VSJ – May 2002

Notice Board

Money Back Offer!

The UK networking industry is due for a windfall of at least £300m says tax consultancy The Customs House. Customs and Excise has regarded LAN equipment as telecommunications gear, which is subject to import duty. The Customs House has campaigned to have such kit reclassified as PC peripheral equipment, which is not subject to duty, in line with US practice. A European Court ruling has confirmed this change and allows for retrospective claims to be made back to 1999. Ongoing litigation may extend this to 1995.



The Global Summit for Multi-Channel e-Government and e-Public Services takes place from the 22nd to the 24th May 2002 at the Sheraton Hotel, Lisbon, Portugal.


Networks Telecom Europe 2002 is at the NEC, Birmingham from 25-27 June 2002. Visit www.ebulletins.co.uk for details.


[Got an activity or event coming up? Email eo@iap.org.uk with the details.]


Sounding Board

Bill Cleary MIAP is UK Business Manager at Global Knowledge. Unsurprisingly, he has trenchant views on the value of training. His focus here is on software testing. Bill can be contacted at bill.cleary@globalknowledge.net

Despite the doom, gloom and despondency have hit the IT industry, demand for professional certification is still buoyant and on the increase. IT staff want industry recognition for their roles and companies are prepared to support them in this endeavour. Even contractors are experiencing pressure to provide industry qualifications that will provide clients with confidence in their abilities. IT solutions developers can choose from an increasing number of qualifications. Once, only systems analysts seemed to need a qualification and those who gained the NCC Basic Certificate in Systems Analysis will remember how good it felt to include it in their CVs. Nowadays, the net is much wider.


Professional skills marked by a professional qualification have many business benefits. When a business invests in an employee’s development it increases motivation and productivity. This, in turn, leads to better quality work and a willingness to take on greater responsibility. In his book, ‘Making It Happen’, Sir John Harvey-Jones refers to IT practitioners as craftsmen. Traditional craft trades, where judgement, precision and expertise were paramount, do indeed provide a valid comparison. Training, on and off the job, ensured that the craftsman was capable of completing a task to the required level of competence. Once that level was reached, and could be maintained, certified recognition was given.


In this context, software testing is attracting the attention it has always merited and qualifications, such as the ISEB Foundation Certificate in Software Testing, are offering system and software testers the chance to hone their skills and gain certification at the same time.


Whether dealing with a small business or a global organisation, one thing is certain – when they ask you to create a software solution they want it fully working and fully tested. User satisfaction ensures referrals and repeat business. Delivering flawed software will receive the reward it deserves – declining profits and more redundancies.


The demand for increasingly complex business-critical systems gives the term craftsman (or woman) even greater relevance. Testers have always been the last line of defence before the product leaves the ‘assembly line’. They can prevent flawed deliverables reaching clients and can minimise threats of legal or financial retribution. Complex software and increasingly sophisticated user requirements have made the testing function more critical and more difficult. Professional testers need professional skills training.


Testing staff are recognising the importance of obtaining a recognised qualification. The ISEB has certified more than 3000 people in the Foundation Certificate in Software Testing and many more testers are attending courses to gain the qualification. The certificate denotes the candidate’s ability to perform the tasks associated with software testing and that the candidate possesses knowledge of the standards and tools used in software testing.  


IT practitioners work in a world of constant business, technological and cultural change. Keeping one’s knowledge and skills current is a major task and being recognised as a professional practitioner is becoming increasingly important from a business perspective. A professional qualification goes some way to filling these requirements.


Something you’d like to get off your chest? Email me (Robin Jones) at eo@iap.org.uk.


Members’ News:

Andrew Hardie, FIAP writes to tell us about his work as an independent consultant in the Corridors of Power.

Earlier this year, Andrew started a contract to develop a new integrated information system to support the secretariat of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. Last year, he worked in Brussels for the International European Movement on a multinational Web collaboration system. Prior to that, Andrew was at the New Assembly at Stormont, Belfast, setting up the systems for reporting debates and committee proceedings. This work followed a long-term contract with the House of Commons.


Andrew has also been involved with Parliamentary Technology Assessment, attending EPTA Council meetings as the Czech delegate, representing the Prague Institute of Advanced Studies, where he is Senior Fellow in Information Science, and a number of democracy-building activities in Prague, Skopje and Zagreb. He has been a special advisor to the Dail Eireann, the Swiss Federal Assembly and, most recently, the Sveriges Riksdag. He speaks regularly at conferences on e-government and e-democracy and has recently published articles in Czech and Italian.

In 2001, Andrew was invited by the Italian government to attend the Third Global Forum in Naples as an expert and was elected a Fellow of the British Computer Society and a member of Sigma Xi, the world’s largest scientific honour society.
Andrew can be contacted at ash@cellar.demon.co.uk

Don’t forget to email eo@iap.org.uk with items of news about you or your company.

Work in Progress

Here’s the final article in Allen Woods’ three-part series about Organisation Modelling. Allen is managing director of JIT Software Ltd and the author of a range of organisation modelling and management software.

