Salesforce.com: Flexibility, scalability, and security

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Today is a pretty big day for Millsapps, Ballinger & Associates. As many of you know, we have been doing a lot of work in Salesforce and in the force.com platform. Almost all that work to this point has been on behalf of other organizations as part of developing our privately listed app. We’ve been working with these various organizations to extend it to help them make better decisions to support data calls, help people get to enterprise value out of data calls and data collection efforts, and to help organizations re-platform low to medium complexity applications to reduce costs. Those are the big three use cases.

As of yesterday, we’ve now taken our privately listed application and made it public and we are officially in the app store. Any organization can begin to embed our unique value proposition into their organization. We are joining 450 other independent software vendors including very large organizations like BMC and their RemedyForce application as well as other small boutique businesses. In fact if you look at out of the more than 1800 enterprise class apps that are in the app store, the top ten are a really mixed bag of very large vendors and very small vendors. I think that in and of itself highlights the power of the platform.  That is what attracted us to it.

Building a truly enterprise application is very difficult and we’ve done quite a bit of work in that area. We were amazed at how quickly we were able to build a secure and truly scalable application that could meet the needs of our largest clients, which include some of the largest private sector companies and public sector organizations in the world. So it is a proud day for us. We’re very excited about what we believe this is going to do for organizations when this is global.

Public sector or private sector, everybody is facing a budget crunch. Fortunately we’re at a really unique point in technology where almost every organization has the ability to significantly reduce costs.  I’ve talked extensively about using things like the Troux enterprise portfolio management capability to find those areas of savings, look for redundancies, and look for things that can be re-platformed. There’s a whole bunch of work done in that area with the right approach. From there you need to take action because without acting on your findings there will be no savings. So you have to figure out a way to retire those applications in your portfolio that don’t make sense, find a way to re-platform the things that do you have, and find a way to reduce costs and this is a really great way to do it.

I think that a lot of organizations are coming to the same conclusion that we did, which is that if you’re going to build a new application that’s for resale and add it to the marketplace like we did or a custom application for your organization, you absolutely have to look at Salesforce or force.com as a possible place to support that application. Without it you don’t have the server and infrastructure spend that you’d otherwise have. There’s almost no organization that can get the type of economies of scale that Salesforce is getting on your behalf. It’s almost impossible to have the type of scalability, security, and flexibility that you can get with the software as a service application on top of force.com that you’re going to be able to get on your own because you are simply not buying things on that scale. So I’m curious where others see their organization moving, re-platforming to save money, or building out solutions. If you haven’t taken a look at it it’s really worth taking a look at Salesforce and the force.com platform. I know that we’ve been amazed at the ease of use, scalability, and flexibility that it has provided us.

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.

Getting the most out of your performance management system

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I think that performance management and performance management systems should be leveraged by organizations to spur higher performing actions and activities as opposed to just using them as sort of a rear view mirror to understand how you did. I think there are probably many ways to do it but I want to talk a little bit about our approach and kind of what I believe works best for us. When you look at anything you’re trying to improve you have to understand the factors of:

  • What factors drive performance
  • What pieces of information do I need in order to understand how its performing now
  • How it may perform in the future

You need a mechanism to get that information in. You need some type of assessment of those things; a way to surface the information about what’s the state of that information at a given moment in time. So I think I use the term assessment because it signifies what you’re really trying to get at here. You can spend a lot of time talking about metrics, measures, key performance indicators (KPIs), and things like that but I’m just going to use the blanket term assessments. I’m trying to say that what we’re trying to do is understand a specific thing that we’re trying to improve. There may be a lot of informational elements that go into understanding it but that is what that assessment is supposed to help us tease out.  What that should do is give us at a specific point in time a really good understanding of the factors that contribute to success or failure at that given point in time.

Oftentimes you need more than just the state of that particular thing to really understand performance or particularly, if you’re looking at lots of those types of things. If you’re looking at a portfolio I use investments all the time because it’s a pretty easy concept to grasp. A lot of people have 401ks, mutual funds, and things like that and they understand that those things are comprised of lots of smaller investments. It’s performance across all those things that contributes to their eventual financial performance.

