Thursday, December 15, 2005

Showdown: Wikipedia vs Britannica

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Knowledge is of two kinds, you either know it or you can find it on Wikipedia. This article discusses a study by Nature that took scientific, complex articles from both Britannica and Wikipedia and had them reviewed by experts. The result? Wikipedia and Britannica are reasonably close - the surprising thing is, they both had four "major" errors in 42 articles. Not a good hit rate for Britannica!

This is of course in sharp contrast with the recent kerfuffle over Wikipedia's accuracy and peer review process.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Australian Accounting Review Supplement

The Australian Accounting Review (Supplement #37, November 2005) issue devoted to information technology/systems issues was released in November. I reproduce a small portion of the supplementary edition editorial (which was co-written by John Campbell, Shauna Kelly, and myself - but mostly John) below:

The traditional objective of accounting is to provide information about the pecuniary affairs of an organisation. While this is largely a historical activity that focuses on past performance, the information that accounting provides also forms a useful basis for future action. In this historical context, information technology is commonly viewed as providing a productivity-enhancing and cost-effective means of storing and monitoring transactions, standardising fundamental accounting operations and facilitating compliance and financial reporting obligations. Information technology has reduced the cost of these traditional accounting functions by facilitating the processing and monitoring of large amounts of information about organisational performance. Despite the accretion of these and other benefits to the profession in general, there still exists a degree of uncertainty about the role of accounting professionals in the selection, use and management of information technology in organisations.

The papers in this special Australian Accounting Review supplement address important aspects of information technology that are of relevance to accounting practitioners and researchers. The supplement has been commissioned by CPA Australia's Centre of Excellence for Information Technology and Management.*

The call for papers for this special edition attracted a large number of high-quality submissions, making the final selection process difficult. All research papers were peer-reviewed and carefully scrutinised by the Centre of Excellence to ensure that those selected for publication reflect the diversity of information technology issues relevant to the profession. The papers that follow deal with a broad range of topics, from discussion and research on IT governance, the impact of IT on business models, electronic business evaluation and adoption, information systems audit and control, IT investment decision-making and strategic planning in government agencies.

You can access this online through CPA Australia, or sometimes authors will provide copies upon request.

Feature articles from the November 2005 edition of Australian Accounting Review (Supplement #37 only) include:

Editorial: information technology - impacts and implications for accounting
Editorial for edition 37 of the Australian Accounting Review information technology supplement.

IT governance - are boards and business executives interested onlookers or committed participants?
This paper looks at what has to be governed and what IT governance needs to encompass to be effective, examines some of the issues of current IT governance practices from boardroom and business perspectives.

IT investment practices in large Australian firms
This review explores the procedures used by large Australian firms during the four major decisionmaking stages of the IT investment cycle: planning, evaluation, implementation and postimplementation review.

The social dimension of business and IS/IT alignment: case studies of six public-sector organisations
This paper presents the results of a study of the social dimension of the alignment of business strategy with information systems and information technology.

The pervasiveness of information and communication technology: its effects on business models and implications for the accounting profession
This paper discusses the main challenge that confronts firms because of the continued development in information and communication technologies (ICT) is the reduction in information asymmetry as product markets become increasingly information driven.

Consideration of options from an entrepreneuria, technical and operational perspective - an e-business design framework approach
This paper draws upon the emergent knowledge of e-business, together with traditional strategy theory, and provide a simple framework for the evaluation of business models for e-business.

The effect of e-commerce adoption on small/medium enterprise industry structure, competitive advantage and long-term profitability
This paper seeks to evaluate the relationship between e-commerce adoption and long-term profitability in small/medium enterprises (SMEs).

Information systems audit and control issues for enterprise management systems: qualitative evidence
This paper presents the results of a study on how the introduction of such software creates a new set of information systems audit and control problems.

Supplement on information technology
This issue of Australian Accounting Review is accompanied by a special supplement dedicated to new research work on Information Technology and Management.

Enterprise resource planning systems - implications for managers and management
This paper analyses the implications of enterprise resource planning systems for organisations in general and for managers and professionals in particular.
Feel free to email me if you you need details - these articles can usually be purchased through CPA Australia if you are not a subscriber.

Monday, December 12, 2005

CPA PNG Photos

I did promise to post some photos from CPA PNG. The below photos, hopefully, communicate some of the breadth of the conference.

This photo shows Jim Dickson with Peter Pokawin - Jim is being awarded his fellowship of CPA PNG. Jim is CPA Australia's International Director, and this was his fifth (?) trip to the conference - although it has been a while due to a small bout of Ross River fever.

Peter is the President of CPA PNG, and all of us on that trip should thank Peter and CPA PNG for their never-ending hospitality and ability to make us - the interlopers from Australia - feel welcome.
James Kruse, a partner from Deloitte PNG, is presenting Colin Clarke (Executive Dean of the Faculty of Business and Law at Victoria University) with his gifts as a presenter to the conference in the photo below, although knowing James one is uncertain as to exactly what he's going to find in that bag...

And Colin, James, and Bob Wheeler (Executive Officer of CPA PNG) in post-speech euphoria:

More photos will be posted as events warrant.

SQL, SQL, SQL, SQL all the way...

Microsoft launched SQL Server 2005 on November 7 2005, and a month later it is a good time to see what people are saying about the new member of Microsoft's flock.

Microsoft clearly likes it - no surprises there. OS News noted the event in passing but did point out that Visual Studio 2005 is a strong companion product. has an article recording its correspondent's first impressions of SQL Server 2005. SearchWin2000 advises people to upgrade - eventually.

InfoWorld notes that there are marked improvements in programmability and manageability, whilst ZDNet notes that Microsoft is likely to speed up its server upgrade cycle somewhat.

That's a small wrap-up, anyway, so it is interesting to see where this newest release of SQL Server will take us. I haven't received my copy yet, so I cannot make any real comments yet. As usual, though, I am sure it will be a product that is easy to use and has some new features, probably somewhat incompatible with the previous versions. We will see what the Microsoft shepherd has brought to this area of activity.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Wham, Bam, Thank you Business Process Monitor

I note that CIO magazine's November 2005 edition has an article on business activity monitoring (BAM) which allows the business to respond to the changing environment, and be more responsive to problems in production. Although it can be simply about monitoring stock levels and sending a simple alert, it can be a whole lot more than that, and a lot more closely aligned with data mining and data warehouse techniques.

To find out more, read the article.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Take a developing nation, add a $US100 laptop, and stir

Open source software continues to have an impact that its founders may never have envisaged, although I'm certain they would approve. The United Nations has supported an initiative of a $US100 laptop - being pursued by the One Laptop Per Child non-profit organisation.

