Assigning value= Proper priorities

Assigning Value

One of the things I think most people spend a great majority of their adult life doing is putting a value on things. That’s how you prioritize things and in business a lot times, that means dollars and cents.

  • What’s my return on investment going to be?
  • What’s the value to the organization if we make this decision?
  • How much growth can we expect?
  • How much better are we going to be able to meet the mission?

It’s that value exercise that helps you understand which things you do first and what things are going to get you the most bang for your buck. The problem that I see is when we get away from that. One of the areas where we often see confusion or a lack of discussion in value terms is in planning.  What often gets substituted for the value discussion is a best practice discussion where people are like, “This is the right way to do it solely because it is best practice or this is the standard.” I don’t believe that is a substitute. You still need to know what the value of doing something is to your organization if you want to get really good results.

I believe that it is always worth knowing the value of the action you’re about to take.  If you can’t put a value on it, how do you know you’re doing the right thing?  Now I certainly don’t want to advocate against following best practice, a particular methodology, or standard because I think there’s a lot of value in it. It certainly helps you in the absence of developing your own processes and methodologies from scratch and learning all the lessons that were learned on the way to something becoming best practice or a standard.

I think there’s enormous value in adopting standards and best practices because it allows you to stand on the shoulders of those that have come before you. It should help you be able to better illustrate the value conversation. Oftentimes with standards and best practices there are benchmarking studies, expected returns, and numbers that are out there and available for you to pull from that aren’t there when you go the custom one of kind route.

So I think one thing that would really serve people well, particularly those in strategic planning roles, enterprise architecture roles, and the many people in information management in general, is to get comfortable with the idea that there needs to be a conversation that occurs. This conversation should decide where you’re able to take the value of something that you’re doing and putting it into the language that most business folks are comfortable with and into the context of your organization. I think anytime that you see a planning organization or an enterprise architecture organization that is under budgeted or underfunded, one of the things you can almost always point to is:

  • Are they showing the value that they bring to the organization in the language of the organization?

Very rarely do you see an organization that complains of underfunding that is able to point to that value.  I’m curious what other people think.

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 the value of your everyday organizational decisions

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One of the things that I believe most organizations could do a better job of is explicitly understanding what decisions they need to make.  Now most organizations certainly understand that they need to make decisions. They may also understand what information goes into those decisions fairly well. They may even have some standard reports available to support them but what I don’t see very often is a decision register or an explicit listing of all the decisions that a specific organization or a specific role is responsible for.

I think that’s a big weakness because it’s very hard to do decisions support, develop meaningful business analytics, or generate a return on investment on a decisions support or business intelligence system when you’re not sure what decisions need to be made in anything other than a general sense.  You don’t understand what the value of those decisions is to the organization. By value I mean if you’re going to spend hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars on a decisions support system, you should understand what the real value of making those decisions is to your organization; otherwise it’s going to be hard to sustain that program over time.

I think it’s worth taking a few minutes and looking at it because if you’ve been in an organization a long time you probably know in your head what those decisions are. You just need to take the time to run down that list, vet it with a couple other folks, and already you are much farther along than you otherwise would be in terms of understanding how your organization works. You can work forward from there to develop the informational inputs that support those decisions to develop business intelligence, or analytics to support those decisions but it all starts with knowing what they are and what they are worth to the organization. So this was just something that is simple that I was thinking about that we could all do a better job of and will have a large impact on an organization.

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.

Unlocking the full value from a change initiative

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I had another conversation the other day about the value landscape.  I’ve talked about this before and I wanted to touch on it a little bit again because I think it’s applicable to almost any type of project that you do, especially around business intelligence and anything within the analytics realm. I’m going to use Troux for this example. Troux, for those of you that don’t know, is an enterprise portfolio management software. It’s got a lot of specific use cases that help organizations get a fairly rapid return on investment. So an organizational command will acquire the Troux tool. They’ll get involved in specific programs to achieve their goals and pretty soon they’ve made this great progress. What happens as time goes on is they sort of lose a little bit of steam. The low hanging fruit that was there at the beginning goes away and then they start to wonder, “Well how come I’m not still getting the same benefit that I was getting before?”

