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, April 30, 2013

What are Main Characteristics of Agile EA

Agility is not just the ability to change. It is a cultivated capability that enables an organization to respond in a timely, effective, and sustainable way when changing circumstances require it.

The aim of an EA must be to define, implement and refine the overall architecture on a continuous basis. However, most of today’s EA is static and theoretic. The biggest problem with EA is not the tools, nor the frameworks (although they certainly contribute), but with the concept itself, and the means used to express the needs, desires, and requirements of the organizations' thoughts, direction, goals, and objectives. While emerging technology trend such as SMAC (Social/Mobile/Analytics/Cloud) brings both unprecedented opportunities and potential risks in shaping business today, Agile business needs Agile Architecture, static enterprise architecture frameworks have to give way to continuous business transformation best practices. And EA plays a critical role in orchestrating such transformation. But, what’re the new characteristics of Agile EA?

1. Agile EA

What Is Agility? According to industry experts: Agility is not just the ability to change. It is a cultivated capability that enables an organization to respond in a timely, effective, and sustainable way when changing circumstances require it. The management literature increasingly refers to this ability as a “dynamic capability”: the potential to sense opportunities and threats, solve problems, and change the firm’s resource base. That said, your environment 'will' change, so anything that you do too far "upfront" is likely to be wrong in the future. The agile practices address this using a short feedback loop (plan, try, test, learn); so that you never get too far away out on a tangent on the manifold of reality. From the EA perspective, it’s about how to keep the modular design, continue planning and improving, and then fulfill EA's purpose--to bridge strategy and execution, transcend business into the next level. 

The Ten Characteristics of Agile EA 
EA practice should guide enterprise change according to a business strategy, and that great organizations develop a strategy based on a vision of the future, and that today’s world is very complex due to the rate of change and its disruptive force, agility in how organizations execute their strategy is necessary.

  • Agile Enterprise Architecture is not a blueprint.
  • Agile EA is a highlight which changes to focus on, which one can be ignored
  • Agile EA is about impactful choices upfront that will make later choices easy.
  • Agile EA is about the stable ground, but not frozen (static) ground.
  • Agile EA emerges over time, incrementally think about the future, but doesn't overbuild the architecture.
  • Agile EA is to be open about your architecture — encourage criticism, allow requirements to drive your architecture updates.
  • Agile EA embraces Business ecosystem (as both functional and organizational borders are blurred) 
  • Agile EA weaves Various Factors: Both hard factors (organizational structure, technology., etc) and soft elements (culture, leadership) seamlessly
  • Agile EA supports many Agile Wings such as Agile strategy, agile culture, agile PM methodology, agile budgeting, agile governance. etc. 
  • Agile EA Fits for Purpose and Mind the Gaps.  
EA is a planning function: Spelling it out a little more, the first step would give enterprise architects cause to describe and agree on the current purpose of doing EA, and to explore the changes in the marketplace which might demand that architects do EA differently. From there, EA could explore which capabilities remain "fit for purpose" and where there might be gaps or inadequacies in  EA methodology/toolkit for the future - thereby, enabling architects to take a "structured" approach.

For example, Agile EA manifests Agile Adoption Challenges:
  • Agile adoption requires a major shift in the mindset and culture of an organization. 
  • Agile adoption is not restricted to only IT projects. 
  • Agile approach originated in the context of IT projects can be scaled to suit the enterprise architecture discipline. 
  • Agile in only the IT project area and not Agile in other areas such as enterprise architecture could be problematic and risky. 
  • Agile adoption would require balancing agility across the board. 

2. What Agile Methodology Brings to EA

How many enterprise architects consider architecture a well-structured problem? Those that do may tend to apply traditional thinking in search of the “right” solutions. Perhaps it is an ill-structured problem with social implications within an organization and lends itself to more creative thinking in search of a “better” solution. After all, with today’s rate of change,  how long will the “right” solution remain “right”? If agile were applied in EA, what would the agile methodology bring to EA? Agile is very good at transparency, and, if done right, it helps elicit requirements that the original planners do not anticipate. 

Is Agile methodology good for architecture development? Does it make sense to adopt agile while developing architecture or iterative model still makes sense? Agile and Scrum methodology is gaining grown these days. Agile shouldn't be inherently restricted to software development. In a great many instances, businesses are very poor at defining their ideal target state, or can only do so in very generalized ways. In these instances, agile techniques are very beneficial as methodologies which focus on evolution and adaptation, and are responsive to change, can provide the best outcomes. The essential of Agile methodology is iterative communication, cross-functional collaboration and improving customer satisfaction, such a mindset shift is indeed essential in Agile EA Artifacts:

The circular vision, goals, and objectives of the leadership;
The dynamic structure required to execute that vision and strategy;
The distinct core capabilities needed, either in the present organization, or those that must be created or secured from other sources;
The major agile processes to be executed using those capabilities; 
The kinds of the latest technology and other resources needed to bind the capabilities into executable processes. 
Agile Principles: If apply the agile mindset to architecture development, whether it’s EA or one of the architectural domains, the principles include:
  • Bottom Up Approach need well balance out with Top-down Architecture Foundation
  • People over Process, high mature team is the key Success factor for Agile 
  • Agile is not lack of discipline, but need stronger architecture and management discipline; 
  • Agile is both methodology and mindset, it means better communication, adaptability and customer satisfaction. 
  • Agile is not just about speed, also means high quality
Scaled Agile Framework (SAF): It’s a good way to deploy agile and opportunistic architecture planning that informs the work/stories for the Agile development teams. Climb to the desired level of maturity with SAF in keeping the enterprise focused on the desired future state through "Architecture Epic Planning" and developing sequenced "Architecture Runways" across the enterprise portfolio, EA will be able to guide executives towards fact-based decisions around managing investments and/or risk. 

Agile philosophy warns organizations to not attempt “big design up front” because doing so may result in teams scrapping a major chunk of hard work if the business decides to change its approach. And Agile is transforming from a software development methodology into an overarching philosophy to include agile mindset, agile consensus, agile architecture, and even Agile movement, to balance agility and discipline, to embrace hyper-connectivity and hyper-digitalization. 

