To work governance needs to be embedded


Avoid bottlenecks with efficient governance

 To work, governance needs to be embedded. Sure there are a lot of other factors that come in to play and doing a good job of defining scope, communicating, and socializing your governance is important too. However, embedding your governance makes it easy for the folks who are stakeholders in your governance program to participate and it lets you know if they aren’t. So what does embedding mean? Basically, I’m talking about workflow and workflow management. I won’t get too deep into the technical aspects of things because there are a lot of ways to accomplish this objective. The intent here is to put forward a few ideas about what I think it takes to make governance work.  This is foundational to managing the information within your organization that is valuable enough for you to place it under specific governance.

 

First, embedded governance needs to be part of an explicit workflow process enabled by technology. By this I mean you need to have thought about the process and information set you are trying to govern enough to clearly define it and you need to have a technology capable of supporting “embedding” it. I’m going to be less focused on the technology part in this article and more on what the process and technology should provide.

To start, you need a clear definition of the information required within the process. This is probably THE most important part of the process. People, positions, roles, processes and technology often change at a much more rapid pace in comparison to the data that is critical to the organization. Thinking about the data first gives you a solid foundation to work forward from to develop everything else. Working forward from the data makes it much easier to define the people, roles, and positions that need to be involved in the process in order to provide, evaluate, or process the data along the route.

Once you have defined the what (data) and the who (people/roles/positions), it is important to think about the how. Sequencing and path are critical elements of making the governance work efficiently. Having a mechanism that ensures that people come into the process at the right time ensures efficiency.  It also reduces the frustration that is often felt by those involved in governance processes that allow participation in a loose fashion. Loose or uncontrolled processes practically ensure that most participants will have to review the information set on multiple occasions to get their work done. Wasting people’s time is not a good incentive to participate in the governance process you are developing and building in as many mechanisms as possible to ensure this doesn’t occur is good practice in establishing effective governance. In addition to the efficiency it brings, it will also raise data quality. People are simply more willing to participate and put forward effort in processes where there has been a clear effort made towards ensuring the best use of their time.

Also beneficial is thinking about the types of metrics that may be important to the process. Is the time it takes to move from step to step in the process important? If so, you should define those metrics appropriately for each step in the process. Data quality and completeness are two other areas that are critical to monitor during the course of the process. You can’t make good decisions without a level of completeness and quality of data commensurate with your purposes. Of course there are certainly other areas that should be measured along the way and I’d be very interested in getting your thoughts on what I’ve missed. I think the basic metrics to consider for governance should be centered on time, data quality and data completeness.

This information should be available to the person managing the process in order to understand where bottlenecks are occurring in the process, where questions or information requirements may be defined poorly, or where the process is bogging down because of improper order, etc. Essentially, you need to monitor your governance process over time to determine where there may be process design issues. This information should also be used in a real time fashion to manage the governance process and ensure that you are meeting important metrics put forward by the organization. For example, if you are governing a waiver process that shouldn’t exceed 30 days, it may be critical for you to have the ability to identify at what points you may need to intercede in order to meet that requirement. Having the ability to set alerts in the process to identify items that are not moving through the queue efficiently makes this a great deal easier by pushing these to you, rather than forcing engagement in the process to identify problems before they become issues. Avoiding the need to actively manage the process reduces the real cost of governance and allows governance participants to focus on their mission rather than the process.

Finally, don’t skimp on socializing and tweaking early in the process and throughout the duration. Whatever you use to embed your governance needs to be flexible enough to change over time to accommodate this type of update anyway. This brings up another point which is that whatever technology you use to embed this workflow must be flexible enough to permit ongoing tweaking of the process. Do not expect that if you just do a really good job on the requirements side you won’t have to change things. That is not how the world works and if whatever you are managing is important enough to have explicit governance, it is important enough to do right and keep right. Don’t let a lack of flexibility kill your effort to embed your governance.

What have been your experiences with using workflows to embed governance? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the approach in particular.

