3 things I’ve been struggling with as I adjust to working remote.

Files, files, and more files!

Files, files, and more files!

I mentioned a few posts back that after much time and consideration we decided to go remote. So far the results have been great. I haven’t noticed any change in productivity and while I don’t get to see people in person as often as we did previously I’ve gotten used to spending a lot of time on Google Hangout, GoToMeeting and Webinars. The one thing I have noticed is that by moving my office home I’ve ended up with a mountain of technology. In fact I had to open a second home office in my basement to hold all of it.

This has not been popular at home as their are other parties in this house (wife) that feel the basement should one day be re-claimed by our family as a place where people can play a little rougher (kids) and watch TV shows that are boring (me). While I have gotten used to my expansive new office I know that this is only going to last for so long and so I’ve begun to identify the services I can use to replace some of the items I’ve brought home and planted in the basement. Here are three problems I’ve had to deal with because of going virtual and one the jury is still out on.

1. Problem: The Fax Machine – Faxes are on the way out but not quite dead. My wife has recently introduced me to eFax which she has used for years and which seems to be an enormous improvement over the huge fax machine I brought home and perched on an end table.

Solution: eFax has a corporate edition that represents a significant upgrade in capability and very little added expenditure.

2. Servers – All of our client oriented servers have long been moved to the cloud or into the Salesforce Dev Environment we maintain, but I still have two racks and about 15 servers and assorted hardware appliances that are eating up electricity at an incredible rate and supporting little internal functions. In fact our electric bill jumped $400 in the first month we went virtual and that only covered two weeks of uptime.

Solution: Everything is going to the cloud in the next three months. We advise some of the largest organizations in the world on the benefits of moving to the cloud there is no reason we should continue to have legacy infrastructure eating away at the bottom line for convenience sake. We simply hadn’t put the resources necessary to the task of migrating these items. Now we will.

3. Files – This is the one I’m still struggling with – going virtual meant bringing home  a mountain of paper. Given the type of work we do – we generate a lot of paper in order to maintain compliance with various federal, state and local requirements. This is before you start talking about all of the other things we track on paper with regard to client engagements and otherwise.

Solution – The jury is out on this one. We could spend a lot of time and effort digitizing but right now I don’t see anyway around the wall full of filing cabinets I am maintaining. Some things simply have to stay on paper and we have a paper legacy that would probably take a staff of five all summer to digitize going full time. I’m open to suggestions.

After almost three months of going remote cold turkey I have to say I’m still glad we did. It represents a tremendous savings which eventually will make us more competitive in a very competitive market space. We still haven’t ruled out having some type of permanent facility with meeting rooms and some permanent offices though. The one thing I really miss is having that big room where a development or client team can gather and brainstorm. We have done some virtual sessions but it really isn’t the same. I’ve talked to some other companies facing this issue that have essentially taken on a small space for this purpose and have heard nothing but good things. It seems like a happy medium between the benefits of being completely virtual and completely on premise.

As always, I welcome your feedback and I know there are some folks on here that feel very strongly about remote work. Let me know what you have found that works and what hasn’t. I’m particularly interested in finding a way to limit the physical intrusion of our paper legacy (maybe its as simple as a storage facility?) and solutions around collaboration for large groups in a remote environment. I’ll share what I find out in a blog post soon.

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.

Want better answers? Three steps to asking better questions.

The Social Enterprise

Ask better questions and harness the social enterprise

One of the things management consultants tend to do is ask a lot of questions. In fact I’ve heard from time to time that its because we don’t know have any answers and asking questions keeps clients from figuring that out. There is actually a little bit of truth to this, now before you start thinking I’ve just let the cat out of the bag or sullied the reputations of management consultants the world over. I will say that asking the right questions is how you get to the right answers. Its a real skill and a capability that can enable you to change your organization, improve performance and help you meet your goals.

Sometimes management consultants come into a set of circumstances with more information than the client but those times are rarer than you think. This is for fairly obvious reasons if you stop to think about it. The management consultant may be an expert in a particular field, set of tools, or market space but they are generally not experts in your organization, your problems and your particular situation. What most good management consultants do have is a combination of domain expertise, experience and problem solving skills that can help them ask questions that will lead them to the answers. They also have a fresh perspective on your organization without all of the preconceived notions and stale thinking that can come from living an organizational problem every day.

