Welcome to our website. Open forum to discuss global thought leadership, Tao of IT Leadership .

The magic “I” of CIO sparks many imaginations: Chief information officer, chief infrastructure officer , Chief Integration Officer, chief International officer, Chief Inspiration Officer, Chief Innovation Officer, Chief Influence Office etc. The future of CIO is entrepreneur driven, situation oriented, value-added , she or he will take many paradoxical roles: both as business strategist and technology visionary, talent master and effective communicator, savvy business enabler and relentless cost cutter

The future of CIO is best practicing the Tao of IT leadership: leading IT to enlighten the customers; enable business success via influence.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Business Strategy Execution Challenges

Strategy execution is not linear steps, but iterative continuum. 

Many companies spend significant portion of time for formulating rock solid strategies, focuses on business strategy development and puts a lot of efforts to develop a great strategy with strategic initiatives. On the other hand, strategy execution does not get the same attention which leads to misalignment with business objectives and not achieving the expected results. But more specifically, what are the business strategy execution challenges?

Strategy implementation complexity due to the velocity and ambiguity of business dynamic. Any leader will say that 'Strategy Execution' trumps 'Strategy Formulation'. It is better to execute a strategy that may be even slightly flawed than to keep on spending time/ effort/resources formulating the 'Best Strategy'. By the time, the strategy formulation is completed; the whole environment may have changed, making the whole 'Best Strategy' redundant. One of the factors for strategies to fail at the implementation phase is its complexity. There’s ambiguity in such strategy. The expectation is not communicated clearly to all and is neither well understood by all stakeholders or well defined into the achievable business goals and objectives. 

Strategy-to-performance gaps: Executing strategy has been and is still an ongoing educational journey. Leaders have now started realizing the interdependence between efforts needed to formulate a strategy and the importance and indeed the need of building internal capabilities to executive it. There are more practical solutions to bridge the strategy-to-performance gap like formulating a strategy committee involving the sponsor and the Strategy Champions. Strategies really are not meaningful unless they include an implementation plan, developed by the stakeholders and the executive team together. Strategies should be simple to be understood by all. A strategy can be defined in following two statements: 1) where should we improve, and 2) how to succeed where we choose to improve. The plan also has to be dynamic so that it can deal with changed conditions and unforeseen circumstances.

Organizational Resistance: Assuming that the Strategy Formulation is properly conducted, the gaps have been identified, the main challenges to Strategy Execution will be 'Organizational Resistance'. There needs to be acquisition of capable personnel to execute those strategies. Create an Operations Plan that details roles and responsibilities, governance, etc; and it should be communicated on regular basis, keeping track if there are any slippage or deviation. It is rather essential to note that strategy is everyone's responsibility and therefore a clear communication to all levels in an organization is indeed a tool that may guarantee successful execution and achieving desired results. One of the key things is that organizations tend to do too much when they are developing their strategic plan. It has more items that can be termed as strategic mission than pure strategic objectives. Along with that the objectives are unclear to most of the stakeholder developing the strategic plan, let alone the people delivering it.

Talent: Talent is the weakest link in strategy execution. Build the right team and empowering them to implement the strategy. Organizations are usually wrong in believing that engaging the management team is enough to build the right team. Managers may or may not be fully respected and followed by team members, but there will be people in the teams who are known for high performance, right attitude of helping co-workers and who are highly regarded and followed by other team members. A strategy implementation team should be built with such people because these are the people who can drive changes efficiently, break the resistance of people and encourage them to accept new changes. It is advisable for any organization to adapt step by step process to manage strategy and build internal capability with it. The process however needs periodical reviews to test if the process is understood by all and that produces expected outcomes.

It’s important to follow the logic steps, but be agile and flexible to adapt to the emerging changes for strategy execution: 1).Identify your Strategy Champions and select qualified execution team, the best people to execute a strategy are those who have contributed to the development of it. 2). Get sponsorship and endorsement from the C-Level for your dynamic plan. 3). Perform consistent clear communication (CCC) between all stakeholders. 4). Conduct periodic follow-ups to review / refresh checkpoints, manage internal / external changes, and mitigate risks. 

