Welcome to our blog, the digital brainyard to fine tune "Digital Master," innovate leadership, and reimagine the future of IT.

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, and transform the business into "Digital Master"!

The future of CIO is digital strategist, global thought leader, and talent master: leading IT to enlighten the customers; enable business success via influence.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Flexibility and the ability to be drive radical business changes in pursuit of competitive advantage will define successful businesses in the future.
One of LinkedIn CIO discussions about the survey: "outsourcing takes big turn back in last two years and insourcing increased 35%. What are you seeing?” spur many quality comments about IT sourcing strategy, the other IT survey also shows: now most of customers, large or small, prefer to have more flexibility, do not like to tie into multi-year contract, on the other side, vendors may attract customers to mega-deal via pricing discount., etc. Insourcing vs. Outsourcing: Five Principles to Define IT Sourcing Strategy

The world becomes more complex, change is accelerated, the present shift to insourcing those functions once again is an indicator that organizations are realizing they need greater flexibility and agility, which is a little more difficult to achieve when functions are outsourced.. Bsiness and IT also have more sourcing choices than ever, insourcing, outsourcing, on shore, near shore, off shore, and public/hybrid/private cloud sourcing, with all these, how to craft a good IT sourcing strategy?

1. IT Sourcing is Critical Element of Business/IT Strategy

IT sourcing is crucial for IT strategy –to decide what kind of IT organization you need become and climb IT maturity,  IT strategy is integral part of business strategy, that’s why IT sourcing will directly impact business’s strategy, innovation and vendor relationship for long term:

  • Business/IT Strategy: Business strategy is about diagnosing business problems, making a set of choices, following the guideline to take actions in order to compete for the future. IT as business enablers, is the means to the end, not the end, the end should be business agility, elasticity, flexibility and resilience. Many of times, business can’t articulate what they need, so centralized IT should collaborate with business to become value center. IT also need categorize its services into competitive necessities and competitive uniqueness, differentiate core from chore, focus on value delivery, taking continuous journey on consolidation, rationalization, integration, modernization and optimization via leveraging effective IT sourcing solutions.
  • Culture of Innovation:  Fully outsourcing IT services may present a challenge to creating a culture of innovation, achieving speed to market, and providing superior customer service/quality for companies in a dynamic and competitive market within the context of emerging mobile, social, and cloud computing technologies.
  • Vendor Evaluation/ Relationship Management: Sourcing can no longer just consider cost, it's also about evaluating vendor's innovation capability, leverage expertise, add alternative brainpower & talent pool, and appreciate "take extra mile" attitude, to build up solid partner relationship for long term. First of all, business & IT need understand how to create value proposition in innovative service/products, customer experience and operational excellence, in which internal IT can do great job to orchestrate business capabilities; then IT may leverage vendors' strength, to complement the skills and strength. Also take consideration of vendor's soft competency such as take extra miles attitude, innovation capability and niche point, etc

2. You Can’t Outsourcing What you Don’t Understand

 Outsourcing and offshoring were never silver bullets for process inefficiencies or bad organizational design. There was too much of "my mess for less". Add in the cultural and communication issues,  the turnover and cost inflation in available resource pools, there was always going to be a point at which the reality overcame the theory.  The business also should no longer talk about outsource jobs to take political pressure, they are looking at both technical value and BUSINESS value a provider can put on the table of long term strategy.

That said,  first, business may still need "shoot the tangle, in order to see from different angle" internally, then make systematic decisions on your sourcing strategy/solutions, both methods have their place. Organizations need to take a hard look at what they are trying to achieve and determine which method works best, as insourcing vs.outsourcing vs. offshoring success depends on objective why it is done and what is required to be:

  • Insourcing is better for critical Domain Knowledge centric activities; business innovation driven project, to create competitive uniqueness for business growth.
  • Outsourcing is better if niche knowledge requirement for specific duration, repeatable transaction based, freeing internal resources for more value added area, and flexibility of Ramp-up and Ramp-down; 
  • Nearshoring/Offshoring: could be where there is a large knowledge pool available,  budgets are very tight while a demand for services remains high, follow the sun model, taking advantage of 24 hour clock and lower cost as added benefit,  tap into a global talent pool or the right "local" partners to expand.
  • Cloud Sourcing: The latest trend provides business more choices via vary of flavors : public, private and hybrid Cloud, SAAS/PAAS/IAAS/BPAAS,  to help customer leverage IT value, running IT as business, Cloud also provides better agility and elasticity via faster provisioning, Opex service model. 

3. SLA & KPIs Driven Hybrid Model

After being through decade long of outsourcing, it reaches the point where the private and public sectors are finally realizing that outsourcing is not as "simple" as they originally thought. When done right, yes, it can have benefits, but it requires hard work to manage and ensure that it is done correctly. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. 

