Buy outcomes, not output

Outcomes vs output

There a couple of things you need to think about before you buy consulting services, management consulting, or any of the types of services where you’re looking for a unique perspective or insight, the benefit of experience,  and a fresh view on things.  Anytime you’re looking for something that’s going to end in real change for your organization, it’s important to make sure the original purpose doesn’t get lost in the current economic climate’s push to make sure that you’re making the most of your dollars and spending appropriately.  I know that a lot of organizations are much more cost conscious than they have ever been previously but I think that focusing on value, especially when you’re looking at management consulting type engagements where small changes have huge consequences, is vital.  You need to be really careful about how you judge value there.  More people at a lower rate does not necessarily mean better value.  I’ve had some interesting conversations with people over the years as they look to maximize individual rates on personnel, or in this case minimize.  They try to maximize their perception of value so they focus on driving down individual rates or sometimes total cost, but a lot of times it means using people with lower individual rates, and in turn that sometimes means quality.  It’s just part of the problem with contracting things on a time and material basis.

I would really like to see a shift away from that. I know that it’s an easy way to measure what you’re getting sort of situation, but I think what it tends to make vendors do is beef up the amount of paper that they deliver; and to deliver more paper they put more junior people on tasking because those are the paper creators.   They slim down the time that senior staff spend on the engagement and you end with maybe one person who’s been there and done it before.  Then you end up with five or six people other people that are no doubt smart and have been to the right schools and know lots of things but probably aren’t maybe necessary to get the job done in the first place. They’re extra; they’re part of the extra value that the client is getting but in reality they are not necessarily solving the problem that you went in there to fix.  I think it’s why so many organizations, when you initially start talking to them, they point to the failures of the past and the failures of the past are monstrous SharePoint sites that are full of documents.  You know they’ve got an entire library of things that have been created on their behalf but they haven’t really moved the ball forward.  You know why that is?  I think it’s because they focused on the output not the outcome.

So I think that as you go into to acquire something, be careful about what you’re really trying to get on the other side.  Now I’m not sure what the exact answer is but I know that at MB&A we try to position things in terms of here’s the value of that you’re going to get and less in terms of here’s how many hours you’re going to get of somebody’s time and what it’s going to cost you per hour because I just don’t find it to be very valuable.  I know that by using a times and materials basis it’s easier to explain as a vendor talking to a client, but I don’t think it gets the client anything and it tends to encourage the wrong kind of behavior which is: lower rates, more hours, neither or which has to do with more outcomes.  So I’d be interested to hear how others have solved this problem for their organization or times when they’ve run into this problem.

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.

MB&A: Changing the world

I’ve had a few different people ask me about the types of work we do at MB&A so I thought I would put together a few posts that highlight what we are working on as a company. Of course we do many of the things that I consider to be the bread and butter such as management consulting activities like providing advisory services, enterprise architecture, business process reengineering, and business intelligence & analysis. What I think people may find more interesting, and one of the reasons I’m excited to get to the office most days is the innovative projects we have been able to take on where we are deeply involved in creating something new for the customer. Whether it is something that is completely custom or a unique implementation or integration that meets specific client requirements, we have been able to solve some pretty complex problems for clients based on our ability to bring together the best parts of the engineering, software development and management consulting disciplines. In this post I’ll be focused on a few of our most recent projects and also provide some insight into how we leverage our strategic partners to bring unique benefit to the end customer. For today’s post I’ll focus on solutions we have developed in coordination with Troux, Salesforce.com, and the SAAB Group.

SAAB Group – Mobile Situation Awareness for Enhanced Security (MSAFE)

MB&A has developed a mobile situational awareness capability that enables organizations to bring advanced command, control, and security capabilities with them into the field to events, as well as to buildings where advanced security capabilities are needed on short notice. At the core of this system is the open architecture SAFE (Situation Awareness for Enhanced Security) software. SAAB is a leader in the Physical Security Information Management (PSIM) space and its SAFE software is a flexible, scalable and robust Security Management system designed to provide enhanced situation awareness capabilities for Critical Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Response. Based on a Command & Control system and a highly advanced Integration Platform, SAFE provides advanced capabilities managing security and efficiency needs in daily operations.

