Uncharted Water: 10 Simple Steps to Change Your Organization in the New Year

deep-water

 

Don’t get scared when heading into uncharted water

One of the most difficult situations a technology executive can find himself or herself in is with a clear understanding that the current state of the organization isn’t sustainable but with no clear approach to moving forward. There may be a myriad of reasons for this unclear picture from a lack of insight into ongoing operations, to poor data, or to a lack of support for action from upper management. Any of these can create a difficult environment in which to move forward and develop an efficient and effective technology organization from.  However, too much time spent analyzing where to start simply delays improvement and rarely ends with the organization getting to value faster than if they had started by simply acting.

I don’t mean to imply that doing anything is better than nothing or that simply doing something for the sake of doing something is a good plan of attack. I am saying that in the absence of a clear path forward every organization can benefit from taking the following steps.  Particularly those that are struggling with how to move forward but aren’t sure of the right approach or simply lack the information necessary to make an informed plan forward. With everything I am going to say next, please keep one very simply concept in mind:

There is a “Thin Layer” of information that is important. Anything beyond what is necessary to support decision-making is superfluous and wasteful. Choose this information wisely. Choose only what you need to support ongoing decision-making. Anything else can be developed on an as needed basis. With that said, here is the right approach to transforming any organization and developing an information set that will provide a springboard to efficiency and effectiveness.

  1. Figure out what you do: This sounds pretty simple but seems to always get lost in the battle for detail. The first time you do this you should not be focused on developing a detailed model of everything you do so you can execute the business from it like a playbook. This is all about developing buckets to group the resources of the organization for analysis into portfolios. Consider this to be one of your first steps on the path to enterprise portfolio management. Also—remember that you can stand on the work of those that have come before you. There are many capability frameworks that have already been developed and are actively maintained.
  2. Figure our the decisions you need to make: In order to understand what information you need, you need to first figure out what decisions you are trying to support. Once you’ve decided what you do in step 1, it becomes much easier to understand the overall decisions landscape needed to support it. Create a decision register that defines the decision including RACI, informational inputs, analytic components, and the benefit of the decision. This last part is critical because it enables you to value the decision and by proxy, understand how much you should invest to gain more insight in order to improve decision-making.
  3. Figure out who your stakeholders are: I’ve separated this from the decision-making step because I believe they are distinct and that mixing the two muddies the water; but in practice there will be a lot of overlap in these two activities and developing the working products associated with each should be done hand in hand. Tying the decisions to the people who make them, as well as the people who help develop the information necessary to support decision-making is critical stuff. A great planning document can be developed by creating a decision matrix that maps to stakeholders and includes RACI information.
  4. Figure out the benefit landscape: I mentioned this in the discussion of the decision register, but I have pulled it out because I believe it is critical to being successful over time. Developing a benefits list makes you put a value to the effort of maintaining this planning information. One of the major complaints that I hear regarding planning and architecture efforts is that they either lack value or that the value is hard to understand. This is often because a great deal of information goes into maintaining information that is of low organizational value. Remember the Thin Layer and make sure that the information you manage and maintain has real benefit to the organization. Articulating this in a document, registry, or report forces you to think through the value proposition of each decision and in turn the value of the information you will being managing.
  5. Figure out the exact information you need to support these decisions: We are very specific about what we collect when we enter an organization for two reasons. The first is we like to work within a time box in order to get to value quickly. Being specific about what we ask enables us to keep our client side impact to a minimum. The second is that we know how hard it is to maintain good planning data and we know there is a cost to maintaining it. Asking for more than you need is wasteful. If you are optimizing around services or your application portfolio make sure you understand how the various information you are gathering supports the relevant decision-making.
  6. Figure out the analytic components: Once you’ve taken the trouble to figure out what decisions you need to make it is important to take the time necessary to design analytic components that specifically support those decisions. This may not be a one report to one decision type of process. Think about each decision as though it were a scenario. Often making decisions requires several analytic components in order to enable you to drive through the decisions scenario.
  7. Figure out your timelines: Time boxes work hand in hand with the Thin Layer concept to ensure that you are getting to value as rapidly as possible. I believe in 30, 60 and 90 day plans with very specific deliverables. In fact the first iteration through this list should take no more than 90 days. That isn’t to say that you will have everything perfect the first time through, but there should be some real value and insight gained in those first 90 days. After the second iteration you should be very close to having something that you can operate from. From there forward, you should be able to run through this list on an annual basis in order to ensure that organizational change is being accounted for and that you aren’t spending resources to maintain informational inputs for a decision that is no longer of high value.
  8. Figure out what success looks like: You have to go into the project with a shared vision of success that is held by both those inside and outside the project. If the goal is some form of organizational transformation, it is critical that you work to define some very specific metrics for both the short and the long-term in order to understand if you are building value for the organization.
  9. Figure out your marketing plan: I’ve been told on many occasions that marketing really isn’t something their organization does because they are an internal service organization. Do not allow yourself to fall into this trap. Success breeds success. Every project should have a marketing plan even if you feel you have to call it a communications plan. Trumpet your success and how your success enables the success of the organization—it will help you be more successful and stay successful. You should always be searching for the ROI or benefit statement that accompanies your project and set aside dollars and resource time to do so. If you don’t, you aren’t doing everything you can to succeed.
  10. Figure out your decision-making processes: Understanding the decisions that need to be made, the informational inputs, decision-making context, etc is just part of the story. To get maximum value, you have to make sure that you plan your decision-making process and plan it around your new informational environment. You are going to have a lot of new information and a lot of new insight. Don’t make the mistake of sticking to your old decision-making process or you will have missed an enormous opportunity to capture more value from your efforts.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Weekly Webinars Recap- ‘Teamwork on the Fly’