Read more about Agile Pillars: 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

CIO’s Leadership Development Journey: from Good to Great

An effective CIO needs to be an independent thinker, unbiased communicator, flexible doer, and global leader.
The CIO role continues to evolve various changes due to the changing nature of IT, from industry studies, the majority of CIOs has skill gap leaping from techie to strategist, or from good to great.  Rome was not built in a day and neither should a CIO. What’s being needed to develop a great CIO? 

Training, empowerment or self-improvement, what’re key milestones in such a leadership transformation? In short, how to shape a CIO with leadership wisdom, quality, and commitment to work? 

1.   Three Types of CIOs

Change is inevitable and with change comes the need to learn. There must be a balance between the organization and the individual where the responsibility for learning is concerned. The organization should be able to identify fundamental skill requirements at different levels of management and the individual must self-assess and identify what they lack to move forward and seek to learn through whatever means is made available. It requires transparency at both ends of the scale; the organization identifies what it needs and the individual identifies what they lack. And of course, both are setting appropriate expectations to achieve those goals. As far as for CIOs' development, first of all, classify mostly three types of CIOs out there:

(1) An IT Specialist: Techie who was dragged into managing people and still gets deeply involved in tech decisions and architectures. Most CIOs of this type are not a very good business manager and are not typically invited to the C-Table often. Can such CIOs wear strategist hat properly?

(2) A certificated 'Guru': an IT degree + MBA who spends her/his time fighting fires, breaking through transformation project log jams, dealing with vendors no longer supporting their bread and butter business app, trying to help innovate and solve some business or operations problems, or showcasing IT to the company's customers. Should such CIOs act more like glue than guru?

(3) A business Generalist: Such CIOwith technical knowledge or experience, have successfully managed a sizable part of the business. They spend their time mostly with customers, marketing/sales, executive team, supplier executives, and her/his staff. Does such CIOs have a vision or passion upon technology? No one comes to a senior management role fully prepared for that role. Everyone needs to have some skills strengthened and some added. However, each of these types needs various types and degrees of knowledge, training, data, coaching, and continuous improvement. As their businesses change shape, size, expansion, and transformations, they too need conditioning and improvement. First of all, forward-looking organizations should empower their IT leaders to make a deep influence on people, process, and technology. Beyond that, CIOs are top-level officers, they must take the initiative to create their own training path in management and emerging technologies. Then, when the CIO is at executive team meetings, he/she can offer those creative ideas that give organizations whatever competitive advantage is possible. A good CIO is one that achieves a balance between legacy systems and development projects with a focus on new client revenue while satisfying clients with the timely delivery of product and services.  

2. Qualities & Skills Modern CIOs Need to Have

Most of the organizations today are looking for strategic or transformational CIOs in leading their digital transformation journey. Being transformational or being strategic goes beyond skills only, it's about the well-mixed vision, leadership substance, communication, and continuous improvement. Thus, CIOs as senior executive roles, should continue to sharpen leadership/management skills, though some of the traits needed cannot be learned in a training course, such as entrepreneurial spirit, on-your-feet innovator, strong work ethic, leading by example, being a creative thinker, taking risks while nurturing contingencies, growing great talent, etc.

  • Good CIOs should have a strong influence, facilitation, negotiation and collaboration skills. Good CIOs know the business, knows the corporate direction and can even influence that direction and make gains leveraging advances in technology, and master different business dialects with the right attitude and aptitude. Any CIO worth his/her salt should know that technology is NOT a panacea, that it is a facilitator to business goals, a partner in business outcomes. The CIO must understand the business and must be capable of interpreting the strategic goals of the business and even contribute to that vision. They must at a business level be able to lead the technology team to deliver to business outcomes. 
  • CIOs or any other C-level executives should continue to gauge their own skillets proactively: This is important for the career they have and the next one they aspire to take on. Investing in yourself is not only smart but a good investment that comes after careful self-examination. Being learning agile: shows the potential to learn, unlearn, and relearn. A CIO has to take responsibility for his/her own development path. The CIO needs to define his/her way to gain business knowledge. According to the organization’s possibilities and limitations. A CIO needs to be a creative business manager with a keen interest and significant experience and knowledge in Information and Process Management, but be a creative business manager and forward thinker first! This involves doing something that many technology teams are very bad at and learn how to market what their teams have done and are doing and promote the value proposition to the business.           
  • CIOs’ well set of qualities & skills: The IT leadership traits include such as influence, critical thinking, creativity, ethics, global perspective, and cultural awareness. What other skills are demanded by the twenty-first-century business realities? From a couple of academic and consulting surveys, “The key skills include innovation, dealing with situations that you have not dealt with before, possessing the confidence and the experience to be entrepreneurial." 

3.    The Effective Development Path

Overall speaking, a CIO is not born but created, molded by peers, technical excellence, hardcore managerial abilities, well-defined strategies for mentoring the staff, colleagues, a deep understanding of business processes. The path of the leadership development may be various - depending on the context and also upon the profiles defined.  The real issue here is not just about training execs. It is about ensuring they understand their role, its limitations and the overlap/collaborations/negotiation that must exist with your counterparts. In addition, training or learning these days does not always mean to study in a classroom for a few days, it's more hybrid and informal. What are effective training format to develop modern CIOs: 