If you were to assess your portfolio at a specific point in time, it might be as simple as a statement that you get from the company that manages your portfolio. It’s probably going to tell you a little bit about the individual components of the portfolio that makes up your retirement account and that’s a slice in time view that you get. That is of course dependent on what company you go thru and what level of detail you’ve requested. You may get things all the way down into very detailed financial reporting that’s supposed to be indicative of specific companies that are part of your portfolio and that is great for the day that you receive that information. Unfortunately we all know that a day, a week, a month later, the market is completely different.  Things can change immensely in a very short period of time as we’ve seen several times in the last ten years. Instances where we’ve gone from incredible market performance to extraordinarily disappointing market performance in what seems like the blink of an eye and you know the same is true for any organization. So one of the things you need to keep in mind is context.

For many of the companies that were a part of that portfolio, not a lot of things changed inside some of those companies when the market went south but it certainly affected their performance in the market. This despite the fact that maybe they weren’t a part of the industry segment or market segment that was bringing down the market as a whole. Their performance was affected by it so hopefully that is a way to look at context.

There’s a lot of information that you might need to help you make good decisions that’s maybe not directly related to the status of the particular things that you are trying to measure. If you miss that part of it you’re going to miss a lot of the things that inform your understanding of the assessment and make it so that you can make good decisions.  So I think context is enormously important and often overlooked. You need be looking for the pools of information that help make the information that you’re gathering more meaningful.

The last of the things that I think is really important is real time situational awareness.  It’s great to have that assessment, that in depth understanding of the item, and it’s great to understand the context around it but a lot times being able to translate that into things that improve performance means being able to communicate and collaborate across organizational boundaries; both inside the organization and outside the organization. It means being able to collaborate to use that information to make better decisions in a group or team environment. It means being able to understand that information because you see the changes as they occur. You’ve identified the factors that are important to you and you have a mechanism for ensuring that you become aware when certain thresholds change or when there’s activity on a particular item.  I think that situational awareness piece is also often overlooked and incredibly important.

Now oftentimes the most stressed component of all of the things that I’m talking about is the assessment piece.  You’ll have organizations that will invest enormous amounts of money in a point in time assessment. I’m not saying that those are necessarily a bad thing to do but I think that if you want to drive real long term performance you need to be able to have both. You have to combine that with context and with some type of communication and collaboration capability that allows you to take advantage of all of it. Then I think the final things is the business intelligence component; the piece that rolls all of that together so that you can use all of it in a way that is seamless to your organization.

  • Do you have a way to pull context together, the actual assessment information, and then manipulate, share, and leverage that information across your organization so you can really foster change?

I’m curious how other people manage this. I know it’s a big space with lot of layers in it but I think the value chain that runs from the assessment, to the context, to the communication and collaboration workflow component that enables it are incredibly important as a whole. You really have to think about it as not those individual pieces because that’s how traditionally the vendor community addresses it. They have a piece that addresses how you do assessments. There’s a piece that does communication and collaboration and there’s a piece that helps manage data and does business intelligence across various elements of it. I think it’s really important to figure out how you’re going to work with those as a cohesive whole or to choose things that allow you to work as a cohesive whole across that entire value chain.

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.

Understanding portfolio thinking to improve your organization

Meaningful Buckets

Categorize information into meaningful “buckets”

I think one of the things that I see more often than anything else is organizations struggling with getting information in the right places to make the right decisions. There’s a sense that they’re not sure how they’re performing or it’s hard for the organization to understand how it’s doing. A lot of times when you get in and you dig through it, one of the issues that they have is they’re struggling with looking at things from a portfolio perspective. Oftentimes they’ve got great information on an item by item basis, whether that’s assessments of facilities, particular IT investments, a specific system, application or an initiative but where they struggle is knitting those things together into a whole that is meaningful. The have a hard time understanding things like:

  • How do these things pull together to accomplish our objectives?
  • How are we performing across these items?
  • How do I sit at the top of these things and understand what’s working and what’s not?

I think that as you look at those problems, you’ll notice that they are all portfolio oriented issues. The real struggle is in taking all of that detail that you have in pockets or in things that you manage on an item by item basis, and coming up with an appropriate way to pull that information together. Particularly if you’ve got lots of those types of items, categorize them in a way that allows you to put them in meaningful buckets for analysis; sometimes from multiple different views for different. I think that’s one of the biggest challenges that organizations face.

