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.

Establishing and Maintaining Company Culture

Foster company culture to drive performance and success

I went to a networking event held by a partner of ours last night.  In addition to meeting some interesting people and getting to know some of the people we work with on a regular basis on a more personal note, I came away really impressed. Not just by the people themselves, we partnered with them because of the great people in the organization. I came away impressed by the strength of their corporate culture. Over the course of the event I had an opportunity to talk to people in different roles in the organization, from sales guys to engineers to executives, and I kept hearing the same message from each of them. Not in the sort of pre-programmed way that you might hear from a team that has been given a set of talking points to stick to, but in a very genuine way that bubbled up naturally in conversation. In the case of this organization, the thing that kept coming through was how deeply they really believed not only in the value of their product but that what they were doing was helping their customers. The conversation was never about how to get customers to buy, but always on how to get them to see how much value they can get from the product. The stories that were being told were about the hurdles they had crossed on the path to getting a customer to value. As a person who believes that culture drives performance, it was interesting to watch in action and recognize the effect it was having on me. It made me want to be a part of their success, to share their sense of mission and to bring the same value they were talking about to my clients. It re-affirmed my own belief in our partnership and it also made me think a bit about the things that drive this type of positive common culture.

From here forward, I’m going to break away from the story of how our partner company drives culture and talk about what I think drives corporate culture.

  1. A sense of mission: The purpose of your organization must be bigger than just the bottom line. For the partner above, it is delivering software that delivers results for its clients. Notice the client focus. Their tagline is “Lets talk about results.” Most normal people are concerned about money because it is a key factor in keeping a roof over their head and food on the table. Businesses are no different and attention to the bottom line is critical to staying in business, however I don’t think it is necessarily a great driver of corporate culture. This isn’t to say that it can’t be a driver of culture. I’m sure that some of the recent economic turmoil we’ve witnessed can be directly attributable to an over-emphasis on the bottom line as the driver of corporate culture. Most people want to be a part of a team that is contributing to something positive, because they want to see themselves and the work they do in a positive light. Connecting the dots between the positive effects your business or organization has for its stakeholders and how that positively effects your organization and the people in it is critical.
  2. Realization of value: I mean realization in two ways. First way is in the sense that the organization should be producing something of value. It has to be tough to get up and go to work everyday and feel like what you are doing doesn’t matter. Sometimes, particularly in large organizations with many levels, the people at the bottom of the pyramid can get disconnected from the value being delivered. Allowing this to happen is a big mistake for the leadership of these organizations. If it is important enough to pay someone to do it, it should have value to the organization and you should be helping connect the dots for those that are doing the doing. Trust me, you will get better results from people who feel like what they do matters. Secondly, it is almost always worth investing in understanding the value you are producing. Performance management isn’t just about measuring in order to steer the ship, it can also be a tool to communicate progress and re-enforce value.
  3. An abundance of role models: This may be the most important factor of all and it comes down to finding the right people, getting them to stay the course, and helping them to continue to improve by reinforcing your organizational values. To say you have a culture is to say that you have a highly prevalent set of beliefs, attitudes, and habits towards your work and the people you work with within the organization. Ensuring adoption of these as you bring people onboard and sustaining them as your organization grows or changes is difficult unless you have some shining examples to point to as role models. I am a big believer in the power of positive reinforcement to not only encourage people to sustain the good work they are doing but to get others to follow their example. I believe people need praise to thrive in the same way they need food to survive. Don’t miss any opportunities to compliment someone you work with when they exhibit the behaviors you are trying to encourage across your 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.

Think Big

If you think big and start small, you can move mountains

I had a great opportunity recently to interview Major General Meyerrose (USAF-RET) on the subject of organizational transformation.   Major General Dale Meyerrose is the first Senate confirmed President appointed Chief Information Officer for the intelligence community. The video and transcript of that interview will be available as a post on this site soon, but I wanted to provide a taste of what is to come and drive talk a bit about one of the subjects he brought up in the interview. We were talking about approaches to organizational transformation and he said that he likes to tell people to, “Think big, start small and scale fast.” For me, this really resonates and is something I fully intend to re-use with clients because it captures so much of what I believe to be best practice for anyone contemplating an organizational transformation. In fact, this is probably great advice to heed when working to improve your personal performance as well. I’m going to briefly summarize my takeaways regarding this line below, but please come back and watch the interview to get it straight from Major General Meyerrose.