It's a hand-cranked (!) laptop capable of addressing most student's requirements. It includes a web browser, a word processor, email, and so on, and it's all based on Linux.

It was launched with a prototype on November 16th at the WSIS Summit in Tunis. I note that Andy Carvin has an 8-minute video covering the launch on his vlog at

Hmm. As always, everything I ever learn I learn from Wikipedia and Rocketboom.

It sounds like something that could indeed make the world a better place. Just imagine if developing companies really could have reliable ICT access and a generation that grows up using information systems and getting somewhere? Although $US100 is still a lot of money in some developing nations, it has to be better than the $US1,000 or so you'd need to pay out for the more standard system.

Given that it's Linux, they've got a lot of learning that they'll end up doing...

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Vlogging, Really Simple Syndication, and Finding Out Stuff

A couple of weeks ago, Rocketboom (an online video show) produced a show designed to demystify the idea of RSS (Really Simple Syndication). It's how you track blogs and alert readers of your blog when a new post has been entered ('zackly like this one).

So for that online, 3-minute video introduction of Really Simple Syndication, take it away Rocketboom does RSS.

Personally, I find bloglines the most useful since you can get it over the internet (even, apparently, in Port Moresby).

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Blogs, Vlogs, & Wikis

During the presentation in PNG - a nation not blessed with the infrastructure for vlogs, but it should be - vlogs, blogs and wikis were discussed.

A future post is required on these, but two vlogs I sometimes watch are (note - since these vlogs are not mine, and they capture a bit of life as it is rather than airbrushed away, there can be 'rude bits' from time to time - just so you know, I am not responsible for the content!):

Karma Girl

They're not usually too rude but that probably depends on your perception of rude.

Presentation for CPA PNG

My presentation slides from the CPA PNG conference, as promised in my previous post, have now been loaded up here on my blog (they're available in PDF). Also the text of the speech is available here as a PDF as well (although it does lack my impromptu embellishments).

I very much enjoyed the opportunity to see an emerging profession in PNG, and it gives a bit of encouragement sitting back here in Brisbane where security guards are few and far between and it's reasonably likely that water and power supplies will be kept going indefinitely. The members of the profession there have a big challenge but with people like Chris, Lucy, Lia and Leeanne (? unfortunately they're the only names I recall, the Pondo Tavern was very dark and smoky and a few non-accounting sherbets may have been involved ?) the profession does have a bright beacon there.

And a big thank-you to CPA Australia & CPA PNG for the opportunity to present, and maybe one day I'll get the opportunity again.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Welcome from Sunny PNG

It has been a long time between posts - this seems to be the downfall of most bloggers.

Some time ago I was asked by CPA Australia to present on the topic 'Management Information Reporting, including the IT Aspects' at the annual CPA Australia/CPA PNG joint conference in Port Moresby. I accepted despite the trepidation one gets when you know you'll have a 10-week-old baby, as well as a fractious two-year old, to look after (or rather, that you will have to leave with your loving wife when you go overseas!).

This blog post is coming from PNG (Crowne Plaza Hotel). I am here with Jim Dickson (International Director CPA Australia), Professor Colin Clarke (Vice President CPA Australia), and Patrick Hoiberg (former 'king poobah' of the ICAA),

The conference started yesterday with an opening by Jim Dickson and a keynote address by Colin Clarke, and then my presentation (after morning tea, of course).

The reaction seems to have been very positive (the audience was very kind, all 600 of them!), and I enjoyed giving the speech although we ran out of time for questions at the end (I had planned on an hour and a quarter but I had not reckoned on the logistics of the situation - getting 600 people to their seats is no easy task so every session tends to start late). If I can coax Jim Dickson to give me some photos, I will post them online here (tends to brighten up a blog!).

The IT Governance guide has rated a mention or two along the way, and everyone who has seen it has been very impressed. Jan Barned tells me sales have probably gone into the 200s already, which is very impressive for a newly launched guide. I understand I have a launch luncheon to attend on 1st December in Melbourne - so that should be good.

When I have access to my web storage (when I get back to Brisbane on Sunday) I will post the presentation slides and the text of my speech as near as I can get it, and we'll have that sorted then.

It's been very energising in PNG, and it seems to have been worth it.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Emerging Issues in Information Systems Integration Risk

It is interesting to contemplate business risk and business benefit in today's commercial world. If we think about how the world has changed over the past thirty years (I am of course referring to information systems - and am completely ignoring other somewhat less momentous issues such as the end of the cold war, the rise of Islamic extremism, and the invention of Viagra), there originally were computer mainframes that the well-heeled business could put in place to process transactions. The diagram below gives a flavour of the history here:

Mainframes were heavily customised - heck, at the beginning each one was a custom job. So they were heavily customised, had a long life to get anything like ROI out of them, and were expensive to maintain.

The rise of end-user computing - aka the rise of the PC - put computing in the hands of the masses, but those masses didn't have too many options to customise their computers given that most programs were off-the-shelf unless you were a dab hand at Pascal.

Client-server architectures, and the rise of enterprise computing, lead to fairly extensive customisation of systems, but in hindsight they were not nearly as complex as modern systems and were less integrated (it was still considered novel to integrate information from two databases into a data warehouse).

Todays' internet computing, though, is all about reliance upon the information systems and their inter-dependence. It is increasingly difficult to change one information system without affecting others - this is particularly the case for core information systems such as accounting information systems or human resource information systems.

This has all occurred at a time when business, due to competitive pressures and the impact of globalisation, is increasingly turning to automation and information tools to 'produce the goods'. Increasing reliance on information systems, and increased customisation, results in increasing business risk:

So despite the maturity of the information industry (e.g. with the development of common approaches, architectures, and ubiquitous development tools), the forces of evil are being brought to bear due to the requirement to have 'business on-demand' (a resurgent long-term reliance upon the vendor, increased customisation of business processes and software, and the use of a wide range of software development tools to undertake these tasks).

These factors are leading to increased systems integration risk, and the only solution that seems to exist at this time is to promote the use of methodologies, standard enterprise tools, and, as always, to document, document, document your customisations. And of course, as I often say to clients, have a Bex and a good lie down before seriously thinking about customising an off-the-shelf system. Having high information systems risks due to a customisation of a system to achieve business benefits is somewhat disconcerting; to have a high level of information system risks for customisations that did not achieve their supposed benefits is a more disturbing outcome.

(PS - BDO Kendalls is running an Emerging Issues in Risk Management Seminar on 8 November 2005 - see you there).