  • Training could mean spending x days per week working in a business role, attending a conference and workshops, participating 2 days per month in an active like-industry CIO working group, attending online forums, etc., etc. The secret to success for future CIOs relies to a large extent upon their ability to collaborate across the C-suite and facilitate enterprise-wide transformation and innovation through cross-functional dialog and "bridge building". As an example, when it comes to turning an organization into a "social" enterprise, the CIO has to get engaged with the CHRO, CMO to enable an organization's workforce to live and deliver on its values and purpose. That is no easy undertaking but provides the CIO with a unique opportunity to engage in business modeling for the future. 
  • Learning by doing: More important than training, organizations should provide their CIOs opportunities to participate true C-Level discussions, as many CIOs complained they never get invited to C-Table, don't know what are strategic issues happening in business, and thus, there's a gap between IT strategy and business strategy. And then, Key is Language, if training can help: CIOs need to learn how to talk in commercial outcomes, not technical throughput; CIOs have needed to both convince and deliver the alternative view of IT being a profit enabler and a value enhancer. In short, IT leaders need to talk like and actually deliver as business managers.  
  • The leadership team learns with each other's strength: Due to the changing nature of technology and complexity of IT project, other executives should also understand more about CIO's frustration., etc. The continuous technology evolution means CIOs must become the primary coach/mentor driving this business/IT integration, and have other people within their team responsible for managing the BAU (Business as usual) technical deliverables. All C-level executives need to include business, finance, organizational management, and sales training in their learning plan. The CIO, specifically, needs to add knowledge/information management to that plan. The title CIO, in of itself, is perhaps one of the reasons that many have difficulty with the position. The "I" in CIO is about information, insight, intelligence, improvement, and influence., etc. 
An effective CIO needs to be an independent thinker, unbiased communicator, flexible doer and global leader these days. Gone are the days where the CIO is given a target and a budget and he/she executes. Nowadays, CIO and other CXOs should stand side by side with the goals of creating new and innovative products, transforming IT into a profit center and aligning IT and Finance across all business units. Only a CIO who is proactively learning every day, empowered or trained via tailored approaches by their organization can make things happen fulfills the expectations of his/her organizations.

The Ultimate Purpose of Leadership in One Word & Sentence

"Be the change you want to see in the world." -- Gandhi, Mahatma

1. Vision: The purpose of leadership is to envision the future of business & society; empower the talent people, and enable the change & transformation. 

2. Value-driven: Be sincere and follow / lead your vision with character, humility & conviction.

3. Influence: Lead and be led by empowering and influencing the people around you. Provide a sense of hope! Make the positive influence to push the human world forward.

  1. Mission: Define a mission, create a shared vision and execute toward collaborative success 
  1. Change: The purpose of leadership is about driving the change, coping with change; and leading toward transformation. 
  1. Persuasion: Have the credibility, presence, communications skills to tell it and be listened; and seduce followers to get them to be the willing, convinced builders who convert the vision in a reality that accomplishes its purpose. 
  1. Effectiveness: Building ecosystem effectiveness! Establish vision and purpose and drive people to unlock their best potential for results. 
  1. Navigation: The purpose of great leadership is like light tower, navigate enterprise or society toward the right direction, guide through, not necessarily walk through 
  1. Balance: A corporate leader has to balance the fulfillment of the commitments to all of these important entities associated with the business. 
  1. Accomplishment: The Ultimate purpose of a leader, a good leader, is to achieve a successful closure to the task he/she is entrusted with.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Three Ways to Pursue Simplicity

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ― Leonardo da Vinci

Either from architectural design, engineering discipline or management perspectives, simplicity means or is related to too many things such as manageability, availability, scalability, flexibility, reliability, robustness, sensitivity, comprehensiveness, speed, responsiveness, etc. And like many things, there is good simplicity and bad simplicity; good complexity and bad complexity; good flexibility and bad flexibility. etc.

Modern businesses become over-complex every day, they also add to such eco-system complexity! If we accept it is complex, somewhat unpredictable or not completely predictable, we have to accept uncertainty. We all model our complex worlds to decide strategies to meet goals; the only problem is when we take our models too seriously. So, what are the principles to follow in pursuit of just the right simplicity?

1. An Elegant Way =Make it as Simple as Possible, but not Simpler

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler. -Albert Einstein 

Simplicity has a multitude of perspectives: What “the simplicity” is referred to? Is it “the simplicity from a programmer’s perspective” or “simplicity from a user perspective” or “simplicity from solution life cycle maintenance cost perspective”., etc. Simplicity is a multi-dimensional pursuit in an elegant way. 

  • Is 'elegance' such a word to convey “just right” simplicity? We have all seen tough problems solved elegantly while at the same time admitting that depending on your perspective it may have been very complex for someone to implement. You know an elegant solution when you see it. Like all things in Architecture, Simplicity has always been one of the goals.  When you get it "just right" it's called elegant. And the complexity of the solution is simple enough when it only just exceeds the complexity of the problem.      
  • K I S S –Keep It Simple Principle: When creating a definition, one must not forget the purpose of the effort. The purpose is always to convey information. As a matter of course, comprehensible information includes three different views of the same: structural, behavioral, interactive - In other words, in order to best understand a subject, one needs to define the subject in terms of:
    a) Structural view- what it is comprised of
    b) Behavioral view - how it behaves (upon application)
    c) Interactive View - what contexts it is used in (and the behaviors evoked) 
  • Simplicity is an aspect of “appropriate” abstraction. That simplicity is a characteristic of architecture promulgates the view that architecture is a 50,000 ft view when it is quite the opposite. This complex mosaic of the inter-related concepts that make up an environment is far from simple. But EA is also abstract, so that, even though the inter-relationships of all aspects of the enterprise are characterized, the details of the individual pieces are left up to the design and implementation efforts of the subject matter experts in each respective area.

2. A Clarified Way –Master the “CRAMPS” Factors

SIMPLICITY may either refer to an architectural constraint OR to a business requirement. When people use the word "simplicity", they are really talking about a kind of transparency or clarity. For example clarity of intent, what business problem is a project funded to solve? What is the purpose of a component? How are responsibilities allocated to various architectural "layers" or management/engineer disciplines? 