  1. Think big. It is critical to start from the ideal end state. You may have to scale back, down, or revise this over time; but by starting with your ideal world you can ensure that you don’t miss an opportunity at greatness. I have often advocated for an incremental approach; but I think it is important to increment with an eye towards your ideal end result and without putting limits on what that ideal end state may be.
  2. Start small. I think this is incredibly insightful on many levels. By starting small, you increase the likelihood you will succeed by keeping things manageable. Especially on the heels of thinking big, the temptation is to try to do it all. One of the hardest things to do in the excitement of having come up with the next big thing for your organization is to scale it back into something that you can do and succeed at now. Getting that first increment to be successful is critical because you increase the likelihood of long-term success simply by starting with a win. Success breeds success and it will be easier to get the go ahead on the next project by choosing manageable first steps.
  3. Scale fast. To maximize your return on investment, you need to find the sweet spot between early and incremental success, organizational maturity, and momentum. This is where things get tricky. Finding the right time to scale has the “art” of leadership written all over it as opposed to any scientific approach I can give you. Essentially, I think you need to have developed enough goodwill on the basis of your success in order to get funding and executive buy-in. You also need to have developed the right skills and processes within the organization to enable the scale-up you intend. Finally, I think you need to choose the point where you have enough organizational momentum (executive heads nodding along with the boots on the ground) in order to overcome any rough patches you hit during scale up.

The above are my words tied to the General’s advice. Please check back and get his advice in his own words. I will try to have the interview out by the end of the week.

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.

Knowing your Operating Model

Don’t get off track on the road to organizational transformation

The idea of an “organizational operating model” is the central concept discussed by Dr. Jeanne Ross, Peter Weill, and David C. Robertson in their seminal work, Enterprise Architecture as Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution. They contend that for companies to succeed, they must understand their operating model: in other words, the degree to which they must standardize business processes and/or integrate data to produce optimized business outcomes. Higher standardization of processes is typically required where efficiency and predictability are the primary factors in delivery of the organization’s products or services.  For instance, if an organization wants to present the same face to customers in diverse locations, or capitalize on efficiencies of scale in purchasing, a high degree of standardization is required. However, the higher the level of standardization, the greater the cost to the overall organization in terms of flexibility and the ability to independently innovate. I have found that often the only words that get heard with regard to the enterprise architecture are “higher level of standardization” and “higher degree of integration.”

As a manager, the information insight into your operating model should drive governance as well as your EA and planning programs. In fact, the operating model should drive every other decision you will make because it will help you understand the federation and spans of control within the organization; to the point where you can determine at what level decisions should be made regarding specific types of management inputs. Particularly for large, complex and/or federated organizations, this is one of the major sticking points that prevent the organization from getting value from their enterprise architecture, governance, and planning efforts. A large diversified conglomerate simply should not be looking to standardize and integrate at the enterprise level in the same fashion that a tightly focused technology oriented or manufacturing company should be, even at comparable sizes. The same advice follows in the public sector. Agencies with tightly focused missions like the IRS can have a much more standardized and integrated planning and governance configuration than an organization like the USDA, which includes organizations dedicated to emergency response, research and development, financial management (loans & grants), etc.

