by Mark Chillingworth

Unlock code and benefits can follow

Mar 22, 20124 mins
IT Strategy

There can be nothing worse for an organisation or CIO to be told that at Euro20 million project could have been done for Euro20 milion, but this is a real example shared with me earlier this week by the Software Improvement Group (SIG). 
With technology ubiquitous and senior management and shareholders becoming ever aware of the business difference, and therefore costs, technology offers an organisation; the spotlight has never been more intense. Cloud computing has only served to focus the attention on technology costs. As the CIO you carry the can and have to face down any criticism. 
Yet enterprise technology is bereft of credible cost benchmarks. In fact enterprise IT is up there with car ownership for being totally devoid of any clear cost measures, the only thing that seems certain is that it will cost more than you expect. 
As in my last blog post, there is a growing reality coming to the cloud computing debate that it will not rip and replace acres of legacy technology in your estate and the much vaunted paradigm shift is in reality an additional business option. CIOs have considerable legacy systems or recent technology implementations that can still deliver major ROI and improve business processes. To extract the inherent value means improving the operations of this legacy. Francesco de Marchis, CIO at did just this in 2011, going back to the base code of his organisations systems and refining the code to take it from being operational to exceptional. The result was a major improvement in reliability, performance and a happier team that could focus on innovation rather than fire-fighting breakdowns. 
The bulk of code is in-house and it’s probably easier for all of us to be critical and brutal with something self-built, while something you’ve spent considerable sums on with outside providers can be harder to criticise, not that in-house development is without its costs. 
Code quality checking isn’t just a retrospective action CIOs should follow. The CIO at the Port of Rotterdam, Europe’s busiest port took the bold decision to develop a new harbour management system in-house. As a future profile of Lourens Visser, Port of Rotterdam CIO will detail, the complexity of a harbour management system and the wide number of stakeholders made the case for developing the system in-house. Visser used SIG throughout the development process to code check and test. The result is a harbour management system project that was on time, on budget and is now being sold as a technology to other port operators. 
SIG have a passion for software, this is not a group of auditors determined to pick holes in every decision a CIO has made. Dr Floris van de Broek shares the same energetic passion for technology exhibited by CIOs and he can’t fathom why software hasn’t kept pace with Moore’s Law and delivered increases in productivity and efficiency. 
From my conversation with van de Broek I get the feeling he believes it’s not technology at fault, but the attitude of those that implement, which is often about throwing increasing staff numbers at a problem rather than skills. Listening to  him I kept thinking of Russian Tsars using the sheer population size to overcome invading enemies. 
“An audit should not be the compelling event,” he told me. “Giving feedback in real time on how to develop better,” is what he and his team aspire to.  SIG has put the cat amongst the pigeons in Denmark with a critical analysis of the taxation authorities systems that were delivered by CSC. SIG is academic in its approach and has benchmarks for the cost of 6000 systems ranging from ERP to mortgage processing systems. 
At CIO we believe in transparency and as the Editor I believe it can only be good for whole industry, CIOs and vendors. As a result SIG will be joining our roster of opinion formers on CIO and will provide more insights than a mere writer can on how we can all strive for greater transparency.