  • There is a relationship between Simplicity and Clarity: With simplicity, what we are adding is clarity & purpose. Removing complexity (assumptions & dependencies) more clearly reveals the intentions of the architecture and its purpose. Things are easier to adapt/evolve not as a result of any "flexibility" that was put in, but as a result of what was explicitly left out (and how it was left out). Certain aspects of the problem space may be inherently complex. 
  • Solving Complexity Puzzle by Mastering “CRAMPS” Factors: The reason many would have simplicity but act complexity is that they don't know HOW to make it simple. Analyze “CRAMPS” factors, the actual order in which factors are assessed is:
1). Performance — what is the expected performance for the solution, is it within acceptable limits.
2). Availability — what availability is required for the application system, and does the solution provide it. Reliability, Robustness part of Availability Sensitivity, depending on how you mean this, it is an aspect of Availability, Performance
3). Scalability — What is the scalability of the solution, is it within acceptable limits.
4). Manageability — is the solution manageable, and how would it be managed.
5). Cost — what are the costs for the solution, are they acceptable.
6). Risk — what are the risks associated with the solution. Is the level of risk acceptable to the enterprise?  
But what about all the other factors?  Such as Reliability, Robustness, Sensitivity, Comprehensiveness, Speed, Responsiveness., etc. Clarify the comprehensiveness from every aspect, Simplicity is one of the key plates to balance in addition to Cost, Risk, and Quality defined by architecture. Indeed, the art of simplicity is the puzzle of complexity.

3. A Flexible Way –Even Adding the Essential Complexity

“Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.” ― John Maeda

How do you know that Simplicity is "just right"? How do you know you have the minimum required complexity, to support flexibility without hurting the support/maintenance costs? Or, we could also talk about complexity as either "essential complexity" (the complexity required to provide bare minimum functionality that is necessary to meet the needs) or "accidental complexity".(which is everything else - almost). To achieve simplicity you would have to address the complexities of the subject matter.

  • Things that are simple tend to be inherently less flexible: Making things "flexible" is usually regarded as adding some complexity in order to create flexibility. It typically requires anticipating a need and putting something in place to handle it. It is possible for an object to be simple and complex, common and different at the same time. It is a question of the perspective of the semantic and the relationship and levels of consciousness. 
  • Simplicity is the design of looking for what is common for maximum reuse: Simplicity is the building blockComplexity is the content put in the building blocks and the outcomes from interactions with the building blocks, theoretically because of recursion can tend to infinity. While flexibility is often contrasted with "adaptability" -- the ability easily and quickly change (adapt) according to circumstances without necessarily anticipating them or adding anything explicitly for that circumstance.      
  • With simplicity, it does not explicitly mean adding flexibility: Although removing inessential complexity and assumptions/dependencies does make it easier to adapt/evolve later if only by having less "stuff" in the way that is impacted by a future change. Simplicity does not mean that it is rigidly hardcoded and tightly coupled. Simplicity implies in EA ease of change. Simplicity in EA is the ability to handle any change or exception in your stride, without breaking a sweat; it is not a simple rigid approximation of what everyone does on railway tracks that you cannot diverge from. That is approximation being incorrectly labeled simplicity.  
  • "Simplicity" in the EA project should be measured: With flexibility, comes complexity, but an architecture that minimizes the impacts of change greatly simplifies future evolution. Abstracting changing aspects, while potentially complex to implement, will ultimately result in simplicity. The challenge is to avoid “future-proofing” and attempting to abstract every conceivable change. Business alignment and clear strategic objectives will help determine the appropriate dynamic aspects and enable the architect to simplify those elements appropriately.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Is IT skills Gap Fact or Fiction?

Either IT skills gap is fact or fiction, visionary CIOs will have to make an influence on both talent management and STEM education system.

There’s always a debate regarding IT talent supply and demand, does IT skills gap really exist? Or is it due to any management issues such as misunderstanding or miscommunication upon talent value chain? What is the root cause and how to solve the problem? 

1. Where is “IT Skills” Gap? 

The skills gap does exist. With pervasive IT, new products, the need to innovate has to be balanced against reduced budgets and higher salaries. It means that IT has to do more with less. However, there is also the need for IT teams to be multi-functional. This requires quality training and constant monitoring for gaps. Mainly IT needs two types of talent, specialized IT generalists and IT specialists. IT indeed faces a few big talent challenges.  

  • IT Specialist: The first is pure technical skills. The highly technical programmers and engineers with deep knowledge and good experience who can handle the heads down technical tasks are always hard to find. 
  • Specialized IT Generalist: The second, and, even more elusive, are people with the mix of technical, business and leadership skills that are so critical for management and senior leadership positions in today’s IT organizations, as the pool of talent with business savvy and tech knowledge will be drawn dry quickly 
  • Emerging Technology Expert: Organizations do need folks with strong analytics skills to help IT and the business formulate, articulate and answer the big questions that will reshape the business. Also, on a more technical level, organizations need the talent to help build and operationalize private/hybrid clouds. 
  • “Hard Skill” vs. “Soft Skill”: IT organizations have been over the last decades too much focus on “hard” skills, not looking at the business reasons to do things and understand the business. As a service provider, IT should understand their customers, their business, provide innovative solutions and systems to support and make a business to grow and gain competitive advantages, in the other word, IT needs to have more talent with well balanced hard skills & soft skills and business literacy. 
  • STEM Education Gap: Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills gaps are present and growing: One study indicates 15-25MM unfilled jobs by 2020 because the US is not building a strong enough pipeline across both genders. Industry and education (K - 16) need to work together to encourage and fund young people to be interested in STEM careers. And education does not stop with a degree – IT career takes life-long learning attitude.

2. “Skills Gap” is Management and Culture Gap 

Many academics, consultants or industry gurus also argue the “skill gaps” is not a real “skill gap,” but simply “misunderstanding” or “miscommunication” gap.