That isn’t to say that there is not a use for enterprise architecture, governance or other planning disciplines within organizations that are using a diversification model (low standardization, low integration), it is simply that the function of these efforts may be more focused on reducing core infrastructure costs, managing licensing, supporting capital planning, and ensuring a technology backbone is in place to support the business. This is in contrast to the unification model (high standardization, high integration) that may drive a ROI in a highly standardized and integrated organization, like an online retailer, where massive economies of scale and top line value may be gained by tightly controlling decisions and resources. Obviously, there are degrees to all of this and I haven’t even mentioned coordination or replication models, but my point is that there is real value in examining your organizations operating model as an input to how you build your EA, governance and planning efforts. In the end, these management disciplines developed with the intention of facilitating decision support and control need to be tailored to the environments in which they exist. An examination of the operating model will help you plan at the right level and delegate in a manner that reduces the tax that many business units perceive is being placed on them when “corporate” comes asking for data or begins to exert influence on buying decisions. Getting value from these types of programs once there is a perception that the governance or planning process is increasing response times, lowering performance and adding to the cost to execute is nearly impossible.

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.

CIO vs. CTO

Don’t wrestle over tasking, there is plenty of responsibility to go around

Count me among the many who have been confused at times by what it really means to be CIO vs. CTO. Both jobs are generally technology oriented, both include responsibility for the delivery of technology to the business, and both jobs require advanced leadership and communication skills. Let me say up front that there is no real agreement with regard to the specific responsibilities of each role. Some delineate the role with regard to the major challenges they attempt to solve, i.e. either inward facing or externally facing. This isn’t a valuable distinction because it doesn’t lend itself to the role clarity necessary to handle the problems that come with leading an IT organization. In fact, there are no hard and fast rules with regard to responsibilities, or even to who reports to whom. Some technology-focused organizations have CIOs reporting to CTOs, as opposed to CTOs reporting to CIOs; which is more common in traditional organizations. CTOs as the head of IT are “more common in technology-related organizations like computer manufacturers, value-added resellers, IT consultancies and financial services companies.”[1] In fact, the rise of the CTO position itself is a rather recent phenomenon that began to gain traction in the 1990s.  Having both roles is growing and my personal belief is that there is plenty of work to be shared at the top-tier of management within an IT organization. It makes sense to divide the work. I should be clear that what follows isn’t prescriptive. What works for one organization may not work for another and the needs of a large diversified conglomerate are going to be different from the needs of a tightly focused technology organization. I’m giving you my take on what the role should be, the skills required, and the impact they should have on the organization.

In organizations where the role of the CIO is that of the senior most Information Technology executive in the organization, the CIO often “serves as the company’s top technology infrastructure manager” [2] in contrast to the CTO, who “serves as the company’s top technology architect.”[3] Given the large role information technology has come to play in most organizations, technology infrastructure is business critical. The CIO therefore plays a primary role in supporting and in some cases driving the day-to-day business operations of the organization. This is by nature a risk averse and conservative role that is focused on ensuring that today’s work gets done, without necessarily an over emphasis on tomorrow. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be looking forward as a CIO; it simply recognizes that if you don’t make it through today you won’t be around to see the future. The criticality of IT and its importance to the organization means that CIOs will be less focused on specific technologies or the “bits and bytes of the technology.” This is often reflected in the fact that many organizations will fill this role with a more “business-oriented” executive; focused on delivering overall business value and running the business of IT, but who may be less technology savvy or have grown less so over time.

The overwhelming focus of the CIO is on ensuring ongoing operations, mission critical systems and security. With regard to ongoing operations, the CIO’s direct responsibilities should include the ongoing support and management of all enterprise systems, help desks, service delivery, and portfolio and program management. The last two responsibilities I mention, that of program and portfolio management oversight, is an area that should be closely coordinated with the CTO and one I will discuss in detail in my discussion of the CTOs role.  That this is where I see real value in the balance in viewpoints; between the CIOs focus on today and ongoing business operations, and the CTOs view into tomorrow and the transformation of the business into an organization capable of meeting tomorrow’s challenges. As the primary IT business manager, a major focus of the CIO should also include the overarching management of the organizations portfolio management including ensuring the strategic alignment of technology with the strategy of the business, as well as overall responsibility for maintaining organizational standards with regard to best practice and technologies.