It is important to stress the importance of strategy execution. Planning and execution are interdependent. Execution involves more people than strategy.Strategy- execution is no longer linear steps, but the iterative continuum.  

The Agile Way: Is Self-Organizing Team Effective?

Self Management requires the maturity of understanding agile mindset.

Self-organizing teams means knowledge workers have to manage themselves with discipline. Self-organizing teams choose how best to accomplish their work, rather than being directed by others outside the team. Does such self-organizing team still need managers? And, more crucially, is it effective?

Self Management requires the maturity of understanding agile mindset. In order to self- organize adequately, you need all the skills and knowledge needed to do the work. When an organization experiments with the agile way of working for first time, it needs to be choosy in the selection of the members who have the *agile mindset* to prove its success and set as an example to demonstrate its working for the subsequent teams. It is natural that the self organization takes time and it requires a great degree of leadership to handhold them. It would take effort to make team self-organized. So the leadership skills are needed by the Self-Management to coach the team towards self-organization.

Becoming a self-organizing team does not happen overnight. There is the risk that you will be stuck with the team you got given, which will include individuals not ready to self-organize, not prepared to respect other team members, and not inclined to learn how to behavior with self-disciplines. What the agile manifesto says is that the best work comes from self organizing teams. It does not say that all teams should be self-organized. It is unusual that a team self organizes into something that is fair and that enables everyone to have an equal voice and contribute their best. It is an ongoing process to keep tuning the team to deliver high performing result.

Plan Driven vs. Value Driven: Traditional Projects are "Plan Driven" - mostly budget and schedule are estimated and scope is fixed. The project manager (PM) intervenes to manage them. Agile Scrum is "Value Driven" with fixed budget and schedule wherein the scope is estimated by the team based on the high-value items and ROI criteria identified by the product owner (PO). The notion of cost management could be related to the Self Management's view on team velocity, product burn-down charts and evolving agile enterprise value management (EVM).

The well-trained leaders and managers are still important for project and team success. In Agile team setting, the work previously done by the PM is often distributed across multiple roles, especially the Product Owner (PO) and Scrum Master (SM). Some organizations simply change the title of the former PM to PO or SM without providing training or vetting their aptitude of the people for those roles, which are critical for the success of the team. A PM resource and SM resource are not always interchangeable and often have rather different personality types and different drivers for job satisfaction. Therefore, well-trained team leaders or managers are still crucial for project and team success, especially for the situations such as:
(1). When a hybrid Agile approach is necessary in a contracting environment or other similar circumstances that require managing customer expectations 
(2). When you scale a single team to large, complex enterprise-level projects that require integration with other projects or business requirements and/or integration of multiple Agile teams.

Self-organization is an agile way to improve digital workforce’s satisfaction, creativity and productivity. However, it is an ongoing process, and it is also not about eliminating the managers, but need to have high mature, and more effective leaders for oversight, not micro-managing, and deliver ultimate value for customers, not just on-time and on budget.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

CIO’s Profession, Perception and Progression

It is in the tipping point that top performing companies see IT as an asset, capital, and source of competitive advantage.
Compared to other CXOs, CIO role is considerably new with less than three decades history, however, due to the change nature of technology, omnipresence of technology and abundance of  information, the IT leadership role continues to be reimagined, refined, refreshed, and reenergized, here are three Ps of CIO: Profession, Perception and Progression.