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Out Now in Your Online Bookstore

CPA Australia has just released for purchase the IT & Management CoE's publication, IT Governance: A Practical Guide for Company Directors and Corporate Executives. The co-authors were Chris Gillies and Marianne Broadbent of Gartner. I was a member of the steering committee for this publication, and it is in the end a document that we are all proud of.

In particular, Jan Barned - an unheralded contributor but the policy advisor for the IT & M Centre of Excellence - did a good job of keeping us all on track and making sure that it hit the deadlines on time. A mammoth effort to get it there and some very good lessons learned by Jan and for CPA Australia.

The publication is an excellent result, and of course you can buy it here for $A55 (and I know how much effort and time went into it, and it's cheap at twice the price).

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Chief Information Officers - The Glue That Binds

ZDNet have an article by Steve Ranger called 'CIOs must bridge gap between business and tech'. The essential point of the article is that the role of CIO is not technical, it is about business strategy and implementing that in the technical sphere.

The CIO is responsible for the stewardship of technological resources within a defined architectural framework - and then implementing strategic direction (not technical implementation!) to achieve technological goals.

This echoes the discussion CPA Australia was having recently regarding information technology governance. Keep it simple for the board, and break up the tasks in terms a layman can understand: Keeping It Running, Plan It, Manage It, and Build it. At the end of the day, that's all that's involved in IT (it's a lot more complex than that, technically, but business-wise - that's all that matters.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Business Blogging InTheBlack

This week's CPA journal has an article in it - "It's time to Enter the Blogosphere" - in which your humble correspondent is quoted. The article came about partly because of a discussion our Centre of Excellence had regarding blogs and wikis and such like, and our biggest booster Jan Barned suggested the topic to the editor of InTheBlack. And then the genie is let out of the bottle!

The article is also reproduced at Ed Charles' own blog. Another "avid blogger" quoted in the article is Trevor Cook of the PR firm Jackson Wells Morris.

Good to see I'm not the only one out there blogging away to an unconfirmed audience. Corporate blogging on the rise. I am particularly interested in exploring the ideas of using the internal blog for more effective project coordination.

Viva la ITIL Revolution!

Australia's CIO Magazine has recently (well, yesterday) published an article entitled "ITIL Power" by Ben Worthen. This article is a relatively practical and in-depth review of the capabilities of ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) and when (and when not) to use it.

It's worth comparing and contrasting this perspective with the view from Technology Executive Club in an article by Alcyone Consulting regarding the synergies between CObIT and ITIL.

As I say, ITIL and CObIT are good ways of making information technology "boring", which is a good thing for business!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

All About Information Taxonomies - Yet Another Blog

Further to the Ark Group presentation on information taxonomies on Wednesday, Ark Group have put forward a moderated forum for the further discussion and comment on Information Taxonomies.

You can click here for further information.

The welcome message is reproduced below:

"Welcome to the Ark Group Taxonomy Forum. Following on from Designing a Business Focused Taxonomy, we felt that it would be useful to start a discussion forum. The way that the discussion and topics progress is entirely up to you - the members.

Ideally, all discussions should be targeted towards particular business issues that you face with your taxonomy project. Please feel free to introduce yourself and organisation and your particular area of interest."

Thursday, October 06, 2005

To make omelettes, you have to break eggs - but do it very, very carefully!

Last week I presented to Ark Group's Business Information Taxonomies Conference on the topic "Understanding the Purpose of Your Taxonomy and Ensuring Business Adoption" at the Avillion Hotel.

My uploaded presentation can be found here.

In case you are wondering, a (very loose) definition of information taxonomy is a way of classifying and categorising the creation of unstructured information in a way that lets you more easily identify what is contained in the document, and how it relates to areas of your organisation. Although this helps with the search process (you can determine at a glance what a document is about rather than full-text searching for it).

One of the interesting things I discovered at the conference was the presentation by Verity on their tools, one of which (Verity Profiler) claims to be able to automatically classify a document into a taxonomy with about 85% accuracy.

The underlying theme of my presentation, however, was that generally people in business are very good at presenting the benefits of an information taxonomy, but are rarely able to really articulate a low-risk methodological approach to actually implementing the information taxonomy (or business classification scheme) in a way that actually has people use it.

So the benefits are fairly clear, but our ability to state how it is to be done, and to convince business management that it will actually achieve real outcomes, is often less clear.

So as I say, to make omelettes, you have to break eggs - but do it very, very carefully in case you break the business too!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

OpenDocument Standards

ZDNet is reporting on the new OpenDocument standard (approved by OASIS) that may "turn the world inside out" (which, frankly, is one of those phrases to use when hyperbole just isn't enough). It does promise great things, as the promise of sharing documents independently of the application that created them may finally become a reality (although, predictably, Microsoft advises it refuses to support an inferior standard and will accordingly go its own way).

I suspect we shouldn't hold our breath in this regard. However, if there is enough momentum to using it, the potential for open source software applications to really become usable (e.g. OpenOffice) would become very high. I personally use OpenOffice at home and for almost everything I do it is perfectly OK. I do remain sceptical of the great and wonderful features that are packed into Office most of the time - I mean, seriously, does anyone ever use the Version Save feature of Word? And if you do, do you hope and pray it won't corrupt your document?

(PS in case you are wondering what the reason is for the gap in publishing my blogs, the gap is due to the birth of my baby daughter, Olivia Grace on 9th September. Parenthood - it's good for family life, bad for blogging).

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Good Practice, Best Practice, Leading Methods

You say tomato, I say tomato (say, that doesn't work so well in print). A rose by any other name is just as thorny, that much is certain at least, and there are often objections to the term 'best practice'. Although it is meant to capture practices that are generally accepted by everyone else, and that the 'man on the Bondi tram' might adopt if he thought about it, there are some who consider that 'best practice' is code for 'doing what our competitors did five years ago'. And certainly there are some aspects of this - that 'best practice' is not necessarily 'best', it is just what everyone else is doing.

Still, it's a good place to start, surely, and if it isn't a place where competitive advantage can be gained (even unsustainable competitive advantage) for your business, why bother reinventing the wheel?

I note this recent article at NetworkWorld that discusses ITIL and COBIT, and discusses the two of them as being complementary, and in fact that they can result in more returns when coupled together. Certainly the news that 75% of IT Managers in the United States have plans to implement ITIL, or at least are thinking very strongly about it. When you check the fine print, of course, you realise that it isn't that scientific a study (all those attending a conference on IT Service Management) but it probably provides some interesting flavour of what's going on in the real world.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Disaster Recovery Planning Made Simple

Disaster recovery and contingency planning have been highlighted in the past week as the biggest issue since sliced bread started getting mouldy, as Hurricane Katrina hit NOLA hard and fast. In its wake was left the startling realisation that even the richest country in the world can have infrastructure devastated and destroyed by the forces of nature. The cost of the disaster is $US100 billion and climbing, with a significant part of that the IT Infrastructure.

