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.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Forward-Looking Business’s Five Most Valued Expectations from CIOs

“Outlier” CIOs have a better ability to connect innovation dots.
Modern IT is so pervasive, as such, CIO becomes such a sophisticated role, forward-looking organizations have many expectations from their CIOs, clearly, CIOs need to wear multiple hats and practice multiple disciplines in managing a high-performing IT organization.

1. Create Strategic Value for the Company

A CIO is a highly complex role, the reason being that a really good CIO will look at a business from both a business strategy and a technology support side. This person must look at where the business is today and where it will be in five to ten years and ensure that technology can support that vision going forward.

  • The CIO needs to know how to play a bridge between what businesses understand and what technology understands. He/she would then make sure the two worlds meet to ensure an optimal performing business. This would then drive products and services for customers at the best possible cost and ensure as high as possible shareholder return on investment. 
  • The CIO brings that binding mixture to the boardroom table: He or she must look into opportunities for business and then see what IT can do to grow the business. CIOs must continuously educate C-Level Executives that the IT organization is a value creation engine. When BoD/executive team recognizes growth opportunities, the CIO can translate this into an IT solution that will support the company's vision, in the example to grow market share. This is just one way a good CIO needs to think on his/her feet during strategic planning and implementation.  
  • Ensure that IT remains a true enabler for the overall business strategy: The CIO needs to ensure that investments in IT systems support the organization's tactical & strategic business objectives. Effective CIOs need to understand business operations/processes, priorities, and strategies in order to ensure that ever-tighter IT budgets are spent for maximum business benefit. A successful CIO will make sure that a business-oriented approach to the deployment of IT solutions, services and support permeates throughout his/her organization so that all are focused on technology to deliver the desired business outcomes and less on “the coolest technology.”

2. Orchestrate Business Processes/Capabilities Seamlessly

IT is the only function in an organization that has the touchpoint with all other functions and provides the necessary integration between them through efficient business processes and information systems. 

  • Process Knowledge - IT is supporting almost all processes and, therefore, the CIO is able to define how the process is working. But just understanding processes from inside-out view is not sufficient; more importantly, leaders need to put customers' shoes on, understand business processes via end customers' viewpoint, bring fresh perspectives upon how to improve it. A CIO that understands the VALUE of defined processes and, therefore, the value of getting everything in the triangle (value/cost/risk) correct is in a fabulous position to be able to increase customer satisfaction, improve engagement, and deliver projects with the desired outcomes for his / her organization. In many organizations, IT is the custodian of business processes and works hand in hand with users to optimize it.
  • Not only understanding processes, more accuratelyunderstanding the abstract called Business Architecture" (a subset of Enterprise Architecture). All businesses appear to be different from low abstracters. They are pretty much all the same to high abstracters. The knowledge needs to be around understanding business process outcomes. And, while maybe not as entirely relevant for other C-level executives, there would be distinct advantages when it comes to conversations around where "Enterprise Value" can be created. The CIO needs to see the business in terms of IT solutions, other C-levels might not be able to. 
  • Build the knowledge of processes which underpin business capabilities: There are two sets of organizational capabilities: competitive necessities and competitive uniqueness; IT enables both, and at high-performing IT organization, the majority of resources and budget should be assigned to building business’s competitive advantage. 

3. Manage Innovation Systematically

Innovation and continuous improvement come with the CIO role, thus, he/she acts as a “chief innovation officer.

  • There’s a need for a focused “bottom-up” strategy on innovation throughout an enterprise. The CIO role needs to help build the culture and the entrepreneurial DNA to set this in motion. A well-articulated and implemented innovation strategy could leverage an enterprise in ways not yet grasped. 
  • The “Outlier” CIOs have a better ability to connect innovation dots. The knowledge of processes is going to help you understand where the value nuggets are and then it will be the CIO's job to enable those areas (processes.). Some organizations only hire CIOs from within the industry, a shortcut to understanding every business process, but this may come at the expense of understanding outside-the-industry disruptors and other innovations (value-creators). 
  • CIOs are expected to constantly propose new ideas and challenging the status quo. A confident CIO needs to keep asking, "why? why? why?" to manage incremental innovation in optimizing business processes, also, hunt for disruptive innovation with the structure in renovating business model and upcoming business expansion. CIOs who are only putting stress on "have the knowledge" not on "build the knowledge" might be in danger just to preserve the organization and thus create huge constraints for the possible innovation.  

4. Master Change & Complexity Fluently

Every forward-thinking organization has a full spectrum of change agenda these days, as the speed of change is expedited. the executive team needs to act as a change agent while the CIO is in a unique position to:

  • Streamline the change management with technology tools: CIOs are in the right position in well-aligning talent, process, and technology to really make change happen smoothly. From incremental changes to strategic transformations, the change agent CIOs have combined understanding upon people, process, and technology in translating the company's change agenda into scientific step-by-step change scenario     
  • Complexity – either as descriptive complexity (IT itself), nonlinearity complexity (such as digital disruption) or emergent complexity (hyper-connectivity, hyper-competition., etc), IT is supporting almost all processes and that makes the CIO uniquely able to address any of them and manage complexity effectively. Many of the CXOs know their area and a lot beyond, but none ever needs to know all of them. 
  • The CIO’s structured thinking processes are the things they bring to the table for solving business problems. Engineering practices require systematic thinking and analytic capability. Thus, CIOs need to develop, demonstrate and increase their decision-making and problem-solving skills, thinking and problem-solving skills are always and continued needs for CIOs to master complexity. In addition, CIOs need to become less technically focused (but not less technically literate), and far, far more business-focused and business literate. 