CIO Profession: The fundamental of CIO role is to be a "Chief Information Office", as an information steward for the organization; Where CIOs have had success, has been bridging the business value gap. IT has to find ways to measure and value projects that bring value for the business. However, most of IT organizations are struggling with keeping the light on, building to last project with higher failure rate. But is that inadequacy the fault of IT's limited capabilities, or the massive and constant change that pummels IT operations into just keeping up, much less participating in the design of the company's future state? Or maybe it is a business failure to recognize the value IT might be able to bring to the future of the company, given the right leader? The key is creating a framework where IT can see what the business actually values and then, along with the rest of the service lines, hold them accountable for results. So what started as a way to drastically reduce IT's chronic late delivery, turns into an exercise in transparency for both IT and the service line. In general, show value IN BUSINESS TERMS. Be engaged, work hand-in-hand with business players; get them involved. A CIO that is not operating as a C level peer, has, by their very title, created a glass ceiling on the role of IT within the business.

CIO Perception: To expand horizon of IT leadership, CIO can be perceived as "Chief Insight Officer, Chief Innovation Officer and Chief Imagination Officer". In reality, the assumption that granting someone a CXO title suddenly makes them some type of visionary is at odds with reality. Executives, for the most part, do not score very high in visionary acumen. The failure of design thinking in trying to address this issue with executives demonstrated a shortfall of visionary thinking among a leadership that is more interested in quarterly result, incentives, and politics than spending time in innovation. So the future CIOs will needs to capture business insight and develop all necessary skills, to understand the  company value proposal, industry, go to market approach, and business vision to enable company strategy with business solution deliverable. Otherwise, IT Leaders will keep on the path of reactive cost driven operational role and will never strike back. The most successful CIOs have found a way to engage their peers in the creation of value as a true partner, and also to hold them accountable for the value creation. That should always have been the goal.

CIO’s Progression: To stretch out further, CIO can play the role as "Chief Improvement Officer,  Chief Integration Officer and Chief Investment Officer". A good CIO has never just been about 'keeping the lights on': the role has always been about ensuring that technology within a firm is a platform for enabling growth and not a dislocated and disengaged money pit. Driving the business and IT closer together appears to be on the top of every CIOs priority list, but it seems very few are actually successful in doing so. It is in the tipping point that top performing companies see IT as an asset, capital, and source of competitive advantage - something to nurture and embrace. IT in these companies progressively see themselves, not as a service, but an integral enabler of advances in business and even game changer for business’s innovation. There are no walls between IT and the business - they are tightly integrated. Some aspects of IT, in these companies, are commodities ripe for moving up to the Cloud, but core capabilities that can make a unique contribution to business value, are closely held capacities, and market differentiators. 

Many say, CIO’s role is striking back, the forward-looking organizations have to empower their CIOs and engage them in the core business agenda and strategy planning; and CIOs have to proactively work with business partners to focus on business value and cost optimization, progressively transform IT into a high-performing and high-mature innovation engine, to deliver business solution and even game changing for catalyzing strategy execution and long term growth .

A Deep Mind: "IGE" Factors in Digital Leadership Profundity

Leadership not profound, is just like a tree without a root.

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At siloed industrial era, leadership effectiveness is perhaps dependent on the hierarchical level of authority and brute force style of command and control, it's about how loud you can speak or how hard you can push; however, digital flow changes the landscape of communication, collaboration and connection, instead of being loud, digital leadership must go deeper, to touch the heart and mind, to practice the power of pull, to lead via influence, and to harmonize via positivity. Here are IGE factors of leadership profundity.

Insight: Insight is the ability to perceive clearly or deeply penetration. It’s not the acquisition of knowledge that will make the leader, it is the desire to acquire and apply that knowledge, transform into the insight that will make the leader. The difference comes from altitude, attitude and aptitude that drives continuous progress and become better.  To share the insightful quote "don't teach people the knowledge they need, teach them the desire to learn.” Leadership in itself is a purpose driven, constant learning process that requires the leader to build experience and to share insight. Furthermore, insight is being able to identify the root cause of a problem or the core issues of a situation which lead to understanding and resolution in systematic way. Too often people may take easy path, think and work at a superficial level rather than spending time to understand what is going on underneath. Insight is an understanding of cause and effect based on identification of relationships and behaviors within a model, context, or scenario. The more complex the situation is, the more different approaches and role gaming is needed to reach for understanding, insight takes both creativity and reasoning, intuition and logic, the power of acute observation and deduction, questioning, connection, penetration, discernment and perception. An insightful digital leader has better chance to figure out the “secret sauce” to blend the color of character and make influence via wisdom and cognizance.