You look at so much of what you see in the news, at least in the DC area around sequestration and things like that, and one of the things that floats to the surface is that executives are struggling. They are struggling with the question of how do they continue to provide services in the face of the sort of economic hardships that are being passed across not only the public sector but the private sector as well? Certainly in the private sector this is a huge issues as well because as you attempt to achieve competitive advantage, one of the things that you have to be able to do is look across all the things that you do and identify what works and what doesn’t so that you can make the types of decisions that will enable you to continue to perform at a high level. I think the first step like with many things is recognizing that you have a problem. I think that is something that you can only do by asking yourself a couple different questions starting with:

  1. Do I understand the individual items that I manage? If you can’t look at a particular thing, a facility, an investment, or whatever it is, and understand it in a way that would help you make a decision about that particular thing, rolling it into a pool of other things isn’t going to help you. It’s just going to take you farther back. So I think that’s the first question and I think more often than not the answer is yes. A lot of organizations are great at the detail of a particular thing. The trouble comes when they try to roll those things together.
  2. Do I have a way to understand these things If I pull them all together?  Do I need to come up with subgroupings of these things?  The answer to that is almost always no.  When I say “Do I have a way to understand these things when I group them together or create subgroups out of them,” oftentimes the understanding part is the hurdle. By understand, I mean do we have a way to answer meaningful organizational questions when we group these things together? Do we understand how the sum of these things plays towards organizational goals? I think that is where a lot of organizations have hurdles.

Now this is a thread I will pick up on a few times over the next few weeks. I will try to string these things together in a way so that you can sort of step through them and get a better understanding of how portfolio thinking can help you as an organization go from managing at an item by item level to understanding what you have at the aggregate level. Hopefully than you can use that understanding to make better decisions at an item by item basis as well as in total.

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.

Optimizing your personal IT portfolio: iPhone Edition

I’m sure I have a lot of company as a member of the group of people whose iPhone has at one time or another spanned 7 or more panes with 50+ applications vying for your attention. My app sprawl was magnificent, spanning everything from YouTube to a WolframAlpha. There were patches of order where I’d made a half-hearted attempt to group things during a spurt of motivation on a metro trip or other brief spasm of organizational instinct. After spending a year flipping four screens deep to open Facebook, I knew I had a problem. I was losing time. 10 seconds here and there add up for today’s over caffeinated, multi-tasking modern worker.

So before I get into how I get things organized here are a few apps that I think every knowledge worker should have at their fingertips:

  •  Voice memo- The Voice memo app is a classic for good reason. It enables you to take clear voice notes on the go, play them back, and send/share them easily, Its simplicity and usefulness will never go out of style.
  • RowmotePro- This app is great for giving presentations among other things.  It is the ultimate controller for home stereo, mobile presentation, or casual video viewing with all the simplicity of the Mac’s remote control but with the added bonus of wireless mouse and keyboard capabilities.
  • Hootsuite- Hootsuite is a social media necessity.  It is a one stop shop for you to manage all your social media accounts from Facebook to Foursquare.  You can schedule messages for most impact, update profiles, and analyze data analytics of traffic through your profiles. This app is an invaluable asset in today’s social media driven world.
  • TurboScan- This app allows the on the go executive to turn his phone into a multi-page scanner and take pictures of documents, receipts, notes, whiteboards, and other text. This app then allows you to  store or email them as multi-page PDF or JPEG files.
  • OmniFocus- This app is designed to keep in line with the Getting Things Done system.  It takes your goals and tasks and puts them in an easy to access system and creates start and due dates along with time estimates that it keeps track of for you.  It is easy to operate and can simply filter and sort actions with the click of a button.  Nothing organizes a busy life better or faster than OmniFocus.  So check out these apps if you are looking for answers to streamlining your handheld tech folders.

In a fit of organizational anxiety spurred by the departure of the holidays and the onset of the New Year I decided to stop turning the screens to my apps. I also swore off buying another app that would provide the silver bullet and organize them for me. I was determined to do it myself—and I did. In a little over 45 minutes I was able to get everything I use daily onto the first screen with the really important ones sitting proudly one click from usage and the rest settled neatly into the iPhone’s built in folders.