In the second article I described how the business community could use the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) model to derive a structured set of business objectives. I touched on the principle of measuring success in meeting those objectives through the medium of performance measures. I also stated that data supporting performance measures should be collected at the point where a measurable transaction could be identified in a process.


In this final article, I will describe the way the Balanced Scorecard can be brought into the equation to define how data are delivered as information. I’ll then discuss the kind of IS/IT architecture that will emerge.


The Balanced Scorecard

A Balanced Scorecard is simply a logical grouping of performance measures. It is, in my opinion, extremely unlikely that a single score card will be appropriate or relevant for all levels of an organisation hierarchy. Going back to our example in the first article, ‘gain an extra 10% of market share’ and ‘make 10 axles to this level of quality’, couldn’t be recorded in a single format. It follows, therefore, that there will be a need for a cascading set of scorecards through the management chain. That means we need to incorporate links between scorecards and their associated performance indicators into the design. Broadly, there are two ‘link groups’. These are:

1.        The Parent-to-Child link. For instance, the MD’s scorecard links to senior management cards in this way.

2.        Cross-perspective links. For example, the size of the training budget (Economic perspective) is related to staff qualifications (Learning and Growth perspective) and this, in turn, is associated with efficiency.


There is also a need, within the definition of a performance measure, to specify the following:

The purpose of the measure.

A method of calculating the target value (activity-based costing)

The primary data source.

A time-based reporting cycle.

Tolerances that can be used to define outstanding success or serious failure.


If the business user can define the attributes described above, then establishing the relationships between indicators ¾ parent-to-child and cross-perspective links ¾ becomes relatively straightforward. For example, the overall budget balance for an organisation can be derived from budget balances for departments, sub-departments and other organisation elements where appropriate.


The combination of the EFQM, performance measures and balanced scorecards concentrates people’s minds on answering three questions:

·          What do we need to know in order to determine our success?

·          Where is the data?

·           Where and to whom will it be delivered?


 In other words, an IS/IT strategy!


Perhaps the key benefits to be derived from the kind of systematic business analysis approach we advocate will be:

·          An IS/IT strategy will evolve that will be driven by the needs of business but with the advantage that it is based on good solid business analysis best practice.

·          It will be possible to identify what data cannot be collected using the current IS/IT infrastructure and therefore to allow effective enhancements to be specified.

·          The resulting analysis documentation, because it is structured, can be mapped on to structured IS/IT design methods like UML, Yourdon and SSADM.


IS/IT Structure

So what sort of system structure will be derived from such an analysis?


First, Data Collection Systems will be based on the identification of measurable transactions to support performance indicators. Typically this would include EPOS, or payroll systems. Most of those systems are probably already in place with a whole raft of data available that, in our experience, is largely untapped because people do not know what they need to know.


Second, Management Information and Reporting Systems will be deployed on the desktop of every manager in an organisation, basically as his or her scorecard. There are various metaphors in use. One of the more common is the ‘Dashboard’. A dashboard is a screen with a series of visual indicators (dials or lights) that present the manager will the means to see whether his or her performance targets are being met. In addition, underneath the dashboard is the means to drill down into the data collection systems if required.


The two application types described above establish a structured reporting chain that mirrors the organisation hierarchy. A set of management information systems feed off data collection systems to provide support for day-to-day operational decision takers. The structure so far depends, to a considerable degree, on identifying the parent-to-child relationship between indicators and scorecards.


Cross-perspective predictive systems

At the top of the application chain are the kind of predictive, decision support tools that the establishment of cross-perspective relationships can bring about. In the earlier example, there should be a relationship between training spend, qualified staff and increased efficiency. If there is not, then money spent on training cannot be money that is spent effectively. There should be other cross-perspective relationships that can be identified too. Identifying cross-perspective links and relationships will provide IS/IT practitioners with the means to apply techniques such as OLAP and AI effectively. The third level of application will, of necessity, support ‘drill down’ to lower level applications.



Over the past three articles I have argued the case for IS/IT practitioners to apply current ‘best practice’ business analysis techniques in use by many in the business community. I have suggested that three techniques, the EFQM, ISO 9000 and the Balanced Score Card provide the kind of tool set, in common use, that can be adapted to provide a structured set of system requirements for us, as IS/IT practitioners, to develop and deliver.


The approach works, but it does take time. In my experience, the final definition of a key performance measure can take two years, with a similar concurrent period needed to get the data required to support a measure effectively. The important thing is, though, that users of all types end up with an IS/IT infrastructure that mirrors the organisation structure and meets reporting needs.


Useful URLS

The European Foundation for Quality Management is at www.efqm.org, For its UK arm, visit www.quality-foundation.co.uk.


The Balanced Scorecard Institute is at www.balancedscorecard.org. Arthur Schneiderman is an acknowledged expert in the field of Performance Management. His site is particularly useful for an e- Book on the trials and pitfalls of scorecarding. See www.schneiderman.com. 2GC is a leading UK based scorecard consultancy. Its download pages are particularly useful. See www.2gc.co.uk


You can contact Allen at Allenwoods@jit-software.com. Visit www.jit-software.com for more information about his company.


Interesting project or development? Let us know at eo@iap.org.uk!


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