, Process, Technology,…) to be used to guide and enable change
  • Leaders – necessary strategic service accountable for professional opinion, advice, guidance, and specific deliverables for change.

Individuals contract assignments through a Provider (e.g. their sole proprietorship, their corporation or a through 3rd party). Individuals may accept personal roles, responsibility and accountability.  Legal obligations and fee levels are dependent on the nature of the contract relationship between Provider and Client – i.e. staff augmentation, contract management, managed service or Consultant. 
Client today are most willing to pay for individuals acting as Subject Matter Experts and/or Leaders whose actions are governed by relevant credentials and/or professional designation and who are contracted through Providers who are:

  • Legally accountable for outcomes, and/or
  • Legally accountable for providing professional opinion and specific deliverables– 

i.e. contracted to act as a consultant to the client.

CMC Today: In essence Fred, it seems clients are looking to you for a Provider “guarantee”, and/or to perhaps outsource their own liability should there be systems failure that impacts their business or clients?

Fred Nagy: Our clients expect us to ‘guarantee’ that we will do the right work and that the consulting work products will provide the business value expected. We act as a consultant to the client, helping them to get the business value they need and expect, and helping them ensure service solution continuity, resilience and evolution. This can include advice, architecture, project management, design and implementation specific to minimizing the likelihood and impact of system failure.  We are accountable for those work products and adherence to best practices.  However, as a Provider of management consulting services it is not appropriate for us to “guarantee” outcomes, nor to be held liable for the impact of systems failures. 

Our clients typically look to Providers of managed services who also employ consultants, to take responsibility for outcomes and share risk for system failures.  Most organizations now accept they cannot delegate accountability, nor completely avoid liability and risk through outsourcing. Recently, a number of organizations have experienced Brand impact from incidents where customers have held the Brand and the organization accountable:

  • Socially and ethically from end to end of the product supply chain, e.g. safety conditions in offshore outsourced garment supply
  • For security from end to end, e.g. information security breaches at retailers
  • For system outages, regardless of the outsourcing arrangement, e.g. outages at financial institutions

Clients still want to use Providers to minimize their “I&IT headache” and maximize the business innovation value provided by I&IT.  They look for Providers who:

  • Provide assurance they can deliver (e.g. credentials, relevant experience, track record, references, workplan…)
  • Accept responsibility to deliver and accept consequences for non-delivery
  • Demonstrate they can manage their accountability (e.g. for their deliverables, actions and their portion of the service/product supply chain)
  • Share risk and liability as appropriate (e.g. for large Transformation Projects and Managed Services)
  • Be held, where appropriate, accountable and liable for the quality of their work products (e.g. advice, architecture, design, service management)
  • Maximize Business Value through thought leadership and subject matter expertise

Tamara Abdel-Jaber:  The choice of a consultant and the engagement type and size is very dependent on the type of the organization and its level of maturity and readiness. For instance:

  • In the Arab region, financial services organizations, and mainly banks, have a higher level of maturity when it comes to enterprise projects. They have mature internal teams who can initiate and manage the project and accordingly require limited external support. Accordingly, when it comes to organizational IT, banks are most interested in acquiring software tools for Enterprise Architecture, process modeling and process governance, the objective of which is mainly supporting the change of their core banking systems. Banks rely more on their internal teams and use external consultants for smaller assignments. The same applies to companies in the Telecom and oil and gas industries.
  • In government and public sector organizations, the picture is very different. The organizations are generally not as mature, hence they are constantly engaging external consultants. They need consultants to give a stamp of approval on their work. So when it comes to organizational IT projects, such as business process transformation, implementation of enterprise applications such as ERP, or the design and implementation of e-services, we find that government and public sector customers are recruiting consultants for the various project stages.

CMC Today: Tamara, do you find that clients in your region prefer to contract local consultants like yourself, or do they also tend to reach-out into the UK or Germany? Are your competitors mainly local or international?

Tamara Abdel-Jaber:  I believe the selection of the consultant is very dependent on the size of the engagement, the nature of the project and the maturity of the client organization. In the Arab region specifically, we see the following manifestations of these factors:

  • Large organizations planning to invest in a large project will naturally request support from international consulting firms. The same applies when these organizations venture into a highly specialized project where they need to engage a consultant who has done the same work before.
  • For small and medium sized engagements customers are comfortable with local consultants and consulting firms.
  • Large organizations with a lower level of maturity opt for international consultants in many cases, mainly because they want to feel protected by the consultant’s brand. Even if their project fails, their board of directors cannot blame them for selecting the wrong consultant.

CMC Today:  Tamara and Fred, thank you for your concise and helpful responses so far. Based on your experience recently, and looking to the future;  

Q3 - What 2 or 3 recommendations would you give to one of your CEO/CTO clients regarding the priorities they should have for 2015?

Tamara Abdel-Jaber: As a certified management consultant who thrives to become the trusted advisor for my customers, I can give the following advice:

  • Invest in change management, especially in large projects. This is key for project adoption and success.
  • Ensure that there is proper support from senior management and business users when embarking on transformation projects. 
  • Buying new software tools is a very easy decision. You need to resist the temptation, take stock of the tools you have, and ensure you are using them properly. 
  • Make sure you have the right people on the bus to staff the IT department in general, but more importantly to staff the transformation project.
  • Keep in mind that effective business processes are the basis for effective ‘smart services’. Don’t be tempted to automate your services before revamping your processes.
  • Focus on governance when implementing Enterprise Architecture or Business Process Transformation. Make sure that you define clear roles and responsibilities for future management of your processes and architectures.

Fred Nagy:  As a partner with my clients and their success, I would remind them that I&IT has three key priorities:

  1. Service Resilience”

Ensure your teams know or document the state, condition, relative importance and issues affecting your manual and automated services:

  • End user production services – services directly consumed by end users.
  • I&IT Service Solution Services - services  that realize the End User Services 

Prioritize the “show stopper” issues for immediate remediation and release. These will be in-year changes. Stream other issues into service solution releases for next year and beyond.  

  1. “Service Innovation”

Review the agenda for long-term change, identify the potential impact to your hybrid I&IT enterprise and define how you want to manage and deliver service in future. Then adjust your plans to enable appropriate:

  • Management, support and reporting across Business and System Transactions
  • Loose coupling of services across segregated layers of Application, Application Platform, and Infrastructure 
  • Integration of information management and flow across domains and components.
  • Implementation and management of security in and across control domains
  • Dynamic coupling and decoupling of Service Partners, procured vendor relationships and services
  • Testing and Release of service bundles changes over time
  1. Service Change /Release Management

Review changes proposed for release in-year, next year and beyond. Conduct an assessment of proposed design for the set of end user services and the set of service infrastructure services impacted by any and all of the changes.  Look for opportunities to build in improvements that address the issues identified in the current year and look for opportunities to position to enable the Service Innovation agenda. 

Thank you to both Fred Nagy and Tamara Abdel-Jaber! We appreciate you sharing your perspectives from different parts of the world of CMC Today. All the best of success with your consulting practices!

Readers who might have further questions for Fred or Tamara may send them to: 

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