MB&A has used this software as the brain behind its mobile units and combined it other hardware and software to develop a platform from which sensors, alarms, devices, access control, radar, CCTV, network devices, etc can be controlled from a single or multiple operator stations.

SAAB

Salesforce.com – Security Assessment and Management

Our Saleforce.com app, Fedblueprint: Security Assessment and Management (SAM), was created specifically to meet the unique security needs facing our school systems today. Our app was developed for school physical security inspectors so they can conduct physical security assessments on measures such as effective use of architecture, landscaping, perimeter, parking, facility access control/interior, physical barriers, access control, and lighting to achieve improved security by deterring, disrupting, or mitigating potential threats. This assessment is built to meet federal requirements for facilities safety and the first version of Fedblueprint: SAM was used to assess 189 schools and reduced the total cost to perform security assessments by more than $25,000 on a per facility basis. This cost savings was possible because the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management did not require an investment into hardware, software and complex systems. They simply bought the assessment service the same way people use gmail, itunes, social media or iphone apps. This complex requirement can be met by SAM because Salesforce.com, one of the world’s fastest growing fortune 500 companies, is also one of the most secure, built to handle federal security requirements.

The app facilitates the assessment of security requirements. The following briefly highlights SAM’s major capabilities:

  • Includes relevant data regarding physical security standards and governance.
  • Tailored to provide an easy to use interface that is comfortable to the user community.
  • Mobile ready
  • Includes an extensible library enabling the development of comprehensive information relevant to the security.
  • Fully developed manual which can be accessed via print or online and includes coverage of every question asked on the survey as well as all of the tool’s survey related features.
  • Standard set of dashboards and analysis that enables management to understand survey progress and to ensure compliance with requirements.
  • Core set of dashboards to facilitate understanding and analysis of the data that is being gathered.
  • Core set of reports to facilitate understanding and analysis of the data that is being gathered.

The cost is incredibly low for an application that can be accessed by you and your personnel securely on a mobile device or via a web browser. With more than 100 out of the box security questions covering everything from key personnel contacts to CCTV, SAM is able to help you immediately begin to better understand the physical security posture of your organization. Since it sits on top of the Salesforce platform you also get access to the power of Salesforce.com’s inherent capabilities around document management, messaging, task management, and other capabilities that have made Salesforce.com a staple of Fortune 500 companies like Dell, Wells Fargo, and Comcast as well as the number one CRM tool in the world.

Salesforce

FedBlueprint: Investment Portfolio Manager (IPM)

Our team developed a custom report and data collector on top of the Troux transformation platform to help federal customers ingest IT investment data and understand their portfolio in the context of risk, cost, and capability. One of the hardest things to do when thinking about developing analytic components is to develop the statement encapsulating the purpose of the analytic component. Our first analytic component for Federal investment portfolio managers (IPMs) is focused on helping guide the IPM’s eye to the investments that most require attention. One of the hardest things I find in developing high-level dashboards is to resist the temptation to overcomplicate or try to service a broader audience than is really intended. Our dashboard is intended for the person in charge of managing the entire IT investment portfolio.

As such, some detail that is available from more analyst-oriented dashboards is abstracted or otherwise wrapped into the presentation layer. The design tension here – between giving enough detail to support decision making and presenting a very complex information set in a manner that is accessible – was difficult. Throughout the development we focused on identifying measures and views that were very relevant to other stakeholders. In the case of this example, we are going to find a great deal of information and views that will resonate with individual investment managers, project portfolio managers, project managers, and analysts. Keeping laser-focused on the objective of our high-level stakeholder was critical to ensuring the eventual success of the dashboard. In fact, we ended up building many of the lower level analytics required by other stakeholders in order to understand the various components of the high level analytic well enough to understand the interplay and relationships of the various components.