And the week prior to that was the Zotob worm, which shut down Holden’s processing plants for a day (estimated costs: $A6,000,000 and yes, I checked the zeros).

In the IT context, both these events show that there is an increasing reliance upon information technology, and clearly business continuity plans are going to be top of the charts again for a while for our clients. This also comes back to IS Strategy and Governance procedures for clients. The facts bear out the old adage that luck is the residue of good planning – good IS Strategies and Business Continuity planning will help business A survive and business B not.

Probably a future cause celebre fot IT Disaster Planning - although some would perhaps suggest that it has worked too well - has been, which is an ISP operating in a New Orleans downtown skyscraper that has maintained its connection to the internet throughout the disaster. Its biggest problem now is that it is getting many hits from around the world because people are blogging about it (just as I am now) which is causing some stress on their connectivity.

They have also maintained a blog about the disaster throughout, as reported by The Register and located at /

Interestingly, at least partly because of this blog, the ongoing debate about the issues related to blogs and their journalistic integrity has now tended to swung in favour of the humble blogger who, as johnny-on-the-spot in a time like this, tends to report what they see rather than filter it through the eyes of a journalist - which is both its strength and its weakness, clearly.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Life Is Tough, but it's Tougher when You're Stupid

On Friday I attended (with John Halliday, our Director of IS Audit, and several clients) a presentation by Internet Security Systems on "State of Security: An X-Force Briefing".

This was, to say the least, interesting, and it is fascinating to have a little chink of insight into the cloak-and-dagger side of information security. The presentation was somewhat American - if you are Australian you'll know what I mean, if you're American you'll wonder what the fuss is about. Suffice to say, the presentation was a little militaristic and "X-Files", but it works in getting the message across, and their deep and undying devotion for "moronic hackers" that are "dumb and stupid" is clear. The cloak-and-dagger effect is reinforced through their regular assessment of the internet's security condition: as of this writing we are at "AlertCon 1".

They are clearly doing some good work in the area of operation system vulnerability detection and prevention for their clients. You are rather left with the impression that the only good hacker is a hacker behind bars, but then if you are wanting someone on your side on issues relating to technical IT Security, I don't think you could ask for a better ally.

Quote of the day, reflecting a rather hard-nosed view of the world and a message to users that they need to be proactive in managing their information:

"Life is tough, but it's a whole lot tougher if you're stupid"

Kind of says it all, really.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Bigger, Better, Business Intelligence

SearchCIO's Wayne Eckerson has has just issued an article on "Five Things You Should Know about BI" (where, if you don't know, BI stands for Business Intelligence).

In essence, he is confirming the maxim that people issues are what get in the way when it is time to play in the world of business intelligence: Politics, Lack of available tools, Culture, Costs, and Business volatility are the prime culprits.

It is interesting though to note Philip Howard's viewpoint (from Bloor Research) over at in his article "Do We Need Bambi?" - where Bambi is built around a hypothetical merger of "Business Activity Monitoring" and Business Intelligence.

As if we didn't have enough acronyms in IT - now they're breeding.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Copernic Desktop Search Tool - More Thoughts

In an earlier post I discussed my search for a desktop search tool in some detail, and promised that I would have a later post with some reasons why you wouldn't use Copernic (or indeed any other search tools).

This is that post.

Since the earlier post was written I have noticed that it was picked up by Copernic and added to their "blogs and user posts" page. Which is fine by me, but here are some of the potential problems of these technologies.

Firstly, if you do download your own software and install it you fear the wrath of God in the form of your systems administrator if your network policy indicates that software can only be installed by IT Support. Which is a fair enough requirement on their part - a network is a subtle and fragile thing, and the last thing it needs is you blundering all over it - so get permission from your administrators!

May I also suggest that if you download it anyway and install it, you don't then blog about it :=).

Some problems these tools cause for networks include:
  • Increased Network Traffic: These tools regularly (every four days or so) go out and crawl the network directories you nominate, and index the files it finds. This increases network traffic and although the tool is fairly low-footprint on your own PC, on the network server it can cause a bit of grief (which, in a large organisation, you will not be thanked for if you bring down the server). This is particularly a problem if you have LOTS of people on your network creating similar havoc.
  • Slower Performance: These tools work by grabbing files you work on and indexing them as you save them - that is how they pick up files you work on rather than waiting for four days. There can be a small drop in performance - but probably not noticeable - in your local PC. Copernic in particular seems to play nice with the PC in its context.
  • Storage Access Networks: Oh dear - if you use Copernic and set it up to crawl through 1 gigabyte of old documents sitting on a storage access network (say, slower, older, but larger capacity, network drives mapped seamlessly to your network drives), these SAN's decide that you've opened the file (which you have) and promptly move it all back to your smaller, faster network drives that are meant for active files only. And that is a great way to see if your system administrator can physically turn purple, given the storage margins many organisations run with these days.
  • I Can't Believe It's Not A Document Management System: Well, actually I can. Copernic Desktop Search Tool is a good, personal, tool for finding files quickly. It is not an EDRMS, and is not really a scalable solution to fit organisational requirements of an EDRMs. Be aware that Copernic and its peers are not intended as EDRMS solutions. By the same token, it's a lot easier and less overhead than having to profile and fill out the metadata for documents before saving them (which is what EDRMS' rely upon) - but of course the downside is that your searching abilities and strategies need to become a lot more sophisticated to find anything. And of course these days EDRMS tools are really migrating/integrating to content management systems and thus delivering your content to the web in a managed framework - again, something Copernic will never do.
Having said all that, I am now using it but pointing it to my local drives where most of the havoc can go away. The negatives really relate to desktop search tools in general rather than Copernic in particular, which continues to be a reliable tool as far as I am concerned.

There are probably a couple of other issues that will come to mind - but I can't think of anything more at the moment.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Password Security and You

I have been running a poll at the top of the blog now since it started, so it's probably time to change the poll.

However, before the results of the poll are obliterated and forgotten, I thought it was useful to just quickly record how well those readers passing through thought their colleagues treated password security:

So, in a completely unscientific study, it rather indicates that most people consider password security to be of no consequence (50%) - which at least is consistent with what we all understand to be the case anecdotally.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Disparity between corporate and IT governance implementation: survey

CPA Australia has a story on its website of a survey by HP Australia of IT Governance being out of alignment for businesses. The research wasn't carried out by CPA Australia (or even the ITM COE) - it was carried out by HP - but it is an indicator of the ITM COE's effectiveness in bringing this to the business agenda (where CPA Australia is firmly ensconced).