  • Purple Squirrel Syndrome: A Purple Squirrel is a creature which is nearly impossible to find and in staffing the term refers to a job specification with skill and experience requirements which are impossible, or nearly impossible to find. It’s not only a syndrome, but it’s also a mindset that spans many lines of business and it is dangerous, especially to innovation. They want a candidate to have all these specialties but seldom does it happen that way. Or simply the case of reticent employers who in a post-Recession economy that is growing slowly, are combining two, or three jobs into one position. 
  • Toxic Culture Ingredients: IT leaders always should ask themselves whether the workplace is healthy enough to attract the best and brightest.  Either gender gap or generation gap, what’s the root causes behind it? Is it caused by out-of-date IT geeky image? or is it caused by toxic culture ingredients? A toxic workplace is usually identified by the lack of morale evidenced throughout the organization. Toxic characteristics may include Unethical conduct, un-professionalism, unsatisfactory communication (in general), back-biting and rumor-mongering, obsessive favoritism, discrimination (age, racial, sexual, etc), harassment of any kind, etc. These are just some of the characteristics -- and the numerous possible combinations thereof -- would make a workplace more or less toxic.  
  • Out-of-Date Talent Recruiting/Management: There's misunderstanding or miscommunication (lost in translation) in between IT talent request and HR's searching mechanism, also, there's disconnect of IT's short term staff needs and long term talent perspectives; From IT talent management perspective, how to encourage IT professional in either category step out of comfort zone, continue to learn, continue to innovate, and update performance management practices by assessing both quantity and quality result objectively, to well define talent 2.0 in order to adapt to the fast-paced business new normal. 

3. How to Mind the Gap 

By understanding whether there’s real IT talent gap or not, then, IT leaders can build a solid talent strategy in minding the gap.   

  • Shape a Learning Organization: Most people that enter this topic think of the transient skills of yesterday’s technology or the current product versions. They fail to grasp the root of the matter which is a person's ability to learn - quickly - and adapt prior knowledge to new experiences. Which by extension, applies to IT departments giving us the idea of a learning organization.  
  • Update Talent Competency Model: IT is transforming and moving to reach higher maturity at the digital age, IT talent needs to have both technical and business skills, it should take preponderant importance on the coming years to make sustainable IT-Business relationship. Business-IT integration rather than an alignment of both is the key to success in companies. The value is not in the technology itself but in how to use it, having clearly understood how your business works and what their goals and strategy. So a new IT role will have more a BRM approach rather than purely technical skills. The talent competency model & methodology need to be updated to well reflect such changes. 
  • Streamline IT Talent Pipeline: Whether IT can attract the brightest talent or not also depends on how effective the CIO is marketing his/her organization as a contributor to the corporation and society as a whole, IT knowledge life cycle has been shortened due to the changing nature of technology, thus, when assessing talent, more dynamic and balanced approaches are needed, instead of just searching for keywords, HR 2.0 will leverage the emerging talent pipelines and shift mindset for understanding talent with empathy, recognize raw intelligence through wise eyes. Forward-looking IT organizations need to discover and develop talent for tomorrow, rather than just hire for yesterday. 
 Either IT skills gap is fact or fiction, visionary CIOs will have to make an influence on both talent management and STEM education system, to cultivate next generation of IT talent systematically, attract global IT talent for blending innovative cognizance, and solve IT talent shortage for the long term.  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Is There such Thing as 'Completeness' in Enterprise Architecture?

It is complete when you have identified and vetted solutions to all of the most significant challenges that the enterprise faces and that business processes or systems can help to solve.

Enterprise Architecture typically represents ' why you do or what you know', how do you ensure you are also aware of 'What you don't know' in the process of drafting an EA blueprint. An EA can only be complete for an instant. The next instant the world has changed, and so the EA has to change. Thus, is EA ever completed?

1.  The Purpose of EA

The aim of an EA must be to define, implement and refine the overall architecture on a continuous basis.

  • EA is not about Documentation. It is Providing Direction, so that decisions can be made, executed, and measured. If EA has been treated as a purely technical exercise consisting of completing documents, then it will not be effective. It is not about the documents, it is about identifying the major enterprise issues THAT MATTER and developing strategies for those - in collaboration with business stakeholders. 
  • EA needs to keep the focus on Key Issues that matter: EA is about providing direction so that decisions can be made, executed, and measured. Play multiple action scenarios through architecture. This can exercise all layers of architecture (and show completeness both within the layer and between layers). But how do you keep engaged with the business? They generally will not have the stamina to help you create a "complete" model. They tend to be issue-focused. Thus, EA needs to have focus. 
  • EA Provides Systematic Approach to Solve Business Problems: First, identify the business problem and eliminate all non-relevant perspectives. Next, identify all relevant guided statements or principles any stakeholder issues with regard to the business problem at hand. The combination of all guided statements and principles defines a solution space for the business problem you are trying to tackle. At this moment in time, the prerequisites for the solution are globally known.  
  • Technology Waves Continue to Push EA Forward: One of the goals of Enterprise Architecture is to guide technology evolution driven by business direction and business environment change, therefore by its nature EA is a never-ending process. EA is portrayed as an iterative process, therefore you may approach the completeness infinitely closer but never reach the point where you call it complete and done.  

2.  EA as a Practical Tool

EA has two components, blueprints and change management strategies. The EA blueprint includes the artifacts (business models, structure, etc) to execute the business strategy or describe the IT environment being proposed to support business goals and operating approaches. The change management plan would comprise migration strategies and tactical plans, engagement strategies/implementation models and a robust feedback/enhancement cycle.

  • Design tool; Focus on the fundamental elements of the meaning and definition of architecture - the art and science of design and structure. This encompasses both the macro-level - the master-plan of the organization, where the organization is going, it's the place and role in its community (market, shareholder, customer, staff) and the micro-level upon how the functional and service operations are designed for 'fit' and 'function' in this master-plan. EA should not lose sight of the fact that the practice is called EE-Enterprise Ecology, not EE Enterprise Engineering. 
  • Communicate tool: Being good enough to communicate, make decisions from and move on to the next step of usage. "Never make an architectural decision until you need to do so". More seriously, the blueprint should be complete to the level that allows detailed solutions to start during the execution of the change management plan. The change management strategy will include migration/implementation plans and engagement models will provide direction on how to realize the target IT environment. The feedback cycle would be the mechanism that would allow the EA to be enhanced to deal with the things that you didn’t know about when you first started. 
  • Problem-solving tool: EA Orchestrate Multiple Solutions. When defining EA as all possible for a specific business problem, the universe of discourse is perhaps too large. However, It's crucial to make a distinction between obvious solutions and out-of-the-box solutions. First, use an out-of-the-box method to identify extra-ordinary solutions with a completely different team, then the problem owner's team. Secondly, state obvious solutions with a completely different team, then the problem owner's team. Confront the problem owner's team with the outcome of both sessions. Cross balance all comments into the solutions and you have probably touched all possible solutions.   