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 skill areas needed to transform your organization

Don’t miss the mark, develop the right skills

Change happens every day both inside the organization and outside the organization. I’ve talked quite a bit about the fact that I believe this change is happening at a faster pace than we have ever seen and that this is driving high performing organizations to look for ways to develop organizational transformation capabilities. As someone who has spent a lot of time talking to the stakeholders within organizations, I have seen a lot of soul searching around what it really takes to pull off organizational transformation. Enabling an organization to regularly be able to move from a current state to some future state that is better suited to meet evolving stakeholder requirements, changing compliance criteria, disruptive technologies and other forces that drive the need for organizational change is tough stuff.

I believe that there are really five key areas that organizations should be focused on developing in order to deliver a truly world class ability to enable change:

Leadership: I fall firmly in the camp of folks that believe leadership skills can be developed and that focusing on this area of development can pay real dividends for organizations that are willing to invest in it. I also do not believe that leadership skills are something that an organization should only focus on at the executive level. The fact is that as organizations become flatter and more agile leadership skills have become more important than ever even at much lower levels of the organization than have previously been focused on. This also ensures that people who are thrust into leadership roles have some skills when that occurs and aren’t learning on the fly (and failing) until they figure it out.

Transformational methodology: If you buy into the fact that understanding and executing on change within the organization should be a primary capability, then you will need to find something that can function as a repeatable process focused on helping you identify areas that require change and then execute that change. Properly executed enterprise architecture should fulfill this role. Focused on understanding the strategic direction, resources, processes, assets and operating environment of the organization this function should rightly be the focus of managing the information driving change and providing real input into both planning for change and executing on it.

Risk: More change means more risk. Organizations are almost always focused on the simple execution of change and not on the implications with regard to risk for the business. Rapidly implementing an online application may help you shave costs, meet customer requirements, or improve productivity. It may also introduce risks that need to be mitigated. Risk management skills need to be embedded within your transformation team in order to ensure that someone is thinking about the dark side of transformation.

Security: See risk. Change always has security implications. The downside of your new found agility means having more discussions around the security implications of that change and so having skills in this area are critical for transformation teams. Leaving security out as an afterthought means inviting last minute changes of the worst kind. Find out up front what the implications of your actions are for security and you may be able to tailor your solution more easily in the early stages or even alter the scope to ensure your solution is viable.

Personal Productivity: You may be surprised to see this on the list, but I think it is a major oversight to think that everyone is functioning at the same high level with regard to organizational, presentation, speaking, writing, negotiation and other critical core skills. None of the rest of your transformation team’s domain expertise matters if their insights cannot be communicated to the outside world. I have often heard the counter argument that “we” don’t hire people without those core skills. I’m sure that is the intent but usually when someone is being recruited as a java developer, accountant, or other functional area specialist at the beginning of their career the focus is on their domain expertise. This stays the same through much of an individual’s career with advancement mostly tied to domain expertise – not these skills. When thrust into senior roles where these skills are required because getting the job done requires the ability to get others to see their point of view, etc. they fail. Do not make this mistake when you begin working to develop your transformation team.

Conclusion

In this I have tried to lay out some core areas of focus as you work to develop your transformational capabilities. I’ve tried to stay at a fairly high level, while still providing some insight into the types of backgrounds you may want for folks on your team as well as areas where you may want to focus on as you pursue your organizational development objectives. The above is not meant to be an all-inclusive list and in fact I invite your feedback. What have you done to prepare your organization for change?

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.

Reduce the gray area in organizational change

Organizational transformation is a hot topic right now. Transformation comes in many forms.  It can be anything from major business process re-engineering, to dealing with disruptive technologies, to the more typical transformation required to maintain an effective organization in an ever changing business environment. Every day executives evaluate where they want to take the organization and the path from where they are now, to where they want to be almost always involves some type of change. Understanding the implications of decisions and how change ripples across the organization, as well as developing a core capability to support ongoing projects is required in order to maintain a high performing organization.

Over the last few decades it seems as though the pace of change has dramatically increased. Innovation and the level of connectedness and collaboration have made this change feel like a snowball running down a steep hill gaining in size and speed.  New entrants to the market place, rapidly changing customer trends, and ever evolving compliance requirements have further complicated the organizational operating environment. The collective outcome has been that in order to be effective, organizations have to become masters in the art of organizational transformation.