5. Practice Governance/Risk Management Holistically

CIOs are also at the right position to practice governance discipline with in-depth knowledge; As IT brings both opportunities and risks in businesses today, CIOs oversee the processes, it's the other key arena organizations indeed need to have the CIO's insight and proactive engagement.

  • Develop Governance Framework: See a process at the bottom of an inverted triangle. To get the process right, everything above needs to be working well, which requires developing the proper governing framework. The framework would include such things as assuring alignment with the corporate objectives, policies, and procedures for how IT works, and measuring the value returned to the business.  
  • Ensure that key business risks (business & IT) are well managed /mitigated and in line with the company's risk appetite; In other words, a process is where the rubber meets the road. All the components of the vehicle need to perform to their capability in order for the tires to move in the proper direction to achieve the desired measurable outcome.  
  • Enforce Corporate Governance/Risk Management: Data/IT governance is an integral component of business governance. IT governance is also converging with corporate governance. Investing in defining and implementing data / IT governance, and risk management strategies are critical in enabling how IT becomes a competitive advantage for supporting the business goals and objective     
Organizations have many valued expectations from CIOs, and it's not an easy job, besides overseeing business processes, CIOs need to have information technology insight & foresight upon potential opportunities to retool business, reimagine growth possibilities and manage innovation effectively with governance discipline. A strategic CIO is the one who can unleash his/her own potential, IT potential as well in order to meet the business’s most valued expectations.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Is your Strategy Executable

Many strategies are not executable, as many organizations have an intention, but not an execution ethos.

There’re many theories and frameworks upon how to craft a strategy, however, it is a fact that executing the strategy is usually more difficult than defining it, as it requires a longer period of time and resources. Moreover, it sometimes requires organization structure modifications and cultural changes when resistances may arise and needs to be properly managed in order to have a successful strategy execution.

  1. Why Some Strategies are Non-Executable 

Many strategies are not executable, as many organizations have an intention, but not an execution ethos.

  • Many organizations don't have a clear organizational identity (from vision & mission, values, culture, and approach). Hence, if the top management doesn't know "who" the organization is, the planning and its execution will likely be inefficient. It's like building a skyscraper on a very weak foundation on the bottom, along with the way in the execution the half-built building will face a high-risk of collapsing....and the only way to fix the issue is to go back and strengthen the foundation first. 
  • There is no connection between what is in the plans and the broader developmental issues that have to be attended to. Missing the execution-"how" part of Strategy: The focus of the strategy is in the building of the strategy or plan, (the “What” is to be done), not its execution (The “How” to do it).Clearly, there are many factors that can be pointed out as why executions often didn't generate the expected results of the strategic plan. But like how the research was being structured, it starts with the "category 1", the formalized planning phase. And why this fails is perhaps lack of management capacity in conducting the planning process. The reality is, if you measure what people currently do in terms of a systems-based model, the most strategies that firms do are ambiguous, and really deals with about 10% of the factors that drive appropriate strategy as well as execution.  
  • Fail to Translate Strategy into Specific Goals: The top reason why strategy implementations fail is because they were not actionable from the get-go. Strategic plans need to get to the level of specifically achievable goals such as "Who is doing what, with whom, how are they doing it and when does it need to be started and finished by." Then it needs to be easy for employees to understand and easy to distribute across the organization. 

2. How to Make a Valid Strategy 

The problem is that things are changing so fast these days that the capability to craft a valid strategy and execute it well is becoming more significant to an organization’s survival and success.

  • Planning should start with a bottom-up approach to create buy-in, a realistic plan and execution must start with strong leadership from the top. If the structure (process, ownership, accountability) were in place and clearly understood, some if not half of the execution issues should begin to settle. 
  • Breakdown Strategy into Executable Phases: Assuming that the planning process produced a valid strategy, then the question at hand is why it would break down during the execution phase? There could be several reasons; one that has the greatest impact is the lack of "buy in" or commitment. If the key players needed for execution did not provide critical content that helped to shape the strategy or if management does not provide the resources necessary to achieve the goals the plan will surely fail 
  • The changing market conditions drive the need to ensure that corporate strategic initiatives (Cost Center) are aligned and realigned with Operational tasks (Profit Centers). Hence, too much conversation should not cause a time stretch between enunciation and implementation. It has been said that the world is changing so fast today, that you need to run as fast as you can to stay where you are.  

3. How to Execute Strategy 

Many organizations today struggle with executing strategy. Execution matters far more than the quality (accuracy, depth...) of the strategy. Why? Because execution deals with people, and leadership is harder to find than brains.

  • Effective execution is forever interconnected with effective implementation. If you cannot get it started, you will never be able to execute it.Once the Strategy has been put in place, it needs to be managed successfully.This depends on and involves a lot of conversation, which calls for focusing attention, stimulating people and inspiring performance. The messages must be compelling, simple, clear and believable to create a buy in. It means aligning your organization and people to the strategy, fielding the best team, honestly appraising your team, rewarding the behaviors required to execute strategy, upgrading your team, and celebrating victories. In addition, leaders must over-communicate strategy. Strategies and transformations fail because leaders under communicate and do not convince employees of the strategic benefits to the company and the employee. When the strategy is under-communicated and employees are not onboard, the strategy is just another flavor of the month.  
  • The success of strategy management undoubtedly lies in the ''timely execution'' and this can be achieved only through continuous persistence and follow up. There must be a sense of urgency. Further Leadership at operational level must be competent, dynamic and smart to taste and digest the initiatives. Keeping fewer key initiatives increases efficiency and effectiveness. Apart from the buy in; one of the key factors that are often overlooked is the influence of performance metrics on other areas of operation that is not being monitored. A risk assessment is taken on the strategy implementation 
  •  A typical strategy execution model that works well is called the ADLI technique which involves: (1) What is APPROACH the leadership at Corporate employs & approach at the Operation Level (2) How does the Leadership DEPLOY the initiatives (3) To what LEVELS in the organization have the initiatives been communicated and (4) What tools, processes, and structures are used to INTEGRATE the entire strategy enunciation and implementation process to achieve the common objectives.  
Thereof, an executable strategy starts with simplification & communication of the complex strategy, also takes process and discipline in executing strategy effectively. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How to Architect Customer Centric Organization

