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.

Monday, September 29, 2014

IT Governance Approaches and Practices

The emerging digital IT trends such as Cloud, Moble, Social and Big Data brings both unprecedented opportunity for business growth, and also expose business to the higher risk than ever, so what is the best approach to begin implementing formal IT Governance specifically aimed at improving the quality of demand? How can the "competition" for finite dollars be structured so that the end game, best benefit for the enterprise, is achieved? 

Each Organization is different; hence, IT governance should be looked more holistically in an enterprise. Start with the Board and C-Level sponsorship and the recognition by the officer team that the IT dollars are an enterprise resource and are finite, and must be leveraged to the benefit of the enterprise. IT governance's purpose is to facilitate all business units in competing for the dollars based on benefit to the enterprise. The holistic approach for IT governance has been the one which has aligned the framework approach with tailored IT organization’s governance capability:  
A) Maturity of IT function and the expectations business leaders have from IT
B) Immediate and Long term Priorities of Organization
C) Ways of working, political equations among key leaders and Decision making approach in the organization.

Understand the Operating Style of Organization. Who holds the decision making power, Is it with the CEO, Board, CFO, PE Investors or someone else. Know what view each of the CXO roles has on organization priorities and the role they consider IT has in the organization.
There is no reason the executive team shouldn't be completely aware of where and how IT assets are being deployed. IT priorities become the Board and senior executive team’s priorities, as it should be. Regarding the CIO, he/she has to keep explaining what they are doing to make operations more efficient, outside consultants, benchmarks etc. The CIO's willingness to do anything to improve IT performance usually puts more pressure on the justifications the other officers are offering. CIO can then be measured on what he/she has committed to do without all the second guessing about what IT is working on. 

Begin with the CIO identifying every component of cost associated from "keeping the lights on" to business value-adding.  Informally the resources can be bucketed under the run, grow, transform category at the broad organization level. This will help the organization keep a tab on the type of the expenditure and ensure that a significant portion of the resource is used to create new capabilities which help business transform. Then the current approved projects by title, executive sponsor, budget, schedule and resources dedicated to each project. Next in exactly the same format, show the requested projects for which there are no resources in the current budget. This should give a clear idea about the maturity of IT function (Sourcing Unit, Order Taker, Solution Provider, Innovation Partner) - A CXO survey could help at this stage.

Establish IT governance body, principle and disciplines: By Now some pain points from IT would have surfaced (Delayed Projects, Cost Overrun, No Innovation, No business involvement, Rouge IT) – Every organization will have some quandaries with IT. What’s the role of ITSC: what’s the composition and size of the IT Steering Committee (ITSC)? How much of a decision making body (vs. advisory or discussion forum) is the ITSC and how do they make those decisions? How does one keep the ITSC focused on WHAT IT should work on and not? HOW IT accomplishes it ("If IT was more efficient at keeping the lights on, we could have more dollars to spend on new things")? Once the ground is firmed up, a formal IT Governance can be established – Consider following
a. IT Operations - Service Catalog , SLA 
b. Business Management- Projects, Innovation, Demand 
c. Sourcing - Vendor Management and Control 
d. Organization Structure, Learning, Leadership Development
e. Data, Process , Architecture etc 
f. Security and Compliance – Information Security, Risk and Compliance

IT governance practices: Execution Approach could consider following in any order what works best for your organization
a. Newsletters – Issue Newsletters, Broadcasting good and bad about IT, This could be about ROI of IT, Project delays, Benefits Realization etc
b. Gamifcation - Create IT scorecards and benchmarking performance of business units on IT benchmarks to generate a spirit of competition
c. Decision Entities – Implement Delegation of Authority for IT, This way all the decisions are not cascaded up to IT Steering Committee. Let the Project Manager and Business Manager resolve some things at their own level. 
d. Audits – While no one likes them, However sometimes they just help in drawing attention to CXO’s ears . Partner with the Audit team and explore how they can help.
e. End to End Demand Management Process – Implement an end to end Demand management process which takes care of new project validation, business case approval, project development and design, user training and rollout, user adoption and change management and benefits realization.

Governance is like steering wheel, high effective IT governance must create good IT performance, not only for keeping the light on, especially for the long run business growth. IT governance is converging with corporate governance. The companies which have good performance must have good governance structure and behavior as well.