I was actually a little surprised about how much thought I eventually put into it, but I thought it was a decent example of how portfolio thinking and system thinking can help make the world a better place. I started with the Dock and the four things I need access to no matter what screen I’m viewing. On the first screen I kept the entire first screen folder free with the idea of maximizing one click-ability  My thinking is that over time I’ll promote apps to and from screen 1 to in folders on screen 2.

screen 1

Screen 1 is all buttons

On Screen 2 its folder city, including Photography, Utilities, Business, Transportation, Productivity, Info, News, iPhone (yep, it has its own apps folder), Shopping, Social 1 & Social 2 (sadly they could not all be contained one folder), Arcade 1 & Arcade 2 (3 kids means I have every edition of Angry Birds and all the spin-offs).

Screen 2

Screen 2 is folder central

Screen 3 is the junk food of my phone. It should probably get deleted, never gets opened but for some reason I just can’t bring myself to get rid of it.

Screen 3

Screen 3 is everything else.

It will take a long time to “earn back the 45 minutes or so that it took me to conquer my phone, but I’m glad I took the time. I deleted quite a few apps that I never use anymore and it was fun to go through my iPhone portfolio as my personal IT portfolio management effort. When was the last time you took a hard look at the tools you are using to manage your life on the go? With more and more of our work being done while mobile looking at the types of work you do while on the move and finding great tools can really change your personal productivity. I think of little tools like Omnifocus that I use every day to stay organized and I wonder how I did it before.

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 Value Landscape

Discovering the key to successful IT and EA

There is a shift afoot in the Information Technology (IT) and Enterprise Architecture (EA) worlds towards portfolio based thinking. Organizations are keying in on the cost savings they can achieve by using a solution, like that put forward by Troux, (www.troux.com) in order to realize what is in some cases extraordinary cost savings and efficiencies. As stories of these savings and their associated enormous return on investment begin to trickle out into the public eye, momentum is growing in the market place to leverage these solutions. The associated use of the portfolio approach and tools as a mechanism to save on costs has grown as well, with many organizations pushing very specific cost saving agendas and projects forward.

Before I say another word, let me be clear. Cost savings are good. It was part of the promise of EA from its inception. The idea that we would gain real insight into how the resources of the organization should be configured, in order to support the mission of the organization in as efficient and effective manner as possible, has always included the idea of cost savings. What I want to discuss today is ensuring that you get maximum value from this effort in the longer term. Remember that the cost savings we are talking about in these cases are almost always the product of a system that was not capable of optimizing in order to deliver this level of efficiency and effectiveness previously.

The problems of yesterday won’t disappear because you’ve gathered the information necessary to eliminate them now. You need to fix the systemic issues that led to those problems and optimize the system as a whole. Without that, you either won’t achieve a maximum return or in the worst case, you will have to re-cleanse your system periodically because your processes keep leading you to the same problems. The right approach is to ensure that the right people in the organization leverage this new information on an ongoing basis and ensure that as many decisions as possible are being made based on the best information the organization has to offer.

In order to do this several things have to occur, the first of which is the recognition that this is not a one-time fix. The enlightenment your organization gets by evaluating its application portfolio etc. for cost savings doesn’t solve the decision-making problem that gave you the mess you have today. You truly need to look across the stakeholder landscape within your organization as a whole and begin to categorize the roles and decisions that should be made using this new information. For example, if the current process for evaluating technology buys within the organization does not include referencing organizational standards, you will never gain the benefit of having standardized on anything.

By embedding this process into an automated workflow, you can be assured that the right information will be in front of the right person when the buy decision is made. You also need to ensure that if you have spent the time and money to develop a repository that has “one version of the truth,” that it doesn’t simply present one face to every stakeholder. One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from people who are customers of EA products is that they are cumbersome and hard to use. A procurement officer shouldn’t have to be an EA specialist to buy the right technologies for their organization. A simple list of approved vs. not should be available with enough information to make informed decisions. It is worth understanding your stakeholders well enough to deliver tailored reporting because this will drive adoption, which will drive an ongoing return on investment.

