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The Infonomics Letter 2016/01 - Confession and Renewal: A very personal Infonomics Letter from Mark Toome

The Infonomics LetterInfonomics Logo
Plain Language about Digital Leadership and
Governance of Information Technology.

Confession and Renewal: A very personal Infonomics Letter from Mark Toome
Hello to all of my friends and followers from around the globe.
Included in the approximately 3,000 people who will receive this message, are around 300 new entries for people who have exchanged business cards with me or who have signed up online for The Infonomics Letter some time since late in 2014. Some of those people may wonder why I have not been in touch.
For the 2,700 or so who are not so new to the list, you may have noticed that haven't heard from me for a while.
Today, for all of you, it's time for my confession - for me to tell you why my Infonomics Letters haven't been arriving in your inboxes at approximately monthly intervals.
But more than that, it's time for me to start telling you about my Renewal - how I am facing up to the challenges of the future. Today, I want to prepare the ground for a major announcement.

Confession: it's good for the soul!
The December 2014 Infonomics Letter (PDF) briefly mentioned that I had experienced a period of poor health. It turns out that the multiple bouts of influenza were just the curtain-raiser to a very challenging period in my life.

From the outset, I found it very difficult to get myself motivated and working in January 2015. I was doing OK with labour-intensive tasks, but when it came to exercising my brain, it just wasn't happening. I felt burned out. Then came a series of hammer-blows to others close to me. A brother-in-law died suddenly at the end of March. Five weeks later, my 35 year old son suffered a massive brain haemorrhage and just days after that my partner's father also passed away, leaving yet another void for us to fill.

My brother-in-law Phil was only 50. He hadn't planned for an untimely death and left three teenagers in the sole care of their mum, with no assets and, as it seemed for a while, no life insurance. We set up a trust fund through which people can contribute to the children's education and helped their mum secure her future through the almost-missed life insurance policy.

After a helicopter ambulance ride of which he has no memory at all, and 7 hours of surgery, my son was in a coma for 13 days. As one of only 15% who survive an event as severe as his, he is incredibly lucky, but 8 months later is still in hospital and working hard to regain the use of his severely impacted left side. We experienced a major high just last Monday, when he ate his first meal since the morning the aneurysm in his brain exploded, so many weeks ago. We expect him to recover substantially, but he will have some long term physical impairment and, it seems, some lapses in short term memory.

In all, my partner Leonie and I lost 6 close relatives through 2015, and almost lost two more to severe medical problems.

Perhaps few would be surprised then that by mid 2015, I was concerned about both my mental and physical health. A visit to the doctor and then a psychologist confirmed that I had developed type 2 diabetes and both my blood pressure and cholesterol were elevated. Apparently diabetes is often an underpinning factor in depression and I'm no exception to that rule - I have been wrestling with depression and anxiety, probably for much longer than I had realised. There's little wonder that I could not get myself back into the high performance mode that has been customary for most of the past 40 years.

So through the rest of 2015, I have deliberately taken things slowly and am making good progress at resolving the many issues which had been weighing on me.

The good news is that, while I still have to take more care of myself than in the past, I begin 2016 in much better shape and am looking forward to significant achievements. My physical health is back on track and already there have been significant steps forward in achievement of goals, signalling that my mental health is also on the mend. This Infonomics Letter is a case in point

Renewal: foundations for a better future
For more than ten years, I have dedicated myself to activities focused on improving governance of IT. It's been a hard road, which has delivered a few significant highs and many disappointments.

Among the challenges have been the avoidance behaviour of business leaders who too often have wanted to leave governance of IT to the technologists and those leaders who agreed that many organisations need to improve their governance of IT, but never their own. There has also been the innate desire of the IT industry to be seen as "in control" through the use of process models which ignore the reality that bad behaviour breaks good process, and the industry's reluctance to embrace the notion expressed in the ISO 38500 standard for governance of IT that principles governing behaviour are the essential key to successful use of technology. Through all this time, all over the world, we have seen countless examples of where investments in technology have failed to deliver intended outcomes in an acceptable manner, regardless of the presence or absence of an effective process model.

Notwithstanding, it's been profoundly rewarding to see that almost every organisation that I have had the opportunity to assist through explaining ISO 38500 has gone on to establish highly effective models for governance of IT, framed with clear strategic policy and appropriate assignment of responsibility and accountability. Every organisation that has followed through in this regard has reported a sustained improvement in its success rate and satisfaction with its investments in technology.

But the relatively small number of organisations that have made this breakthrough do not coalesce into a burning platform that encourages a majority of others to take a fresh look at how they control their investments in technology. One person indeed cannot change the world, no matter how good a start is made. Something else was needed.

By the end of 2012, there was beginning to be frequent discussion of what we now refer to as the digital era. That seemed like a context that would provide the essential platform on which business leaders would recognise their critical role in governance of information technology. I began writing about this in the January 2013 edition of The Infonomics Letter (PDF), and around that time began work on my next book, Digital Leadership Manifesto. Perhaps prematurely, I published the draft preface to the book in the December 2013 Infonomics Letter (PDF).

Through 2014 and to a much greater extent in 2015, commentators have echoed one of the core themes from my discussions on governance of IT, as they talk about the essential elements of successful digital transformation. We have seen reports from respected consulting and research houses, often working in collaboration with highly credible universities, making it clear that digital transformation is first and foremost a business leadership issue. While digital transformation clearly involves the use of technology and demands access to a high level of technology skill, the more important issue is the ability of business leaders to conceive and orchestrate the business and market transformations that enable their organisations to survive and thrive in the digital future.

It seems clear to me that Digital Leadership is an essential theme for the 21st century and addressing that theme is now the focus of my renewal. Rather than working to improve governance of IT, from now on I will be working to improve Digital Leadership. But I won't be letting go of the governance thinking that I have developed since 2000 and framed around ISO 38500 since 2005. Rather, I'll be exploiting effective governance of IT as an important enabling capability for effective Digital Leadership, and adding much more to that portfolio.

Digital Leadership Manifesto remains an important piece of work to be completed as part of this new plan. For those who have been waiting patiently, I offer my sincere apology for the delay and beg your indulgence as I complete my recovery and recover the essential strength for tackling the task of revising and completing the book. Revision will be essential, for some of what I had written about in predictive mode is now fact, and needs to be reflected as such. However, the core elements of the book as originally planned are not impacted by the delay and will most likely benefit from the experience that has been captured over the past year.

Very soon - within a few days, I will once again seek your indulgence, as I announce the very exciting detail of how I plan to approach the challenge of improving Digital Leadership. One thing that I can say now is that I won't be working alone. While working as a solo specialist confers great freedom, it also limits opportunities to kick ideas around and share load. My future will most definitely include the opportunity to work closely with an array of highly talented and capable individuals in a 21st century team environment.

I do hope that you will take the few moments it will need to see and consider this new plan when it arrives in a few days.

There isn't a website version or PDF of his Infonomics Letter at this stage. They may come in time but right now, adding them is not as important as moving forward with the new agenda. I do apologise if that makes this message a little less convenient to read than usual.

I will be in touch again soon.

Kind regards,

Mark Toomey

20 January 2016.

For the time being, the Infonomics web site and shop remain operational, though frozen as at the end of 2014. Some changes will be made in the near future as my plans evolve. Meanwhile, to learn more about best practice governance of IT and ISO 38500:
Waltzing with the Elephant: A comprehensive guide to directing and controlling information technology.
The Infonomics Shop
The Infonomics Letter Past Editions
The Infonomics front page.
Infonomics events, seminars and education on Governance of IT and ISO 38500.
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