FedBlueprint

This work was an outgrowth of the work we did to develop our whitepaper “From Compliance to Transformation,” where we looked at specific federal requirements including Shared First, Cloud First, PortfolioStat among others and attempted to pull together a comprehensive approach to managing these various mandates in a manner that fosters transformation and organizational improvement.

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.

Webinar Recap: Here Comes the Next Big Thing: Adopting New Technologies is Inevitable, Doing So Successfully Isn’t

I’m so excited that my company’s Webinar Series is becoming more established. We received a lot of positive feedback on our last one.  Instructor Bob Daniel gave an extremely perceptive explanation of why “Adopting new technologies is inevitable. Doing so successfully isn’t”.  Every day new, “latest, greatest” technologies are announced and organizations, whether from within or without, are driven to adopt them. Unfortunately, the all-too-common experience is that the anticipated benefits never materialize. Typically, the focus is entirely on “successful” installation and vendor training. While important, these steps simply aren’t enough to assure you’ll get the return on investment you want (and need). Bob began his Webinar diving into these issues.

In this Webinar, Bob Daniel discusses the motivations driving the adoption of new technologies, the factors that disrupt adoption, and what you really need to do to be successful. Drawing from decades of experience in new technology adoption with both private and public sector clients, Bob will highlight real-world adoption pitfalls and provide practical means to avoid them, as well as to recover from them.  At the end of the hour, you’ll have a framework and set of tools you can use to build success into your technology adoption programs.  Check out the following clip to get an idea of the full range of advice covered in this Webinar.

If you missed Bob’s Webinar and would like access to the full video please e-mail me at josh.millsapps@mbaoutcome.com. Also, don’t miss out on our next Webinar where the Honorable Dale Meyerrose will give us insight into his problem solving techniques honed over years of experience in leadership, cyber security, information technology, intelligence and military matters. Click here to sign up!

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.

SAAS and a tropical vacation- Their surprising similarities

SAAS and a tropical vacation

SAAS-Like a trip to the beach without the travel headaches

Over the past few years Software as a Service (SAAS) and cloud offerings have become more and more prevalent in our recommendations to our clients, particularly when clients are coming to us to help them look for cost savings. In both the public and private sector cost has become the single most cited reason for clients requesting our services.  However for clients, particularly those coming to us from the “business” side of the house as opposed to the technology side of the house, there is something especially scary about capabilities that reside “off-site.” I think for many people there is comfort in knowing that they own the hardware, software, and even the building in which their capability resides. To my mind, this is representative of old-world thinking that simply won’t be sustainable as we move forward. The economics of multi-tenancy “where a single instance of the software runs on a server, serving multiple client organizations (tenants),[1]” is simply too powerful to be ignored for long. I’ve told clients that it’s like taking a vacation to Jamaica without having to endure the travel time. You get the same results. You end up in a nice sunny, warm place with great beaches—but you get to avoid the travel time, skip the long lines and bypass the cramped seats. SAAS and cloud offerings give you all of the benefit minus many of the headaches. You don’t have to procure and manage the hardware/software, in fact you avoid most of the “other” distractions and costs that come along with owning your software capabilities.

Of course you don’t really avoid the costs, they are simply bundled into the solution you are receiving. Ideally this is happening in a manner that enables the vendor to take advantage of large economies of scale resulting in better performance at the same or a lessor price point. Of course it isn’t all benefit. It does require some reskilling for IT professionals in order to enable your organization to get maximum value. You need to be able to “shift from delivering IT solutions to brokering business capabilities.[2]” You also need to be able to understand the security, data implications, access and other factors that will affect your corporate data. This area deserves a much richer treatment than I can give in this blog post but for those interested a great place to start is with the recent MIT Center for Information Systems Research (CISR) paper “Embrace the Inevitable: Six Imperatives to Prepare Your Company for Cloud Computingby Mooney, Ross and Phipps. For the purposes of this post, suffice it to say that the concerns most people have center around security, access to data, and flexibility. These are all real concerns, which is why you still need great technologists available within the organization in order to help you develop solutions that meet your specific business requirements. However, I will say that sometimes these concerns are overhyped.