The environment has become so competitive that SLAs/KPIs are continuously being driven up, thus, driving the costs higher that, in many cases, the cost-saving potentials are being watered down and questioned. And it still makes sense to find a sourcing partner for the necessary activities of a business that are not core to how you go to market and make money, no matter where you choose to have the work done. Balancing cost, quality and location in a 24 x 7 world isn't easy - we need all the sourcing strategies and options we can find to make this work effectively, especially with the quality going down and costs going up in the outsourcing model.

The outsourcing pitfall may also include miscommunication: the companies give lip service to "yes, we'll support increased communication and increased touch points", but most of the time they don't adjust project timelines and they treat their offshore counterparts as if they were just down the street. Then, they can't understand why the project is behind

The other problem is most companies swing to one extreme or another. There should be an optimum multi-sourcing strategy that is based on TCO and the total value.

 4.  Don’t Forget Hidden Cost or Shade of Grey 

A valid analysis lies in examining the motives and objectives that drove the outsourcing strategies of those companies in the first place.

  • Pay Cost later without careful analysis: Some companies follow the trend to offshore, without fully consideration about service levels, support, customer service and focus solely on the cost, until they realize that the hidden cost is that all of those things you give up, cost you time, efficiency, agility, frustration, retention.

  • Investigate beyond the Surface: The other angle to evaluate vendor and sourcing strategy is about investigating "hidden cost" or grey area, some reasonable, some not, and customers surely dislike to see such surprise too frequently, that said, selecting vendors or solutions, not only look at the surface, dig through and understand the pros and cons more objectively

5. Cloud Sourcing –Emerging Trend

Though outsourcing training is slowing, businesses now have more choices to fly in the cloud, the emergence of Cloud computing also provides business more choices to manage IT, particularly, as cloud has vary of flavors : public, private and hybrid to help customer leverage IT value, running IT as business, and focus on innovation & core activity, with the ability of IT department leadership to inspire the work force and increase the quality of the final product or service, Cloud also provide alternatives for faster provision, transform CapEx to Opex, to improve business’s cash flow.  

Flexibility and the ability to be drive radical business changes in pursuit of competitive advantage will define successful businesses in the future. The constant shift in corporate preference for sourcing models merely indicates that few have the right blend, and perhaps more importantly, the technology provision is increasingly perceived as a constraint to growth.

Companies need become more creative with their sourcing models and not committing 100% to outsourcing or insourcing. Outsourcing, whose effectiveness is predicated on operational excellence to provide the low costs, is the antithesis of agile changes and unique approaches required to keep up with the IT implications of business innovation.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Three Trends of Future of Leadership

It takes three C essentials: character, creativity, capability to shape up transformational leadership.
Leadership is both art and science, there are numerous great books and articles every year to decode it, but nobody can completely solve leadership puzzle yet, though we brainstorm the seven ingredients for future of leadership, 

it seems always to have some missing ingredients there, as leadership is so dynamic,  some prestigious management gurus articulate: the real leadership is about transforming the system now, could it be a missing ingredient? How to create it, what could be the future trends of leadership?

 1. Wisdom –Strategic Imperative

The fittest may survive; the wisest may lead, and the most innovative business may thrive;

Modern leadership puts some emphasis on leaders’ three types of intelligence:
Business intelligence to analyze and break down the problem, frame process to execute it; Social Intelligence: know the power bridge to lift up career; or Emotional Intelligence: act properly under pressure; it's necessary but not sufficient to lead to today's business dynamic: more mechanic than innovative, homogeneous than heterogeneous, even we expand them into ten bits of intelligence for leadership innovation which is crucial for today’s leaders, still, there’s something missing,  at today’s super-complex, hyper-connected and interdependent business dynamic, walking through all sorts of intelligence, we may just need reach the next,  transformational level: wisdom:  

Wisdom is the Highest Level of Intelligence:
Common sense in an uncommon degree is what the world calls wisdom. 

Intelligence may still divide the thoughts, wisdom will unify the cognizance, encircle the world; leadership wisdom is multi-dimensional pursuit of collective thinking, embrace full spectrum of diversity, culture, and change management

·      Wisdom speaks of nature:

It’s reflection or self-awareness; at pre-social age, we may know political or business leaders via media, as public face for their organizations,  but culture or media seems regard leadership as entertainment sometimes: glorify or vilify one promptly, appreciate & amplify the story such as: today's PR face of company is working for the competitor at the 2nd day, to blur the essential with style, to confuse trend with fad, or despise leadership value to reward opposite;

At today’s social era, it’s more effective for leaders to lead via self-reflection or “self-service”, such as blogging or communicate through other social channels in order to deliver more cohesive message about authentic self and thought process,  to figure out unique leadership signature, put simply, leadership need present wisdom, not just put a show.

Leadership is an influence, influence is from wisdom, wisdom speaks of nature, here are five nature views of leadership.

2. Three “C”s of Leadership Essential

Modern society may also blur leadership with management, there’s intersection between two disciplines, but leadership is more about effectiveness-doing right things, and management is more about efficiency –dong things right; Will three Cs here make leadership transformational –to hunt for such a missing ingredient?