Business Leaders’ Strategy Execution Mentality

Strategy-Execution continuum is perhaps the most significant business activity life cycle in modern business today. Crafting a fine strategy is an easy part, the real challenge is how to execute it and achieve the high performance result.  So how can a leader foster the right set of values and qualities in order to form an execution mentality?
·         Vision: Eyes on the destination, in order to see the return on the hard work before the return comes.
·         Passion/Drive, in order to stick to the task when the task is hard.
·         Inspiration, in order to rally the troops to action and help them understand the importance. Instilling a healthy sense of urgency, building trust.

·         Understanding: to truly begin a path of execution we must understand the core values a leader should develop in themselves and their teams.
·         Focus: ability to get attention when needed and ability to accomplish what some think is impossible!
·         Intelligence: Being able to plan in a way that's highly acceptable to the team, willingness and ability to play roles at different levels
·          Flexibility: A leader should be able to create alternatives and choose the right one amongst those alternatives.
·         Delegating: Being great at follow-up. Knowing when to make changes, large or small, to the plan. Recognition for those who go 'the extra mile'.
·         Humility: Knowing the limits and drive to test the limits,
·         Learning agility: Willingness to learn newer things, ability to see the risks in advance and identify the contingencies.
·         And a few more qualities can be - ability to strike a balance, ability to identify the root cause for the issues on hand, encouraging organizational cultural changes and rock the boat when necessary, constantly question the status-quo...

The strengths of highly effective leader includes zest, optimism, intelligence and humility. Good leaders have to be able to give people WHAT THEY NEED WHEN THEY NEED IT to move the followers needle. As leaders you can only do one of two things, either give direction or support. Great leaders can identify which is necessary and when, whether it be to individuals or groups, thus creating the motivating environment which people gladly follow and execute strategy relentlessly. 

Strategic KPIs vs. Operational KPIs

Strategic-operational KPIs alignment gives the organization a powerful tool to use when implementing change.

KPIs are indicators to identify if the adopted strategy, operation and process, etc is working toward the objective. As such, you don't "adopt" a KPI to "achieve an outcome", you adopt a strategy or operational workflow to achieve the outcome, and you define KPIs to monitor the progress and performance. That’s the name KPI –Key Performance Indicators stand for. The provocative question is: is it possible to link operational KPI's to strategic ones to reflect and track the overall progress in achieving the strategic goals? 

 It is imperative that you link lower level metrics with higher level strategic objectives. That’s what most of the strategy management methodologies are all about; hierarchies that are in alignment and that support the corporate objectives. Most strategies that do fail, it fail not because the fundamental strategy is flawed, but because of poor execution of an otherwise sound strategy, through misalignment and mis-communication. It should be the primary purpose of your measurement framework and metrics dictionary to creating a set of relevant operational KPIs. For example linking your key performance indicators to other performance indicators which should link all the way back to your transactional metrics found in your source systems.

The linkage of strategic KPIs and operational KPIs is NECESSARY. One of the greatest breaks in closing the loop in any organization's CPM system is that what's measured on a frequent basis, what is built into individual performance management objectives, what is tracked and worked toward is separate from the strategic goals of that organization. This makes "strategy" a separate and distinct executive exercise with little relevance to operators, finance, and managers. It also makes it nearly impossible to cascade appropriately to create alignment. So-called Balanced Scorecard strategy maps where there seems to be a certain amount of hand-waving and big words attempt to link strategic objectives with department, team and individual measures. But if you trace from the valuable products/deliverables, services, and information that the company and its functions must deliver to achieve business goals back to departmental outputs and team/individual work outputs, then the linkage between strategic and operational can be relatively transparent. But it requires that you understand your business from a cross-functional process perspective in some detail.

Business should be able to define and align Operational KPIs to Strategic KPIs for successful tracking of effectiveness of Strategic KPIs. The effective way to track the achievement of strategic goals is to cascade those down throughout the organization with the use of operational KPIs. The cascaded approach is the best for two primary reasons. First it allows the KPIs to be actionable when the targets are missed. Since the higher level KPIs are tied to the next lower level you can easily drill down and see which component of the top level KPI is off target. This allows you to focus your fix efforts. This is particularly critical if you are to get employee understanding of what the strategic goals are and how their work fits into that bigger picture. For instance, a strategic goal might be to improve customer satisfaction levels, which might then break down into sub-objectives. However, this does NOT mean that the only KPIs used are those for the strategy. It also does NOT mean that every level of employee gets the same KPIs, or the same interconnected score card as does the executive team. It DOES mean that at operation level, there should be some metrics that can be tied directly to achieving strategic goals, so that EVERY employee knows how their role fits in, and can be freed up to do what they can to try to achieve the desired strategic outcomes.