This story was also picked up by CEO Online.

Telstra - Not Alien Freaks, or Just Good Customer Service?

As a postscript to my earlier post regarding a Telstra Bigpond user who was stuck on the wrong plan, a follow up invoice for about $580 (yes, that's right!) was received for June (the May one was about $350).

According to the contract, this is how the world should look, of course, but to pay nearly $1000 for a total of about eight gigabytes of download would seem a little bit of sheer bastardry when, for the same period, a different contract (for another $0.90 to the monthly fee) could be had under which it would cost less than $120 for 10 gigabytes.

Fortunately my colleague is a seasoned negotiator, rang, was honest with the call centre person and just used the silence tactic at his end of the phone and just plain didn't hang up. Eventually he got $320 of the bill waived - probably because it was going to blow out the daily KPI for the poor person at the end of the phone.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Bone ITIL Moments

I note that the blog I referred to the other day (erp4it) has a link to an article discussing the application and history of ITIL in the United States (BTW, it stands for "Information Technology Infrastructure Library").

I seem to be falling over ITIL a lot these days - in IT Governance work and other areas - so it's probably useful to note the source of all things ITIL:

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Goodbye Password, Hello Security!

Hot on the heels of Microsoft's man-of-the-moment comments on passwords - he suggested you should write down passwords down in a "very secured place" rather than forcing users to remember umpteen dozen passwords - comes this article on suggesting that the password has had its day.

An interesting thought, yet to be proven, and until we see some true standards there I think we'll have the password for a while longer. Of course, I continue to live in fear that one day I will forget all my passwords and I will simply cease to exist.

Postscript: a recent anecdote of a client who accidentally encrypted an assignment at uni through vainly bashing at the keyboard is a salient lesson to those of us who have ever wanted to take a computer out back and teach it a lesson.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Just When You Thought Blogging Was Blase

The world's most famous blogger (or at least, in IT world-dom that is) is possibly giving a demonstration of how to put your foot in it when blogging. This article on The Register shows Robert Scoble is blogging about new Microsoft program problems before the bug-fixers know about them. It now becomes an entertaining game of he-said-she-said - or perhaps the age-old "I was quoted out of context" game.

Peyton place in a teacup, methinks.

Requires the grey matter to be engaged before plugging in the keyboard.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Business Blogging Redux

As an aside, I was today interviewed for an article in InTheBlack about business blogging - not because anyone is necessarily reading my blog, but at least partly because the ITM COE suggested it to InTheBlack as a topic for the October edition.

I know that Shauna Kelly of the COE is also writing an in-depth article for the CPA website to be published soon.

It will be interesting - I note that Ed Charles (the journalist) is working on podcasting the interviews he does. An interesting idea - we could go from business blogging to business podcasting...

ERP4IT - Discussion on IT Governance

I today noticed the business blog of "alphasong", discussing IT Governance and the academic community's approach to it - it would seem that he/she is concerned that academic business research tends to be doing "hard IT" rather than looking purely at the business and IT crossover points.

Having done some IS research in a business school, it is an interesting point of view - however, I think the state of the research is still fairly new for IT Governance and I think academia has a great deal of work in the pipeline (we had at least two papers for the Australian Accounting Review issue that are specifically on IT Governance). One of the fun things, I believe, with academia is that the process to publication is measured in years, not months, and certainly not minutes like blogging is.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

IT Governance

Don't you hate it when you state "I will post every day to my blog" and then look up from your desk to discover it's been three weeks?

Anyway, I have just flown back into sunny (well, actually quite dark) Brisbane - much to my annoyance, the plane was delayed by an hour. Apparently an oven was broken in the plane. I am somewhat concerned that an oven is so central to the operation of the plane but apparently the Qantas manual says "thou shalt swap planes" and who am I to argue with people who know about how to keep planes in the air?

There was an ITM COE meeting in Melbourne today, and I suspect that I am suffering from a case of "to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail". I find IT Governance to be exceptionally interesting, and that is a topic that is well on the radar for the ITM COE - however, I could be accused for stretching the topic somewhat at times, as I think almost all business IT problems can be related back to poor IT governance in the first place (and if you're not careful sometime, I'll set you down and tell you all about it).

At any rate, here is a link to the IS Auditors' association standard on IT Governance: COBIT

Monday, July 04, 2005

Speaking with an ISP

A well-documented problem for many people - at least in Australia - is having Telstra Bigpond as your internet service provider (ISP). The problem is not so much having Bigpond as your provider, as understanding their approach to business and what you need to do to keep them on their toes.

A colleague has been on a "1GB business plan" for $59.05 per month for the past three years. Not being tech-savvy - he's really only interested in doing things with the computer, which is a novel concept for some people - he's never really explored his options there. Telstra changed their plans and charge rates eighteen months ago, but unless you specifically request it, they leave you on your old plan and conditions. Telstra's argument is that they can't make value-judgments as to what's "better" for a client so therefore they do not change your plan to a "better" one when it comes in. So in this instance - a 1 GB plan that is no longer available, with a 15c per megabyte excess charge, stayed in place. The fact that there is a 10GB plan, with no excess, available for $59.95 (a whole $0.90 extra) was never specifically advised.

Things have been going fairly swimmingly for some time, but unfortunately my colleague bought his daughter an iPod, and she started filling the iPod with (I'm sure it's legal) music from the internet. So far, the excess charges could have bought a nice CD collection...

The lesson is, always monitor the Bigpond plans and keep aware of what you're fees and charges are through sites such as Whirlpool. Telstra won't tell you. A capped fee is best - your TD (Teenage Daughter) risk exposure is minimised then. As a Telstra shareholder, and rubbing my hands with glee at one level, with trepidation at another, I do wonder how many other Telstra customers like that there are out there.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Desktop Search Tools

One of the fascinating new tools that have come to the fore over the past several years is an array of tools to assist you to retrieve the work you have already done - the work that is currently sitting in what could loosely be termed your knowledge library (if you're not well-organised).

These tools include things such as Google Desktop Search (which is just out of beta), the MSN Search Toolbar, Yahoo Desktop Search, X1, and the Copernic Desktop Search. I have done a lot of research since this tool was mentioned at the IT Management Day (I chaired the day in Brisbane, at least partly because I chair the COE - oh, and I happen to live in Brisbane, so that may have helped) by Rob Roe of KAZ Technologies, and from the reviews I have read on the internet and my own experience, I think Copernic is a winner.

X1 costs - and since I am an accountant (there is a time-delay lock on my wallet), and the other tools are free and of great quality, it was never going to get a look in.