<·     Character:  Character means many things, it’s the human's blueprint, the combination of values, attitude and the integrity,  also like a seed, with its own uniqueness & color theme, the nurturing environment may help sprout it up; The character of great leaders may also like diamond, solid, but not tedious; shining but not flamboyant, perfect balance of Ying & Yang, it can be polished for better!

Character may cascade more crucial Cs in leadership essentials:
--Courage: to overcome barrier, breakdown ceilings or correct bias;
--Confidence: Character is from the heart, confidence is about heart feelings.
--Consistence: the characters may help develop habits to strengthen skills.

Character means the abstract level of human recognition: you may see something in common between a 10-year-old cute boy and Mother Teresa, like integrity/commitment; or a teenage witty girl have same traits with Winston Churchill, such as tenacity and optimism. Not only for leaders, at every level of talent recruiting and development, being a good judge of character… that's where the real skill gets tested, the value gets rooted, and the performance gets achieved, make a tough choice for your talent strategy to add the missing ingredient for business transformation.

 Creativity: If wisdom is leadership’s strategic imperative, then innovation is business’s imperative today,  it's requirement for all leaders; not just entrepreneur; creative leaders may have nature curiosity to dig through; creative leadership will champion the culture of innovation, walk the talk, enjoy divergent thinking and new ideas; tolerate failure or reward the one who thinks differently.

To quote Colonel Scott Krawczyk, one of the educators: “From the very earliest days of this country, the model for our officers, which was built on the model of the citizenry and reflective of democratic ideals, was to be different. They were to be possessed of a democratic spirit marked by independent judgment, the freedom to measure action and to express disagreement, and the crucial responsibility never to tolerate tyranny.”

 Capability: Future of leaders need think big, deep and long, practice innovation, decision and action.

1) Thinking Out Louder: Thinking Capability

Future of leaders needs to think creatively, independently reflectively and flexibly. As saying's going: you can send kids to college, you can not teach one how to think; Some high educated people may not know how to think at all; Thinking capability will be directly linked to one’s wisdom and leadership influence. As the author of Solitude and Leadership well put: “Solitude, the ability to be alone with your thoughts. is one of the most important necessities of true leadership.”

2) Being Solutonary: Problem Solving Capability

The future of education is to produce solutionary, today and future of leaders need exemplify to be such a solutionary, that said, leadership is not about power play or just public face for business, it needs design, develop and deploy new ways of thinking (big ideas) that crafts good strategy, and inspire people to take action..  

3) Being Learning Agile: Learning Capability

Future of leaders need be a coach, also “stay foolish stay Hungary” at the same time, leaders need continue to learn and influence not only the team but also across the team, work within the system and on the system, to make a positive influence on culture and education.

3. Leadership Convergence

 The missing ingredient of leadership may also be hunted through leadership convergence, leadership transformation needs both  divergent thinking and convergent understanding.

 Leadership wisdom embraces inclusion: recognizing, respecting, managing and leveraging similarities and differences to achieve superior business results worldwide.

Leadership convergence also means all sorts of leaders: no matter you are leaders in public service or private sector; community or religion, entrepreneurs or enterprise executives cross-geographic boundary, can find common ground, appreciate same value, unify opinions, and make humanity progress, through universal wisdom. 

DevOps: The New Muscles in Business’s Agile Wings

Modern business now embraces SMAC technologies: cloud, mobile, social and big data, business needs to grow agile wings to balance wind power, to become more flexible and elastic.

Agile software development practices iterative & incremental methodology, where requirement and solutions are based on collaboration between selft-organizing, cross-functional teams, it intends to keep software project with its practical business goals;

Agile also continues shaping new muscles such as DevOps, which is a deployment pipeline that stresses communication, collaboration and integration between software developers and information Technology (IT) professionals.

 1. Agile & DevOps: The Solid Wings to Lift Up IT

 The emerging Agile software development practices, is a less-risky model of what can happen when the product changes with frequent user feedback and minimal waste. Agile has already created a greater sense of collaboration within development teams, and cloud computing initiatives also serve as the catalyst for bringing development and IT ops together, because the cloud model demands a new mindset about how applications are developed, deployed, managed and measured.

That said,  Agile also means Agile Mindset. As Agile need for speed, traditional IT operation is risk reverse, prefer stability, the bottlenecks occurs. Therefore, DevOps grows into the new muscle, response to the interdependence of software development and IT operations. It aims to help an organization rapidly produce software products and services, produce leaner and more responsive team to deliver business value back to the client.

There’s also a pressing need for IT ops to collaborate more effectively with development teams—so that developers think about manageability requirements before the application rolls out to operations. It’s also about Agile culture and Agile governance.

2. Some Pitfalls to Pull Down Agile/DevOps Wings

  • Complexity: That could be a pitfall for agile developments if iterations and increments were to be associated with an exponential growth of complexity.