Whether or not you decide to bring someone in to help you work through a problem you can learn from these pros and give yourself a leg up in solving organizational problems by taking the following three steps to asking better questions:

  1. Focus on the information you need to make the decision, solve the problem or get to that next level of understanding. To often people spend more time pursuing comprehensive understanding as opposed to focusing in on the keys that will unlock value.
  2. Use a systematic approach to asking questions. There’s a reason you often see a consultant asking questions from a notebook and then furiously jotting down notes as you answer. In many cases consultants will even use structured methods and tools for data intake in order to ensure that they ask all the questions they need and capture all of the data. Unstructured interviews lead to stakeholders wandering across topics, tilting at personnel windmills and veering into off topic discussions.
  3. Ask the right people your questions. If you only talk to people that agree with you chances are you aren’t getting enough information to make good decisions. If you don’t ask a healthy cross section of stakeholders, you run the risk of optimizing a solution for one group to the detriment of others. Make sure you are asking the right people the right questions.

The above three items are just a starting point. We have entered into a world technology has enabled us to ask more, better questions across a broader set of stakeholders than ever before. Questionnaires, surveys and assessments are woefully underutilized by most organizations. Technologies like our Extensible Assessment Manager (ExAM4Enterprise.com) Salesforce app are attempting to change that. This is an area that is exploding as a myriad of companies like ours are looking at how to harness the power of the social enterprise to support their change initiatives.

Want better answers? Ask better questions.

 

 

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

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

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

What’s on your organization’s Christmas list?

Hopefully your organization isn't on the naughty list...

Hopefully your organization isn’t on the naughty list…

I have a daughter who is missing all of her front teeth; however she has opted against asking for front teeth for Christmas and is pushing Santa Clause for a Princess Diary with Lock and Keys. I think many organizations are hoping Santa brings them more stable economic times, bigger budgets and some relief from the austerity of the last few years. I hate to be the Grinch but unfortunately, I just don’t see it ending up under the tree. The climate in both public and private sector is that IT has to do more with less. I don’t want to leave you feeling like Charlie Brown, I think there are three things every technology IT executive should put on their list in order to make 2014 a better year than 2013.

Troux-as-a-Service: Get a better understanding of your application portfolio and make better decisions in 2014: Getting results from Enterprise Architecture has been on many technology executives Christmas list for years.  Enterprise Portfolio Management and associated disciplines are becoming more mature. So is the software that supports them. Traditionally, software packages in this space that came with strong records of implementations ending in ROI also came with big price tags. Now many of these vendors have software as a service models available. I talk about Troux-as-a-Service in this video.

Salesforce: Despite the hype, most executives and organizations are not getting to the cloud or getting to the benefits of the cloud yet. 2014 may be the year as many factors including increased maturity from service providers, better understanding by internal IT folks and the business case come together to make cloud an inevitable part of the story for most organizations in 2014. I believe this charge will be led by vendors like Salesforce that have developed platforms that enable third parties to securely deliver specific capability to organizations “just like yours.” The appexchange model which iTunes and the AppStore have made so prevalent in the consumer market is fast taking hold in the public sector with 2,126,132 enterprise class installs to date (today).

Millsapps, Ballinger & Associates: Ok so getting some exciting new clients under the tree that are focused on making 2014 a year of change is actually on my list. I think we should be on yours because we are experts in the first two things on this list and more importantly because we really are “focused on outcomes.” One of the things I believe separates us from the pack is that we measure ourselves by our clients success. With both our Troux 90 day portfolio offer and our ExAM4Enterprise.com offerings our focus is always on getting you to value fast.

So that’s what I think should be on your Christmas list this year. What actually is on the list?

 

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.

Social doesn’t want to talk to your minions

Social doesn't want to talk to your minions

Social doesn’t want to talk to your minions

People always talk about how “it’s a small world” and to a large degree it is…and getting smaller as advancing technology, social media and other forces help us connect with others and stay connected. Many organizations are racing to implement technologies and processes to meet this challenge.

Like many others I believe that social signifies something new for us, but I think responding to the new world it has ushered in requires a comprehensive response in order to be successful. Simply establishing organizational Facebook and Twitter accounts and jumping on new social trends as they occur isn’t enough. This is because social isn’t just about websites or banging out 140 characters on your phone. The real change is that the world expects the gap between them and the leadership of the organization to have evaporated overnight.

This brave new world we have entered into expects feedback loops to close faster than ever before and to be understood in the context of all of the information available to that stakeholder as well as to the organization. They expect to be responded to in near real time, to be taken seriously and treated like their opinion matters…and because its so easy to shout in our new world everyone’s opinion does matter (at least for an internet minute).

So what can you do? Understand that you now live in the equivalent of a small town. Many of your stakeholders are nosy neighbors who know more about you than you want and love sharing it- the good and especially the bad. I think modern leaders are facing a real challenge in how far they position their desk from these stakeholders. Those able to carry off having at least the appearance of an open door policy to the rest of the world may profit. No matter how much you embrace the forces that are making us closer connected its important to recognize the expectation and ensure that to the degree possible you are empowering the people in your organization to react to the conversations happening right now all around 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.