The MSN Search toolbar - well, apparently it doesn't play nice with Mozilla Firefox (my preferred browser). It's also from Microsoft (I like a lot of Microsoft products - they often just work without ten years geek experience), but the tendency I have seen is to bloatware and security issues. I was unable to confirm this, however, because the real killer for this product is it needs Windows XP to run, and like 40% or so of the business world, I still run Windows 2000 on my laptop.

The Yahoo search bar remains way too close to the beta program for me, so I didn't really look at it too much. From reviews I've read, it seems to be a bit of a resource hog when indexing (even when you're working).

Normally, Google would have been my tool of choice (what can I say - I already have one new verb "to Google", meaning to thrash about and find stuff), but although it had a nice and simple interface, and the results were available in a browser, the Google tool is pretty much brain-dead in indexing just my local hard drive. There is a plug-in (too close to the old word, "hack", for me) to search network drives, but it's primogeniture is a little hard to determine and it comes with now arranties. Besides, this tool is only just out of beta.

Feeling a bit frantic, I downloaded and installed the Copernic deskbar, and it works for me. Although it doesn't work with Groupwise (our email system of choice), that's probably not a problem since neither do any of the other tools . Copernic works with network drives out of the box, it has a nice taskbar search tool, and the background indexing is nice and unobtrusive. I don't understand why these other tools work only on the local hard drive - beyond the few script kiddies out there and consultants that work alone, it isn't good practice to have valuable documents sitting on C:.

Some problems I did have with Copernic were when I tried to run it with Groupwise (I have Outlooked installed, so it tried to index Groupwise with somewhat disastrous results - the indexing essentially kept freezing my computer). It isn't rated for Groupwise, so that's probably not a surprise.

Also, I found that when I had the preview pane on, a couple of spreadsheets (I think with macros in them perhaps) caused a lovely blue screen of death - so I turned that off. I do suspect that may be a Novell incompatibility.

Finally, because the taskbar takes up some acreage, I decided to turn that off. Which I did. When I went to turn it back on - no luck. I racked my brains about it for 20 minutes how to resolve it and then decided the simple approach was best - I uninstalled the thing and re-installed, and then allowed it to reindex it. It took about half an hour of my life - and I won't try turning off the taskbar again. The reindexing was unobtrusive (and continues to be) and I have 12,775 documents indexed fairly quickly, I thought, while I zapped out for a coffee.

So in summary, I am using Copernic on my laptop, and I have been very impressed so far (speed is excellent!). A side benefit is that if you show results by date, you can quickly see those files you have been working on recently (presuming, of course, the documents you have indexed are your documents - this will depend on how you work with a team). A tool like this raises issues for IT Governance, desktop stability, and IT installation policies, but that's a topic for a different post.

Special Edition of the Australian Accounting Review: Information Systems Research

One of the exciting things on the Information Technology & Management Centre of Excellence's work plans for this year is a special edition of the Australian Accounting Review. If you don't know of the AAR (and if you studied an Honours degree in business over the past twenty-five years, you probably should know about it), it is the pre-eminent Australian research journal for accounting and business.

Speaking for myself, I do occasionally get a little twitch in my eye when I think back to all those research papers I had to critique out of the AAR, but I'm getting over that. Honest.

At any rate, a call for papers has been issued, and the response has been very enthusiastic - much better perhaps than we had anticipated, and the editorial committee (Dr John Campbell, Shauna Kelly, and myself) are now finalising the papers that will be included in the special edition.

I will probably will document (OK, definitely will) the launch of the special edition. This is a project I am particularly proud that the COE has been able to bring to fruition, and the quality of the papers that have been submitted - from some of Australia's foremost researchers - indicates a future need for such a journal. However, at this time, it is a one-off and the COE will review the project to see whether we do this more often - at the moment, I am thinking biannually, but perhaps it's an annual thing (or if it's a complete bomb, we'll call it a success and not repeat the experience).

I suspect the whole "complete bomb" thing is not an option, just on the basis of my reading of the papers I have seen so far. Australian research is a strong thing, and information systems is no less strong than any other area of Australian inventiveness, so I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised. I am looking forward to the final fruition of something we first talked about at least three years ago (when Tony Hayes was the Chair), and if this was the only thing we could achieve, I would have been a happy man. The fact that we're almost done with our current work program is testament to the dedication and assistance of the people on the COE, on our policy and research advisor Jan Barned, and more particularly on the ability of CPA Australia to attract and foster the abilities of very talented people.

Who do I mean? Well, perhaps you'll have to beg, borrow or steal a copy of the Special Edition of the Australian Accounting Review: Information Systems Research. I'm sure it'll be a best-seller.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Organising Your Work

Somewhere along the way we may, just perhaps, have lost focus on the purpose of computers and personal information systems. This presentation (it's a little tongue-in-cheek) provides some good tips on organising yourself and some handy hints.

I should note that this presentation was developed by Microlaw in the United States.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Posting on the Internet - a User Story

Just in case you have ever thought about it (or never have), in cyberspace everyone sees what you type, eventually. The other day I quickly subscribed to a newsgroup about Mercedes Benz classic cars (I was doing some car research - even IT people can like cars - but I suspect I'll never get to own the car). About a week later, casually typing my name into Yahoo (as you do) suddenly brought up my membership of this group. I do this occasionally because the spelling of "Micheal" is unique and therefore actually returns entires relating just to me, rather than, say, if my name was John Smith - it's good to know who has your details.

In this instance, I had only signed up very quickly to read about the great and wondrous things that can happen with a Mercedes Benz 450SLC (in case you're wondering, they come in two categories: (a) expensive; and (b) marriage-threatening). It took about thirty seconds to "subscribe to our site" and now that site has my details cached in Yahoo and it will probably be there for ages yet. I'm just glad it wasn't a support group for strange and debilitating infectious diseases that you can catch from unsanitary telephones.

But - I should have already learned my lesson, as the same search on Google shows an entry that I'm probably not too happy about! I was on a mailing list some time ago (like, 1996!) and responded to an email (foolishly using my real name). That mailing list diligently archives EVERY email ever sent to it, and accordingly Google has now cached it and it will be there forever now - it's unlikely I can get it taken down.

As an exercise for the reader, see if you can pick up the page I'm not happy about from the link above.

So - a salient lesson in being careful on the internet.

(Postscript: I had forgotten the "findoz" website that is returned by this search - this is NOT the mailing list to which I was subscribed, I have no idea how my professional profile manages to get mixed up with "hard core DVDs" on the findoz website, and I have a feeling there's another salient lesson there somewhere!).

Thursday, June 16, 2005

SME's and e-Business

Dr Kate Andrews suggested I take a look at the online business journal "Ivey Business Journal". This is the online version of a 70-year old journal.