  • Short-term Inertia: Other potential pitfalls for Agile/DevOps,  such as defect increase, chaos occurs when just start adopting it, due to change management, culture inertia, lost focus, ineffective measurement or performance incentives. 
  • Other tensions between development and operations. Software often is developed in one environment, then run in another; Agile tends to focus on testing to confirm that the desired business functionality has been produced but can overlook difficult-to-test attributes
  • Macro-challenges on the enterprise level such as the rate of change to bring up operations and compliance issues.
  • The complications of integrating agile development and IT operations also vary with different project, company, and industry. 
The potential solution may include partitioning a large project into sub-projects, in each sub-projects, Agile still be used to perform sub-task independently, it is being said, the hybrid model to combine Waterfall’s structure with Agile’s agility, some call it WaterScrum Fall model. At DevOps environment, the challenge also include re-educate people and making sure that they understand the operational indication when developing applications.

3. KPIs for DveOps 

DevOps encompasses key governance processes, such as configuration, change and release management to Agile method. The KPIs include:

  • Time to Configuration
  • Time for change Cycle  
  • Quantity of deployments weekly or monthly
  • Mean time to resolution
Some also call the next stage of DevOps as NoOps-the team automate the process of realeasing application into dev/test environment or production. Seem "No" here is next level of "Yes".

DevOps is enhanced “muscles” for Agile methodology:  from architectural perspective, it's about how to design/operate more holistically in order to reduce unproductive complexity; from strategic perspective, it's about where to streamline software deployment pipeline, expedite decision making and how to optimize business process; tactically, it's about cross-functional collaboration and iterative project management; methodologically, cloud & social computing platform make it more as reality than hype.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Five Reasons CIO Falls into Scapegoat

Today's CIO has to be an excellent salesman, a visionary, a fantastic motivator/manager to collaborate with “C” level to get the resources required to do their work systematically. 

Enterprise CIOs, like shepherds, take care of their business’s technology/information assets, however, many pitfalls ahead may make a dedicated, responsible CIO a falling scapegoat. There are many WHYs need be asked, many Hows need to be experimented, in order for an enterprise to focus more on problem-solving than finger-pointing; to make a fair judgment in leadership and talent management and to optimize business governance & discipline. 

Why is the CIO the "fall guy" when a company has data security leaks, business systems go down, critical applications crash, project failure or a technology vendor provides a surprise $10M price increase. 

There are five key reasons CIO falls into a scapegoat:

 1.    Ineffective Leadership & Business Culture

Generally, the causes lie in the camp of the board, C-Level, senior executives and presidents themselves. As risks enumerated above can be thought of as business risks, they are generally managed through a CIO's risk management business plan. CIO is the most visible person managing such risks. However, it should be the whole leadership failure:  

  • Board Responsibility: Board Members are still not setting top-level policies and reviews of security budgets to help protect against breaches and mitigate financial losses. Boards and senior executives still don’t understand that security and IT risks are part of enterprise risk management
  • Statistical Data: from cross-industry survey, 58% of the respondents said their board did not review the company’s insurance coverage for security-related risks; Only about one-third of company boards are focusing on activities that would help protect against reputable or financial losses; Organizations show that they do not have full-time senior level personnel in place to properly manage security risks. Less than two-thirds of the companies have a security management practice that is consistent with internationally accepted best practices and standards.
  • Business Culture: A lot also depends on the organizational culture: finger pointing or supportive? Problem-solving or political play? The "spirit" of top may directly impact business culture as a whole.  Finding the guilty guy, then the CIO is (more or less) the right one to fall. If the organization has more like ‘what did we learn from it' “how to solve the problem’ attitude,  then there is a chance that risk management of IT-related themes can be shared with the board and other CxO executive. organizations may need to cultivate the culture to share the credit when thing's fine, and co-take responsibility when things turn bad and focus on digging root cause & solving the problem radically. 
The culture of trust and transparency are needed, and business/IT governance need be converged and further enforced, it's not only senior leadership team's responsibility but also one of the top agendas for a corporate board.

2.    Look at Symptom, Not Root Cause

Sometimes seems the "plumbing" issues may be caused by construction problems., etc
That said, when the accident happened, the organization may need to trace from the top-down level, not only just symptom but also underlying root cause:
  • Does the board and senior leadership team put business continuity & governance at top priority, well support IT via resources & investment;
  • Does IT & business work seamlessly to build up an effective process to prevent the risk?
  • Do employees not "abuse" the trust from management, not follow through the guideline & corporate policy? 
  • Is accident very isolated one, couldn't particularly blame any single party or each party need to share the responsibility?
  • Does business's governance, risk management, compliance, and security function be interactive enough to bring up a more systematic and structural solution for business as a whole? 
Statistics: As you may know 20 percent of IT problems are caused by technologies, 40 percent are caused by people and 40 percent of them are caused by processes. CIO is responsible for the management of IT processes and IT staff and almost can't affect technologies. It means that CIO is not "fall guy' if the root cause of critical applications crash is software bug recognized by the manufacturer. And he/she may need to take a fair share of responsibility if the root reason of critical applications crash is wrong to change management process or low-skilled developer engineer. Additionally, because of the revolving doors with people coming and going more frequently, the accountability for bad decisions has often left the building. Consequently, the person now in control of IT becomes the scapegoat.