Also don't forget that often the path between strategic and operational measurements is via tactical measures. Put another way, in between your scorecards/dashboards and your operational reports sit your summary, management and analytical reports. It is possible to connect as well the KPI and the KRI on the strategic level towards the tactical KPI's and KRIs connected to the operational ones, so that there is one truth in the company connected to the strategy.
1) At a bare minimum, you have to test to make sure that operational metrics are not in conflict with strategic objectives or with each other among different functional groups. Minimizing customer service call time may be all well and good for department cost objectives, but at odds with higher level customer satisfaction goals. Minimizing product costs in design may be at odds with corporate quality goals. 

2) Lower level operational metrics nearly always fall hierarchically under some higher level general goal, such as profitability, quality, customer satisfaction, time to market, innovation, treatment of employees, etc … if the operational metrics do NOT measurably support a higher level metric or general objective, and/or are not positively correlated with the expected strategic result, then WHY are you tracking them in the first place? Drop them in favor of other metrics that do translate into your strategic goals.

Strategic-operational KPIs alignment gives the organization a powerful tool to use when implementing change. When changing a process or organization, you have to come up with new ways to measure the success of the change. Those new metrics must still tie into the 'parent' KPIs so employees understand better how they fit into the new world. Part of redesigning a process and getting better buy-in from employees is increasing their understanding of why you're changing, and what the benefits are. Being able to show those benefits in hard facts such as measurements helps greatly.

Digital Mindset Tuning: A “Fearless” Mind

 Fear is the human nature, overcome it if it drags you down to the negativity and defect your leadership influence; and dig it through if 'only the paranoid survives' in such a complex and ambiguous world.

Fear is an emotion induced by a threat perceived by living entities, which causes a change in brain and organ function and ultimately a change in behavior. (Wikipedia) This is a subtle point about mindsets and their impact on one’s thinking and reacting. Accepting does not mean that you like it or despise it.  From leadership perspective, a courageous leader fear less and drive human progress relentlessly; from management perspective, building a “fearless” working environment means to inspire openness, innovation and critical thinking, and empower talent to unleash their potentials with less fear. And at the digital age, a “fearless” mind has more bold-in perspectives:

 Natural leaders don’t feel fear to be different; to lead in the digital way means to be more transparent and holistic, there is a need to do away with the fear of being different. The fear of being noticed, of being laughed at or rejected prevents many to step out and lead the way into the unknown. Nature leaders just express themselves in the way they perceive the world, situations, people, projects, work etc., but the way that they communicate with others around them, could scare their managers. Sometimes, natural leaders without that role intimidate others inside the organizations, and here is where we can find a good challenge to work inside the companies’ development, relationships, achieves and more. It involves us being able to rise above our differences to reach a level of cognizance and each individual has the option of giving in to fear or facing it and learning what the implications are. 

The fearless digital leaders build around a foundation of character not charisma; or rewards without real value; the failure in not being what you are in the end means you are at risk to all. This is because going against tradition by trying something different that might not work makes you vulnerable. By stepping out, the fear falling off trying that the unexpected might happen and getting hurt by being exposed in the process is a function of your Ego. These are action steps you will have to take in your mind first. 1). Leader must believe in his/her vision.  2) Leader must feel the passion for the thing is doing. 3). Leader must know the ways to get it, like master the actions. 4) Leader must hear others, specially the team. 5) Leader must walk the talk. 

A culture of fear and mistrust drains energy and thwarts creativity. There is fear, there is no trust. This is true within an organization, a community and one’s own personal life. The feeling of fear is a power unto itself. Fear can paralyze an individual to do nothing and/or to become manipulated/a prisoner to the power of fear.  Fear will drive you away from your personal goals, your ambitions, your standards and norms. Likewise, fear can paralyze a company to maintaining status quo refusing to adapt to change. It turns to become such counter- productive behavior when the contribution of others offers the potential to add so much value. Hence, the well alignment of integrated leadership and change management can help stretching one’s comfort zones beyond status quo, improve the culture of openness and overcome the negative 'fear' syndrome. 

Sow the positive digital seeds. To be an authentic leader by leading a connected and influential digital way, you need shape the fearless mindset to continuously spray the seeds of mutual trust on the soil of the environment in which you and your followers breathe in. These seeds are INTEGRITY (truth and transparency), RESPECT (esteem for other’s worth and capabilities), EMPATHY (see things through others’ lens) and GRATITUDE (appreciation for the good action of others). If your followers see you doing this all the time and without any fanfare, the mutual trust will skyrocket and they will perceive you as a true and exemplary leader.