Customer-centric enterprise vision, strategy and governance model should enforce alignment of the various silos towards customer-centric products and delivery mechanisms.

The ultimate goal of the customer-centric organization is to architect an organization to bring value to customers in ways that are beneficial for them while also creating added value for the company itself. What approach do you take to architect a customer-centric organization?

  1. Bridge Strategy & Execution, Connect Customer TouchPoints, & Mind Gap of Functional Silos. Customer-centric enterprise vision, strategy and governance model should enforce alignment of the various silos towards customer-centric products and delivery mechanisms. This also provides the potential for enterprise effectiveness and efficiency. Customer experience comes from all touchpoints, yet organizations are structured by departments and it hinders a company’s ability to create value. Most organizations are organized in silos. How would you ensure that all structures, processes and strategy alignment around excellent customer experience to result in a profitable and evolving business? How would you model different value propositions to different customer segments yet developing and offering the product and services using the same or similar business capabilities? In certain cases, different customer segments want the same experience but they want it delivered through different ways and channels.  
  1. EA framework should offer approaches/viewpoints for modeling total customer experience. EA is the way to create (and maintain) many different coherent views. Such as views for each stakeholder (including customers in this case) and views for each "big" concern. Outside -in-process approach is one way but again it's only about process, it does not tell you who is adding value on each activity in the process and how these values are summed up to the ultimate customer value. Customers don’t want to know how the internal business operates; they tend to think about what experience they would get when they buy a product/service from the business.     
  2. Engaging customers directly on an ongoing basis to see how their goals are changing is a good way to architect customer-centric organizations. By understanding customer goals, an organization could also develop better interaction capabilities to enhance customer experience. There are frequently “fundamental differences” between the organization's view of value and that of customers and consumers, and sometimes, "Customer-Centric Organization" means very different things to different people. Find out what the business means by this terminology and where and to which extent it is "real". It is unlikely that the business will commit to doing anything the customer asks for and it will be more evident in areas of customer communications, sales marketing, and support, than in finance.  
  1. Forecast future behavior: Approaches to building business intelligence upon customers tend to look at the past behavior of individuals to try to determine the segments that they belong to and forecast future behavior. Decision Management manages customer treatment decisions as corporate assets and each customer decision is considered individually. These decision assets are identified, modeled, enhanced by analytics and business know-how, checked for compliance, evaluated for risk and delivered to the multi-channel systems. 
  1. EA needs to define WHAT the business does or must do to create value for customers. Once, it is realized that the organization has to move to a customer-centric organization, how would EA define the building blocks for business transformation; what tools and artifacts (road-mapping, etc) would you create to ensure that business is evolving towards the customer-centric vision? 
  1. People Perspective: Superior customer services are provided by dedicated employees: Customer experience depends very much on employees’ behavior and knowledge/skills they possess. So, companies should develop a training program to equip their employees to deliver the customer experience so that they could offer support and advice to their customers with the right information at the right time. 
A customer-centric organization is agile to adapt to change, intelligent to make the timely decision, resilient to risk, and elastic to scale up & down seamlessly.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ten Perspectives upon IT Transformation

IT transformation is on the horizon to improve IT maturity.
Transformation sounds a bit both ambitious and ambiguous, it could mean many things. IT Transformation is one of the current "in vogue" terms.  What does "IT Transformation" mean in your business though?