The increase in the pace of change and the importance of organizational agility in the face of this change, has led to the development of a series of trends in organizational training and thinking around best practice. From ITIL, to PMBOK, to the various Enterprise Architecture methodologies; executives, managers, technical staff and knowledge workers are all looking for a means to deal with the change. Large complex organizations have a significant hurdle in their path to transformation that results in large swaths of the organization across functional areas (IT, Finance, etc) to have a great deal of gray area associated with them and no real integrated understanding. This gray area may include significant risks that are unaccounted for and obscure significant improvement opportunities. In order to achieve the type of agility and insight into the organization to facilitate change, there must be a concerted focus on the thin layer of information that really drives decision-making. Having the ability to make these decisions is only useful if you can then act on the information to meet evolving requirements. This is where focusing on core transformational skills including planning, communicating, productivity and negotiation skills required to achieve value for the organization come into play. Leading change should be an integrated effort that includes domain expertise across many areas, the ability to execute individually and in teams, as well as dedicated systems that help inform and support change within 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.

Organizational Transformation and Mentoring

Get a hand from a mentor

Developing the capability to execute on organizational transformation efforts is something I’ve spoken on at great length in my writing, speaking, and with clients. I’ve also talked of my belief that you can prepare your organization to thrive in the midst of change by focusing your organizational development efforts on the skills and abilities that apply to this capability. Mentoring is another way that organizations can help facilitate this type of professional growth for staff. One of the great drivers of value for mentoring is that it usually spans a longer period of time than traditional corporate training and educational offerings. It is often more responsive to specific needs and tailored because of the personal nature of the interaction. I have discussed in my previous post, “Mentors: Identifying & Leveraging Mentors,” the qualities which make a great mentor for you. In this post I’ll be more focused on the main forms of mentoring; essentially paid and unpaid, and the positives and negatives associated with both.

Unpaid mentoring

Unpaid mentoring is the type that most people will have had experience with over the course of their careers. If you have been fortunate enough to have a senior staff member, family friend, or other person provide you with advice and insight that is focused on improving you and helping you to succeed in achieving your goals, you’ve had a mentoring experience. The greatest part about the unpaid mentor experience is that often they are driven out of a very genuine concern for you as an individual. They can be an outgrowth from, or lead to life long relationships that greatly enhance your personal development and professional growth. On the negative side, the quality of the advice provided by unpaid mentors may very greatly because this is not something they have developed as a professional service. Availability may also be an issue because the mentoring needs to occur during times in which the mentor is free, which may or may not coincide with your timing and need for advice.

Paid Mentoring

Paid mentoring is more rare and usually reserved for more senior executives. Sometimes mentoring will be included as part of training or educational packages, as a mechanism for ensuring that participants are able to leverage what was learned in class on behalf of the organization. I am a great believer in this type of pairing in terms of getting value from training dollars. This usually leads to a greater training ROI because the mentor can help the you put your training to use in your context, but this is usually not long term enough to foster professional growth over the long term. Paid mentoring, or coaching that is of the more traditional nature, can be an enormous benefit to individuals working within an organization because they are looking specifically at how to support and enhance your professional development. They are generally more available given that they are being paid to support your requirements and you often have the opportunity to more specifically tailor the characteristics you are looking for in a paid mentor than you would in an unpaid situation. I want to focus on this last characteristic because it is important. One of the single greatest advantages to paid mentoring is the ability to choose from a much larger mentor pool and get someone who specifically meets your needs. This may mean domain expertise relevant to your field, executive experience in environments like the one you are working in or similar career arcs to what you are hoping to follow. On the negative side, all of this choice and the generally high quality of the product comes with what is usually a hefty price tag. Full time executive coaches may charge by the hour or provide packages on a quarterly or other time unit basis that roughly ties back to contact hours plus research.

Conclusion

As expressed in my earlier post on mentors, “Mentors: Identifying & Leveraging Mentors,” I am a real believer in mentoring as a means of professional development. Depending on where you are in the organization and how your organization approaches organizational development, you may or may not have access to paid mentoring. If not, it may still be worth looking into paid mentoring on your own as there is real power in having access to someone who is an expert in your field, has fought the battles you have yet to fight, and who may be able to provide real insight into how to maximize your potential. For all the same reasons you should always be on the lookout for unpaid mentoring opportunities. I have always been amazed at the willingness of so many people to play a real role in guiding people forward in their careers without any compensation beyond the satisfaction that comes with working to help someone else move their career forward. As someone who has personally benefited from the willingness of others to give freely of their time to move my career forward, I think everyone should be receptive to opportunities to receive mentoring. I also enjoy playing the mentoring role to others where I have had the opportunity and I try to accommodate this to the degree I’m able because I have received so much from so many over the years.