You need to develop a mechanism or framework for calculating the benefit each of these stakeholders receives from their information as well as the benefit the organization is receiving. This value framework is critical to achieving long-term success for the organization. You simply cannot maintain this type of effort, generate the type of buy in needed to succeed, or maintain the necessary funding levels without developing this type of valuation framework. Specifically the value framework should enable benefit calculation across factors like risk, agility, cost, alignment, etc., and enable executives to understand the specific value that is being gained across the organization as a whole and on a stakeholder by stakeholder basis.

This is critical because you hear all of the time from people that EA should be relevant across every person in the organization, but when it comes time to pay for it they balk at what would essentially amount to a miniscule percentage of funding on a per person basis. I fervently believe that this is because they have no mechanism for measuring the value it is bringing on anything other than the cost avoidance basis outlined above. In fact, in order to maximize the return on investment, an organization should invest in order to understand the complete value landscape being delivered as part of the portfolio approach. Essentially, this is the combination of a stakeholder landscape that defines specific stakeholder types, the decisions they make, and the impact/benefit the organizations receive in aggregate from having the right information, at the right time, to make the right decisions.

To me, the value landscape should enable executives to understand the specific value of information that is being developed and maintained as it relates to specific stakeholders, decisions, organizations and the enterprise as a whole. Without this information the organization will only have anecdotal insight into the value of these programs. Some people think that this is enough; that as long as executives understand intuitively that this information is useful it doesn’t really matter if it is quantified and that the cost to quantify is therefore useless. This is wrong-headed and will eventually lead to under utilization, under funding, and the degradation of the capability as a whole.

On some level, EA and the portfolio-based approach to enterprise management is about understanding value in order to manage resources. If the program cannot effectively advocate and measure its own value, do you really believe executives will trust it to measure theirs?

 

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.

Building Analytic Components, Part 1

Business Intelligence seems to be on the tips of many IT executives tongues these days. After the Cloud, Big Data, and Master Data Management; Business Intelligence has a prominent place in the pantheon of IT buzz words. The intent of business intelligence to me is quite simple, leverage the information available to the business to improve performance. This can take many forms, but at its core BI isn’t about making the dashboards, cool charts, or data warehouses. It is about helping the organization make better decisions. With that said I am going to walk through the process of designing a single business intelligence analysis component focused on IT Portfolio Management in two articles. The first article will describe the high level process of developing the analytic, and the second article will be a detailed dive into the development of a specific analytic component that will be used to manage investments within the portfolio. I will be using data from the Federal IT Spending dashboard which is publically available at http://www.itdashboard.gov/. Just because the data is from the public sector doesn’t make this example less relevant to the private sector.  IT investment portfolio characteristics like deviation from cost and schedule are broadly applicable across both the public and private sector, and the complex missions and comprehensive IT portfolios ofthe public sector can provide a rich point of reference particularly for very large (Fortune 500) private sector organizations.


Caption: IT Spending Dashboard
I think that with any analysis or reporting component it is important to start by identifying the stakeholder community that is being served. In this case, the analysis component under development will be used by IT Investment Managers and the senior executive team tasked with managing the organizational IT investment portfolio for performance and risk. In both the public and private sectors IT portfolio management is an often talked about but often difficult to execute practice. For large organizationsthe ability to manage competing organizational requirements, disparate technologies, uneven performance data, and complex portfolio composition issimply too difficult.  The portfolio ends up becoming largely managed on the basis of organizational politics and personalities. In order to effectively manage the IT investment portfolio of a large and complex organization there needs to be a data driven approach and analytics that are available and agreed upon by the entire organization. Developing these analytics and the comprehensive suite of informational requirements necessary to manage a complex organization required more space than I have in this article. My intent here is really to focus more on the process of tailoring analytics to meet stakeholder requirements rather than to focus too deeply on a particular problem faced by investment managers.  However, I think there will be some value for people interested in that particular specialty as well.

Whose needs are being serviced?

In the development of any serious analytic component the first thing we need to understand is the stakeholder community weare serving. In our case this community is tasked with managing the IT investment portfolios of large complex organizations. In order to better understand their informational requirements one of the first things I try to do is get a grasp on the informational inputs that they are currently using tomake decisions. This organizational reporting archeology work is revealing because it will often uncover vast differences in the information executives are using to make similar decisions. This is important to surface because one important benefit a BI effort can bring is more standardization to decision-making approaches and a more open evaluation of decision criteria. Another finding is that similar information is being developed for different report, for different executives by different groups.  This results in enormous wasted effort. This homework process sets the stage for the first big exercise in developing a better decision support system for our investment managers – the facilitated session.