I note that the May/June 2005 edition carries an article "The Strategic Management Process In E-Business". This article provides several case studies from a scientific study of SME's that have adopted e-business, and those strategies that SME's can use to be effective with e-business.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

VOIP Is Maturing

Voice Over IP Solutions seem to be maturing. This article from Technology & Business at ZDNet reviews some handsets providing VOIP capability, and almost gets one thinking about such things. Unless you have a real need, I am not convinced that the technology is mature enough just yet to recommend wholesale adoption by clients, although for clients with specific requirements and expertise it may be a good solution.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

SAP: Just Look at me Now...

I have had the opportunity over the last couple of weeks to take a look at what SAP calls its "MySAP All-in-One" solution. All-in-One is essentially the MySAP software combined with the skills, expertise and intellectual property of the business partner/software vendor (disclaimer: my firm, BDO Kendalls, sells, supports and implements the MySAP software, although I don't personally benefit from the thing).

A few years ago I would have told my clients to run screaming in the other direction (or at least think very, very carefully before proceeding with any ERP, including SAP - particularly after the experience of the Queensland government with SAP). In fact, I once had a good hearty laugh when SAP tendered for a software solution I was advising on - the client's budget didn't cover Stage 1.

However, it would seem that the lesson has been learnt, and MySAP's focus is on delivering business solutions in the context of the customisation required. Time was, a salesperson would glibly state, "yes, that's possible, just do the customisation" - and somehow completely omitting the phrase "but I don't know that that's a particularly smart thing to do because it's really expensive and adds bugs and makes upgrades difficult and...".

Of course the difficulties were not always, I think, due to "good" salespeople. Some of my best friends are salespeople. Businesses at one time felt that it was worth the effort to change software to meet their business processes - but neglected to adjust the projected cost by the requisite risk factor.

At any rate, if you are an SME thinking about the possible benefits an ERP can bring, you could do far worse than check out MySAP All-in-One. It's a rapidly shrinking market since Peoplesoft bought JD Edwards and Oracle bought Peoplesoft - but that's the way of the world.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Business Blogging goes Mainstream

Blogging seems to have all grown up, gotten serious, and become a business tool if BRW is this week (27/05/2005) reporting on business blogging and its effect on modern marketing.

Apparently it is the saviour of marketing (according to a marketing person), which will only be the case when marketing understands how it works and what the message really is.

Everything I ever needed to know, I learned from Wikipedia

If ever there is a topic you need to know about, the web's free encyclopaedia will likely have the answer for you:

If you read up on how Wikipedia works, it seems anarchistic, it seems strange, and it seems somehow machiavellian in the extreme, but there is no doubt that it works. With all those authors contributing and, hopefully, not making stuff up, the peer review process means that it covers Fox Terriers to Robots with equal aplomb. However, when it is confronted with a contentious topic, it can all get a bit out of hand - as the Terri Schiavo entry's history shows.

Friday, May 20, 2005

SourceForge By The Numbers

At the presentation on Tuesday night (on the commercial issues of Open Source software) I was asked if it was possible to manipulate the Sourceforge rankings. Unfortunately the website was mostly down at the time, so it wasn't possible to answer immediately.

However, I have taken a quick look tonight and note that the rankings are able to be manipulated if one wanted to do so, as the formula is quite clear. However, as notes, those statistics are not the only way by which a project should be assessed. The ranking statistics are a good indicator of the project's activity level rather than the quality of that activity.

The point should be made that the incentive of an project author to manipulate the rankings process is fairly low given that, in general, the potential monetary gain would be fairly minimal.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Bespoke software? Take two tablets and call me in the morning.

So far this year I have been to see several clients to review their approach to information systems. Almost all have struggled with the in-house development of software - in many cases a lot of effort has been put into developing in-house software, and although it must have sounded like a good idea at the time, they have come to regret it eventually.

In my humble opinion (and I haven't really researched this one too much yet) there are usually several factors that end up ensuring that it all turns to tears:
  • It's far too hard for internal software development staff to say "no" to any request for assistance from other areas within the business (and IT people are usually there to help, so they don't like disappointing people).
  • Our natural optimism operates to say that to do the development work required will be much easier than it ever actually is. Eventually, we learn.
  • Developing software is really, really interesting. Documenting it and writing down what you did isn't so easy - and besides, there's always a new project to get to.
  • My final factor as to why an in-house development approach ends up giving corporate heartburn is that few organisations can afford to provide the real tools that are needed, and support the large development staff necessary to allow people to bounce ideas off each other. The natural evolutionary progression of this is that few good tools are available to the development staff - ergo, staff leave to go to more prosperous waters (and since it was never documented, it's time to cue the violin music for all that investment that sails into the sunset).
For my clients, I often say to have a Bex and a good lie down before you embark on an internal software development project. And if it still sounds like a good idea tomorrow morning, then you should see your GP (because those symptoms are still persisting).

It's not that all in-house software development goes to hell in a handbasket, but it is awfully difficult to do internal software development well on any large scale, and to have the discipline and the methodologies available is often beyond the capacity of a lot of my clients here. If you ever do think about writing substantial amounts of bespoke software, be sure to recognise the risks that come with that approach.

I am beginning to wonder if you aren't better off adapting sometimes an open-source solution that does 80% of what you need for a small commitment of work (and my presentation on Tuesday night, again, talked about some of the issues you might come across there).

Hmm. I suggest I'll need to write an article on this topic one of these days. Although, maybe I just did that.

Open Source Issues in Business

The presentation I gave on Tuesday night (regarding commercial issues with open source) touched somewhat on the legal issues around open source licencing, although not a great deal. I did, after all, only have an hour or so, and a legal issue is not always a commercial issue - until it all ends in tears and winds up in court, that is.

Part of my research found this paper on the web entitled "Open Source Issues in Business", which looks at the legal issues of using open source in your business. It does have a US-law approach, which anyone in Australia will tell you is "interesting and unique", which would not be a positive thing to hear if it was a first date. However, the US legal regime tends to want to impose itself wherever it can go, and is having a darn good go at it wherever a "free trade agreement" goes.

So, there it is - "Open Source Issues in Business". It's instructive to quote the conclusion for your information:

"Circling back to the two hypothetical scenarios posited at the beginning of this article of a company desiring to protect is proprietary software code and hoping to make a profitable distribution, and a company that simply wants to use open source software for its internal operations: in each case, the software may be “free” but free lunches usually come at some price and so does “free” or open source software. Both companies need to learn more before consuming their free meal, and to consider that various issues that we have discussed here."
As always, feedback is welcome.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Commercial Considerations with Open Source Software

Tonight was the night of my presentation to the IT Discussion Group for CPA Australia. It was a packed house - well, it would have been if it had actually been a house. And if there had been a few more people there.