With the New Year fast approaching, I think now is a perfect time to talk about improving oneself. Specifically, I want to talk about the importance of learning. At my company, Millsapps, Ballinger & Associates we consider continuing education and training to be a non-negotiable necessity, both within our company, and as a service to our clients. As such, we’ve launched our training division; MB&A Academy. One of my favorite offering through MB&A Academy is our free Webinar of the Week. Every week we feature industry leaders and experts giving a peek into the full length courses we offer to leading government officials and corporate executives.

Last week, we had a very informative Webinar given by MB&A Academy instructor, Scott Ross. Scott has a Consulting Firm based out of Colorado called Waves End LLC with experience in Web, IT, Photo, Video, and Training services. His Webinar was entitled Teamwork on the Fly, and focused on an issue I know we all struggle with in today’s global workforce. Creating effective, efficient teams with members located all over the world. See the clip below to get a peek at what the attendees saw:

The Webinar was interactive and well received. Said one attendee from Denver, CO “Having gone through a university training curriculum where we spent a whole quarter studying teams and teamwork, it was a good refresher. I am going to recommend the book he used to my university”. From an attendee in the Indianapolis area “there is a close company of mine that seems to implode when their fingers go outside of the company when trying to formulate a team.  I took good notes and it is actually helping. For that I thank you!” See the clip below to check out some of the questions asked of Scott after the webinar:

If you would like access to the full video, e-mail us at academy@mbaoutcome.com.

So for this New Year, make a resolution to commit to personal development. You can start by checking out our upcoming Webinar on January 11th. MB&A Instructor, Bob Daniel, will talking about how to ensure success in adopting new technologies. To register, click here.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

It all starts with the operating model

It all starts with the operating model, at least that is my belief. Since reading Enterprise Architecture As Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution by Jeanne W. Ross, Peter Weill and David Robertson I have really focused on understanding one of the foundational statements early in the text regarding the role of the operating model which includes, “The degree to which successful businesses must standardize business processes and/or integrate data to produce optimized business outcomes.” Viewed as a four square chart, this produces a range of possible states for the organization along these two lines as shown below:

It all starts with the opearting model

Loosely grouped these essentially can be defined as follows:

  • Diversification model: low standardization, low integration
  • Coordination model: low standardization, high integration
  • Replication model: high standardization, low integration
  • Unification model: high standardization, high integration

One of the reasons why this is so important in the process of understanding how you should be looking at your organization is that it keeps you from falling into the trap of thinking that more standardized and more integrated is always good. I have heard many, many very smart and well-respected executives talk about EA as though the entire point of it was to develop a consistent mechanism for becoming more standardized and integrated. This overly simplistic viewpoint can be a value killer for many organizations. The fact is that there are numerous reasons to opt for less standardization and integration. I am going to focus on those in this post because the case for standardization and integration is so stunningly obvious and uncontested.

Specifically, process orientation and integration is the enemy of agility. I know that by saying this I will have people tell me that I just haven’t seen it implemented correctly. This misses the point. The fact that you have a standard way of doing something means almost by default that the person engaged in the process does not generally have the full freedom to do the process however they see fit. Hence, it is less agile. I’m not going to debate whether or not you can have an agile, standards-based set of processes—I’m sure you can. I’m just saying they aren’t as agile as no process almost by definition. The real world situations where less process may be good are many but may not be obvious, so I’ll share a few examples.

The first is an organization that is rapidly acquiring other organizations or has a heavy focus on M&A activity. These organizations are probably better suited to focus on less process orientation and integration, as the process of moving acquired organizations onto a specific set of processes and ensuring a tight integration of data will necessarily slow the acquisition process and may slow the time to a return on investment. If this organization is a highly diversified conglomerate, it may be that its business and technology executives should be focused on the diversification model.

 The second is the organization that leverages internal competition as part of its business strategy. An example may be a real estate office where there is fairly heavy process orientation, but less of a focus on integration. The reason is quite simple. The law demands that transactions be processed a certain way.  However, due to how many of the industry’s largest players are organized with individual agents vying for business against both their own organization and other organizations, most of these organizations do not place a heavy emphasis on internal data sharing because it works against this competitive dynamic. The technology and business leaders in this type of organization might want to focus on a replication model as opposed to the unification model.

For the third I think I’ll veer away from the private sector and provide a public sector example. Many public sector organizations, particularly at the cabinet level have very diversified missions. If one were to look at the Department of Agriculture closely, you will find a highly diverse set of missions served by its agencies including banking and financial, emergency response, natural resource management, etc. spread across 150,000 employees. This level of complexity almost invariably means that process standardization across these agencies (business units) will be exceptionally difficult. However, the nature of government and the impact of recent legislation is that the central organization must able to understand and share data across these units. Therefore a focus by the business and technology executives on data integration and standardization is appropriate.  Many public sector organizations, particularly at the cabinet level, would be well served to look at the Coordination model and see if it wouldn’t provide a more relevant scope for EA efforts.

No matter where your organization falls in this, it is important simply to have the conversation across your business and technology stakeholders. Having run operating model workshops with clients it amazes me how divergent the viewpoints can be within just the technology organization or within just the business, let alone across both groups. A lot of the power of the operating model can be gained simply by having the conversation.  There is enormous untapped value in understanding how your organizations operating model can drive how you do strategic planning and technology implementation. Simply asking these types of questions with all of the relevant stakeholders in the room will drive incredibly valuable conversation across the organization. Has your organization had the operating model discussion?

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

What is Enterprise Intelligence?

What is Enterprise Inteligencwe

Enterprise Intelligence is a key structure for supporting successful transformation efforts

 In my post “Enterprise Architecture and the Road to Enterprise Intelligence, I talk about an approach to enterprise architecture that results in Enterprise Intelligence.  Wikipedia’s definition of Enterprise Architecture as “the process of translating business vision and strategy into effective enterprise change by creating, communicating, and improving the key requirements, principles, and models that describe the enterprise’s future state and enable its evolution,” is probably close enough for most. I’m sure that every Enterprise Architect would tweak this sentence or refer me to the TOGAF, DODAF, etc. definition that is more meaningful to them. For this conversation it is good enough because it hits what I believe are the keys to understanding EA, which is that it is about managing change in the service of meeting the vision and strategy of the business.