Caption: Remember that all your stakeholders are different.
As a consultant I believe that these facilitated sessions are critical to the requirements gathering process and enable frank and open discussion of competing requirements. One of the most consistent things that I have found is that the information and analytics that are currently in use by an organization reflect a much smaller subset of the stakeholders than intended, often only the person who made the buy decision.  The second is that the stakeholders often have very different opinions on what the informational components of the analysis should be. One of the things I often do for my facilitated sessions is to create the giant wall of reporting.  Depending on the meeting space and the volume of reports that I have on hand, I will create an entire wall dedicated to the information that is currently being used to drive the decision making process. In the case of the investment portfolio management team, this will include reports related to individual investments as well as any dashboards, spreadsheets or analytics that are being used to support portfolio-wide decisions.  I will also have one of our team members develop a “core data” sheet that maps the various informational inputs being used across the current reports and analytics, along with some associated meta data regarding authoritative information sources, the process that creates the information, data refresh requirements and any obvious differences inreporting semantics. Finally, we will set up a whiteboard or flip chart board with some basic categories including columns for information that is relevant in the aggregate, information that is relevant at the discrete level, questions that we are trying to answer, and sources of data. Depending on the analysis weare trying to facilitate we may have more spaces available, but those are the basics. This set up process usually takes about two weeks depending on the size of the organization and complexity of the analysis we are trying to facilitate.  A lot of this is working through the homework processes associated with the existing decision-making and reporting artifacts.  Depending on the scope of the engagement this activity may be coming from a business process re-engineering effort or in the specific case of IT Investment Portfolio Management, we mayhave been asked in to supplement or review the process as a whole, which has implications for this process as well.
Important Factors in Understanding the IT InvestmentPortfolio
In any case, once the set up is complete and our homework is done it is time to bring in the stakeholders. I find that one of the first things that is useful is to attempt to provide some structure and scope to the exercise by focusing on the questions that need to be answered and the use cases for the analysis. One of the great benefits of this is providing a focus on the results and outcomes we are trying to achieve rather than simply organizing and reporting on the information that is available. One of the great problems I have found with BI initiatives is that they are often in large part driven by the information that is available rather than the information that would be useful to make decisions. I have never sat in a facilitated session that did not uncover some informational gap in the current decisions support scenario.  The group may discover that some of the data currently being developed and managed is not truly necessary in order to support decision-making. It iscritical that this be recorded and that the thin layer of information required to support decision making be explicit.  This way the resources that are being expended in the as-is state to support the existing decision making process can be re-allocated to meet other organizational needs. Too often reports and analysis components are added but nothing is ever removed. This is not just wasteful of resources, but it is actually harmful to the quality of the decisions that will be made. The world is a complex place for modern executives. The ability of business intelligence systems to not just provide the decision maker with relevant information but to remove informational clutter is critical to the overall quality of the decisions. Many teams are hesitant to remove analytics and reports because “somebody might be using them” or because “we spent so much time developing them.” These are not good reasons to continue maintaining these resources. This is not to say that these exercises should result in an entirely new set of reports and analytics. Maintaining legacy reporting is great as long as there is a real use case, in fact some of the best reports and analysis that will support your organization are probably sitting in spreadsheets on a few executives’ desks right now. These are usually cobbled together from several existing reporting systems by an executive’s staff and have been used to drive organizational meetings for years. Unfortunately, these spreadsheets and PowerPoint are rarely the things that survive a new BI initiative.  Instead, the reports they were cobbled together from in the old system are re-built in the new system and the need to cobble together the spreadsheet that actually drives decision making continues to need to be built every week or month.  Identifying the questions and use cases is critical because it enables the development of criteria for what stays and what goes, as well as setting boundaries around data requirements.
Developing the burning questions
Once you have come upon an initial set of questions and use cases you can begin to design analytic components to meet those requirements. In our investment manager example, one of the use cases is to identify under performing components of the investment portfolio. This enables earlier engagement by management to either increase the performance or terminate depending on a more detailed analysis. The task then becomes selecting from the larger portfolio those investments that may be at risk. In next weeks article I will provide adetailed step-by-step walkthrough of developing a meaningful analytic component for our IT Investment Manager. 