Gravitas: Gravitas is a mindset. Leadership is not about acting, it's about how you can generate a specific energy in yourself to help consciously and consistently create the authentic impact you choose. Gravitas is neither defined by external environments nor external pressures but is ultimately defined by the character traits of leaders and profundity of their leadership. Gravitas and humility have similarity, but also different. Humility is more attitude driven, with such humbleness, but gravitas can mean even more, it could be situation driven, it means consistency, persistence, steadiness, confidence or even a piece of pride, to be who you are and what you do. It takes breadth of understanding upon situation and depth of cogitative insight upon circumstances to have nature magnet to cause so called gravitas.

Empathy: Digital is the age of empathy, it is the ability to think as if you were in the other person’s position, empathy conveys the RESPECT which is crucial to bind peer-to-peer relationship and connect the mind and touch the heart. Without empathy, there cannot be rapport and thus no sustainable business relationships. As the world moves into a hyper-connected and interdependent digital relationship age, empathy is the single defining quality that will distinguish great leaders from the rest, to go deeper, not louder; first understand, then be understood; first listen, then make a conversation; first envision, then communicate; first observe, then perceive; first learn to absorb knowledge, then capture insight, and gain wisdom. Leadership influence via empathy is one of those things that makes the human world go round, being coherent with its physical shape, and being harmonized with nature ecosystem.

Go one inch deeper, the leadership can be 1000 times+ more effective. To achieve this ideal or philosophy we must nurture the ATTITUDE and build it with the APTITUDE. Leadership like the Sea, shall be profound to embrace the differences; leadership also like the valley, shall be deep to amplify the influence.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Big Data, Big Puzzle

Big Data is about harnessing largesse and being adaptive enough to respond to change.

Big Data is still a big puzzle for many organizations. The term "Big Data" was first used as a reference for all the data generated by / through the internet...the largest amount of data ever generated by mankind... afterwards. "Big Data" is a concept where at its purist and fundamental level is the attempt to try to leverage the inner-connected nature of data that is collected during the operation of any enterprise. 

So in a nut shell, "BIG DATA" means crap lots of data -it is data that needs more than just the standard commodity products, databases and systems to support it. If it can be supported by commodity products (traditional load balancing engines, etl tools, shared-everything SMP servers and standard network devices), and if it can be said that the query turnaround time doesn't really matter, then the enterprise has no real "big data" issue. Their data's not big enough to qualify and their data demands are not pressing enough to move-the-needle. On the other hand if an enterprise has data tables that are in the tens-of-billions of rows, of structured data, then it is very difficult to disqualify this as "big data". It's data and it's pretty big.

Five “V”s of Big Data: Volume, Velocity, Variety, Veracity and Value. Big Data can mean large data sets, but is more about the combination of different types of data together that allow you to answer key questions about your business. It can be as big and complex as you want it to be, but needs to answer the critical questions you can't answer by looking at multiple systems with tidbits of data. Big Data is nothing more nothing less than data with more Volume, at insane Velocity, coming from a Variety of sources and with high Variety when it comes to the metadata. It also has to be true (Veracity) and it has to bring Value to your working environment

Big Data initiative: Many organizations are taking Big Data initiatives, such initiatives may have more than one of the following characteristics:
- Petabytes of data used for analytics
- denormalized / semi structured and unstructured data used for analytics
- the implementation of Hadoop and related technology
- the use of analytic data for predictive analyses and data mining

Dig through the HOW: Big Data is not being utilized to its full potential for anything and everything from analytic to process. After clarifying the WHAT is Big Data, let's "start focusing on the HOW ".
- How many types of Data you are gathering / generating / creating / capturing as our Inputs for our Organization? 
-Whether the present Inputs (if any) are sufficient for the Organizational Goals / Aims? 
-Whether any duplication s found in the present Inputs? Can it erected & shorten the Inputs? 
-What & where you should add new Points / information in previous Inputs Formats to get the proper results? 