I will use security as my example. I believe that with many SAAS and cloud vendors capability in this area probably far exceeds what you may currently have in house simply because the impact of a breech would have such negative consequences. Salesforce CEO Benioff talks about the importance of security to his offering because companies like Dell and Cisco are putting some of their most important data, their customer data into the solution. The ripple effect of a loss of confidence in their security model would have enormous ramifications for the business. Therefore they are incredibly focused on delivering in a secure fashion. I personally find it hard to believe that given the combination of the reduction of the importance of security to the business model and the more standardized technology architecture that SAAS and cloud vendors don’t have an easier time securing their solutions. Think about it like this—the Department of Agriculture has more than 700 applications all with different architectures. How much more difficult is this to secure than a SAAS vendor with 700 clients all using the same application on a standard architecture and with an overriding business imperative to be secure or risk losing all of those clients in rapid fashion. I’m not saying the SAAS vendor will be more secure, I just think the design forces favor them. What do you think? Most of us have gotten used to the SAAS service delivery model in our personal lives and transact business and interact via social media using these services everyday. Are you ready to make the leap to take your organization there?


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multitenancy

[2] Embrace the Inevitable: Six Imperatives to Prepare Your Company for Cloud Computing, Mooney (2012)

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.

3 Reasons the Business Doesn’t Invite Technology to the Planning Table

Senior executives in any organization are always on the lookout for improvement opportunities and re-organizations; value chain re-engineering efforts and large-scale transformation efforts are routinely talked about and actively considered by senior management. Often these changes have enormous repercussions for the IT organization, yet it is often only after much of the path has been set forward that senior leadership within the IT organization is consulted and from there…perhaps the Enterprise Architecture organization. This is despite years of council by practitioners that EA needs “executive buy-in” and endless literature regarding how this is best practice. Why then is it that senior executives continue to engage strategic planning organizations that have no connection to the architecture, or engage in these types of high level organizational re-organizations without EA and the technology organization?
Is technology disconnected from the business?
I don’t pretend that the issues below represent a comprehensive list, but I do believe that below I have listed three of the most common reasons technology and business people are disconnected:
  1. Is that IDEF0?: One sneaking suspicion I have is because they aren’t used to EA or technology being relevant to their decision-making. I think it is pretty clear to most people even at the highest and most “businessy” levels of most organizations that IT is a critical component of meeting strategic objectives and most executives routinely approve IT budgets that comprise a fairly large swath of organizational resources, which also validates the importance of IT. Why then is it an afterthought in the planning process? I think if technology was a bit more proactive in creating views of the organization that as relevant to the business planning process as it does for the technology planning process this wouldn’t be a problem.
  2. Did you just say gigawatt?: Another thought I have is that it may be difficult to bring into the discussion. Many executives have experienced death by IT PowerPoint where a technology executive finally gets his chance to stand with the big boys and polishes up a 75 slide powerpoint deck that ties the strategy all the way down to the servers. This is generally enough to prevent a second invite and executives go back to making decisions with the other adults and then handing it off to the technology organization for action. Speak the language of business and you will get much farther.
  3. My computer already works why do I need you here: Finally, there is the idea that technology is really just an enablement function for the business and therefore strategy should be settled and it is then technology’s job to implement the strategy. I think this is less prevalent than in years past but it is still out there despite the fact that technology has begun to play an important role in almost every aspect of even the most traditional of organizations.
If any of the above sound familiar you may need to start working harder to become more relevant. Successful organizations need IT and the business to work together to be both efficient and effective. What strategies do you do to bring your technology organization in synch with the business?

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.