Confident Managers/Leaders shouldn’t feel fear to have other leaders inside their teams; they must work with them to improve their area and it could be an easy way to enhance productivity, improve process and help others to keep going. It goes without saying that fear affects not only the individual’s ability to take responsibilities but his/her productivity, creativity, happiness and it might have negative impact to his/her professional growth as well. It takes a level of consciousness to recognize fear and control is driven by insecurity. You can't change others, their insecurities, their fear, but you can change your own response.

It will be na├»ve to conclude that fear is bad in totality! As a human being or a human entity (organization), we are and will always be subjected to various emotions (positive and negative), Feelings (soothing or irritating), and actions (right or wrong). The problem comes when we label them good or bad in totality and create a fixed mindset to react to that label. Our label of totally bad paralyses us, and make us defensive and our level of totally good causes euphoria in us and makes us over-confident. In either case, our overall curiosity and creativity get limited and we don’t achieve up to our full potential. 

Fear is the human nature, overcome it if it drags you down to the negativity; and dig it through if only the paranoid survives in such a complex and ambiguous world.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Excellent Customer Service as the Differentiator

Every touch point of customer experience become the potential growth opportunity for business.

Being customer centric has become the mantra for many forward-looking businesses, as digital is the era of customer empathy. And excellent customer service is the differentiator and competitive advantage for organizations to compete for the future.

Digital consumers do expect to be treated personally. The hyper-connective nature of digitalization and interdependent trait of globalization make business prospects and existing customer more careful, more selective and much more demanding. Quality products are a prerequisite, but excellent customer care and customer centricity makes the difference. Also, they deserve a premium service and experience the same one you would like to have. 

The company that is built upon strong customer service culture can win the game for long run. The human factor is the one making the differentiation. One way to really grasp how to leverage this is to understand why customer service is such a differentiator. That it comes down to each individual, how we connect, engage, and earn their trust. This same individual can have a huge impact on influencing their friends to purchase the product or service. The 3 critical areas to customer service success are:
1) Customer
2) Staff
3) Organization

Excellent Customer Service has always been the differentiation when all else is seemingly equal. That's the only way the giant industry bellweather can build the reputation and brand from the long term strategic perspective; and a small boutique company can compete with the large firms in the industry. If you are unable to build up a good reputation your market is closing up on you, sooner than you think more and more clients will be less open minded doing business with you. 

Customer service was always a serious differentiator.  But, it wasn't highlighted as such largely because either the customers had lesser expectations (either due to less awareness or just per se) at industrial speed, as well as because other differentiators (tech, price, quality, reputation etc) were placed front; now at digital speed,  every touch point of customer experience become the potential growth opportunity for business, the customer service and experience are put at front and center in people's minds. Add to this huge awareness, 'always connected' social exchanges, Customer Service is finally getting its true place on the podium.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Inflection Point to Cloud

The trend to cloud is shaping the new mindset to run IT and business.

The transition to cloud solutions is inevitable. We're hitting an inflection point where businesses are moving from traditional industrial IT environments to digital cloud-based environments. But how can IT leaders embrace the opportunity and prepare for such challenge?

Start with big WHY: The message needs to be complemented with why moving into the cloud is important & inevitable for CIOs. In terms that CIOs can truly relate to, why moving into the cloud is such a potential game-changer for Corporate IT. What is compelling is that adopting the cloud can enable Corporate IT to focus more on being a strategic partner to the business, by bridging the Business-Technology divide and applying technology to help drive business objectives, rather than being mired in IT operations and executable tasks. Private, Public, Hybrid – Understanding the different values, obstacles, intricacies, etc. is the key to utilizing this new technology trend and in fact any new technology. What are the needs of your business? What are the legacy dependencies? A lack of innovation can cripple any organization - but in order to innovate, you have to know and understand your own weaknesses and strengths.

Orchestrate a holistic cloud strategy: There are both on the need for the CIO to be proactive about the move to the cloud, and for the critical need to train IT teams to be business teams - that really communicate and deliver business value. That's critical for the move to the cloud – orchestrate a holistic cloud strategy, but push the cloud envelop step-by-step. Cloud solutions could be the way for minimizing cost of core business and maximizing the availability of your IT services, but be careful on this way - not all troubles could be resolved using escape to the cloud. Cloud isn't a silver bullet and in some cases transition to the cloud will bring you more headache than advantages. Therefore, a well-crafted strategy will help organizations lead toward cloud with confidence and preparation.