In contrast, the CTO should play a visionary role.   They should be looking for opportunities to transform the organization, be active in the management of the process of evaluating new technologies, and identifying ways to leverage technology to support the business. The CTO should maintain an active understanding of the most innovative solutions and best practices, and recommend implementation of those that will ensure the organization is prepared to meet the challenges of tomorrow. As a function of the role the CTO plays in monitoring best practices and technology, the CTO should also play a role in examining current business processes and evaluating them for opportunities for improvement, making recommendations, and influencing ongoing operational support. As the business evaluates new opportunities, requirements, or as the new systems are contemplated, the CTO should have responsibility for the development and implementation of solution architecture ensuring it meets business goals and objectives as well as certifying the technical merit of the deployed solution. The CTO may also have overall responsibility for engineering and be responsible for the development of business facing solutions including the R&D portfolio and the development through initial deployment of all engineering systems prior to O&M.

In contrast to the CIO, the role of the CTO is as the name suggests technology focused.  The moniker could just as easily be Chief Transformation Officer because of the critical role this executive should play in ensuring the organization is able to meet the challenges of tomorrow. However, in order to truly deliver a high performing organization, it is critical that these two executives collaborate in many areas. Two of the most critical of these areas are the project and investment portfolio. It is within these two specific portfolios that the fortunes of the organization will largely depend and only by working to balance the needs of the organization, now and in the future, will they be able to deliver a high level of performance over time. As the lead architect for the organization, it is the CTOs responsibility to make compelling arguments for change and illustrate opportunities to re-engineer business processes, leverage data on behalf of the organization, or identify systems for replacement. The CIO must then work with the CTO to balance the forces these transformational efforts will present to the ongoing business of the organization including: decisions on build vs. buy, operational risk, security, continuity of operations, and maintenance of financial responsibility. The degree to which these two executives can work together and rely on each other to both deliver within their swim lane and collaborate across these areas of responsibility, the better the end result for the organization as a whole. As I have said before there is certainly no lack of responsibility or work available at the top-tier of the IT organization. High performing organizations will have executives that leverage each others skills and talents in order to ensure their own efforts are successful and the objectives of the organization as a whole are met.


[1] http://www.cio.com/article/31246/Whatever_Happened_to_the_CTO_Role_

[2] http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/hiner/sanity-check-whats-the-difference-between-cio-and-cto/742

[3] http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/hiner/sanity-check-whats-the-difference-between-cio-and-cto/742

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.

5 keys to mastering anything

Getting to the top requires dedication and discipline

In his book, “Outliers: The Story of Success” Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10,000 hour rule. In short it takes 10,000 hours to get really good at something. If you do a google search on “10,000” and “learning” you will literally pull back 108 million results the first several pages of which (That’s all I looked at. It pays to SEO.) are all dedicated to developing and mastering specific skills. For executives, leaders and anyone interested in their personal performance this may either be daunting or re-assuring.

For example if you are thinking of it in terms of further developing your domain expertise and you are using it 30 hours a week. You can get to this level of mastery in less than 7 years. It is a little more disconcerting though if you think about it in terms of the implications this may have for something that you are only working on for one hour a day. Get ready to spend the next 40 years on the path to mastery.

I am an absolute believer in the fact that real mastery takes time. I don’t know that 10,000 hours is the number, anymore than any other number that would take significant time and effort to reach. I’m also sure that some folks can get there faster than others based on talent and other factors like the complexity of the skill under development. Whatever the number is I think the following five things should be of interest to anyone who is interested in continually improving their performance and attempting to achieve mastery of a particular skill or set of skills:

  1. Accept failure. Recognize that for anything you find important enough to attempt to develop mastery in you should recognize that it will take you awhile to get good at it. This is important because I don’t think most people are not accepting enough of failure when they take on skill building. If you are attempting to improve your ability to speak in public you have to recognize that you are not going to be able to deliver a speech like one a polished politician can give at the peak of his career. Failure is inevitable and part of the learning process. Embrace it.
  2. Be selective. Remember that there are no free lunches, for most people adding a new skill means limiting skill building in other areas. Choose wisely. Dedicating an hour a day over 40 years to learning the harmonica may enable you to master playing, but does it help you achieve your objectives? I think way to many people miss mastery of their core skills in a miss-guided attempt to be well rounded or at least they shouldn’t be surprised when they end up as a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be well rounded, I’m just saying that choosing too many things to focus on necessarily dilutes the mastery of any one.
  3. Absolute dedication. According to the simple calculation above and our reference material at an hour a day it takes about 40 years to get to a real level of mastery of a particular skill. This means that you absolutely cannot afford to miss time or get distracted. Consistency is king. This has gotten easier for me over time as I have gotten to see the fruits of my labor. Things that I have diligently worked on over the course of several years have become easier and my skill level greatly improved. This has provided me with the positive feedback necessary to look past early failure in the path to the mastery of new skills.
  4. Think big picture and portfolio. I have a relatively small portfolio of things I am dedicated to mastering over the next 40 years that is centered on my personal goals with an eye to where I want to be in the long term. Once again mastering the harmonica may be something you want to achieve because of the joy it brings to friends and family on the holidays. Just recognize that every choice to do something is also an explicit choice not to do many other things. Make sure you are making those decisions based on real and long-term value and that they knit together to form a portfolio that will help you achieve your larger goals and objectives.
  5. Write things down. I have taken the time to explicitly name the things I am trying to master. It sounds cheesy but I have a real (and short) list of things I’m trying to master. This helps you keep things realistic. You simply cannot master 50 things. There is simply not enough time and in the end you are choosing mediocrity and dooming yourself to be disappointed if you are shooting for mastery across too many areas. Again, please don’t take this as a slight towards being well rounded. I’m simply saying you should make an explicit choice to be well rounded over specific skill mastery. Don’t just let it happen because you can’t stay focused on any one thing.

In conclusion I think the factors above are part of an approach that can help you successfully master specific skills, however I also think it pays to be realistic. Choose things that make sense given your understanding of your talents, the complexity of the skill set and their relative value to you. On the first point I say that recognizing personal limitations is difficult and requires some real soul searching at times. I also think you should be realistic about how complex the skill building effort you are attempting is and set your expectation of the 10,000 hour rule accordingly. The difference between the actual time to a relative level of mastery of something like golf or chess is probably different than something like horseshoes or hopscotch. Finally, I can’t say enough about how important it is to be focused on things that really matter to you both now and in the long term. As I’ve gotten older I’ve really begun to recognize just how valuable time really is and wish I could have back the many hours I dedicated to Sonic the Hedgehog and Solitaire. Maybe if I’d spent that time working on playing the piano like my mom wanted I’d be able to carry off Jingle Bells at the holiday party this year. On second thought maybe Sonic the Hedgehog wasn’t such a bad choice.

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.

Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving Service

Thanksgiving is a pretty special time for me personally. As the oldest of six Thanksgiving has always been a time for family, friends and a very full house. From my earliest memories we have almost always had at least one “extra” at our house and often many more as members of the sports teams we played on that couldn’t go home for holidays joined us, or people from church or the office. I have just always equated Thanksgiving with sharing a meal with family, friends and anyone else who didn’t have a place to go or wanted to join us. As I write this I’m on my way to another Thanksgiving at my mom’s house. I don’t know how many people will end up sharing the meal but it could be anywhere from 10-20 and there will probably be enough food for 30.

This has me thinking about those that couldn’t join someone else’s table or us. For whatever reason be it schedule, sense of duty or otherwise they chose to do a job that needed doing instead of spending the day with loved ones. I’m talking primarily about the firefighters, policeman, armed services personnel, hospital staff, volunteers and many, many others who have sacrificed time with family to continue their service to us. I know for me that every year on Thanksgiving I am thankful to have such a large and loving a family and I’m proud that we do a small part to include others who for whatever reason want to share a meal and the day with us.