How to fix it: Organizations would have enterprise-wide active risk management and/or business continuity plan. When the thing's OK, all cross-functional teams can share the credit, when bad thing's happened, each party may also share their piece of responsibility. The senior leadership team needs to take initiative to build up a more solid GRC framework and discipline. The CIO has the responsibility to review and mitigate the technology risk to the firm. This is done in the form of Vendor contracts, Business Resumption planning, communication of policy and procedures to the firm.

3. Poor/insufficient investments for managing risks 

The business usually makes the decision on how much resources are allocated to address the risks, and if the resources are simply inadequate, then there's dual accountability to be addressed. 

Statistics: On average, CISOs are allocated a consistent 2 percent of their organizations’ IT budgets for security spending. If IT budgets are dropping, then we can conclude that associated security budgets may be dropping as well, in real dollars. The gap between afford-ability and actual needed could be one of the root causes to keep system down or lead other unhappy surprises, it may also reflect the ineffectiveness of today's annual IT budget scenario, it's not distributed by real need, but by static formula

Tradeoff (Cost saving / higher risk) can be taken and then need to be managed jointly in case of challenges. The blame game quickly starts if the execs are a team only on paper but there are hidden aspirations/power games.

Solution: The CIO has justified the need for increased resources to address vulnerabilities, but the resources are simply not available. So it becomes a managed risk, by and with the business. As long as there are awareness and acceptance of the plan for addressing those risks (or not), then there should be no "blame game"

4. Ineffective Decision-Making Scenario

If an IT project or IT initiative fails, business seems never to be held accountable for their role in contributing to the failure. Even though they may have been the catalyst or cause for failure due to poor pre-implementation business planning, flimsy C-level IT investment decision making or abdicating their responsibilities to IT. More specifically:

  • First, because often the business executives lack visibility of critical business architecture information and business intelligence upon which to base vital project planning decisions.
  • And secondly, the strategic decisions to invest in IT systems are always made at the top level of an organization, but without CIO participation. For example, due to CEO or CFO alliances with certain Vendors or systems implementers, or based upon the cheapest solution, often the CEO or CFO may choose based upon their own selection criteria.

  • Who makes Decisions: The CIO needs to co-make investment decision or at least point out in a documented way to the decision makers that if they don't spend the money to follow good security practice, there will be specific bad consequences.
  • How to Make Key Decisions?  What's the formal IT investment decision making process flow/document management, how to build an effective framework to enforce more fact-based decision management scenario? 
  • How to get further Advice: Besides leadership team, does business have a specialized talent such as EA or analyst to act as business Quality professional to verify business/IT investment. Does business process management office help oversee the decision-making process, and make a suggestion on optimizing business capabilities. 
  • Monitor: Communicate the risks to the rest of the Executive staff, and lock down what you can, monitor what you can't lock down, and also collaborate with Legal to  make sure policy covers the things you can't lock down or monitor so you'll have legal recourse if all else fails

5. Innovation Experiment Takes Risks 

  • Taking this scenario: The company has a proper risk management process in place and potential risks have been weighted on the cost vs. potential risk /loss of revenue, reputation, customers.
  • Risk vs. Innovation: If a CIO is strictly following corporate rules for data security, best practices for IT operations, etc, she or he becomes “no no” leader for new ideas, In essence, CIO is expected to become Chief Innovation Officer. With a desire to eliminate all risk you also kill all the opportunities. A balance is needed between
    - risk appetite/innovation (early adopting of new technology)
    - cost containment (requiring a solid state-of-the-art operation)
    - optimizing customer satisfaction   
Moreover, when the risks were fully explored, understood, and then taken around the 'C' table. The 'blame' rests with the management team, although it still might have been a reasonable choice. So WHY take out the CIO? Convenience and easily explained outside of the executive chambers. And as the saying goes, “A good scapegoat is nearly as welcome as a solution to the problem.." 

The ENTIRE NOTION of “taking the fall” is wrong-headed. 

Learning Lessons for CIO:  Today's CIO has to be an excellent salesman, a visionary, a fantastic motivator/manager to collaborate with “C” level to get the resources required to do this work and inform them of the risk and to be politically adept in managing crisis which will occur during their watch also At the same time the CIO has to keep track with the rapidly changing landscape of IT developments.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Three Leadership Lessons from Aviation/Space Heroines Amelia Earhart & Sally Ride

It takes purpose and courage to overcome obstacles, endure hardship, keep calm under pressure, streamline procedure and process, to make achievement.

Google marked the female pioneering aviator Amelia Earhart birthday with a doodle on 7/24, the other space heron, the first U.S woman astronaut Sally Ride also passed away yesterday. There are many leadership brainstorming forums these days, spur divergent thoughts about characters and charisma of authentic leadership. What kind of leadership legacy Amelia & Sally left to continually inspire today & tomorrow’s generation?