  1. IT Transformation is about WHY & WHAT: Why is IT still critical in the organization in the era of Cloud? And what’s the service & culture IT needs to build on?  Should IT take the adoption of a customer service culture and positioning  IT shop as the internal consultant of choice, versus available consulting or advisory services. In other words, would IT get the job if the business had a choice? 
  1. IT Transformation seeks to change. The word "transformation" in itself means change and change for the better - new ways and methods of doing things, new structures, new relationships, etc. There are changes in two shapes: One is internal where IT transforms and the Second where IT helps transform or change the business in line with new strategic imperatives. So the challenges would depend on whether the focus is in the former or latter. 
  1. IT Transformation is driven by Transformational CIOs: A well respected and business savvy CIO can drive organizational change with effective organizational design and dot-connecting innovation. In recent years, it feels that IT has lost its way and it needs the transformational leaders to transform and get IT back on track. 
  1. IT Transformation has a long-range strategy: IT transformation is a significant part of the business transformation, IT becomes change drivers & strategy enabler for business to unleash its full potential, from built to last and good to great, thus, IT strategy is sub-component of business strategy, IT transformation is synchronizing with business transformation. 
  1. IT Transformation is on the horizon to improve IT maturity: The paradigm shift from IT being a reactive, engine room culture to one that is agile and develops the capabilities to drive business growth and perpetual improvement. It might include things like portfolio rationalization, enterprise architecture roadmaps, operational reliability metrics/dashboard, and human capital management strategy. IT continues to reach a higher level of maturity. 
  1. IT Transformation focuses on the goals of innovation. IT transformation means rationalizing the current IT department and planning to partner with the business to provide service & solutions in new ways. A transformation might need work cross boxes instead of within the box. IT transformation means doing more with innovation, transparency, and discipline. 
  1. IT Transformation leverages business “core capabilities”: Transformation is strategic organizational alignment leveraging "core capabilities" to achieve business goals with clear ownership and accountability at all levels. Transformation is simply a popular battle cry of change agents (leadership, business case, habit, etc.) to fix a supposed or real problem with the current state of an IT area or department. Transformations are generally associated with high-cost projects around risk, availability, business enablement, or sourcing. The key driver is often dissatisfaction with current IT performance or cost. IT needs to build up a new set of core capabilities in transforming itself and business as a whole. 
  1. IT Transformation is the journey to pursue business agility: To enable operational excellence, new service/product innovation, customer experience optimization, and employee satisfaction, which are four pillars in building a high-performance enterprise and the ultimate goal for the transformation.  
  1. IT Transformation means doing the “Right” things: A transformation needs strategic guidelines & policy. It takes greater transparency, trust, and collaboration leveraging repeatable process, expectation management and support from C-Level peers and buy-in from staff is also equally important. 
  1. IT Transformation is an integral part of the business transformation. In short, it means (whatever the driver) understanding the "As is" position of the business and the role IT plays in it, and identifying the desirable "To be" state. The next step is to build and execute a strategy and the associated change programs that enable the "To be" state to be achieved, and a set of processes and activities that keep it dynamic. 
Thus, to manage a successful transformation journey, business/IT should set up clear strategy and guidelines, depending on the driver, it may be a discreet change of the way IT operates, or it could be part of a wider business transformation. Either way, it is important that the opportunity is not squandered, and that maximum benefit is derived from the business. 

Leadership Sparkle II: Influencing vs. Motivating

To advocate is to exert degrees of persuasiveness and influence in the circumstances that require it.

The words "influence," "motivate," "persuade" and "inspire" are often used interchangeably without much thought as to their accurate meaning.

 There’s subtle difference between the words, understanding them deeper may improve leadership skills and scenarios, as an effective leader needs to be both influential and motivational, better have them all.

  • There is indeed a subtle difference, one needs to be "influential" if one wants to "motivate." To "influence" means to be able to shape other people's views or opinions towards one's own views or perspectives. This ability to "influence" then sets the ground for getting your "motivation" going. To "motivate" is to get other people to move into action, to act on whatever view you have influenced to take. Transformational leadership requires both facts and skills to be present in one person, plus more. 
  • To influence, is to produce an effect on someone by imperceptible or intangible means; or, to sway, modify a person or even (in some cases) a group in some way;  “to motivate” is the act of giving somebody a reason or incentive to do something Motivating' requires giving someone a 'motive,' usually, self-interest along the lines; while influencing is a higher level skill that makes it their idea.
  • There are different languages for leadership, one of which is "Advocate," which means to support, argue or persuade in favor of or against something or some group of persons. To advocate is to exert degrees of persuasiveness and influence in the circumstances that require it. While motivating people to move more into the area of coaching or mentoring because you are motivating people by allowing them to learn by giving them the time and the confidence to work out for themselves what needs to be done in certain situations. 
  • If look at prefix, "IN"fluence is outside-in, touches both mind and heart via inspiration and insight, while "MO"tivation is moving forward, taking action. So effective leadership should be first influential, then motivational. A person who’s influenced may not necessarily be motivated to act on it, but a person motivated to do something should have been influenced by it. Although motivation does not always come from "hearty or mindful" influence; many times people get motivated by "carrot or stick". 
Either being influential or motivational, leaders first must be good listeners! Emphatic listening - seek first to understand before seeking to be understood, whether in the process of influencing, motivating, persuading, or inspiring. The subtle differences in the language we use to both connect with others and define ourselves lies some of the answers on transforming one's influence into motivating others

Monday, May 27, 2013

Factors Leading to Poor Execution of Strategy

Measure! Reward. Recognize.

There are many risks and pitfalls (hidden risks) for strategy execution, besides 'culture eating strategy for breakfast', there are more factors leading to the poor execution of strategy.

1. Strategy Creep

Give lip service to the strategy.  Similar to the damage scope creep can cause to projects, Strategy Creep can be indicative of larger planning issues such as poor due diligence in the planning phase, no alignment with vision or mission, lack of clear objectives, lack of clear goals, etc.  There’s lack of resource to support strategy. 

2. Weak Leadership

There is a list of reasons why strategy implementations fail, but every reason points back to weak or ineffective leadership. Implementing new strategies is difficult and is often met with great resistance. Leaders must be willing to display the courage and determination required to continually push the initiative forward to achieve the desired goal.

3. Poor Prioritization 

Lack of prioritization of strategic objectives; lack of detail planning to support plan goal achievement. It is important but so is other priority, and when you have to decide how to spend your time and staffing, what to communicate to the management team and troops, how your reward and what you recognize, this strategy doesn't make the cut or gets just a little of your attention and resources.

4. Poor Communication and Coordination 

Lack clear employee understanding of the strategy and what it looks like in action at each individual employee's level. And the absence of a clear strategy map. Letting the wrong pressures into the system such as "get that product out there yesterday" to beat the competition, to discover that you managed to do their work and beat yourself in the process. 