 This is important because these are the same keys that make it so relevant to organizational transformation. The trend in the world is towards more change, happening faster. Business models are becoming more complex and high performing organizations have to be able to manage change in order to be successful. The period between the instantiation of business vision and the implementation has to shrink. I have honed in on the term organizational transformation because the “transformation” part is a key element. When business vision changes in order to be successful, high performing organizations must be able to change down to the last layer of the organization in order to be efficient and effective. This means changing everything from business process, to application, to performance measurement. Not only must the change permeate every aspect of the business, but it must also be understood that during, and most importantly after, the change that the entire stakeholder community will be affected as well. Enterprise architecture should obviously play a key role in developing this capability.

To me, enterprise intelligence is the decision support structure that underlies both Enterprise Architecture and Organizational Transformation. It is the explicit understanding and management of the key decisions needed to support the business throughout the execution of organizational transformation and its enterprise architecture. Many will argue that understanding the stakeholder community is already embedded in EA methodologies and they would be correct. I’m simply stating that understanding the stakeholder landscape, the decisions associated with this landscape, and the explicit value of these decisions is so important that it deserves specific focus. I’ve talked in some detail about this in “Specifications for Decisions Support” and “The Value Landscape.” Essentially, I believe that enterprise intelligence should provide a framework for understanding the key decisions that impact the organization and provide a framework for understanding the value that these decisions provide. For Enterprise Architecture and Organizational Transformation this should provide the organization with an explicit understanding of the value of undertaking these types of initiatives, while at the same time providing a series of reports, dashboards, and other analytic components and processes that specify exactly how these add value to the organization. Is enterprise intelligence a discrete concrete that should live separately from enterprise architecture?  There will be plenty of opinion on that subject and EAs being the types of folks they are, will make sure I’ll hear quite a bit about it. For me the distinction isn’t for the EAs, it is to help business stakeholders understand the tangible values of the pursuit of enterprise architecture and to tie together the pursuit of enterprise architecture and a capability around organizational transformation.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Play 8: Work Only on What is Important

For executives that haven’t been naughty

I love to read. I’ve skipped school to finish Shogun, read the covers off of The Belgariad, and waited in line for Harry Potter. These days with a wife, three kids and a busy schedule I often find books stacking up on my nightstand, my office, and in the foyer. One of the great things about the holidays is that I often get a chance to catch up on the books I’ve been meaning to read for months but haven’t had time to open. In that vein I’ve been reading Behind the Cloud: The Untold Story of How Salesforce.com Went from Idea to Billion-Dollar Company-and Revolutionized an Industry by Marc Benioff as we’ve worked our way around the Northeast for the holidays. The book is great, mixing the Salesforce.com story with some great lessons for those of us who are trying to get a little bit of the Salesforce.com magic for our own company. Marc structures the story in Plays that tell a bit of the Saleforce.com story but also carry a little bit of a lesson for those looking to get insight into the success this company, which has been named the World’s Most Innovative company two years in a row by Forbes (2011, 2012), one of the 100 best companies to work for by Fortune (2012), and received the Gartner CRM Excellence Award.

That is why “Play 8: Work Only on What is Important” really struck me as it came right on the heels of my post “3 Point Guide to Staying Sane in the Holiday Season” in which I talk to the importance of being focused on the right things. Marc talks about the importance of “focus on the 20 percent that makes 80 percent of the difference.” He also makes a statement about realizing that you won’t be able to bring the same focus to everything in the beginning. I think this is a great point for start-ups, but really for executives these should be words to live by, especially if you are engaged in any type of transformational activity. I know that I’ve caught myself worrying about the details when the big picture is a semi-truck getting ready to wear me as a hood ornament. One of the things I try to do to combat this is to tell myself before I start something when it needs to be out the door, what the objective or successful outcome will be, and what the value of doing it is to my organization. This has significantly improved my ability to focus on “Just Enough” to get the job done and lessened my tendency to over deliver. Remember as an executive over-delivery is really just great looking waste.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Operating Models: Understanding Complex Organizations