 1. Purpose

"The stars seemed near enough to touch and never before have I seen so many. I always believed the lure of flying is the lure of beauty, but I was sure of it that night."
Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart was a noted American aviation pioneer and author, she was the first aviatrix to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, She set many other records, wrote best-selling books about her flying experience, and she was among the first aviators to promote commercial air travel through the development of a passenger airline service.

Sally Ride was a well trained scientist, also broke the astronautical glass ceiling with her journey aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983.

Both Amelia and Sally’s life are purposeful-Fly High, exciting, broke career ceilings, overcome numerous obstacles, inspire and set the footprint for new generation to follow.

2. Courage

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward."   --Amelia Earhart

Aviation and Space are the most adventurous career journeys, it takes courage, persistence, strong character and intense training to complete missions. During an attempt to make a circumnavigational flight of the globe in 1937, Earhart disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island.

Amelia and Sally are both risk takers, teach us modern leadership lessons about courage.  It takes purpose and courage to overcome obstacles, endure hardship, keep calm under pressure, streamline procedure and process, to make achievement.

3. Influence

 "Our future lies with today's kids and tomorrow's space exploration." SALLY RIDE

Leadership is all about influence. Both Amelia and Sally have charismatic appeal, independence, persistence, coolness under pressure, and goal-oriented career.  They are both authors to write numerous books for sharing their adventurous experience with the fans and children; also hundreds of article and scores of books or songs have been written about their lifes which are often cited as a motivational tale, especially for girls.

In a recent interview with STEM Connector, Ride said that "while being the first American woman to fly in space was an amazing experience that has allowed me to be a role model to many young girls, I am most proud of the Sally Ride Science Academy. perceptions can become reality, and that's why I have devoted my life to getting young people, especially girls, excited about science."

And the most important thing is: they both enjoy their adventures:

“Adventure is worthwhile in itself."                                              Amelia Earhart

“The view of Earth is spectacular.”                                                   Sally Ride

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Modern IT: From 3 Small “s” to Three Big “S”

 IT needs to get fellow business peers’ support,  transform shadow IT into the full spectrum of IT. 

Modern IT is pervasive, permeating into everywhere in contemporary business today, however, IT’s “mindset” hasn’t completely shifted from a controller into an enabler, from infrastructure into innovation, from back officer into brain yard yet, there’re both crucial points and s-curves on the journey, IT needs to overcome some small “s’, and embrace a few big S in transformation.

1 From Scarce, Shadow IT into the Spectrum of IT Solutions

When enterprise IT still acts as controller only,  think IT is scarce, while the world of clouds, SAAS services, consumerization of IT focus on technology abundance, and maximize its value and reward, then shadow IT crops up: it means the business department started bypassing IT for purchasing SAAS base applications on their own; on one hand, such circumstances are understandable, as business competes with agility, the speed of application solution can accelerate business growth; on the other hand, IT also has enough good reasons to control it: as IT infrastructure cost fortune, broke easily, shadow IT will cause risk/security loopholes to the business in the long term.

Therefore, IT needs to get fellow business peers’ support,  transform shadow IT into full spectrum of IT services, by building a rich ecosystem of services atop infrastructure -in both public and private cloud environments through integration and GRC management discipline, also well manage business-IT-Vendor trilogy in order to gain purchasing power for negotiation or reducing process redundancy.

IT Spectrum also means to inspire spectrum of collective wisdom, the spectrum of color in leadership, culture and change management.

2. From Shallow IT to Strategic IT

 Shallow IT means, at many of times, IT only provides band-aid, temporary fixing or ineffective communication with business:

  • Focus on Symptoms, not Root Causes: IT continues to play “firefighter’ role to fix infrastructural issues, without digging into enterprise architecture to trace the root cause or review IT roadmap to look for touch point or re-prioritizing investment portfolio based on business value; 
  • Inefficient 80/20 Rule: in order to transform from “shallow” IT: such as running IT for IT’s sake into Strategic IT: every IT project is a business project, IT need to refine new 80/20 principle, to ensure most of budget and resources have been used for business growth/innovation-driven projects.  
  • Finger-Pointing Attitude: The other symptom for IT, actually for an unhealthy company, is that when something goes wrong, the top priority is figuring out whose fault it is, and finger-pointing with each other, fixing actual problems comes much later. Or business may complain about IT’s arrogance as it speaks its own language which business doesn’t understand and get lost in translation;
Strategic IT means IT needs to be more business focus with problem-solving attitude; well articulate what the business needs, and brings better and faster solutions.

3. From Silo IT to Significant IT

Low mature IT runs as a back office,  silo function, with bottom up, controller’s mindset, and traditional change-adverse attitude, because change may lead to problems or downtime, that’s why it’s avoided; modern CIOs need to take IT to the next level:  It’s about cross-functional collaboration, with more wildly and deeply touch with business, to deal with 3Cs: change/complexity/compliance, to fill out service gap, not just focus on time and on schedule, but also on value—to make sure the business value has been created.

Significant IT also means IT takes a unique position to capture the oversight of business capabilities via overarching enterprise architecture, take charge of over-abundance of enterprise data management. That said, IT need be cautious, but not overcautious, in order to capture the business opportunities, but also manage risk more seamlessly.