The "big data" realm is not about unstructured data, but about harnessing largesse and being adaptive enough to respond to change. To put simply, Big Data is not the end, the end is how to capture the business insight from the big data, and leverage it for enabling business growth and improving customer satisfaction.

How to best strengthen your systems thinking muscles?

System thinking encourages learning, questioning, analyzing & synthesizing, and exploring the multiple perspectives to understand things in profundity. 

Some people are satisfied with the first thing that comes to their mind, some dig deeper. When the digital world has become over-complex and so ambiguous, systems thinking needs to be a mainstream mindset. Systems thinking is the process of understanding how things, regarded as systems, influence one another within a whole (Wikipedia). How does a "Systems Thinker" think differently than a non-systems thinker? And how to best strengthen your system thinking muscles?

Never stop asking questions and start asking them as early as possible. Whatever is said is said by an observer: so question what others say, question what you say, question what everybody seems to assume (or not) from what others say, question the hypothesis, and question the facts too.  The simple, but open ended question such as: "what else?" can frame the thinking in systematic way: 
- did I overlook 
- should it be distinguished 
- Which system should I consider? 
- Which perspective should I consider? What perspective am I taking that might blind me to other things I could have distinguished otherwise
- What makes them (perspectives/models) what they are 
- 'What happens if?' 'How would that affect this?' Do we agree this is reality?' 'WHY!?

A system thinker can see the patterns others may not, such as: 1) See the invisible behind the visible 2) See the connections and interdependence 3) See how things in the 'now' came from the past 4) See how changes would happen over time 5) What small change can be made that might effectively change the future significantly 6) What consequences can be created through actions.

Systems Thinkers is using Systems Thinking to understand problems A systems thinker knows 
1) Correlation doesn't necessarily mean causation; 
2) When things are not independent to one another they may act as a complex system, where simple logic can hardly help; 
3) People always make mistakes, including yourself, and sometimes, including non-living creatures; 
4) Things may fall into different levels, rules at one level may not work at the other level; 
5) ACTS by gathering data and testing assumptions to validate their understanding before tinkering ...... 

Systems thinking can help create common rationale ground between different perspectives. Become aware of the hypothetical imperative for thinking systemically in order to act on the imperative by constraining possibilities while aiming at its ends.
1). Focus on emergence and emergent properties and how those are created 
2). Think holistically and synthetically, understanding the parts by reference to the whole rather than the other way round (which is classical analysis) 
3). Focus on the nature of relationships rather than just on entities 
4). Use of formal/explicit modeling of relationships / connections 
5). Model loops rather than just linear cause and effect relationships 
6). Explore multiple perspectives- the ability to 'step outside' of the system and adopt different perspectives to gain understanding is also an essential skill of a ST
7). Ability to shift focus repeatedly and fast, from the whole to the detail elements and their relationships
8). Modeling about defining the boundary 

System Thinking is essentially a lifetime learning experience, and one never gets to total mastery. It encourages learning, questioning, analyzing & synthesizing, and exploring the multiple perspectives to understand things in profundity. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

CIO's Self Reflection: Are you a technologist or business leader

The CIO must now wear many hats, and see the forest through the trees.

Due to the change nature of technology, CIO role continues to be shaken up, refined, reinvented and reenergized; CIOs also have to do self-reflection: are you a tactical IT manager or business strategist? Are you a technology specialist or a specialized generalist? Are you a firefighter or a senior business adviser, or more simply, are you a technologist or business leader? Are they mutually exclusive? If not, shall you, or can you become both?