Nonetheless, I'll claim it was delivered to great acclaim. I promised that I would upload the slides from the presentation, so here they are in PDF form - "Pits, Traps, and Windfalls of Open Source Software". I am happy to email the powerpoint (or OOo version) upon request.

As always, happy to have any feedback on the issues raised here.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Email Management and a Good Night's Sleep

I note (thanks Phillip Smith) a Hewlett Packard research item (reported at that indicates that emails and text messages create a greater loss in a person's IQ than smoking marijuana. At least, that's the headline - but the study also provides a comparison showing that being constantly interrupted by emails has the same impact on your IQ as missing a full night's sleep.

The study doesn't mention the long-term effects of email use, but one would think that the long-term "e-mail withdrawal" symptoms can't be good.

I suspect banning email won't be the answer for productivity increases (can you imagine receiving 120 phone calls a day instead?), but this is probably a reminder note to regularly schedule email-free time. If it is important, they'll call you. I suspect many people suffer from the symptom that the next email could be really interesting (even if the last five weren't).

I know I do, and if I find a good therapy group I'll post it on this website.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

IT Governance and Shareholder Value

I note that the IT Governance Institute (it's chaired by Tony Hayes, my predecessor as Chair of the ITM COE for CPA Australia) has released a "Guide to IT Value @ Risk". The guide will be found here, while the IT Governance Institute can be found here.

IT Governance is about the way that the information technology business function is managed, particularly in the context of the board's responsibilities. IT Governance is one of the major work programs of the Information Technology & Management Centre of Excellence for 2005.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Pits, Traps and Windfalls of Open Source Software (For Business)

One of the things that I have often come across when consulting with clients is, obviously, the phenomenon of open-source software, and next week (17 May 2005) I will be presenting to the local CPA Australia IT discussion group on the topic of Pits, Traps and Windfalls of Open Source Software.

Now, I happen to think that open source software is better than the proverbial sliced bread on a picnic, but it does come with some real dangers hidden with its benefits. A real commercial issue is that, for software that is "free", no purchase order is required and a business can find itself heavily reliant upon the open source software (and the skills of the person who knows how to use it) without any of the usual gatekeeper controls to ensure people understand what it's all about (many businesses require a business case to purchase new software - but, no outlay means no business case means no commercial considerations are part of the decision).

And once you get out of the top five or ten open source projects in a particular software category, your ability to find someone that can actually use the software decreases markedly (which usually means that, once you find them, you've got to pay them quite well thanks very much). So fairly soon, and without any real red flags to indicate that it's happening, the business can become very reliant upon the skills of one single solitary person (who may or may not be a good bloke, but is still susceptible to the all-too-common "hit by a bus" problem).

But, I use Open Office at home (fairly seamlessly for most documents) and we do sponsor open-source software such as DotNetNuke to our clients, as it's a category killer in open source portal tools, and is based upon some standard technologies. I think it will always be interesting to run the numbers for clients and see which way they are better off. And this is exactly why I'm presenting next week on exactly this topic. So if you're in the Brisbane area, please feel free to drop in and say "hi" by registering and perhaps discuss the finer points or two of this topic in the business context.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Information Systems In The Old School Yard

In another life, I worked for independent schools (Anglican Church Grammar School and St Margaret's Anglican Girls' School), and in so doing I came to a good appreciation of what schools try to do with what they've got available (i.e. a lot with not much). In my post-school career, I have had occasion to visit schools and evaluate how the schools organise and run their information technology.

Each quarter my firm (BDO Kendalls) publishes a newsletter specifically to the education sector. In the autumn edition, I was asked to write an article entitled "Maximising Education Technology", and so here it is, published in all its glory.

As always, feedback welcome.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Could You Say That Again?

Going back through my old papers, I discovered this (rather more accessible, although it's still research) version of my thesis on Information Request Ambiguity. A riveting read? Probably not, but it's a good source for anyone wanting to take a look at the theoretical underpinnings of internal communication and its potential commercial effects.

In case you're wondering, information request ambiguity is when there is ambiguity in a request for a report to be written by a third party. Information Request Ambiguity is a mouthful, but it's probably more professional-sounding than calling it the "Are you sure that's what you want?" factor.

This paper was presented at the International Conference in Information Systems in 2001. We are repeating the experiment and hoping to publish in a first-tier journal "real soon now". The main rationale for the research was to identify the different types of ambiguity, and what their likely effects are (e.g. accuracy, mistaken reporting, etc).

Monday, May 09, 2005

Information Systems, Security, and Fraud

I note that John Halliday (a colleague at BDO Kendalls - Director IS Audit) has written an overview article on information systems security and fraud. This is a good short article raising the link between IS security, governance structures, and organisational fraud. John is promising a series of articles in this newsletter, so I am sure there is more to come here.

From what I understand, this article also dovetails nicely with a seminar that was run on 18th April 2005.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Password Security and Caffeine Addiction

I note a completely unscientific study (by Verisign) - but it's probably indicative - that indicates that 2 of every 3 San Francisco pedestrians were prepared to provide their passwords in exchange for a voucher for a Starbucks coffee. Which is a remarkably similar result to that found in a UK poll. I wonder whether you'd get the same results by offering a Caramello Koala here in Australia?

Saturday, May 07, 2005

SME IT Health Checklist

One of the things I do in my "spare" time is chair the Information Technology & Management Centre of Excellence for CPA Australia (since 2002). This has responsibility for looking at over-the-horizon issues in information technology (as they relate to the accounting profession).

One of the interesting articles we published recently (thanks to Shauna Kelly who wrote it, I did review it before publishing although I think my most incisive comment was "I see" and "Great!") was an IT Health Checklist for SME's. A good starting point, at the very least - unfortunately you'll need to be an Australian CPA or know a CPA to get the actual PDF (hey, there must be a CPA around here somewhere)...

Friday, May 06, 2005

Due Care and Attention Before Sending That Document

Just saw this article on zdnet which talks about how the US Army kind of mucked up when it released a confidential report but didn't convert it to PDF properly. So the censor's pen wasn't quite black enough - easier to see than holding it up against the light, I guess.

Of relevance to those of us not in the US military though - never (well, almost never) send a document to a client or external party with track changes on or with dodgy metadata in it (you'll see dodgy metadata under /file/properties in your Microsoft documents - if you do that and it looks like something you don't want a client to see, then change your templates). Better yet, do what I do and send them as PDF documents (try CutePDF) - just be better at that than the US Army is.