As I’ve gotten older and thought more about the many people’s service that helps make our lives better everyday, I’d like to make Thanksgiving a day to give a bit more back in terms of service. I’d like my children to get the great sense of accomplishment that comes with sacrificing a little bit of your own time to make the world a better place for others. Do any of you have Thanksgiving traditions of service? Any thoughts on what might be a good way to give back?

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.

Living in a Post Troux Transformation World

Learn to work towards organizational transformation

One of the most anticipated highs in any transformation is when you begin to capture the value of the project. A major focus of my work has been working with large and complex organizations to develop an organizational capability to transformation. This capability is intended to enable the organization to meet an ongoing need to change the organization in order to meet rapidly evolving external and internal forces including disruptive technologies, compliance and regulatory requirements, evolving stakeholder requirements and other forces pulling on the organization. Simply put, the pace of organizational change has accelerated and successful organizations need to be able to meet the challenges presented by these changes in an efficient and effective manner in order to perform at a high level. For commercial entities there is a significant sustainable competitive advantage to be gained by developing an ability to rapidly transition the organization in order to meet new strategic objectives, leverage game changing technology, and capitalize on opportunities presented in the market.

 In order to develop this capability, it is necessary for the executives involved to develop real insight across major enterprise portfolios and their inter-relationships. For clients leveraging the Troux platform to realize their transformation capability many will choose to focus on specific areas like their application portfolio or enterprise standards in order to get as much value from possible from the development of this transformational capability. These items represent the low hanging fruit available to most organizations, allowing them to immediately leverage new insight to pull cost from the organization. This can help senior executives see the value in such programs by demonstrating an immediate return on investment. This enables the organization to begin to gain the insight it will need to manage future transformations, while gaining the buy in of senior executives who might otherwise be more hesitant to invest in longer running strategic programs devoted to the development of robust enterprise architecture, enterprise portfolio management or other organizational transformation related capabilities.

 As reports light up and opportunities are prioritized for action there is a real sense of satisfaction, because this is the moment when the investment begins to deliver on its promise. However, if the organization is serious about ensuring the maximum value from its investment and developing a true transformational capability instead of simply a project centered on slice in time cost savings they won’t stop there. In fact, well prior to the first report lighting up the organization should be looking at what life will be like AT (After Troux). The fact is that if you don’t change the habits that got you into this situation you will find yourself back in the position that prompted the initial investment. Without an ongoing ability to understand how information, technology and other assets support your business you simply cannot expect to be an agile high performing organization. Lack of insight makes governing and executing in an efficient and effective manner nearly impossible and results in an overly complex, cumbersome and costly value chain that is a drag on operational performance despite a large price tag.

 The bottom line is that you have to change the way you make decisions in order to get the most out of your transformational investment. The new information and insights provided by a focused effort around a specific portfolio, like applications, may enable IT executives to make clear decisions in specific areas of the enterprise portfolio and get to a return on investment in the near term. In the longer term, organizations need re-engineer the business processes they use for planning and decision making if they are to fully capture the value of this type of insight across the broader organization. The often significant return on investment that is realized by organizations investing in the narrower types of projects that are typically used to jumpstart a transformational program are only possible because the system that is in place within the organization wasn’t capable of maintaining an optimal balance within the portfolio. In order to prevent a recurrence of the factors that led to such great opportunities for savings the organization needs to be determined to develop new processes. These processes will enable the right information to take the right path through the organization and ensure that decision makers have the information they need to make decisions in a timely manner.

 Opportunities for ongoing improvement to the decision making process based on the availability of this new information to decision makers need to be examined. This is how the organization gets to the real ongoing value of having an organizational transformation capability rather than a cost savings project.