Technologist vs. Business leader: A technologist is somebody who is a subject expert, a technology specialist who has in-depth knowledge of a specific IT subject. This requires no leadership, strategic or management abilities. But digital blurs the business and technology, even the SME (subject matter expertise) nowadays shall understand business, and speak the common business language when needed. A business leader is somebody who can lead from the front or behind & has no requirement to get into the bits and bytes of technology details, but with the omnipresence of IT consumerization, all leaders shall have certain level of digital fluency and acquire necessary knowledge to understand IT better.

CIO needs to be a business leader first, technology leader second. A CIO first needs to be as a business leader in strategy deployment to engage the IT role and facilitate in the technologist role. Then in the technology role, A CIO needs to have a sharp mind to leverage business initiatives in artful design using cloud, mobile, analytics, and wearable technologies. The best CIOs tend to describe themselves as business leaders, and as a result of that attitude and belief they align better with the needs of the business. But they have to understand the technology, and have to be able to drive technology to a business end. Without either one, you're handicapped. There are many good business leaders who failed because they didn't understand the technology, or good technologists are not good leaders because they didn't have cognizance of the business.

CIO's insight of IT must be a mile wide and an inch deep. In depth understanding IT improves CIO leadership effectiveness in managing staff and partners. Every CxO should be a business leader. Having strong business and leadership capabilities should be hygiene factors only, not the main differentiator at the C-team level. CIOs should uniquely provide a knowledge of and responsibility for technology, the same as a CFO brings finance knowledge and owns a number of finance/accounting. Technology leaders may not be effective to lead technology savvy IT staff if they had little understanding of the technology they are responsible for. They didn't have the technical depth or interest to effectively recruit, understand team and supplier challenges, provide on-the-spot rough estimates to the C-team, sniff out looming technical risk/debt crises and were ignorant of emergent technology waves that could help the business. CIO's knowledge of technology must be deep enough to offer the Business solutions that drive costs low, and brings about an effective operations. The variety of modern IT technology and their rapid obsolescence assumes that it almost impossible to know all IT technologies. In the best case CIO's knowledge of IT must be a mile wide and an inch deep. CIO, in all fairness, must be a Technology Leader, who, in an increasingly technology-centric business environment, must make decisions that matter; around strategy and IT. It is strategy that "drives" the business. CIOs must anticipate changes to their business and respond before the business come knocking.

The CIO must now wear many hats, and see the forest through the trees. In most organizations, the IT leader is positioned to understand the business across the enterprise ("Seeing the forest through the trees"). When he/she can accomplish that goal, that is when IT can drive value into the organization. Then your IT leadership expertise as a technologist can shine most effectively because you are business enablers, from internal support to Sales, Marketing, Finance-billing, Operations, Customer Care and Satisfaction, and lastly reporting all of the above. It is all about the business value, personal or functional. And that value can be tangible or intangible. It is about leadership, CIOs are responsible for delivering value, enabling and catalyzing the business and beyond. The modern CIO must have a balance of technology and business knowledge. A good modern CIO operates with terms like "profit growth", "cost optimization" and "increase productivity". And, of course, he or she must be a business leader. On the other hand, the position of CIO means that you have to strike the right balance between business demands and the cost of technical solutions and risks. You can't separate technical skills of CIO from his/her business skills. In this situation you must be like two-faced Janus - first face should see the future of business and speak on business language and at the same time the second face must evaluate technical risks and cost of solution for your company.

Increasingly the CIO looks to play a role of supplementing the business Vision with technology as the accelerator and Innovator, The growth mind and egoless adaptation is important for improving CIO leadership maturity. Business leadership skill and technical knowledge are all critical requirements, and believe different organization needs different type of CIO with the knowledge balance point fits its needs and culture. It is a hard role and a slippery slope to balance them both successfully, but that is why it is an increasingly critical senior leadership role to make cross-functional influence and beyond.

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