I think that one of the things that organizations run into is that they haven’t thought a lot about how to take that information and use it to make a lot of incremental returns. What I mean by that is one of the big use cases organizations have for Troux is to look at their IT portfolios and figure out

  • Where do I have redundancy
  • Where do I have things that I can consolidate

So at the beginning there’s this huge value for a lot of organizations because it’s a unique way of looking a problem they haven’t seen previously. They get all this value really rapidly and then they start to slow down because they use the tool to make these big decisions but they’re not embedding that intelligence into their ability to make smaller decisions. That intelligence they use for the big decisions can also help them be able to make decisions farther down within their organization. It will get them that same return on investment only distributed out amongst more folks. This happens all the time.

I’m using Troux as an example because it’s easy to talk to but I think almost any business intelligence activity that goes on within an organization has this problem. It’s usually the impetus, some big problem that you’re trying to solve, some particular thing you’re trying to get insight into and there’s this big bang value proposition that goes out. Then unless the organization takes and figures out how to leverage that information within their processes, they stop getting that same big return. I think this is one of the biggest missed opportunities that we have within modern organizations.

We’ve got one of the most highly educated work forces that we’ve ever had and we’ve got all these capabilities to do advanced analytics and yet we haven’t really taken advantage of any of that to the degree that we could. In this example of having analytics that maybe get used by an executive but they’re never driven down into the business processes and to users who are probably quite capable of leveraging those to make decisions. They’re either unavailable or the processes don’t dictate that they leverage them. There’s this huge opportunity to capture value that is currently not being executed on and it’s simply because we’ve brought the capability into the organization to make better decisions but we haven’t built our processes to take advantage of that. I think it’s something that as you go through large change initiatives you need to really look at:

  • What are the phases of  this
  • How is this going to drive value in our organization
  • Where and when am I going to get ROI
  • Really think about what happens when I’m in my post implementation world

I wrote a blog post awhile back about living in a post-Troux world but I think it’s just as applicable to any of these large systems that you implement that are supposed to give you greater insight into what you’re doing. You have to build it into your processes if you want to get all the value from it.

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.

The undeniable power of a clean desk

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So I got into work this morning and I felt a little weird. I realized it was because when I walked in, I really felt on top of everything. I think some of it has to do with something that seems really simple. That is, when I came in my desk was completely clear and completely clean.  This newfound cleanliness stemmed from a conversation I had recently. We had Dray Wharton from the Wharton & Co. out last week to help us with a product launch that we have coming up in late June and one of the areas that Dray specializes in is personal productivity. So we got a little bit of value add in our visit in not only did he talk to us about our product launch, but he also talked with me personally. He gave me some executive coaching and other helpful tips.

One of the things he mentioned was really simple and it fit in nicely with some of the Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity topics that I’ve talked about in the past. It was the power of the clean desk.  So if you’ve ever had a chance to come through the MB&A offices, you’ll notice that for the most part our offices are very clean, very organized, and very professional. That has a lot to do with my partner Erik Ballinger. I’m not sure if it has to do with his military background or if it’s just the way he’s always been but he’s a very organized and tidy individual. This tidiness and organization has sort of carried over into every other area of the organization, with the exception of my office.

My desk for years has been a sea of papers. Now this total swampland that is my desk does have some advantages. I will tell you that one of the benefits is that I don’t lose things because everything is somewhere on that desk if you dig deep enough. I’m sure the answer to the mystery of the universe is somewhere within the depths of my desk, but those days are gone. My desk is now clean. By cleaning that desk off all the way every day, one of the things it has enabled me to do was create the action items, takeaways and things that I need to remember for the following day right there. As I mentioned in the past, one of the things that I do in the evenings is use some of the Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, principles to complete tasks.

I create lists at the end of the day, things that are outstanding that I can’t get done right now. What this has done is just move my priorities forward and it’s moved my work life back out of my personal life and into my work time space. It seems like a really simple thing but it’s been really powerful. It’s made it so that I do those things in the last 10 minutes that I’m at work and I don’t have to carry that mental baggage home. I’m not trying to remember things that I need to get done tomorrow or the rest of the week while I’m having dinner with my family and I’m not grabbing my smart phone right before I go to bed and punching in a bunch of tasks. So for somebody who has spent the majority of his office life in clutter, it’s been a little bit difficult but it feels good. So I think that this is something that I will be able to stick with.  We’ll see. Maybe I’ll take a desk photo now and one in 6 months and well see if I stuck to it.  I’m curious what other people think or if other people have tried to do this and succeeded or failed. All I can say is so far the early returns for me have been really good.

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.