 Efficient, effective, and agile operations based on real insight have to become the normal mode of operations and this is only possible by explicitly focusing on changing the way decisions are made. This needs to be a multi-faceted effort that includes looking at existing stakeholders, decision making processes, analytic components and the informational inputs used to inform them and re-engineering them in light of the new capabilities Troux brings with regard to enabling decision making. A concerted effort needs to be made to define business process touch points across the organization, key informational exchanges, and the real information requirements of decision makers. This should include planning to automate informational flows from the various systems that contain critical planning information into the Troux environment in order to enable ongoing analysis that leverages high quality data that is readily available. This effort is all about developing a world class decision making environment that includes all of the information needed to support business decisions and strategic execution. One of the major factors governing the degree to which the organization will maximize its return on investment is the degree to which it is able to facilitate adoption of the new capability to make decisions. In order to ensure the broadest possible adoption, the organization needs to effectively communicate the value of the information to executives, managers and decision makers as well as embedding high value decision making processes into real workflow based governance that ensures the proper management and consumption of information across the 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.

Why do I need to “Transform” my organization?

Are strange forces at work driving change in your organization?

Why do I need to transform the organization? Wouldn’t a little tweak here or there be good enough? I like to use the term organizational transformation because I think it more clearly portrays the shift in thinking and execution required to effect real change within an organization. The pace of change within an organization and outside of it is driving the need for more comprehensive shifts in business processes, technology, and resource allocation in order to meet changing requirements; all the while maintaining efficiency and effectiveness. It is this combination of an increasing change of pace, as well as the need to be able to respond to this change more rapidly and efficiently that is driving the need for organizations to have organizational transformation as a key capability. The logic is simple.  If the pace of change is increasing, then high performing organizations should be good at managing the change that is required to execute.

As you scan your organization today you may see the results of poorly executed change. In fact, one of the biggest drivers of cost in your IT department may be the accumulation of one-off solutions needed to meet individual requirements.

One Example Driving the Need for Organizational Transformation (OT)

Over the years, one need after another has driven the piece meal assembly of policies, processes, and technology without anybody really thinking about the big picture or what the addition of that one more thing means for the organization as a whole. The proliferation of business applications in many organizations, in order to meet specific needs like customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise planning, and business unit specific applications, have created a complex mess in many organizations. The implications of this mess ripple across the organization.  This starts with the business users who struggle with overly complex procedures that require the entry of information into many different applications that all have different looks and feels, etc. In addition, these silo applications each hold some portion of the critical information necessary to running the business and making decisions. More costs have probably been accrued in attempting to stich together this information from various applications. In the end you have the complex, costly to support, and poor performing mesh that is inflexible, difficult to maintain, and is ripe with opportunities for technical, security, and other risks due to the lack of planning, execution and management.

So why do I need to have a capability to support organizational transformation? The organizational transformation capability affects every aspect of your business. I’ve provided some examples below:

Setting Strategy becomes difficult because there is a lack of clarity with regard to whether or not shifts are attainable, what the costs of the shift will be, and what the scope of the change management effort will entail.

Managing External Influences becomes reactionary, as the organization is rarely able to devise holistic responses to external challenges because there is little cross-functional understanding within the organization.

Performance Management becomes problematic because the linkage between metrics and the organizational components driving those values becomes harder to discern. If the inter-relationships between processes, technology, and value aren’t clear in the beginning, they certainly don’t get clearer over time and through change.

Human resource management becomes more complex and more expensive as the need to maintain many sets of specialized skillsets drives up the cost to maintain and support myriad applications.

Vendor management becomes more complex as you are forced to maintain more individual relationships, contracts, and service level agreements as part of a piece meal approach to change.

Technology management becomes difficult, as the interwoven and intertwined mesh of technologies all require upkeep on distinct schedules, pose their own security risks, and procurement issues.

Security management is inherently more complex as technologies proliferate, business processes lack clarity; governance is hoped for but not embedded. (See embedded governance post).

Risk Management is almost impossible as the value chain that is used to deliver end stakeholder value looks more like a bucket-o-stuff than a well thought out solution. This complex mess may have numerous risks that never become apparent until it is too late.

