Tomorrow’s Webinar: Think big, start small, scale fast

Back in December, I interviewed General Dale Meyerrose about organizational transformation and leadership. I posted the three-part interview here, here, and here. When asked about his approach for managing change, General Meyerrose answered with “Think Big, Start Small, Scale Fast.”

Tomorrow, Dale is going to be giving a free webinar on the subject of Think Big, Start Small, Scale Fast in conjunction with MB&A Academy, the eduction arm of my company, Millsapps, Ballinger & Associates.

Date: Friday, February 1, 2013
Time: 12:00 – 1:00pm, EST

To register for the webinar, click here

 

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.

Trust us…Salesforce.com

 

cloud

Photo by Micky Aldridge

I had the good fortune to go to breakfast with a group including Saleforce.com Chief Trust Officer Patrick Heim. Besides a great free meal at Old Ebbits, there was a lot of great conversation around the way Salesforce.com and Force.com are being leveraged by the public and private organizations and some of the problems it is helping solve. For those that don’t know Salesforce does a lot more than Salesforce Automation with thousands of solutions implemented by various organizations including everything from survey management to security assessment tools like our PSAFE application. Of course given the presence of Saleforce.com’s Chief Trust Officer a lot of the conversation was security related. I’d like to share a few of my takeaways from what I thought was a very valuable meeting.

  • Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service and Software as a Service: Patrick Heim had an interesting take on these three models and noted that while platform as a service and software as a service can be transformational for organizations he did now feel as strongly about the infrastructure as a service model. His reasoning was that Infrastructure as a Service might lead to some efficiencies from a cost standpoint, but that it could also perpetuate and even accelerate some organizational problems by making it easier/cheaper to rapidly stand up new server instances, etc. This in turn simply adds to the complexity of what must be managed by the business, security staff, etc. With platform and software as a service there is a much more of a focused value proposition for the business and hopefully a better technology to business mapping.
  • Federal Implications for the Democracy in the Cloud: This is old hand for a lot of people that have been following Salesforce.com for a long time, but the implications of it are interesting particularly when looking at useful cases like public sector vs. private sector security requirements. Salesforce.com has consistently maintained a stance that as it evolves its business to meet evolving requirements in areas like security for example that the bar will be raised across all of its customers. US laws around federal usage mean that things like citizenship; monitoring and other issues may force Saleforce.com to evolve its democracy in the cloud stance to meet the demands of the world’s largest democracy. This may include having federal specific pods to handle federal transactions in order to maintain compliance while bringing their capabilities to the federal government.
  • Dealing with security questions: One of the big things customers get concerned about with the cloud is the multi-tenancy aspect of it. Essentially your stuff is right next to someone else’s stuff, so how secure can it be? Heim had an excellent way of presenting it, which is essentially that Saleforce.com manages a fairly homogenous technical environment. Basically,  Saleforce.com benefits financially by developing economies of scale around hardware, software and even things like skills/HR but that all of this lends itself to enhanced security because it reduces complexity and streamlines things like patching, etc. My first thought when he mentioned this was the 500+ systems that many cabinet level agencies in the federal government of the thousands of applications many Fortune 500 companies have within their organization. Most of these are built to purpose with limited standardization of hardware and software and diverse skill requirements. The level of complexity inherent in securing this is obvious when you look at it from this standpoint even before you think about the additional cost and inefficiency driven by this sort of environment.

At the end of the breakfast several of us stayed after to finish coffee and talk about how we are leveraging Salesforce.com within our organizations and the one thing that kept coming up is time to value. For us this is critical because there is so much focus by both our both public and private sector clients to get to value quicker. Saleforce.com and Force.com have enabled us to bring our customers secure solutions, quicker while reducing costs and alleviating them of the pain inherent in managing complex IT environments. I talked about this a bit in my post “SAAS and a tropical vacation- Their surprising similarities”, but this breakfast was real world validation of the change Cloud, Software as a Service and companies like Salesforce.com are bringing to the marketplace and how it is transforming the way organizations work. Has your organization looked at SAAS solutions? Are you using Salesfore.com or Force.com anywhere?

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.