Skyfall: Letting go of the “wow” and focusing on results

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I spent this past weekend lying in bed sick.  I don’t get sick that often so when I do, I’m just not that good at it. It seems like every time I do get sick I am flat on my back, immobile.  I didn’t do much besides watch movies, drink water, and take medicine.  I am actually feeling much better today but one of the things I did do this weekend was watch Skyfall, which is the James Bond movie with Daniel Craig. I love the new James Bond and I think it’s a perfect update. They touched it up just enough for people like me who have watched every single one and love it, to still connect it back with everything that came before it, but they’ve modernized it enough so it doesn’t come out cheesy or overdone.  One of the things that I noticed, and was actually they highlighted in the film, was a move away from the exploding pens and the fancy gadgets that you had in some of the older Bond films. Bond even makes a comment about it when Q hands him his special gadgets and it’s a Walter PPK and a radio device. There’s a little back and forth about him not getting these cooler gadgets and I thought it was interesting because there’s a parallel to that that’s happened more generally in technology today.

I think for a long time there was a lot of focus in technology on selling with the “wow” factor. The more you could make something look like a cross between Star Trek and The Jetsons, the better. I think that as a whole, there’s been a much bigger focus on results since then. People aren’t as blinded by the outward pizazz. People are less likely to be blown away by a really cool graphical display and more likely to ask you questions like: what are the critical factors that go to helping an implementation succeed and then focusing in on the data they have to gather.  I think people are a lot more aware that the glitz and the glamour only become important if you’re able to hit on the implementation details to make something work. This is a huge step forward and it’s forcing people in the software development community to come up with much more practical and functional implementation plans to make things work.

I think a great example of this is Troux. They have some great graphical user interface elements but they’ve paired it with what they call an “accelerator program.” This program is something that I think every software vendor should take a note from and follow. They essentially paired their offering with several plans that help you achieve specific goals and they provide you with a set of training wheels to get you to the desired result. I think it’s just brilliant in terms of helping them help their customers, as well as help their channel partners help their customers.  When you make it easy for people to get results, not surprisingly you end up with clients who get results. That leads to buzz, word of mouth, and all the types of things that make products really successful and that’s important. So not only is Skyfall a great movie that you should go check out but it also made me think about this movement. This movement, that at least from my vantage point, seems to be a step in the right direction. By that I mean a step towards only adding the glitz and glamour once you’ve figured out how you’re going to get where you want to go, or at least understanding that getting where you want to go is dependent upon more things than just the glitz and glamour.  I’m curious what folks have to say.

*Photo by Themeplus

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’s important to you?

Whats important to you

I started this blog without any great concept for where things would go down the road.  I just wanted to have a place where I could put down the little thoughts I had here and there without losing them. If in the process I was able to get feedback and a little bit of a better understanding of how other people were thinking about the same things, so much the better.  I think as far as being something that works from an outreach standpoint it’s been good. I’ve met and gotten to learn from a lot of great people along the way. It’s also been great as an outlet in terms of allowing me to have a place to park things that I’ve been thinking about that maybe aren’t something I have the time or energy to put into a full blown article or paper.  I’ve actually really enjoyed going back through and getting an opportunity to comb through those ideas a second time and see where I might be able to expand on them, see where my thinking has changed, or learn from somebody who’s posted a comment that made me think about things in a little bit different way.  It’s really been exceptional.

One of the things that I haven’t done yet is reach out with regard to things with what to write about because so much of it has been outlet driven. It’s been things that I’m thinking about that are important to me right now that I want to get out there. I’m wondering if I’m not missing out on an opportunity to understand what other people are thinking about and develop a better sense of where things are going in terms of the big picture. So I wanted to use today’s post to ask people for those ideas.

  • What are the things that you are thinking about?
  • What are you are curious about?
  • What topic would you appreciate hearing what myself and others have to say about it?

I know for myself that I’ve stayed away from all things political like sequestration and things like that. I only avoid it because I feel that so few of us have any ability or influence that would allow us to change the path of something and we are more likely just going to have to deal with living with the result of it. So I think in the case of something like that I’d be more tempted to write towards how to survive under the given circumstances and I’ve generally stayed away from all things political for those reasons. I think that there’s less opinion shaping than to be done then there is to be talking about dealing with the results.  Outside of the political line I’m very interested in hearing more about or getting anyone’s opinion on what are things that haven’t been discussed as much as they should.  So I’m curious what’s on other people’s minds and look forward to covering some of that in the not too distant future.

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.