Operating Model Diagram

Standardization and Integration of Operating Models

I’ll be giving a Webinar today for MB&A Academy’s Webinar of the Week Series. Every week we feature industry leaders and experts giving a peak into the full length course we teach to leading government officials and corporate executives. My talk today will be on Operating Models. The idea of an “organizational operating model” is the central concept discussed by Dr. Jeanne Ross, Peter Weill, and David C. Robertson in their seminal work, Enterprise Architecture as Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution. They contend that for companies to succeed, they must understand their operating model: in other words, the degree to which they must standardize business processes and/or integrate data to produce optimized business outcomes.

Higher standardization of processes is typically required where efficiency and predictability are the primary factors in delivery of the organization’s products or services.  If an organization wants to present the same face to customers in diverse locations, or capitalize on efficiencies of scale in purchasing, for instance, a high degree of standardization is required. The higher the level of standardization, however, the greater the cost to the overall organization in terms of flexibility and innovation.

Data integration effectively links the efforts of various organizational units through information sharing.  Higher levels of integration encourage close working relationships between various areas of a business or agency, and more centralized decision-making. Also, the more integration, the more agreement is required on definitions, and this comes at the cost of local control and autonomous management of information resources.

Clearly, each organization will have different needs; even different divisions of the same company may have quite different objectives.  As such, different operating models can maximize their individual potential.  Once the Operating Model is determined, the Enterprise Architecture can be designed to meet the critical process standardization and integration requirements for delivery of the company’s products or services.

Ross, Weill, and Robertson specifically define four models that exist depending on standardization and integration requirements of each organization. To learn more about these models, and how we work with our clients to identify to most productive To-Be model for their organization, check out my Webinar today at 12:00pm EST. Register here.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

The Icarus Deception: The Good Fail

Icarus

Dare to fly high and give yourself the opportunity to soar

 Seth Godin’s new book “The Icarus Deception” will be available December 31st of the year. I’ve been lucky enough to receive an advance copy from a friend and have since been sucked in to what I believe is an exceptionally valuable addition to my library. The book isn’t comprised of long sections but is rather a series of short pieces grouped together, which should feel familiar to those who have read Seth’s blog. The book as a whole is great but in my read I hit on one particular piece that I felt had to be passed along because of its relevance to performance. On page 203, Seth has a piece called “The Good Fail: How does the Organization Get Boring” In it he puts forward a law credited to David Puttnam which states, “It is more acceptable to fail in conventional ways than in unconventional ways. And its corollary: The reward for succeeding in unconventional ways is a lot less than the risk of failing in unconventional ways. In short, you can screw up with impunity so long as you screw up like everyone else.” I absolutely love this piece and this quote because it dovetails so closely with my own thoughts about how organizations descend into mediocrity or worse.

The pressure of the herd to press onward despite mediocre or poor results on the basis of it being the generally accepted path or best practice is probably one of the single most frustrating things I am confronted with on client sites. There is often an unwillingness to plow new ground despite ample evidence that the current path is not going to provide great rewards. I have often said that one of the biggest failings in most bureaucracies is that the reward for failure so outweighs the punishment for failure, that ground breaking approaches are almost never carried forward. It’s also why so many innovative ideas get their start in a garage rather than in the billion dollar R&D budgets of big business.

I know that in the new year one of the things I plan on pushing forward with is a plan to better enable my folks to take the road less traveled and encourage experimentation, and by definition almost become more accepting of failure. We want to continue down the innovative path that we try to encourage within our workplace and I believe that we already do a pretty good job of encouraging people to think outside the box. I’d love to hear your thoughts/examples, etc of programs, projects, or people who have successfully encouraged original thinking in your workplace. How did they inspire original thinking and deal with failure?

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.