In my 20 years working in large multi-nationals, my focus was the implementation of technology to enable change across large Public and Private sector organisations.

Over the last 10 years, my time has been divided between large multi-nationals and startups. As a co-founder of a startup, I have worked with over 100 customer communities across the local business ecosystem ie. local government, local businesses, nfp, schools, community clubs and associations. This has provided great insight into how the local business ecosystem works and highlighted where the differences are between how large enterprise and small business approach the use of Technology.

The biggest difference is that most often in the local business ecosystem, technology is adopted to digitise an existing function or process eg "I need to sell products, let's get a website with an online store".  In essence, it's the same process, just the user interface changes. Rarely is there any consideration given to the opportunity to use the implementation of technology as a catalyst for change.  Whereas in the large enterprise domain, introducing change is the reason technology is adopted.

I've realised that in small business Technology doesn't have a seat at the Strategy table, so organisations are missing the Digital Transformation opportunity.  That's the role of a Chief Information Officer (CIO).  Most small organisations don't have a CIO.

So, I have developed a methodology and some frameworks from my experiences that can be appled to any organisation and I have created an offering that I call "CIO as a Service".

How To - Service Delivery

Cost, Risk and Time have long been the primary topics for ICT steering committees. Striking the right balance to deliver a successful project has been truly an artform as many factors could cause the scales to tip, resulting in a situation that is hard and often impossible to recover from.

Times have changed ... CIOs and Steering Committees now also have other important considerations, such as Cyber Security, Sustainability, Social Responsibility and currently, how to simply survive a pandemic.  Whilst the evolution in Technology and Service Delivery models continues to create opportunities to do things better, faster and with less risk, making the "right" investments is more complicated and multi-faceted than ever before. 

Now more than ever, there needs to be alignment across the organisation with a common set of goals and objectives. That requires:

  • a Strategy (see here)
  • be "Smart" (see here)
  • Learn from the lessons of the past, embrace what works and disregard what doesn't. 


'Value for Money' audits have long shown that there are easy savings to be harvested by adopting the principles of consolidation and standardisation.  This is true for Technology as well as Service Delivery.  

At a basic level, Cloud is a combination of thes principles and also the vehicle for embracing Digital Technologies, which create the environment and framework for innovation.

Through Innovation and the development of micro-services we can re-imagine busienss processes, business models and create new best practice and local expertise in Service Delivery.

This is a ‘Centre of Excellence’.

Centres of Excellence (CoE) can be established to reduce costs, scale expertise, foster innovation, leverage investments and generate commercial opportunities, providing functional domain expertise and support services to multiple stakeholders.

CoEs, coupled with Digital Platforms delivered in the Cloud, are core components of contemporary Service Delivery.



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How To - Enabling "Smart "

A whole new language has been introduced in the Digital age. Words like “Agile”, “MVP” and “Sprint” describing implementation methodology, along with “Platform” and “Cloud” for architecture and delivery.  Each of these concepts signal why the days of long on-premise implementation cycles of monolithic applications are being phased out, replaced by short sprints of micro-services integrated into Digital Platforms.  This is natural evolution, enabled by invention and innovation. 

There is much talk globally about Smart Cities. Underpinning Smart City programs are digital technologies. Many cities have deployed stand-alone technologies to deliver outcomes such as smart lighting, smart metering, or some similar use case that implements functionality for a discrete outcome. While these projects deliver some benefits, the true and lasting transformational benefits are only surfaced when you can bring together transactional business processes along with analytical business intelligence, to turn data into actionable information. It is the bringing together of all data in real time that powers digital technologies; artificial intelligence algorithms, predictive analytics and Machine Learning.  The enabler is a Digital Platform.

A key characteristic of a Digital Platform, and a fundamental difference from traditional software "Products", is that a Digital Platform is not limited to a functional scope. This is the foundation for driving an innovation culture and through the adoption of microservices that extend the value of data, we create new business processes, business models and build new enterprises with FinTech, AgriTech, BioTech, PropTech, Smart manufacturing (Industry4.0), and Urban Mobility being examples.  Each of these new enterprises, growing globally at a rapid rate, with hundreds of billions of dollars of investment, and impotrantly, changing people’s lives for the better. 

Adopting Digital Platforms is key to how we enable "Smart".


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How To - CIO as a Service

Whether you think your requirements for technology are as simple as creating a Facebook page or as complex as a customer relationship management system, there is no escaping technology - like it or not, your business needs it. 

Too often, businesses fall into the trap of what I call "demand and supply" technology; the business identifies a requirement and a technology provider delivers.  The result is usually disappointment because after the technology is in place, nothing materially changes. Effectively, technology for technology's sake.

What businesses really need is a strategic approach to technology adoption; this is the role of a CIO.

The CIO evaluates, plans, implements and manages ICT to better enable the business to deliver on their goals.  The CIO also manages the daily operations of the ICT department including traditional business as usual ICT functions.

So, the question is - how to achieve the results of a CIO without the cost?

The answer - combine a part time allocation of a capable resource with a proven methodology for business planning. 

We call it "CIO as a Service".