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.

Going Mobile: How to prioritize your application portfolio

It is now commonly accepted that the world is a pervasively connected place. More and more customers’ and stakeholders’ expectation is that work and play will occur anywhere, anytime and via any device. Below are a few facts from the recent publication Digital Government: Building a 21st century platform to better serve the American people:

  • Mobile broadband subscriptions are expected to grow from nearly 1 billion in 2011 to over 5 billion globally in 2016
  • By 2015, more Americans will access the Internet via mobile devices than desktop PCs
  • As of March 2012, 46% of American adults were smartphone owners – up from 35% in May 2011
  • In 2011, global smartphone shipments exceeded personal computer shipments for the first time in history

These facts are driving the requirement for both the public and private sector to provide access to resources their stakeholders need in this new mobile context. There are many issues that an organization will face in attempting to meet this new expectation. The effort to go mobile will often be tied to other efforts around digital strategy. At times it will be a component of a larger push towards service orientation, in concert with data management initiatives, or coupled with any one of a number of transformational shifts within the technology landscape that are changing the way that organizations do business. Tying an organization’s mobile strategy together with other initiatives will often make sense. The natural synergies that come into play enable the efforts being made to achieve one objective to simplify the attainment of other goals.

With that being said, I have tried to keep thing simple in this article and focus primarily on the characteristics that should be evaluated as the organization looks across its application portfolio to prioritize what should go mobile first. This is an inherently simplistic approach that does not take into account the myriad of opportunities to reduce redundancy, become more efficient within customer facing processes and tie to a cleaner implementation of the organization’s data layer. There are simply too many variables involved to address them within a single article, however addressing these issues within the application portfolio should be considered a critical step in developing a real mobile strategy. The following characteristics should therefore be seen as tools to better understand your application portfolio in the mobile context and not as a comprehensive approach to creating a mobile strategy or methodology for evaluating your application portfolio in the mobile context.

With those caveats in mind I think that the following are some of the key characteristics that should be considered when evaluating the application portfolio for mobile opportunities:

Number of Users
Sensitivity of Data
Application Lifecycle State
Criticality
Mobile Requests

Number of Users

I think that the number of users is a both obvious and underappreciated criterion for going mobile. The numbers game at the top of the page tells the story. With so many mobile users and with almost half of the American population owning a smartphone it is highly likely that any application with a lot of users will also have a lot of users who expect to be able to use the application in the mobile context.
Sensitivity of Data: This is critical because of the implied dependency to maturity of the mobile capability of the organization that will be deploying the application. Having a mobile application that includes personally identifiable or sensitive information requires the application provider have put time and effort into the security of the information in transit and on the device as well as general mobile device management and security.

Application Lifecycle State: This is a factor because the cost of “going mobile” may be easily rolled into the re-development or refresh of an existing capability or built into the development of an early stage application development effort. The return on investment may not be as high on an application that has just entered its maintenance phase; of course the ROI may also be highly dependent on other criteria.

Mobile Requests

Many organizations have begun to change the manner in which they engage with both internal and external stakeholders. The entrance of social media and the focus on enabling conversation has made it easier for stakeholders to advocate for things like mobile access applications. Are you listening? Evaluating your application for mobile opportunities can be much easier if you engage your stakeholders directly with regard to their priorities.

Criticality 
See the factor above, but add your understanding of the organization as an executive. You can’t crowd source leadership. The factors above are things that should be considered from a common sense perspective however every organization has unique circumstances, political factors, maturity challenges, and opportunities. Get the most out of moving your stakeholder experience to the mobile world by ensuring that you don’t put too tight of a box around how you move forward. One critical mistake that can be made when considering the move to mobile is to simply begin “porting” applications to mobile.

Conclusion

I think the characteristics above should help you begin to think in the right direction, figuring out what works for your organization will require some tailoring. If you have an approach you are using at your organization that has been working I’d love to hear about it @jmillsapps on twitter.

                                       

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

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