3. A Useful EA is a Living Thing

A useful EA should be a living thing, a set of shared strategies, trying to define the completeness of an EA is trying to make it into an artifact of precision. It is not.

  • ‘Completeness’ is not equal to ‘done’: An EA will never be done, but completeness is quite a different matter. Completeness is relative to the organization that is served by the EA. If the organization finds value in simply retaining data on the business processes, infrastructure, and data architecture, then so be it. That is a complete EA. If the organization also finds value in tracking other aspects or domains, then adding additional layers is a necessity.  
  • EA solutions should only be complete enough to define and plan the solution strategies. It is complete when you have identified and vetted solutions to all of the most significant challenges that the enterprise faces and that business processes or systems can help to solve. It is a waste of time to fully elaborate solutions at an EA level, as that should be left for detailed design efforts. Too much EA focus is on dotting all the information using various framework approaches which encourage one to focus on completeness and rigor, and that is not what is needed in an effective EA. EA should be about business process and technology strategies, not a morass of details. What is needed is understandability, consensus, organic, and mature. 
  • Agile Mindset & Methodology: there are possible measures to test how close EA is in terms of coverage, effectiveness, and maturity at certain points of time. An EA can only be complete for an instant. The next instant the world has changed, and so the EA has to change. That is why so many waterfall-based projects have failed - by the time anything deliverable was produced, the business and its underlying market has moved on. An overarching EA with "solutions" for all the business functions is the “ivory tower" approach which is not agile to adapt to the real-world changes.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Is Corporate Culture a Type of Competency?

Culture is differentiator!
People seem to have different ideas about what culture means in (and for) an organization. A company's culture helps define what a company is like. What it means to be part of the company, how to act in the company, what others in the company believe and strive for even how others see the company. Culture can be defined as "the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another." Then, is culture a type of business competency?

Some believe that culture is a competency: it is something a company can be good, better, or worse at. According to this view, culture is something a company does; it's a set of behaviors that are closer or further from an ideal. On the other side, for those who believe that culture is not a type of competency: According to this view, culture is closely aligned to both what the company believes in, along with the practices and expectations associated with these beliefs.

  1. Culture is organization’s Collective Mindset. The word competency implies a learnable skill. Is corporate culture learnable? Change management gurus certainly think so. It also implies some set of metrics that provide the ranking of an organization's mastery of the learned subject - culture - along with the relative benefit of various levels of mastery of the subject and ranking of various versions of culture one against another. Is one culture of greater benefit than another? Certainly, there are various other cultural attributes that we can rank good, better, best. 
  1. Culture is Organization’s Fingerprint: Culture of an organization is an intrinsic value system, a fingerprint of an organization, Culture can be a competency measured through performance. The culture of an organization is an indicator of the competency parameters at their best. Thus, Culture is an indicator of the organization's capability to achieve results in competency parameters. Competency could be learned but Culture of an organization remains a fingerprint and an identity of the organization. If one were to write a case study of the organization's journey to success, the culture of the organization becomes a key element of interpreting the path to excellence, not as much the measured performance parameters. Management should reflect the values and positions established both through the mission statement and more specifically those competencies found in the governance statement 
  1. Culture is Organizational Habit. Schein's definition of organizational culture is: "A pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems that have worked well enough to be considered valid and is passed on to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems."Culture by this definition is not highly malleable and tends to be resistant to change, like the habit. However, organizations can learn, benchmark against, competencies to improve business performance. Whereas the cultural aspect is an intrinsic factor that drives the organization's business longevity. An organization with an excellent culture is arguably capable of giving great results in their competencies. Highest rated competencies could be very short lived if the organization lacks the culture to rate and retain the value system beyond the business results. More to the point, like “Seven habits of highly effective people”, certainly in a given strategic environment, a certain culture is a competitive advantage.  
  1. Culture is Business Brand. Company culture is closely aligned to what the company believes in, along with the practices and expectations associated with these beliefs. Those beliefs are brought in by the people who make up the company: both leadership and the members of the organization. There is not always perfect alignment between the two. However. The cultural competency arises in the manifestation of the company culture both internally and in the final analysis in the market environment. If the internal is not properly addressed the external will also suffer. Corporate culture will, therefore, have an impact on the type of service or product finally created. Extrinsic reflection of culture is your business brand. 
  1. Culture is "Corporate" DNA: Either a stagnant giant or a small startup, culture can be a critical component of a company's success. A company with a culture of openness, innovation, high standards in ethics and merit-based compensation can motivate team member to work towards a common goal. Likewise, one that rewards yes-men, mediocrity, is patronizing or full of nepotism has the reverse effect. Creating and maintaining the right corporate culture is in itself a competency. 
  1. Culture is Business Attitude: The concept of generic strategies also has implications for the role of culture in competitive success. as old saying: Culture eats strategy for breakfast.  Culture, that defines set of norms and attitudes and help shape an organization, has come to be viewed as an important element of a successful firm. However, different cultures are implied by different generic strategies. Building the capacity to intentionally shape the culture a business needs, rather than allow it to develop by default. Culture reflects your business attitude. 
  1. Culture is Differentiator. Differentiation may be facilitated by a culture encouraging innovation, individuality, and risk taking, while cost leadership may be facilitated by frugality, discipline, and attention to detail. Culture can powerfully reinforce the competitive advantage a generic strategy seeks to achieve if the culture is an appropriate one. At high maturity level of corporate culture, it is far easier to measure business effectiveness. Learning a corporate culture encompasses both what is found in the training manual and what is told around the water cooler. Some companies have taken a proactive approach to purposely creating a defined corporate culture and the competitive difference 
  1. Culture is Business Asset. Mastering upon the creation, development, and leadership of a healthy, innovative and constructive culture is a strategic competency. Culture and the Legacy are that the organization writes about itself through the times of decisions, dynamics, and challenges. The fabric of "value system" and "credibility" differentiate an organization from others. A company's culture can be an asset. But assets are different from competencies. Certainly, some competencies are also assets, but not all assets are competencies. 
Culture indeed means a lot of things, either as an integral part of organizational competency or the key factor in nurturing business competency. And business competency is both organization’s capacity and capability ,at the core of culture, it’s about business leadership substance, enterprise strategy perception, talent management philosophy, and organization brand and reputation.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

400th Blog Contemplation: Is True Leadership like Diamond with Five “C’s?

Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.  -Confucius
Leadership is like diamond. If you take a diamond and looked closely at it through its various facets, you would see different qualities each time you turned the diamond. 

The five Cs of diamonds are the carat, clarity, color, cut, and confidence, so is true leadership like diamond,  both nature and nurtured?  Is raw leadership like the diamond in the Rough...it takes wise eyes, right methodology and tools to discover and polish it?

1. Carat vs. Character

The value of diamond depends on its carat, the “gravity” of leader comes from his/her character. Human beings are gifted with innate qualities that allow them to respond in different ways to the same circumstance, it is the response that defines the level of leadership being exhibited at that moment. Leaders develop at different rates and emerge as effective at the culmination of trust, awareness, practice/mastery and consistency. 

Leadership abilities are innate characteristics which are sometimes easily visible but they can as well be in a dormant state. These characteristics can become visible due to some newly acquired sense of drive. However, not everyone gets triggered by incidents but the chances are that some of them will. Therefore, there is always a strong possibility to nurture this suppressed talent amongst individuals.

2.Clarity vs. Competency

Diamond clarity is a quality of diamond relating to the existence and visual appearance of internal characteristics of a diamond called inclusions, and surface defects called blemishes. A diamond would shine anyways & surely more than any other rock piece that is "non" diamond. Similarly, leadership competency is just like diamond's clarity, certain leadership qualities are innate characteristics that you are either have or not, such as vision, integrity, consistency, confidence. etc. And no leader is perfect, just like diamond also has defects.

Every effective leader must have a balance of character and competence. Some human beings do nothing with their gifts, stay in comfort zone, or squander away their opportunity to live up to their potential. Some human beings recognize and cultivate ability to be effective in conveying the message and they strive toward maximizing their potential through self-study, self-development and self-mastery 

3. Color vs. Charisma

A chemically pure or structurally “perfect” diamond is “colorless’ or transparent, however, in reality, almost no gem-sized natural diamonds are absolutely perfect, indeed, such imperfect diamond shines with color, and  a diamond's color can either detract from or enhance its value; same as authentic leadership, it’s not perfect either, every leader has his/her own color.

Not every diamond has the same shining. Not every leader presents the same color. Every leader is unique. Just like the diamond. Leaders come in all shapes and sizes, all genders, all religions, and all races. And leaders are found within all "ranks" in an organization. The character, mindset, the circumstances, and situations decide the “color” or the charisma of leadership.

4. Cut vs. Capability

A diamond cut is a style or design guide used when shaping a diamond for polishing such as the brilliant cut. Cut does not refer to shape, but the symmetry, proportioning and polish of a diamond. The cut of a diamond greatly impacts a diamond's brilliance; this means if it is cut poorly, it will be less luminous.

A diamond should be polished, only specialists know how unpolished diamond looks like; so does leadership, raw talent is from nature, only wise eyes can discover and develop it,  it also need be polished, and all leaders, future and current, need development and coaching at some point or another in their lifetime. Natural talents are important, but not critical to greatness. Most leaders are made and the process of becoming one involves much inner growth.

Diamonds are formed under enormous pressure. Pressure plays a major role in the formation of diamonds deep below earth's crust. Only through the application of pressure, diamond is shining; so does true leadership in the real world, the pressure and trial will test the true color of character, energy,  capacity and capability.

5. Confidence

As far as fifth “C” of diamond, some put certificate, others use confidence, indeed, confidence is the right characteristics diamond and leadership co-share.

 Diamonds are not only charismatic, hard wearing and enchanting but also enhance their surroundings or the people they adorned. Likewise,  good leaders support others to shine and don't feel threatened by others brightness. They are multi-faceted and colorful for a number of roles, not being one dimensional. A true diamond-like leader can attract the other brightest, sometimes a diamond does not realize that it is a diamond but that doesn't change the fact that the subject is, in fact, a diamond.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Biggest IT Blind Spots

The business fails IT, just like IT fails business.

Many IT organizations still survive in the dark back office, no wonder, there are both strategic and operational blind spots result in decreasing business productivity and lowering organizational maturity. What are those fatal blind spots and how to avoid them? 

1.  Leadership Blind Spot 

If IT never gets the opportunity to have peer to peer communication with business partners in the same language either at the big table or informal conversation, then there's no surprise of any kind of gaps or blind spot -with "Lost in Translation" syndrome. In order to avoid leadership blind spot:

CIO must be an equal "C" at the table to everyone else. Respectfully, those CIOs who are too internally focused are those that have given IT a bad reputation historically. IT leaders MUST become an active member of the business. Next-generation CIOs are actively engaged in the business and act as business strategists at the "C-table" to earn their "C."

IT should engage in business more. High performance cannot be achieved unless the IT department improves their act and MUST engage the business, not the geek in the tech tower. IT often gets criticized because it does not deliver value to the business and its focus is not on the business where it should be. IT must engage in business more to avoid blind spots. 

2.    Strategy Blind Spot 

Indeed, there are also blind spots in strategy formulation and execution. IT strategy is an integral component of business strategy, however, in many low-mature organizations; IT strategy is detached from business strategy, and the blind spots will be hidden in three “C”s: Customer, Competitor, Choice, and three “T”s: Threat, Trends, and Truth, etc.

Blind Spot” is due to a lack of sufficient resources. Many companies are trying to do more with less. Unfortunately, the IT department seems to be one of the first teams to be impacted by any budget cuts. This results in a team that has to spend all their time “putting out fires,” rather than focusing on developing strategies that advance the business and give them a competitive edge in the marketplace. If IT Departments are going to move in this direction, they MUST alleviate themselves of the mundane, daily tasks that weigh them down.