5. Mis-Translation of Strategy into Goals

Once a strategy is formulated, it has to be translated into goals. A strategy is a general outline of loose action items that create departmental goals; goals are concrete items with a measurable factor and deadlines.  Failure to recognize and manage the devil in the details. When you designed the strategy, you may not have understood that the execution was going to impact other areas of the business in ways you didn't anticipate. Stay engaged.

6. Lack of Governance Structure 

The failure can often be linked with poor execution of strategy. You can have the greatest strategic plan in the world, but it will be worthless if the organizations are not accountable to anyone for execution of their tasks.
- Organizational misalignment/poor strategy cascading (to business units, departments, and individual goal plans)
- Lack of active involvement in strategy execution governance management at the executive and organizational leader level 

7. Lack of Meaningful Measurement

 Failure to Measure. What gets measured gets done, especially when there are reward and recognition involved. Ensure you have something to measure. Understand time frames for when to expect to see a difference. Execution of a strategy takes much longer to show up in meaningful metrics than originally conceived. Have measurements to track (part of governance practice) and track performance, providing management and staff communication on progress, and recognition of milestones & misses and the people who are achieving the desired results. Measure! Reward. Recognize.

BPM as Business Competitive Differentiator

What distinguishes one company from another is about people, products, and processes. No question processes are a competitive advantage. Processes are at the core of business. Whether structured, unstructured, sequential, dynamic etc, when defining business processes and using them as a differentiator, it's important to evaluate the relative maturity of the organization & industry, and how an organization might use business processes to its advantage.

1.   BPM to Optimize Customer Experience 

Business process has many characteristics (workflow, people, information, supplies, tools, steering, etc) to make it happen.What customer-centric businesses have the most grips on its processes so they deliver what they promise? Are they competing for best quality, cost advantage or efficient value chain, ..And can their processes do what they promise?

BPM will drive process efficiency by removing repetitive work and automating as required within front end processes which contribute to competitive pricing. Good BPM supporting technology should support these key issues. The end results of the processes which are either producing a product or service of perceived more value to a customer is what that can be later considered competitive advantage. Anything that makes something better, faster, or cheaper provides competitive advantage, and processes help business get there.

2. BPM to Improve Employees’ Productivity 

Every company has processes. Most of them are stored as knowledge in employees’ heads. Those processes get established with a lot of try and error and discussions to resolve how to get things done collaboratively. This results in a lot of small interruptions that quickly add up and prevent longer blocks of time necessary for creative thinking. With an easy to use BPM system, people share those processes resulting in less -interruptions. And if people are equipped with the right information at the right time within the relevant process, then good decisions can be made and implemented

Furthermore, employees spend a lot of time copying information from one app to another manually. Integrating the many systems involved in a process further reduces the hassle that employees have to go through, and the effect of implementing BPM is the telemetry it gives about people and how they use the processes. Now you know how your resources are deployed, you can see how effective they are and you can measure, empirically, the impact of your management.

3. BPM to Enforce Business Agility

 Business 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. .Knowing where you are, what direction you are going and how fast, beats, guessing where you are, assuming it's the right direction and holding up a wet finger to calculate your speed. Good processes are company assets but must remain “adaptive” to changing circumstances such as reacting to a competitor’s actions.

And the BPM project selection is based upon that understanding which business process optimization and innovations will be most effective to create and sustain a competitive advantage.

There are particular stages where business process becomes more as differentiator. So much depends upon the product/service maturity of an industry as to how an organization might use business processes to its advantage. Business processes that are dynamic and nimble can make a competitive difference for a company that is in a "disrupter" stage from the perspective of product/market lifecycle. However, if the company is in a more mature stage, business process innovations may be the primary means for achieving a competitive advantage.

Therefore, process, or more precisely, how a process is executed is the differentiator. Further, what enables a process? People, technology, etc. and how it behaves in situations determines differentiation and innovation

How to gain Leverage when Negotiating a Cloud SLA

Learn a little more about service management and use SLA for what they were created for as the paper which results from a real and deep business to IT dialog, and IT to vendor dialog as well.

Running Cloud-based Service is new reality in many IT organizations today. However, to avoid unwanted surprises, how to negotiate a cloud SLA becomes emergent challenge for even seasoned CIOs. What are the key areas to pay attention to in a SLA? How much room is there to negotiate with a cloud vendor when it comes to the internal controls and processes they already have in place? Though it largely depends on the deal size, the company and what you are looking for. Generally speaking, data availability, integrity and retention are the three most often discussed subjects in a typical contract and vary widely as liability is the chief concern.