The significant IT becomes business driver for transformation, because at today’s hyper-connected, data-driven business dynamic, there’s no shortage of problems to tackle, it just requires more learning agile attitude, effective solutions with choices, and ambidextrous IT capabilities to build up high-performance business
Hopefully, IT can become less shadow, shallow, and silo, gain with three new Big S capabilities: Spectrum, Strategy and Significance, in order for business transforming from good to great and built to last. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Enterprise Architecture: 3D Abstraction in Metaphors

EA must recognize the broader ecosystem and encourage creative thinking, in order to frame the future of business.

Enterprise Architecture (EA) provides greater visibility to the current and future position of an organization and enabling the relevant designers and decision-makers to act in a more informed manner. The biggest pitfalls for achieving EA value may include a lack of focus or lost in translation, due to the scope of architecture and immature EA discipline. Therefore, abstraction, as a thought-process of omitting unnecessary details that limit the generality of an idea, helps businesses see all important things from different perspectives.

1. Three EA Abstraction Levels via Biological Lens

 Many like to analogize EA as Living beings, business as enterprise body:

  • Conceptual Level: EA helps organizations blueprint enterprise's character, identify business's DNA, capture value proposition, shape organizational culture, diagnose problems, set up guidelines, advise coherent actions in order to compete for the future; It can become an effective tool to communicate with upper management.
  • Logic Level: EA functions as part of enterprise's “brain & nervous system.” better engage with the whole brain: the left brain helps business analyze, quantify and reasoning, and the right-brain drive business’s creative thinking, aesthetics, and feeling, that said, EA helps business both” think and feel” at the right way, and orchestrate vary business capabilities.  
  • Physical Level: EA as nerves, link eyes to help business “see,” connect ears to help business “hear” or enable hands to help business “touch,” it’s more about important details for implementation. All the contributors make the organization work as a cohesive unit or something should improve or change

2. Three EA Abstraction Levels via Chronological Lens

If the business runs as an automobile, then EA is more like an installed GPS, provide business with hindsight, insight and foresight:

·       Foresight: Just like GPS is used to navigate the journey to the destination, EA needs to focus on the future state of business, guide through business transformation journey with holistic understanding and systematic thinking;

·       Insight: GPS can describe the current location in detail, EA needs to also explicitly look at the critical issue from every important perspective, help business understand where it is in order to make continuous improvement or large leap; 

·      Hindsight: GPS can store some historical routes being taken frequently before, EA can also manage enterprise knowledge accordingly, things are the way they are today because of the decisions one has made in the past. But just because they are that way today, does not dictate the future of how things will be tomorrow. That said, EA helps businesses learn historical lessons such as success stories or failures in decision making when history repeats itself, the enterprise can become more agile and resilient.

3. Three EA Abstraction Levels via Philosophical Lens

EA is about to blueprint and abstract, it’s natural to perceive it via philosophical lenses:

Level: 1: Overview: When you look at a mountain, you see a mountain

At this stage, you just see what you look at on the surface, the altitude, the shape, the color, only capture the physical characteristics of the mountain, it’s inanimate.

In EA, it’s about realization or generalization, EA abstracts the fact and knowledge from business.   

Level II: Highlight: When you look at a mountain, you see not a mountain

That said, you may concentrate on a few trees, the snow-covered on it, or an eagle stop on the top, you did highlight something more interesting or beautiful, more matters for yourself, you desire to dig deeper, understand more, 

In EA, it’s about specialization (Implementation), or classification (portfolio management), EA provides business insight on project priority or technical integration. 

Level: III: Perception: When you look at a mountain, you perceive a live mountain

At the highest level, you see and perceive a mountain again, it means, the mountain is alive now, you may not so much care about its physical look, you capture the spirit of the mountain, regardless which season you are in, you can see its full colors, you can imagine what the top look like, you feel it and touch it holistically, you can even communicate with it, and harmonize human nature with mother nature., etc. It’s about wisdom, idealism. symbolism.  

In EA, it’s also about inclusion or holism. Most organizations that adopt outside-in thinking are in a strong position to share information and outcomes with customers and business partners to foster trust, gain foresight and spur ecosystem investment.

Abstraction without purpose is meaningless, abstraction makes one understand EA needs to go deeper beyond broader touch, helps the business out of shadow & shallow, abstract wisdom from knowledge, at today’s business dynamic and always-on, interdependent world, EA must recognize the broader ecosystem and encourage creative thinking, in order to frame the future of business.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

3P to Demystify Business Complexity: Perception, Parable, and Prescription

Simplicity does not precede complexity but follows it. Alan Perlis

From Wikipedia, the complex is a “complex” word with various perspectives.  In general usage: Complexity tends to be used to characterize something with many parts in intricate arrangement; In a business context, complexity management is the methodology to minimize value-destroying complexity and efficiently control value-adding complexity in a cross-functional approach.