Conclusion

You need an organizational transformation capability because it allows you to change your organization while maintaining insight from the as-is through the desired to-be. It will enable you to know whether the strategy you want to implement is possible, in what time frame, and at what cost. Without this level of insight you are managing by looking in the review mirror. You are hoping that your estimates regarding the future are correct because of experiences you’ve had in the past and gut feelings based on managerial experience. I’m not downplaying this insight. I know that I have made many decisions without perfect information because they simply had to be made, I have also spent many nights worrying about the implications of things I didn’t know on the outcomes of the decisions I’ve made. For companies that exist in highly competitive environments and with the budgets shrinking in the public sector, there simply is not room anymore for the type of seat of the pants executive navigation that was once possible. Margins for error have shrunk with smaller budgets and narrower margins. Businesses that are able to understand the components of their organization that are critical to change develop a successful organizational transformation methodology. They can then integrate that process and information into their strategies and execution, and those are the organizations that are going to be tomorrow’s high performing organizations. I’d love to hear from you regarding your thoughts on managing organizational change. I will write soon on what I believe are critical areas of insight but I’d be very curious to hear what you feel is critical.

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.

Dealing with Executive Stress

Don’t let stress take over

Most people want to be promoted. They want to climb the ladder and rise within their profession. This can be exceedingly difficult with long hours and endless obstacles. There is no doubt that the road to success can be stressful at times. With that in mind, it can be critical to find ways to deal with the pressures of building towards your success without losing your mind. First and foremost, take care of your health. Don’t let late nights in the office drag you down into a fast food or sugar filled dietary disaster area. As someone who put on 40 pounds in his first ten years out of school, I can attest to the overwhelming temptation of donuts and coffee while trying to make my brain work late in the evening or too often early in the morning. I’m not going to argue that they won’t help you survive the battle but I can tell you they won’t help you win the war. Too many days of bad food, little sleep, and no exercise slowly robs you of the stamina and there begins a disastrous spiral that will at best leave you busting the seams of your older suits and at worst, fast tracks you to the cardio unit. I’ve learned the hard way to pace myself, get sleep and eat better. Even when things are going a mile a minute and it seems like stepping away for anything will result in losing headway to your goals, you have to force yourself to take time to make sure you are properly fueled, rested, and have gotten some fresh air.

 Another major stress or is the overbooked schedule or maze of responsibilities that stands in front of most executives everyday. I know for myself that until I was able to find a way to get my arms around the total responsibility that was mine, I had problems relaxing. The first time I read GettingThings Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity by David Allen, it was life changing. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I have suddenly become the most organized person you’ll meet. There are too many people that are reading this that know me personally for me to get away with that. I will say that I’ve managed to remove the stress of the unknown from my day to day life. The simple act of getting all of my various tasks collected in one place and knowing that I have them recorded has been life changing and made sleeping at night a lot easier. Please read my post on Getting Things Done: Three key takeaways that will change your performance” for more detail, but essentially getting organized didn’t just help make me more effective. It made me healthier, reduced my daily stress by taking away the fear of the unknown, and increased my ability to prioritize and deal with my workload at work and at home.

The last two are ways to help you reduce your ongoing stress levels. These are usually the result of the accumulation of work and the overall pace of most executive environments. However, even if you adopt all of the above, watch every meal, become a fitness fanatic, and hire an executive assistant to help handle your daily affairs, there will still come times where point of stress become an issue. A long day full of difficult decisions, bad results, and seemingly endless unforeseen issues can bring an uncomfortable tightness to the chest and dull thumping in your forehead. When these times materialize I find that it helps to formally acknowledge the stress mentally. This may be as simple as leaning back in my chair for a minute and thinking specifically about the all of the issues I’m dealing with before moving on to the next task. From there I may look for an opportunity to take a 5 minute break to clear my head as well as some of my tasking. I will often try to proactively remove any items from my calendar that aren’t absolute must do’s. You will not perform better by soldiering through your mundane tasks in addition to the really important items. Doing more than you absolutely have to in times like these usually means you are doing the wrong things or putting undo attention on things that are of lower value.

How do you deal with stress? Are there tricks you’ve learned over time that have helped you to better manage your time or efforts? I’m always interested in hearing what other people have found works for them.

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.