  1. Availability: If businesses really need high availability,  you have to have a dialogue with vendors to understand what they can deliver. An SLA is a financial instruments not a technical one. If your application is business critical,  no supplier is going to give you an SLA which begins to compensate you for the business loss resulting from an outage. The best way to evaluate a company’s SLA is to have a conversation with them and look at how their infrastructure is architected. Also looking at their passed outages. 
  1. Integrity: It is wise to think of what is agreed in terms of how the SLA fulfillment will be measured. If the vendor commits to 99,9%,  however measured at their connection point to the whole big internet, which is common, it will say nothing about what service levels you and your users will actually perceive and you will likely spend much time with your stakeholders on what quality (availability) of service you deliver to your organization. Either way due diligence in better understanding how a vendor achieves their stated SLA is very important too. Some companies will offer a 99.999% uptime SLA with the understanding that their cloud offering is not engineered to achieve that level but they willing to accept the risk of paying violation penalties. 
  1. Retention: If cloud is part of your regular operation and you are willing to negotiate a term or revenue commitment with the cloud operator,  you can negotiate SLAs but keep in mind the most important thing to a vendor is not to lose your business so an "outage" clause that allows you to terminate the contract with little or no penalty may be the best way to manage the vendor. If there are multiple SLA failures throughout the term of the contract, or worse, then you can either choose not to renew the contract and find a new vendor or use those issues as leverage when negotiating new rates/terms. Larger vendors are more likely to improve their infrastructures and processes in a shorter amount of time given the amount of pressure their customers put on them. 
  1. Vendor Evaluation: When it comes to vendors, depending on their size and industry relationships, most have little room to budget when it comes to internal controls and processes as this all points back to their own expenditures and bottom line. However, if negotiations don't end up to your liking, seek a remediation clause that is comparable to a percentage of the contracts overall value.  SLAs need to have meaningful penalties so that vendor can fix the problem. However, there are larger aspects of of SLA's to consider when it comes to the legalities of liability/ ownership around data breaches that put companies out of compliance and can cost them huge fines 
  1. The extent of vigilance and sophistication of cloud service buyers/vendors are very varied. It's a multi-layered issue involving: (1) Proper upfront due diligence on service provider.(2) Ensuring Service Level Commitments align to the risks and criticality of the data/application running in the cloud - service providers will need to provide a spectrum (cost varied) SLA on different apps if they truly want to align to business need. Business critical apps versus dev environments demand reflect very priorities, SLA and cost. 
Thus, how to gain leverage?  Learn a little more about service management and use SLA for what they were created for as the paper which results from a real and deep business to IT dialog, and IT to vendor dialog as well. The goal is to build up the trust-based partner relationship for long term.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Three Aspects of Agile BI

The meaning of BI is fundamentally the ability of gathering information in a particular way or form in order to make better business decisions. Agile BI provides the right information to the right person at the right time. The agility comes from accessing the best data and being able to rapidly provide the correct information to help answer the question that is important for decision making. It’s not just a technology or methodology, but the combination of all: Agile BI = Self Service BI+ Agile Development method + Agile architecture

1.   Self-Service BI

Traditional BI used to be seen as being in the realm of IT because it was with IT tools that people are able to gather and manipulate information best. However, this led to centralized administration of whatever BI systems/tools are used. This centralization usually occurs within the IT department. With Agile BI, the concept is to place the administration of BI in the hands of the people who know and understand the data the best…the end business user. Agile BI is the ability for the users to quickly and effectively create their own reports from their live data and adapt to rapidly changing requirements without loss of speed or accuracy. 

  • Agile BI is a BI that can follow the business requirements. In the core of a BI system are well designed, stable and reliable Cubes of data. An BI system is agile when these data can be used to merge, compare and manipulate with other data like business scenarios, trends, etc. Only then a BI system really "comes to live". And where BI should be going, and does indeed to be heading, is toward providing the data that end users can manipulate and create their own results as their business needs require. 
  • Agility in BI is more concerned with how rapidly BI implementation can change to meet new business needs. The research has shown that the time window business managers have to make decisions after business events occur is being continually compressed. Often, these managers also need to see information that the BI team didn't plan for in the first place. So Agile BI is the placing of more direct control of the data into the hands of the business user, with the IT organizations enabling them. 
  • More organizations turning towards a self-service mode of BI, in order to make decisions in the timeframe required. That is, corporate IT provides a robust foundation of data, the right tools, the right training, and the right support. Business managers are then operating as self-sufficiently as possible, performing their own analytics, drill down etc. The truth is, decision-windows are being compressed so much that there simply isn't time to get corporate IT involved when the "standard" BI deliverables don't provide the information required. 
  • A truly agile BI solution is one that puts the ability to develop reports and dashboards in the hands of the users. But there is a gap between what we really need and what we think we need. The Agile BI concept says, “Let’s give users the capability to view their data in whatever way they’d like in order to help them uncover business opportunities that may not have been so obvious before. Give them the ability to alter reports, charts and graphs. Allow them to create ‘what if’ scenarios in order to help them decide on their next strategy.” Agile BI means self-service, better visualization, light-weight tool to enable business users to do analytics effectively. 

2.   Agile Development Methodology

Agile BI and Agile Methodology, two very different things, but intertwined with each other at the same time.  The other part of Agile BI is applying agile project delivery methodology to BI development via iterative communication & better customer satisfaction; make the tool more nimble and user-friendly.
  • Agile embraces change. It is an excellent methodology for eliciting requirements when the user isn't sure what's required. By taking a pragmatic, iterative approach, the developer can produce a first cut of the solution and get it in front of a user for review without having to go through a major requirements gathering and documentation exercise . "Scrum" Project that uses smaller "iterations" of development with intensive customer involvement, and this, by implication is juxtaposed against the traditional formal requirements process driven "waterfall" project management methodology. 
  • Agile BI is the implementation of the agile development (delivery) method which is effective and pragmatic. The core concept of the method is incremental iterations which is to cut the long development cycle of BI project in series of small iterations or cycles. In practice this means a close relationship between the development team and the requirement / test team(s), instead of delivering the entire project at once, the method will deliver incremental versions of the project progressively to achieve the delivery of all required functionalities.Practice 'Agile Manifesto'
    Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
    Working software over comprehensive documentation
    Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
    Responding to change over following a plan
  • There are some infrastructure building blocks that MUST be there before you can sprint through the development. Agile only works if there is substantial work done up front to enable BI. Rapid Agile development builds on a lot of hard foundational work that comes before. THEN you can rapidly develop reporting and analytics output that works. Focusing on the agile methodology *alone* often results in:
          - A lousy foundation with decreasing velocity as changes are applied
          - A hand-over to a support team and IT governance process that seems intent on strangling the new
            agile BI thing to irrelevant