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 hiring a veteran is good for your organization

This guy is still a leader in a suit

Veterans day got started as Armstice day the end of World War I. This occurred on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 and was celebrated on in 1919 for the first time. However, the day didn’t really get going as “Veterans Day” until 1954 as a celebration for all veterans who have served this country.  As the son of a veteran with multiple family members serving and as a partner in a veteran owned company this day has special meaning. I have a special appreciation not only for the sacrifices these special men and women make, but also for what makes them so special. This blog is focused on performance and I wanted to take a bit of time today to talk to why hiring our former service men and women can be such a huge driver of performance within your organization.

I believe organizational performance is driven to large by the quality of the people of that organization. Talent management is becoming more critical every day as the pace of innovation and change place more emphasis on the ability of organizations to be agile and make better decisions in the face of change. Here are 5 reasons why you should be interested in bringing more veterans into your organization:

Leadership

I write often about leading people to higher levels of performance and helping mentor people to reach their fullest potential. This skill is specifically focused on for development within our services. They have spent years honing techniques for instilling leadership qualities into service men and women. One thing you can be assured in hiring a veteran is that they will be familiar with leadership qualities and in many cases will have had leadership experiences that go far beyond their years.

Teamwork

Veterans already know how to work on a team. They have been drilled in, worked in and in many cases risked their lives with teams. These are people who truly understand teamwork.

Sacrifice

Veterans understand sacrifice. From a willingness to give their life for their country to the simple main of spending so much time away from loved ones. Veterans have known and understand that greatness comes with a price.

Loyalty

Semper Fidelis may be the motto the motto of the United States Marine Corps but it has been a popular military slogan dating to the 16th century. I believe that many Veterans understand loyalty on a different level than their civilian counterparts because the stakes are simply so much different in the military context. Veterans can be counted on when the chips are down and your organization needs people to be loyal.

Commitment

One of the first things that drives how an individual will perform within an organization is that persons ability to commit to the organization. Veterans have proven this ability to commit on a level that most of us will never understand. They have shown a willingness to sacrifice most of the simple personal choices we hold take for granted in service of their country and for us. Where to live, what to wear and what to do are choices they forgo in order be a part of this exceptional team.

Conclusion

One thing that a veteran may not have is direct experience in your business. It’s hard to get experience in banking or other commercial specialties while you are serving your country. Remember though that the skills and traits above are what make domain expertise valuable. I believe that it is also easier to teach domain expertise (within reason) than it is to teach leadership skills. Do your organization a favor and seriously consider the veteran talent pool and the difference these men and women could make for 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.

4 reasons training does not result organizational development

Fix your training ailments

Almost all of us have sat in a corporate training busily responding to e-mail, reading an article, or generally not paying attention to the training we are supposed to be receiving. At the end of the session we moved no further along our career arc, the company isn’t getting any of the performance gain it had hoped for, and the provider of training provider ends up with a client that isn’t interested in future offerings.  Are you sick of getting poor results from your training efforts? Take a look at these four training illnesses and remedies:

Illness: Instructoritis

The person providing the training or education is often the most important component in driving training value. Getting someone who has not just taught it, but has done it, can be a great differentiator for folks trying to get the value from their training dollar.

Remedy

Look for the instructor bios in your training course catalog.  Check for relevant experience where possible, and reviews if available. A little bit of online research in advance of choosing an instructor can go a long way to ensuring you receive value from that instruction.

Illness: Dis-Organizational Issues 

Your organization isn’t ready to leverage the skills you are building in the training. Coming back from training just means returning to the same problems armed with solutions that can’t or won’t be implemented. Not only can this be frustrating for the individual involved, but it can end in even more issues for the organization if the person then takes those new skills and uses them to get a job in an organization that is ready to leverage those skills.