The company's reputation and success today are founded on innovation and to a very large extent, IT and technology innovation: IT-led innovation is already known to be a major contributor to the top line business growth. Thus, to avoid strategy blind spot, IT should embrace the upcoming technology trends; in addition, if your IT budget has stayed flat that you have moved from 80/20 (maintenance/innovation) to 50/50 and on to 20/80,  you will have shown in some measure that you have solid strategy and IT has become more ingrained in the business.

3.    Culture Blind Spot

If all executives act as a functional manager than senior executives, keep silo thinking, hold "ownership" arrogance, not stewardship attitude, then, there's no surprise of having blind spots in organizational culture.

The business fails IT, just like IT fails business: Many organizations are still running at industrial speed -with bureaucratic culture and hierarchical decision-making scenario, business is the sum of pieces than a holistic whole, functional silos compete for resources, rather than work collaboratively & seamlessly to optimize business. Such a silo culture will create numerous blind spot in resources, process, capacity, and capability.

Cultivate the Culture of Innovation: As negative culture creates blind spots as well, business and IT should work closely to well align process and technology to improve productivity, over time IT will be delivering (once without endless rework and maintenance) what the business ACTUALLY needs. More importantly,  IT plays a critical role in shaping the culture of innovation, to encourage quality over quantity, continuous learning, and innovation, improve business self-management capability, etc. 

4.    Process Blind Spot 

Business processes underpin capabilities, and capabilities underpin strategy, the blind spots in business process management will cause failures in strategy execution. Thus, IT can realize the far greater value by improvement in the key business process.

  • IT can, and should take the lead, to assist the business to improve processes: such as application rationalization exercise will address - often this is initiated by IT and reduces both complexity and process overhead. Processes can be improved without the application of technology, however, appropriate technology application is the domain of IT and effective organizations meld process changes and technology applications, such effort will help the business establish superior positioning with respect to competitors...
  • Productivity increase comes from effective processes: Technology, through new functionality, can increase efficiency by certain percentage, but the higher percentage of productivity increase would come from bringing effectiveness & efficiency in the areas of process (re-engineering, eliminating waste, architecting new processes, etc.) & people (new skills, knowledge, etc). Though organizations should realize that Technology is only one part of bringing efficiency in Business capability, other factors also play an important role (Governance, Assets, People, and Processes).   

5   Measurement Blind Spot 

One possible cause of the blind spot is the fact that many IT organizations can neither sufficiently measure the value they provide to their organizations nor, as a consequence, articulate their value to the organization in a language the organization understands. That also means they probably wouldn't know where to invest in new capabilities for their staff, even if the organization thought there was any value justification for making the investment. The "measurement" of productivity - not productivity itself – has blind spots.

  • Do productivity analysis: There is two level analysis: a productivity ratio at a macro level and second, determining what portion of any productivity gains are due entirely to IT investments. Determining what contribution IT investments make to higher productivity is a little more complex and probably requires some sort of multifactor productivity analysis, data, and time, where the productivity increase can only be attributed to IT, all other things being the same. The multifactor productivity analysis would examine the process to determine what element of production made the employees more productive, a change in HR policy, training, new machinery or giving everyone a tablet and a smartphone 
  • The measurement of productivity does not relate to effectiveness. Because of the business manager keep on asking employee productivity instead of focusing on getting things to work correctly. CIO set-up KPIs that show productivity improvements, but no real business improvements. Businesses have also become very adept at measuring the result. IT either gets on the value bus or forever will be seen as the soft target for blame. If business and IT understand each other and IT ought to be able to articulate their value in terms the other C-levels understand, which for the most part is a tangible financial measurement, in addition to whatever intangible benefits it provides.

6.    Talent Blind Spot 

The productivity of an organization (which is a system ) depends on many elements of the system, such as IT system, facilities, machines, policies. Yes, one of the most crucial elements is people. In order to increase productivity,  all the elements must interact correctly. Talent blind spot will direct attribute to productivity loss.

  • People Perspective (Productivity Improvement, Creative Workforce): if treating people as a human resource only, then, when the budget is tightening, it’s easily propose cutting 30% expense in staff also, let all “innovators” go, and it meets the short-term budget goal, but create blind spots in long-term perspective. 
  • Productivity Perspective: WE all know the productivity is higher in an innovative organization, as Productivity is not a relationship between input and output but rather a relationship to throughput. Throughput indicates how efficient an organization uses its productive resources to generate revenue, to avoid talent blind spot in traditional performance management or HR, many organizations are moving to people 2.0 with mutualized IT resource pool (people with multiple skill sets) and alternative talent pipeline. 

7.   Governance Blind Spot 

To dig deeper, IT blind spots are caused by governance, the process to manage IT process, Ideally, management and governance are interdependent disciplines, and governance mechanism should be well embedded into IT management processes, to avoid fatal blind spots. CIO dashboard includes the Governance layer (the Evaluation, Scope, and Monitoring)

  • Define Value Framework: If a solid business case can be developed, the resources are often made available; in fact, the larger problem is that IT is challenged in defining value frameworks which are objective in nature and this leads to the challenge of trying to obtain funding for subjective value. if IT understands the business, its processes, and the value they create as defined through an objective framework, resources are a lot less scarce often times.....
  •  Governing IT Expenditure: The worst case for any CIO is to exist in "Cost-Cutting" or "Utility" environments, It's a constant struggle with the business to justify any IT value. By avoiding the blind spot, that is when IT is viewed as a positive ROI and one sees activities such as service investment analysis. IT charging seems to be one of the keys that force organizations into a higher maturity level. In order to do it,  they start investing in automatic asset information accumulation and volume usage measurement. They get a better handle on their direct, indirect, fixed and variable costs and they start to allocate those costs across a revenue model, based on consumption
Perhaps more often than not, IT biggest blind spots are also business's blind spots as now information & technology are so pervasive, like the business’s nervous system,  touch everywhere in organizations, the good strategic planning, effective management practice, and strong governance discipline can avoid them in increasing productivity and improving  overall organizational maturity.