Is the clock still king?

Is the clokck still king

Writing about remote work yesterday got me thinking about leave policies in general. I’ve read recently about boutique and tech start-ups that have no defined leave policy and it really resonates with me. My assumption is that in many knowledge work oriented professions that if you are smart enough to work there, you are smart enough to figure out when you should be there. I understand that this may not be a scalable model, although I believe that some pretty large companies including several big game makers have gone this route. The idea resonates with me because one of the things I’ve always hated and tried not to be is a time clock boss. I assume that people are responsible enough to get things done until proven otherwise.

Sometimes in our business things get hectic for a few weeks and the expectation is that people will rise to the occasion and help us meet the deadline, etc. On the other hand, there are times where things are a little looser and I don’t ever get mad if someone is a little late coming in or a little early leaving. I assume that they must not have something they need to get done. On some level I think the idea of paying for time is old fashioned and tends toward managing what we can measure rather than what matters. Even if you are working an assembly line, wouldn’t it be more effective to manage or measure around quality and completion rather than simply time spent on the line?

The bottom line is that time spent on something is probably the poorest means of measuring its value. I won’t lie; I’ve given plenty of thick binders to clients at the end of engagements. However, this only happens when I’ve felt I’m being measured by output and not by outcomes. I always feel a little bit bad about it because it reflects a failing on my part to convince them of what really matters. Essentially, this means I had to punt and convince the client that because we did a lot of work they got great value. This is a clear failure on our part to ensure the client understands the value of the outcome we are delivering. I’m curious of what others think on this topic. Do you feel your boss measures you more on perception of effort rather than results? Have you tailored your delivery to meet these expectations? I think that a lot of people put effort into developing fluff because it represents more, which is perceived to be reflective of their effort which is what is valued rather than putting in the time to build concise value.

© Photo Copyright Chris Downer

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.

Is remote work, too remote?

moon-walk-60616_640

So it’s a little soggy out in Washington, D.C. and Arlington, VA decided to cancel school. The Federal government is also opening late and its flu season, which means a lot of people are out of the office today. I’m one of the lucky ones. My wife drew the short straw this morning which means that while she will be trying to work from her home office with three kids doing some serious stress testing of their toys, our walls, and her sanity, all less than 10 feet away. This got me thinking about working from home, the pressures of family and work life, and how an organization should deal with these issues. On the one hand we have never been as prepared as a society to enable working from anywhere, anytime and anyplace. I am living proof of that having held conference calls, webinars, etc from hospitals, on vacations, and from my home office.

The question then becomes how connected is too connected and how close a tether to the “real” office do you need to retain to be effective. Openly, I do not fall in the camp of those who believe the end of the communal office is near. I truly believe that working together physically improves collaboration and teamwork. I love video conferencing because it is closer to real physical meetings, but it still isn’t the same as being right next to someone. There is a certain element of teamwork and collaboration that I just don’t feel is possible from a remote location. It’s one of the reasons why I can’t ever foresee my company going towards a remote workforce in a big way, despite the huge advantages from a cost standpoint. I just don’t believe you can hang on to the esprit de corps and sense of community that comes from sharing a physical space. I don’t mind having people work from home in order to get projects that require uninterrupted concentration complete, or when the cable guy is coming to the house, etc. I just don’t see it as a sustainable everyday model.

Of course most of my view into this is shaped either by view of the work my company does, which is consultative, or the work of our clients, which varies from large private sector to large public sector. I can certainly see advantages for some of our clients, particularly those with small-scale presences in many locations to remote work. It makes sense in these types of cases to set up your teams to work primarily from their home office or to leverage shared space, etc. Obviously, for retail, manufacturing, etc the need to be onsite is different than in the knowledge work community. How does your organization manage remote work? Is this the right approach? What are the pitfalls/benefits you have found?

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.