Remedy

Make sure you take into account where you are as an organization. Are you ready to leverage the skills that are being developed? Are you committed to embracing the skills you are developing by sending this person, or team, to training? I think the two weeks following a training session play a huge role in the overall success or failure of the training effort. If your organization isn’t going to commit to leveraging the training in the near term, it probably shouldn’t invest in the training at all.

Illness: Wrong Material, Wrong Time, Wrong person 

Your organization is putting people into classes that are preparing you to overcome the wrong hurdle, at the wrong time, and with the wrong people.

Remedy: 

Choosing the what, when and who to invest in organizational development is critical. Organizations need to choose the courses and people that will help them meet their unique requirements rather than the rigid application of best practice. Certifications are often great indicators that a person has reached a certain level of understanding with a technical material, or they can simply reflect mastery of the course material and not mastery in the application of the domain expertise. There is also a right time to get certain training, either as part of a sequence that builds one set of skills on top of another or the right organizational timing in order to ensure the right skills are in place to meet transformation goals.

Illness: Lack of Dedicated Time

Your organization expects you to be an expert the day you come back from training and to continue to execute on your previous workload; all the while ensuring the lessons you’ve learned turn into value for the organization.

Remedy

A two day course on leadership isn’t a magic bullet. In the right hands it provides a deeper level of insight and a jumping off point for further development while also requiring a personal and organizational commitment to be effective. Mentoring can be an effective mechanism for helping to ensure that the growth that begins in the classroom continues in the field.

 

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 election is just another opportunity for organizational transformation

The election is sort of the ultimate organizational transformation event. Every few years we come together as a nation and decide who is going to manage the business of our country. Once the dust settles and the choices are made, it is time to rally around the chosen leadership and move forward. Harboring bitter feelings from the competition as the organization, or in this case the nation, moves forward is seriously counter-productive. On a much smaller scale, the results of office politics play out in our lives all of the time. Executives, team members, and managers are in constant competition not only with other organizations, but also with other members of the organization for recognition, upward mobility, and power. Just as in our national and local politics, too often the bad blood resulting from this competition spills over into the period after the decision has been made. This is often to the detriment of all of the parties involved and it certainly does not benefit the organization in question. There are three critical actions a new leader can take after being chosen to prevent the politics of the competition from spoiling the choice that has been made and the performance of the organization going forward:

1.      Reach out to the losers – in organizational politics with fewer clearly chosen candidates, this may not be as obvious as in our political process. Do not under estimate the power of making a personal connection with those who also may have been vying for the position in which you now sit. The fact that they were under consideration for the same role makes them relevant stakeholders for you, no matter what your personal opinion is of them.

2.      Embrace compromise – building on the last point it may be helpful to find a place of common ground with your competition and embrace it publically and in short order. This validation of some aspect of your competition makes their interaction with you more palatable to those who backed them, and eases your ability to build effective coalitions and make progress towards making the organization perform.

3.      Stay focused on the organization – you may have had to focus on “your” approach in order to win the position to get an opportunity to transform the organization. Once you have the position, it is time to refocus on the organization. One of the best things you can do is forget your previous “positions” and ensure that you are not still fighting the fight that got you the position. Once you have it, the best way to lose it is to keep fighting the fight to get it rather than focusing on whatever the best way forward is for the organization, regardless of previous positioning. 

As we put this year’s election behind us, I hope our political leadership will take the approach I’ve outlined above and do what is best for the nation. In a similar vein, if you want to make the most of your opportunity for organizational transformation or a new position, please remember that if you truly want the organization to succeed you will stay focused on its requirements and not your own.+

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.

Leadership, Communications and Productivity are worth training too

One of the most focused on areas in technology organization training is a an overwhelming focus on competency area skill development. The focus is almost always on specific skill development in particular methodologies, technologies, best practices and other areas of specialization. This is an exceptional practice that should be encouraged. However, I think it is important to ensure that you also spend time enhancing core executive and productivity skill sets. Time management, task management, communication skills, leadership, negotiation and other key skill sets don’t always the focus they should given that they too large degree dictate how impactful any of your other more specialized skill sets will be. When you think about the types of training your organization will need it may be helpful to ensure that the training in the following areas doesn’t get left behind.

Reaching your goals takes more than domain expertise.