3.   Agile Architecture & Design

Agile BI is not a technology, a process, or a project methodology but a combination of all of these in addition to analytics and anything else that enables a person or organization to gather information in a better fashion for better decision making.  Defining a true BI Solution - creating successful BI strategies, processes, and applications... Know where you are before undertaking new direction-BI agility is achievable

  • Agile BI is also about how to cultivate the analytics culture, break down the data silo, to shape an Agile organization as the destination (no matter which road be taken, there's should be an inspiring destination). Some part of the overall Agile BI answer is to simplify of Analytic tools/apps for easier consumption by business users. There is a very heavy technology stack that is getting in between users, their data, & effective decision making. Like methods, standards, processes (including a well-designed development lifecycle, agile or otherwise). And to a large extent, well-designed data and tools. 
  • Agile BI, Agile enterprise... implies a broader decision making capability among many distributed decision makers by pushing access to the right information down and across the organization to the right end-using decision maker, on demand--hence making the organization more nimble in its decision making and its value creating market actions. The organization can instill the data-driven decision-making and analytical culture, to improve the operation and customer satisfaction 
  • Agile is a mindset first and a methodology second. As a mindset, it has to permeate all areas of BI that lay between a user and a result..... There is a large overlap between structure, meaning and insight that both need to collaborate on. In that overlap we need Agile individuals who are either business savvy, IT professionals or IT savvy business professionals. The agile things include:
    1). Agile method (most discussed)
    2). Agile technology (e.g. in-memory)
    3). Agile architecture and design
    4). Agile talent  
An organization may not have an agile BI or decision making capability without  these aspects all being agile. Agile is mindset, Agile is Mythology & Technology, Agile is architecture & design, and last but not least, it’s agile talent, if the project fails, It's NEVER a Technical Problem, it's ALWAYS a People Problem

Can A Strategy be Sustainable

Businesses put significant effort to craft a good strategy, and expect strategy is sustainable to guide their long term growth. However, as the rate of change is accelerated, and strategy needs to be more dynamic than you think. Can a strategy still be sustainable?

  1. Strategy must be preceded by a vision. A well defined vision is very long lasting, missions should be ambitious enough to be sustainable over long periods and strategies that align well with the first two should be sustainable over longer term, but should be allowed to reflect significant dynamics that surround the enterprise. A vision, and its supporting strategic plan, must have some basis in reality; by which it mean that they must take into account, or at least account for, all of the present day factors that could have an impact. A strategy must take into account things as they are today and show how to progress to the future goal. Otherwise, it is not sustainable. 
  1. A strategy and a company become sustainable through conscious and deliberate efforts. Leaders of such companies take a long-term view when making decisions. Such drive and commitment is what can make a strategy sustainable, Strategy can only be sustainable if the organizations leaders are leading it. That said, those leaders need to have one eye on the current efforts and results of their product area, The other eye better be on the future and how changing customer expectations, evolving technologies, competitor behaviors, and governmental regulations may need to shift the objectives of a strategic plan. 
  1. A further issue is to recognize that no strategy is sustainable over the long term. For sure a strategy can be sustainable (for a while). The key is to find a breakthrough strategy. By implication such a strategy creates advantages. These may be sustained by way of developing key sources of competitive advantage. Hence, it needs to seek further breakthrough or additive and complementary opportunities to build on and sustain the existing strategy.  
  1. Ensure there are no gaps between the sum of the divisional strategies and the corporate strategy. Usually, strategy is done either at an organization wide level, or at an SBU level. Or with divisions or regions that have unique or core area and ensure these are aligned to the corporate strategy. Also in planning the strategy execution - someone in the organization would need to ensure alignment between all the strategies. And ensure there are no gaps between the sum of the divisional strategies and the corporate strategy - and that the divisional strategies do not work against one another.  all SBU strategies need to become integral components of holistic business strategy
  1. Strategy for Business Core Competency. There is Core Competency of an organization & this core has several 'core areas' to accelerate growth. Thus this organization would need a Strategy for its Core Competency, as well as it would need several Strategies for each of its several 'core areas'. Above all, it would need variations in Strategy depending on the dynamics of each of these 'core areas'. Depending on the direct relation & co-relation with the Strategy for the Core Competency, all these would be planned accordingly, such as Long term, Medium term & Short term. These ‘core areas” need to well define such as leadership strategy, innovation strategy, talent strategy, data strategy and sustainability strategy., etc.  
  1. The issue is to create a value chain - activity system that commands activities that are different to competing systems and capabilities that are better than competitors, looking at core areas within an organization, look at organizational problems, or symptoms that would require strategy as a solution. The creation of a corporate strategy, or even sub-level strategy, also depends upon where the company is in its life cycle.  In some cases it can takes years or even a decade for a company to build the knowledge, relationships and/or business partnerships that are required in order to successfully implement a long term business plan.  
  1. A corporate strategy that has not been "cascaded" to the business and functional technically cannot be implemented and/or executed. Such strategy is incomplete and not "feasible". If you reflect on it, the organization units are the "capability" centers where work gets done. Most businesses are typically not static, therefore a corporate strategy for most businesses must be dynamic in order to support the ever changing business and its needs (across whatever time period of change required). So part of the corporate strategy's role is coordination of the "cascaded" strategic objectives assigned to the units.  
All of that said, in reality, it should be the goal of a corporate strategy to create and maintain a sustainable business; which is much more important than a sustainable strategy.

Should Risk & Compliance Stay under the same Umbrella

Risk and compliance should work really closely in order to create value.