Our CIO as a Service methodology includes frameworks to help:

  1. Develop and align to the Organisation Strategy
    1. Where are we going?
    2. Where are we now?
    3. How do we get there?
  2. Map the Organisation Values and Guiding Principles - This defines the "higher purpose", what the organisation stands for and how ICT is relevant. This shapes the organisation culture, enabling employees to feel empowered, motivated and rewarded whilst also establishing the organisation's brand and reputation.
  3. Develop the ICT Roadmap - This is a subset of the Strategy (How do we get there?) and is guided by the Organisation Values and Guiding Principles. It defines the ICT plan to get from where the organisation is to where it wants to be and is the ICT blueprint to achieve the organisation's higher purpose. 
  4. Implement a suitable Change Program - This compares the way things are currently done versus the way things should be done and then maps out how the change will occur.

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SME - One step at a time

Creating and implementing a strategic plan are 2 very different things.  Often an organisation will create what they believe to be a strategic plan, but in reality, its implementation is impractical thus invalidating the strategy.  For example, a small business looking to establish a market presence and grow requires a number of very different skill sets:

  • Executive - Leadership, Strategic Alliances and Partnerships.
  • Operations - Establishment and execution of business processes and practices
  • Finance and Planning - Keeping the business solvent and providing input to growth forecasts and managing cash flow
  • Sales & Marketing - Ownership over the customers
  • and of course ICT - as an enabler to all of the above.

There are certain functions that you just can't do without.  In a large organisation, these functions are grouped together and serviced by entire business units, often with multiple experts sharing the fundamental responsibilities. 

Smaller businesses rarely have the luxury of being able to employ people into the full time roles. Cost dictates that employees wear multiple hats and perform multiple roles.  That's ok, as long as there is a recognition that, from time to time, bringing external skills in to augment the team can reduce risks and overall costs whilst also improving the productivity and decision making for all.  

This is particularly true for ICT because to most businesses, ICT has under-delivered and is seen as a "dark art".

Check out this blog to get an understanding of the modern role of ICT and the Chief Information Officer.


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Local Government - Smart City & Open Data Initiatives

By their very nature, planning and economic development functions within a local government are about driving change. Initiatives such as "Smart City" programs and "Open Data" are becoming more common and simply put, Smart City and Open Data initiatives implement technology to facilitate change. Therefore it stands to reason that technology needs to be represented at the strategic planning table.  The question is; how, without introducing significant cost.

This question has led me to consider how to deploy the ICT disciplines and work practices of large enterprises in the local business ecosystem, without requiring a large enterprise budget.  With that as a target, I believe that there are 2 equally important elements that if implemented, will set you going in the right direction

  1. Methodology
  2. Chief Information Officer (CIO). 

Having one without the other will not work as the key to any successful methodology is its implementation and implementation requires leadership, which is the role of a CIO.

There are a number of elements of the Methodology that are important (regardless of your organisation type), starting with the "higher intent" - why are we doing anything?   That's why I always start engagements with organisations by mapping out the organisation's Values and Guiding Principles, including those related to Technology.  The result is a one-page overview that represents the intentions of the organisation and the ethos with which it operates. In other words, "what the organisation stands for". This one page becomes the checklist for any decision, whether it be a new business opportunity, a piece of technology or anything in between.  The idea is that you test and validate decisions and if making a particular decision causes a compromise in the values or guiding principles, it is probably not the right decision.  

Please refer to this blog entry for a bit more about the methodology.

The Values & Guiding Principles also illustrate the desired organisation culture and become the basis for modelling the organisation's business processes.  For example, if you want a strong organisation culture where people feel empowered, then you need to promote a self-service model and importantly, have the systems to support it. Strong organisation culture has a significant positive impact on the organisation's brand from an internal (employee satisfaction) and external (market perception) point of view. A weak organisation culture, on the other hand, is more management driven, administrative and restrictive.

So, how does this fit in with Smart City and Open Data Initiatives ....

Smart City and Open Data initiatives use technology to facilitate change to deliver societal benefits.

At the core of Smart City and Open Data initiatives is master data and the master data elements are identified in the Values and Guiding Principles.

Every process has at least one master data element, however the challenge is to ensure that the representation of the master data is common across the enterprise.  In the ideal architecture, there is a single repository and all systems that use the master data are able to access the data directly.  This is the nirvana situation but not very common.  More often, master data stems from multiple systems and when updates are made, they are proliferated across the enterprise.  To get this in place is tricky particularly for local government where it is common to have lots of systems with duplicated data.  To keep data accurate across the enterprise is very expensive and the result is often that there is poor data quality.  

So, from a technology implementation point of view, the place to start Smart City and Open Data initiatives is by developing a master data strategy, which is a bi-product of the Values & Guiding Principles.  

The first master data component that should be considered are Identities, where we want to establish a single business representation of entities across the enterprise.  Different types of entities are:

  • citizens
  • businesses
  • suppliers
  • employees
  • other entity types

The establishment of a single business identity creates the foundation for many local government processes, particularly Smart City and Open Data initiatives.


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