Remote – Why we decided to go virtual

MB&A is going virtual

In Yahoo vs. Remote Work I worried that Yahoo might experience some brain drain for the way in which it pulled its remote workforce “privileges.” In Is remote work, too remote? I questioned if the type of work we did at MB&A required to much close in teamwork to effectively be accomplished by working remotely. I was surprised at the response from both posts. Particularly on govloop.com where some very strong opinions were shared on telework. That post prompted a response from Guy Clinch “Answering Joshua Millsapps Question: Is remote work, too remote?” which made me question some long held beliefs and do a little bit more research.

Eventually I found Remote: Office Not Required and started reading. The more I read the more I thought maybe this was something we should be considering. In fact our team sounded a lot like the folks at 37 signals. We have a strong culture, lots of high performers and as I thought more about it I was less worried about productivity and more worried about morale. The book put a lot of that fear behind me and the fact was our office was really only convenient to me. I liked having everyone close by because it was convenient for me. Everybody else was slogging an hour or more to get to Arlington, Virginia. The bottom line – the commute was terrible for everybody but me.

One of the things the book brings out is the way in which remote work refocuses manager on the real metrics worth watching -real productivity – not simply 9-5, plus a smile equals a job well done. It also points out that given the nature of the modern working world you aren’t likely to be making that big of an impact by virtue of having people do their work at your facility other than helping yourself manage their chairs. Those inclined to spend the day watching YouTube are not going to be great employees no matter what office set up you have and the likelihood you’ll notice is actually greater in a remote environment because it is so focused on productivity.

We also did some number crunching. While our immediate savings from going virtual isn’t anywhere near the 100 million dollars in annual savings reportedly saved by IBM – it was significant. So my partner and I talked about it and made the decision. As of December 1, Millsapps, Ballinger and Associates is officially virtual. We gave up our office space, our conference rooms and our hopefully our traditional attitudes. If it doesn’t work we can always go back. One thing making the move easier is how much of our infrastructure was already virtual. We have a small development environment that needed to be moved but outside of that it was just shifting phones and faxes and working with each other to manage the transition.

I have to say I’m excited by the experiment and while I’m still a little bit nervous about things will turn out I have to say I think it is going to be a smashing success. I’ll keep you all in the loop on what we learn a long the way. In the interim if you are considering going remote in whole or in part – check out Remote: Office Not Required – it convinced me that going remote was the best decision we could make for our long term future.

 

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

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

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

Eliminating waste from the bottom up

eliminating waste

One of the things that gets lost in the complexity of getting a job done or doing the next task, is a focus on group work.  You need to be able to take a step back from the pieces of the system that you’re involved in and:

  • understand what’s supposed to come out the other end of the organization

  • what’s the value of what you are doing

  • understand your role in the organization

  • understand how the process within your organization help support that value

Over time, whether you’re management or somebody that is working as a component of that system, it’s important to be able to understand when what you’re doing needs to change. Things you should be asking yourself are:

  • How do I get rid of extraneous actions

  • How do I slim down what we’re doing as an organization so there’s less waste

  • How do we more effectively meet our goals

One of the things that people often don’t think about but it’s of critical importance, is that the things that you do in your day to day job that don’t drive value are things that are making the organization less competitive.  They are the things that are taking you farther away from the goals of your organization.  Waste to the organization aren’t just the big 100, 000 million dollar line items they are the time wasters such as the forms that have no point and the meetings that bring no value. Those things add up and if they are pervasive enough in an organization they can significantly change the competitive landscape. The world is moving towards a higher performing environment  and these time wasters will breed bad consequences for the organizations that don’t eliminate them.

People don’t think of that at Monday morning status meetings that go nowhere as the thing that is going to put the company out of business. While that may not be the one thing that ends an organization; it’s emblematic of things that are happening within the organization on a grander scale that could put you on the brink of going out of business. So I can’t stress how critical it is to focus on the big picture but sweat the details a little bit too. If there are things that you’re doing that don’t add to the bottom line then you really need to question whether you should continue doing them. Those things are by definition luxuries and if you’ve got time wasting meetings that add no value, maybe you’d get more value just by giving people that hour off. Maybe you could get some sort of benefit for being a kinder gentler organization, but certainly  no value status meetings are something to be avoided.

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.

Enterprise Portfolio MANAGEMENT isn’t Application Portfolio Optimization

The portfolio based approach that has been pioneered by companies like Troux and which is now part of the standard lexicon by which organizations discuss their enterprise information technology asset base is creating an incredible lens through which to understand the organization.

It is useful however to distinguish between optimizing your current portfolio and building processes and governance that help you sustain a healthy portfolio. For example application portfolio optimization (APO) which targets redundancy and other inefficiencies in the the existing portfolio does not fix the systemic problem. This portfolio approaches treat the NOW problem. It may save you millions an dit may get you a raise, but the benefits while real are for TODAY. They don’t fix the governance and business process issues that got you into the situation you are in today. Doing that means remaking the decision making processes that got you where you are today. You need to understand the value landscape.