1. Leadership – their is a growing focus within many executive oriented education programs to provide specific training in leadership. I think this sort of training should enable executives and senior leadership to understand specific aspects of leadership and focus on developing specific skills and understanding regarding working in teams, facilitating change, communication and interpersonal dynamics.

2. Communications – understanding how to present information visually, verbally and in the written word has perhaps never been more critical. The rise of knowledge based organizations, thinner management structures, requirements for more rapid response times and other factors are making the ability to effectively communicate and effect change critical.

3. Productivity – it is truly surprising how far pretty smart people can go in life without needing a defined approach to organizing their tasks and time. Developing better personal management skills can enable them to spend more time focused on solving problems, innovating or communicating and less time sidetracked, mis-allocating time or focused on the wrong tasking.

In short I think we often short change the skills we use most often. I think this is because we are so focused on domain expertise that we lose sight of the fact that without these other skills our expertise will never be as valuable, powerful or widely understood. Take the time to develop these skills yourself and to invest in developing them within your organization.

I’m sure the categories above aren;’t comprehensive  What other general skills do you feel need to be a part of people’s ongoing professional development?

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 ways for IT to be more relevant

I think sometimes IT organizations and executives lose sight of the fact that they need to develop an ongoing relationship with the business. If you are in the IT organization in most businesses you are in the service business to large degree. In case you haven’t noticed there are a  huge number outsourcing and servicing companies vying for the work that used to be part of the internal IT organization monopoly. Recognizing this new reality and the requirement to compete for the “business” of your business is critical if you want to retain your share of the organization’s work and your relevancy to the business.

Start building your bridge to the business today.


Here are 5 ways to start engaging the business:
1. Get an elevator pitch
If you can’t succinctly sum up your value statement to the organization you probably won’t get the resources you need. Remember that you are competing for dollars within the organization in the same manner that most organizations are competing for dollars outside the organization. If your technology organization already suffers from a lack of access to senior executives you cannot afford to flub the few opportunities you have by not having anything shorter than a 45 minute brief to show where you bring value. If your only chance to get in front of an executive is while he is getting issued a new iPhone you better make the most of that 5 minutes.
2. Get a business case
Executives love dollars and cents; it is the language of business. Trying to explain things in technical terms isn’t helpful. Frame it in the context of the business. Will it save money? Increase time to market? Say it in those terms. You should be able to easily draw a line from your technology spend to the business of the organization, if you can’t expect to eventually lose those projects. This is an area of increasing awareness in IT with more and more solutions available that are focusing on enterprise portfolio management with solid financial analysis tools in addition to looking at relationships and modeling that has been a staple of many IT management tools for many years.
3. Get more relevant more often
People use what they know. If you want to be in the decision stream you need to be seen as relevant to making decisions. Many enterprise architecture organizations pride themselves on their grasp of the business, technology and data architectures. How do you leverage this information on behalf of the organization? Are you serving as a compiler of information or as a catalyst for change? I have spent an incredible amount of time in meetings with IT and EA staff while they talk about how the business doesn’t realize how much they know. If you really know things go out and be relevant, force the action and push the action to the business. This doesn’t have to be an in your face confrontational action. It can be as simple as delivering insiteful reports that are relevant to daily decision making. Think about this, do your dashboards tell a story about the information you have access to or one that is relevant to real decision-making. The fact is that most executive decisions are still made based on excel workbooks compiled from various data sources. The business is still having to take it the last mile in order for the information to be relevant and until that changes I doubt IT will be seen as highly relevant.
4. Get marketing
If you don’t market to internal stakeholders you won’t be successful, it is that simple. I’m not saying you have to take out full page ads or buy radio time, but you do need to make a concerted effort to appeal to those parties that should be using your information, leveraging your technologies and most importantly conferring with you before making major strategic decisions with huge implications for the technology infrastructure of the business.
5. Get proactive
I’m not sure how IT organizations got so passive aggressive, but I feel like some of the issues could be solved by simply taking the fight to the business. If you want to be relevant and you have real insight push the issue. Most executives are open to high value inputs, they know better information leads to better decision making. Just don’t expect them to be wowed by the size of your presentation or the complexity of your diagram. It is your job to get your insight into the language of the business, not theirs to become technology experts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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