The mindset between running IT on-premise vs. in the cloud is definitely different; and CIOs & senior IT management need to anticipate and manage the "change management" aspect of the transition. The trend to cloud is shaping the new mindset to run IT and business. There are needs for new knowledge, skills and tools, should you gain it from training, or other approaches. We can't ignore IT trends, and moving to the cloud implies driving many changes in an organization and the CIO and IT professionals must be trained for this. With increased usage of cloud based technologies and convergence of corporate and personal data, there have to be whole new thought process on data security and governance. Today organizations have selective approach that need to take additional awareness of what cloud based tech is needed; you also can't lose sight of its cost -- Each initiative should carefully weigh all factors before assuming that cloud based is the way to go. CIOs with good business sense must use their technical folks (who may not be business-minded) to ask the right technical questions before a migration to a cloud platform occurs. To say that IT staff must become more business minded at the expense of their technical acumen is short-sighted. We need good technical people to stay technical and ask the right questions of the cloud vendors.

Negotiation and contract management. It’s up to CIO’s understanding and capability to face and address the challenges. On one hand, every IT project is business project, business buy-in is crucial for project success; on the other hand, it could imply a more hands on, technical-centric focus that such shift will bring. There are two additional skills needed to make this transition are negotiation and contract management. Moving anything outside the organization requires careful consideration, internal and external negotiation, and close ongoing management of the services and level of services contracted and being delivered. CIOs who focus only on the business case may lack the skills to properly vet cloud solutions and cause tremendous harm to their organizations by working with a vendor who does not deliver what is promised.

The Cloud is the future of IT. CIO's that grasp this and move toward it will be ahead of the curve. And a cloud-ready, business oriented CIO can play in organizations today is like the proverbial forest not being seen through the trees. Cloud deployments lead to new opportunities and alleviate staff shortages that exist. Change is natural, embrace it; don't get run over by it. “You can be the subject of a strategic inflection point; or you can be the cause of one.”  - Andrew Grove 

Problem-Solving Mindset

Problems-solving mindset has synthetic nature with multi-level thinking process involved, such as strategic thinking, system thinking, critical thinking, creative thinking and empathetic thinking. etc.

The lack of problem-solvers is a problem for this world. Problem-solving has no equal in the development of intellect and becoming more human. What’s the problem-solving mindset though?

It takes big picture type of strategic thinking and the scientific logic of system thinking to dig through the root cause of problems.  It is sense of perspective, stepping back to see a bigger picture than others. For those who are trying to solve problems, they may find the problems evolving as they try different solutions. These are complex problems that may be difficult to tame. Probably, an integrated approach includes the systematic analysis of, and perspective on the others' failures; breakdown and the transformation of one difficult problem into the easier ones. Hence, fact finding and prototyping with the problem-solving mindset that cycling back through the process might be necessary so the best solution is found in overcoming the challenges.

It takes critical thinking to frame the right problem and empathetic thinking to address the correct need. Problem solving is about seeing a problem and actually finding a solution to that problem. Ultimately addressing the correct need is what determines the right problem. It's called empathy. It’s the ability (and desire) to look through the eyes of someone else; and to see what they see - as if you were that person - but without ever losing the "as if" part. That is, being who you are while you are looking... because you care enough to want to see both why and what the way they do - even if that way is different to what and the way you see things. 

Apply the creativity in a recursive way for problem solving. “…creative and methodical solvers exhibited different activity in areas of the brain that process visual information. The pattern of “alpha” and “beta” brainwaves in creative solvers was consistent with diffuse rather than focused visual attention. This may allow creative individuals to broadly sample the environment for experiences that can trigger remote associations to produce an Aha! moment… In addition to contributing to current knowledge about the neural basis of creativity, this study suggests the possible development of new brain imaging techniques for assessing potential for creative thought, and for assessing the effectiveness of methods for training individuals to think creatively.“  -Academic study

It also takes collective thinking and collaborative mindset to brainstorm the solutions. One of the problems with brainstorming in an organizational context is that everyone thinks it is easy! The reality is that a competent facilitator (brought in at the right point -the beginning) will spend as much effort in 'problem identification' as in solution finding. In reality the leadership team have often decided they know what the problem is and then you end up with the situation you have identified. There is as much creative thinking, critical thinking, strategic thinking and system thinking that goes into problem identification as well as solution discovering! 

Problem-solving is a mindset with curiosity, self-inclusiveness, creativity and progression.  Human nature is one of the components in a self-inclusive model: in other words they should be included as partners in taking challenges of solving complex problems facing in humanity.

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