Processes, Technology and People: The three keys to successfully changing anything

If you are contemplating change, business process improvement or organizational transformation the keys to success are people, process and technology. These three factors, more than any others, will govern the degree to which you succeed or fail. Almost any change you attempt will have some effect across all three of these areas because they are so intertwined.
However, before you even contemplate change in any of these three areas it is critical that you get the information part of the equation down. Now, more than at any other point in history, information is king. Having a complete understanding of the information that flows through these people, processes and technology is the critical component in ensuring that any change leads to meaningful results. The fact is that the information that runs most organizations is probably the thing within the organization that is least subject to change. If you are in the retail business then you how much you sold something for, the terms of the sale and customer information have been important and relatively unchanged for hundreds of years and from organization to organization. The same is true of construction and most other industries. Sure there has been some change, maybe now we need an e-mail address, etc but the pace of change is much slower than the change in people, processes and technology. The mechanics of processing an order in retail has changed dramatically over the last 20 years with the introduction of online retailing, etc with huge repercussions for the people, processes and technology involved.

Once you clearly understand the information required to support the breadth of the area you are targeting for business process improvement or organizational transformation you can begin looking at the people, processes and technology:

  • Processes: This is a great place to start because it drives the requirements for the other two. For example if your new process for car sales no longer includes the salesman negotiating the price you may begin to look for different qualities in your salespeople or provide different training because negotiation skills may now be less valuable in comparison to other skill areas.
  • Technology: Once you understand how the process should work, you can develop a solution that meets those requirements. I have spent a lot of time working backwards from solution to people to process and it can be incredibly frustrating. Unfortunately, this happens quite a bit particularly when solution activities are vendor driven.
  • People: I put this last, which I think some people will disagree with but I believe that one of the great advantages of people is their flexibility and adaptability. These traits are becoming even more important as the pace of change in the world increases. Once the process and technology components are defined the approach to people can be evaluated and developed.

In no way am I suggesting that people aren’t important to the transformation process I just think that at least first attempting to optimize the first two conceptually enables you to truly understand the implications for the people involved. You can also evaluate the organizations (people) ability to change based on current skills, etc. I really do not like the idea of starting from the people side and trying to evaluate change initiatives on the basis of what can be accomplished based on an evaluation of the existing personnel because while that may be comforting to the people who are subject to that change I don’t think it holds up over time, nor will it result in a business process improvement or transformational activity that will withstand the forces of the marketplace. If you sub-optimize your organizational processes because you are afraid that your existing personnel may not be able to scale to meet the challenge you may be underestimating your people, but you are almost certainly setting yourself up to fair poorly in comparison to peers who do not place themselves under the same constraints. You may need to segment or develop a phased approach to the change initiative but I do not believe that you should settle for a final scenario that is deliberately sub-optimized on the basis of fit to existing personnel.

What do you believe? I know there are a lot of people who believe in working from the people you have towards optimal solutions for those people because the social factors involved in working from this direction drives buy-in which in turn drives success. I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts in this area because I do believe that, in the end, the success or failure of a solution is often tied more to human factors than to technical merit. I try to emphasize developing the people and processes and then focusing on the sales pitch to the people as my mechanism for buy-in, but let me know what your take is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Sell is Human

To Sell is HumanReal Pic

Everybody’s selling something, be it a product, image, idea etc. [i]

I’m reading Daniel H. Pink’s new book To Sell is Human and loving it. I tell my folks all the time that they are always selling to the client, to their co-workers, or to me. Whether it’s our services, an idea, or their performance, they should be cognizant of how they present themselves, their thoughts, etc. because all of it plays a role in the outcome. Pink talks throughout the book about the importance of moving people and the powers of persuasion and he makes the case that broadly, we are all in sales. I’ve made this point to employees, co-workers, and clients a hundred times and I love the way he presents it. So many people have the image of the stereotypical used cars salesman in their head and think of sales in terms of getting over on someone. I know that in my business this simply wouldn’t work and the rise of the information era has greatly reduced the effectiveness of this type of sale. Today’s buyers are perhaps the most informed customers to walk the face of the earth and vendors should and do recognize this new empowerment. Pink also broadens the scope of what is generally considered sales to include what he calls non-sales selling, “persuading, influencing and convincing others in ways that don’t involve anyone making a purchase.”