1. Complexity Diagnosis:

(1) Complexity vs. Complicated:

The use of the term complex is often confused with the term complicated. In today's systems, this is the difference between myriad connecting "stovepipes" and effective "integrated" solutions. This means that complex is the opposite of independence, while complicated is the opposite of simple.

(2) Productive vs. Non-Productive Complexity:

Rising complexity has been fueled by broad trends such as technological innovation, globalization, and M&A, which are not likely to slow down any time soon, not all complexities are created equal and can be managed effectively:

  • Macro-systematic complexity:  includes laws, industry regulations, and interventions by non-governmental organizations. It is not typically manageable by companies. The goal should make it a value-added complexity.
  • Designed Complexity: results from choices about where the business operates, what it sells, to whom, and how. Companies can remove it, but this could mean simplifying valuable wrinkles in their business model.
  • Highly productive complexity:  such as employees interacting as they create value from intangible knowledge-based assets, invisible but powerful learning agile culture, and cross-silo business collaboration.
  • Value/Cost Ratio in Complexity: complexity that is translated into additional revenues, such as product/service enhancements that customers are willing to pay more for, or that result in greater customer satisfaction and loyalty—can hurt the bottom line if the value it delivers in increased revenues isn’t greater than its real costs via adding business complexity.
  • Unnecessary complexity arises from growing misalignment between the needs of the organization and the processes supporting it. There is the unproductive complexity of bureaucracy, silo walls between functions, and confusing matrix designs,  resistance to change, workforce constraints, slow decision-making, complex administrative processes, and competing incentives;

2. Complexity in Human Behavior: A Parable about Adding Feet to Snake

In ancient times, there’s man participating in an art contest, he decided to draw a snake, after finishing it, there’s still time left, so he added feet to the snake, it's more about adding complications than imagination, so he lost in the competition.

Insight: This story tells the people, the snake did not have feet, draw into the snake, put the snake feet, the result does not become a snake, neither a dragon. Superfluous, or use the metaphor of complications, to tell people to do anything to be seeking truth from facts, otherwise, not only one can not do a good job, but will mess up things. That also said nothing is more complex than human behavior.

3. Ten Prescriptive Solutions to Complexity Optimization:

Complexity is easily managed once being identified as productive complexity or non-productive complexity, the value-cost ratio in complexity, the goal is to master it and achieve a high-performance business result:

1)     Non-Linear, Holistic Business Thinking in Inter-dependent World: The whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts in today’s heterogeneous and inter-dependent world. The key issue is that you can’t really understand the whole system by simply looking at its individual parts. That’s the essence of a complex adaptive business management discipline, to make the business as a whole premium than the sum of pieces.

2)     Ambidextrous Capabilities: The ability is developed to tolerate ambiguity and proactively manage complexity. The capability focuses on how effective managers are at taking the initiative and working outside a narrow definition of their roles;

3)     Sophistication is the quality of refinement: It is displaying good taste, wisdom, and subtlety rather than crudeness, stupidity, and vulgarity when managing complex systems, human behavior, or data.

4)     Effective Organizational Design. Effective organizational design at the individual level can minimize complexity. Misaligned processes and systems are important drivers of individual complexity. The tactics companies can explore by focusing on the individual level via accommodating entrepreneurship in processes: defining accountability, removing duplication, sorting out and streamlining processes, and building skills and capabilities in the right places at the right time to drive exceptional growth and diversification.

5)     Make complexity transparent: Complex organizations don’t always behave in a linear way. Altering cultural, organizational, and operating systems can, therefore, have unintended consequences that may generate even more complexity. Make business processes more transparent is the first step in order for people to understand and optimize complexity.

6)     Apply the “80/20” rule. 20 percent of customers or products account for 80 percent of revenue. Optimize the whole, not the separate silos. Without a cross-functional, end-to-end perspective across the entire enterprise, managers tend to focus on their own functions or departments. This silo thinking is a source of process complexity

7)     Business Agility: about doing things better, faster and cheaper: strategic agility (planning, budgeting, forecasting, and reporting; trend identification; risk management) is fully underpinned and propelled by their operational agility (optimizing the supply chain; faster response to customers, enhancing sales processes and systems; achieving flexibility in the workforce; IT criticality). Maximum agility is achieved when these two factors come together, create cost/value matrix, and optimizing the product/service portfolio.

8)     Business Resilience: the organization has a set of capabilities to bounce back from economic turmoil or mistakes in business strategy or decision making, and promptly recover & catch up via cohesive actions and collaborative processes.

9)     Business Elasticity: organization can more easily scale up or down to adapt to the fast-changing business dynamic, it’s also a crucial capability to overcome complexity, be able to actively cope with positive or negative changes in markets and regulations.

10) Business Flexibility: Gaining business flexibility requires a company to establish the right balance between adaptability, agility, and stability in its operating model, cost structure, and processes. Companies are focusing on making both their back-office and front-office processes more agile to gain competitive advantage, and this often means challenging traditional organizational structures to fit new business realities, being flexible on how they approach different opportunities.

The art of simplicity is a puzzle of complexityDouglas Horton