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.

Salesforce and Security: Trust them, it’s in their best interest to care

 

Salesforce and Security

Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service and Software as a Service are being embraced broadly in both the public and private sector. In this video I focus primarily on Software as a Service but I’ll cover each a bit here.

Infrastructure as a Service leads 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. On the other hand it also preserves the organizations ability to maintain much of the precise application profile it currently leverages. This can be a great comfort for organizations that have successful applications supporting capabilities but that are interested in the economics of the cloud.

Platform as a service is sort of the next logical step up from IaaS and helps address some of the complexity issues I mentioned earlier. Finally Software as a service is where I believe organizations have the most potential. There is a much more of a focused value proposition for the business and hopefully a better technology to business mapping. The downside of course is that it involves change and that of course change comes with its own issues. In this video I talk about the above factors and specifically about Software as a Service as embodied by Salesforce.com.

Our experience in getting into the AppEchange and talking to customers has included a lot of learning about how customers think about the cloud and I share some of that as well as our experience in 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? I think one of the keys is that essentially Saleforce.com manages a fairly homogenous technical environment. 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. There is also a heavy incentive to align their security interests and that of their partners with their customers. The dangers of the fall out from a serious breach ensure that they are more likely to err on the side of secure.

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.

Don’t wait for opportunity to knock

Unknown

I think one of the most important things you can do for yourself is take an active interest in your career and search out the best opportunities for you to succeed. It’s critical that you keep your eyes and ears open as you progress through your career. While it’s great to be comfortable it’s also important to keep in mind that the next best job or the next best opportunity isn’t necessarily going to be there when you need it to be there; it’s going to be there on it’s own time.  So maintaining a bit of a monitoring stance is something that can pay dividends.

I’m not saying that this approach is for everybody. There’s a lot ot be said for continuity, being able to grow within an organization, building up trust with other people, and getting the type of satisfaction that comes with achieving complex goals over many years with a tight knit group of people. That’s something that you dont see that often anymore for various reasons.

If you’re even remotely thinking that you might do something a little bit differfent from your current job, you want to do yourself the favor of being proactive about it rather than waiting for something to happen that forces you to. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to look outside your current organization. It could be that you’re not aware of what’s going on within your organization. Make sure that your peers, boss, or upper management are aware of the capabilities that you have to step into some role that you dont have now but you feel that you could succeed in. This is preferable to standing by passively and watching them fill that role and position with somebody from the outside.

It’s important in managing your career that you periodically step back and take a look at the big picture. Ask yourself where do you want to end up in twenty years in order to make sure that you aren’t falling into a comfortable rut. This way you’re able to progress yourself and I think that’s the part that a lot of people don’t get right.  People work to develop their skills and sometimes they forget to look for that great opportunity unitl something forces them to. At that point your stuck with the opportunities that are available at the time and great opportunities don’t always happen on your time; they hapen on their own time.

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.

Customer Focused + Results Driven = Success

Success math problem

I’ve been working in my selected field for many, many years.  For at least the last ten of those years I have been in an owner/senior leadership position within my organization.  Over those years I have learned countless lessons on the do’s and don’ts of entrepreneurship but I’d like to discuss two of some of the most important ones today. The first one I’d like to discuss is a commitment to being customer focused. I’ve found that one of the biggest keys to success is an absolute commitment to customer service.  For more than 10 years I‘ve given every customer I’ve ever had my cell phone number and told him or her they can always call the owner of the company; and I have never regretted giving them that option. Customer service is often the easiest thing you can provide and the thing they will remember most. Repeatable quality is important because your customers will always remember your failures more readily than your success.

If you do have a customer service set back it is critical to immediately be accountable. Accountability is critical in every facet of leadership but with customers, not being accountable will result in a lost customer that never comes back. Real leaders own their mistakes, learn from them and move forward. Occasionally you can even profit on the heels of a customer issue because it highlights an opportunity for improvement. These opportunities are the lifeblood of the entrepreneur.

Another important lesson I’ve learned is that being successful isn’t just being able to spot the opportunity in the mist of trouble but it is being able to tease out the problems you will encounter along the way and work with others to take the data available and make the right decision. Often this means making decisions without all of the information. Entrepreneurial activities often require working in uncharted territory with less than perfect information; this makes ensuring the analysis you have that much more important.

Once you have the information necessary to make the decision or reach the point at which either no more information will be forth coming or where the value of making a decision in the near term outweighs any further certainty in awaiting additional information it is critical to act decisively. Not making a decision is making a decision.

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.