This is the area I have been pushing with clients and employees for a long time. We all spend a good amount of time working on convincing others to choose a path we would prefer, even if it’s simply trying to convince your spouse to see a movie you’d like to see or your child to eat veggies. Given its relative importance and the huge portion of our lives dedicated to these types of activities, most of us spend relatively little time devoted to building skill in this area. Pink then walks through an approach to non-sales selling that is truly unique and that I believe every single person could benefit from. All of this is done with a unique storytelling style that makes for easy reading and remembering. Pink is quick to provide insightful statistics and historical references that really add to his points. I thought one of the most interesting sections is where he is describing the sales industry. Interesting tidbits include:

  • The U.S. Department of Labor counts 1 in 10 Americans as working sales
  • The number of people with sales jobs is 5 times as many as work for the US federal government.
  • If the nation’s salespeople lived in a single state it would be the fifth largest in the United States
  • Australia, the UK and the EU all have about 10% of the workforce officially categorized as sales
  • Polls show people outside of sales spend about 40% of their time in selling related activities (persuading, influencing, and convincing)

The book is full of other interesting numbers and he builds a compelling case that most of our lives center around things that could in some form or fashion be considered selling. He covers some of the changes that have led to this and why it might not be such a bad thing. In general, I’ve loved the book, which I intend to finish this evening. I’d be curious what others think of the book if they’ve read it and I’d be interested in particular in the thoughts of those whose jobs fall well outside of the traditional sales category. Do you think selling is important to what you do? What are you selling if it isn’t a product? How are you working to build non-selling sales skills?


[i] Photo By: Nacmias Auto Sales, Service, and Repairs   Rich Nacmias

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.

NY Times: Interview of Kon Leong: Interviewing for Brains and Drive

NY Times Interview of Kon Leong Interviewing for Brains and Drive

Brains and drive are the real prerequisites of future successful hires

The New York Times had a great interview with Kon Leong co-founder, president, and chief executive of ZL Technologies, an e-mail and file archiving company. One of the things that really struck me in the interview was the way that he spoke to his interviewing process. I know that in my line of work we spend a lot of time trying to identify people who are “great fits” for the job. In our case, this often means Systems Engineering and other technical backgrounds. I thought it was interesting that he never once mentioned this in his coverage of his interview process. He was truly focused on what that person wanted and where they wanted to be. Basically, he said he was looking for people with “brains and drive” because those are the real prerequisites for the job. I don’t know that we will completely do away with our vetting for technical skills but the interview definitely made me re-think some of what we emphasize.

We have lucked into some great people that only made it onto our team because they came recommended by someone we respected or we had a chance to work with them before hiring them. It makes me wonder how many great candidates we miss because they don’t fit the precise technical background we are looking for in most of our positions. In fact some of our positions do require very specific technical skills. However, we look for these technical skills across a far broader number of roles than we probably need to and for every role in our company the most important skills or prerequisites are really those he mentions, drive and brains. As long as you have those we can probably teach you the rest, without them it doesn’t matter what type of technical chops you have—you won’t be successful.

In short he asks a lot of soft skill questions, which makes me think of the blog post I wrote about the “5 skill areas needed to transform your organization,” which includes personal productivity as one of those areas of focus. Kon Leong broadens the lens to focus in on the core beliefs, work ethic, and raw materials a person is bringing to the job. He also focuses on their ability to think outside the box and make their own judgments. These are critical skills in today’s business world because so much of the work that we do is fluid in nature. Technical experts and other specialists are becoming rarer except in the largest organizations as middle management shrinks and the day-to-day business of doing business changes to accommodate the rapid pace of innovation and evolving operating environments. Kon Leong seems very focused on getting people who can evolve, scale, and make their own decisions—perfect for the rapidly changing environment I describe in Why do I need to “Transform” my organization?

Here are some of the specific questions Kon Leong mentions using in the NYT article in interviews:

  • I would want to know your goals for the job. Is it money? Learning? Fulfillment?
  • How willingly do you accept stuff, and how willing are you to question things?
  • How creative are you in finding your own answers?
  • Are you willing to learn from your mistakes? Do you do that automatically?
  • Are you willing to set the bar higher?
  • Are you able to deal with failure? Can you bounce back from it?

What do you think about this sort of open ended approach to interviewing? Where do you focus your questions within interviews?

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.

Jiu-Jitsu at the Office

bjj2

Over the past year I’ve spoken specifically on “Dealing with Executive Stress” and more generally on personal performance. In today’s blog I’d like to talk about something I feel has been exceptionally helpful in dealing with stress as well as helped me develop skills that have enhanced my personal performance in the workplace. About four years ago I got started doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I’d played basketball for years in an attempt to stave off weight gain, relieve stress and get some exercise but my body was breaking down on me. My knees hurt, my back ached and I generally worried that my body was going to give out. I have loved playing basketball since I was a kid even thought my career ended when I stopped growing as freshman in high school. My wife pushed me to try a class at NOVAMMA where she was taking a boot camp for crazy mom’s willing to get up at 5AM and get yelled at to run faster. I did and fell in love with this low impact sport that combines physical and mental execution. So how does this map to personal performance or organizational transformation? Well…

There is no doubt that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is great for the body. Over the past four years I’ve dropped 50 pounds and I feel better than I’ve felt in 20 years. But I also feel better prepared mentally to be able to engage at the office. Here’s why:

  1. Human Chess: BJJ forces you to think, react and act while you aren’t at your best. It forces you to push your body through aches, pains and physical exhaustion all while thinking about the next move or how best to deal with the current position you are in. This ability to focus under pressure has a direct relationship to my work.
  2. Physical Endurance: Executives live grueling lives occasionally. Being physically fit is an advantage. I’ve heard a lot of people say that they don’t have time for exercise but I think maintaining a certain level of fitness enables you to push harder when you need it and helps you to have a physical reserve you can draw on in order to push through a particularly tough negotiation, proposal or other on the job emergency.
  3. Stay in the moment: Success in BJJ is often predicated on your ability to make decisions in the moment. I think this is very important in business where so often the temptation is to create an ingenious plan that extends too far into the future. I believe in planning, but I also believe in staying focused on the moment so that you give yourself the best possible opportunity to achieve each step of that plan in turn.
  4. Always have a plan B (and C): I talked above about the ability to stay in the moment, however BJJ also rewards planners and succeeding often means being able to chain together several movements that will entice your opponent to counter until you have put yourself in position the to win.
  5. 1% Everyday: This is perhaps the greatest thing I’ve learned from BJJ. Our instructor is constantly telling us to find a way to get a little bit better everyday. If you can’t attend class then you should watch video, if you can’t watch video then you should work on visualizing technique. No matter what there is something you can do every day to get a little bit better.
  6. Enjoy the Grind: Getting better at BJJ and work can both be a grind. If don’t enjoy what you are doing you probably won’t end up being that successful in doing it. I enjoy the grind and hard work that goes into getting a little better at BJJ everyday the same way I enjoy working to improve the skills I bring to the office. I believe one of the keys to being successful in any endeavour is either figuring out how to enjoy the process of improving or figuring out how to do something where you will enjoy the process of improving. It takes a lot of hard work to get good at something as I mentioned in “5 keys to mastering anything.” If you don’t enjoy it you probably won’t put in the time necessary to succeed.

 

I certainly don’t think Jiu-Jitsu is unique in providing this type of benefit to work life. I’ve talked to plenty of friends that play golf, hockey, chess, and many other endeavors outside of work and many report a carryover effect from their hobby or activity to their work life. For me Jiu-Jitsu has become something that gives me a physical release from the stress of work, provides a real health benefit by helping me stay in shape and has helped me to continue to refine habits around hard work and mental focus that pays real dividends in the office. I think the real take away here should be that I believe it is important that people have things outside the office that provide a healthy break from that part of their life while still building good skills, habits and enhancing their ability to execute in the office. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into a Jiu-Jitsu class feeling the incredible stress of a hard day at the office and walked out feeling relaxed and ready to take on the world the next day. What do you do to relive stress? Do your hobby help you on the job? How?

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

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

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

SAAS and a tropical vacation- Their surprising similarities

SAAS and a tropical vacation

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

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

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

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


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

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

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