As part of the effort to run a successful business, organizations have to manage the risks to business operations with an eye on strategic plan. Requirements to ensure compliance are another component of the company’s risks. However, in some businesses, compliance functions saying that they never talk to their cousins of Risk Management, what are ideal reporting lines for risk and compliance, should they stay under the same umbrella?

1. Compliance Maturity

Compliance Management covers all (relevant) laws, regulations, internal standards and policies (including the Operational risk policy). It stands to reason to assume that the laws, regulations, internal standards and policies imposed on- or adopted by a company are the source/ starting point for the definition of any underlying (operational and system) process to remain compliant. 

  • Compliance is typically (at average maturity) an inward, detail focused function. Ensuring and overseeing compliance is an essential part of the governance body, but it’s largely as a means to 'preserve value,' rather than to 'create value.' Compliance obligations is a mostly unrewarded risk, something you have to do and keep the regulator of your back to ensure your business maintains its license to operate. Evaluating risk for compliance obligations is needed to better manage compliance programs effectively. 
  • At high maturity level, Compliance is all about looking at the outside world as well. Compliance is or should be more than just looking at internal directives. It is also about looking at how the world and society are developing itself. Compliance is very much a strategic issue and companies that do not recognize this are blindfolding to a great extent. Now even more than in the past, as the world has become significantly ‘smaller’ due to the modern social media and cross-border relationships. A good example is ‘durability’ and ‘sustainability. If the organization does not take this into consideration and advice, the Board may disregard external sentiments or external social and political developments. A good reputation is one of the biggest assets of a company and most definitely a value creator. 
  • Plus, compliance focus should more naturally shift in line with the view of the marketCompliance should be in the frontline of developments to provide guidance to the business where this is needed. This also means that Compliance is not only telling the business what they cannot do, but they can also point them into the direction of alternatives and opportunities within the regulatory frameworks. 

2. Managing Compliance is a Sub-set of Operational Risk

Businesses are focused on risk management and corporate governance as a means of setting guidelines. Both are critical business functions whose responsibility resides with the board and senior executive teams to the point of liability and individual risk. Risk, at the Board level, requires a strategic and forward-looking perspective, dealing in uncertainty and - if it is to add real value - challenging accepted wisdom, 'thinking the unthinkable' and asking the unpalatable question. Sadly many companies pay the price for limiting their thinking to the short term, internal perspective. 

  • The overarching risk management program should consider compliance risk as part of the enterprise view of risks. Compliance of risk management and appropriate Operational Health & Safety (OH&S) practice is commonplace across the business to be seen & acting simultaneously. There seems a little point of establishing risk management policies & processes and having no cultural penalties or disincentive if the processes and mitigating risk strategies are not implemented across the business. There are companies that focus on compliance, the heavily regulated companies for obvious reasons however if that is their only focus or primary strategy they can miss risks that might be pretty obvious to someone else. 
  • The challenge is ensuring that the people authorized to make decisions on behalf of the company are able to view the organization and the risks to the organization holistically. There needs to be a balance and thoughtful approach to manage the risks that could interrupt or negatively impact business, which includes compliance risk.  Organizations get into trouble when they focus on compliance because a compliance-focused GRC program could also be reactive and backward-looking. "Making the regulators happy" frequently _does_ turn into window dressing, many regulated organizations follow that path only to suffer a loss due to risks not adequately addressed by compliance-focused risk management. 
  • Risk is a topic for the full board - not only to identify and address key risks but to understand and convert the best of them to opportunity (the creative cousin of risk) for new initiatives and progress. At an operational level, the management of risk does usually align well with the compliance function. But the role of the board is not just about 'risk management': directors are here to provide 'risk governance.' 

3. Balance the “Four Eyes” Checks & Co-operation between Compliance & Risk Management

The debate point is upon how to make compliance and risk management work more effectively, how do they cover the areas that cross over? How well do they cover the gaps? Can you really understand the risks in a solution if you don't understand it from end to end? How to strategically align compliance as part of the overall process to manage risks?

  • Separation of the Risk and Compliance functions in most organizations should provide the necessary "four eyes" checks and balances to optimize risk mitigation within a firm. The Compliance function often reports directly to the firm's governing body, whereas Risk goes into the board via C-Level executives (depending on the size and complexity of the firm). As Risks and Compliance Management typically require different skills and mindsets. This does not mean, however, that there should not be close co-operation between the two areas. Unfortunately, at this point in larger organizations, power politics and point scoring often get in the way of common sense and what is best for the organization! They usually claim that compliance and risk are working side by side but in fact, they sometimes act as each other’s biggest internal competitor, trying to dominate each other in the chain of command and hierarchy 
  • Utilizing the Risk Management processes at its core and running through all activities whether by the compliance function or the businesses. It is going down well, also by leveraging the risk management process the level of evidence and reporting be required by regulators these days should also be facilitated without extra processes. It is such a large area of risk that most companies have a group dedicated to it, which may create the impression that it is somehow a separate discipline, but it isn't. It's just one risk area that is large enough that it justifies dedicated staff. While the reporting lines could certainly be aligned, there is a definite need and benefit for a dedicated compliance staff because these folks represent very specific subject matter experts, whereas your risk management staff maybe more generalists. 
  • Risk and compliance should work really closely in order to create value. Many have been advocating integrated GRC for years. Integrated GRC includes more vital business perspectives, each providing a check and balance on the others, two disciplines require to a different set of specialism and depending on how much regulated the entity is, it may require the functions to operate independently although the risk issues should be addressed jointly in one Risk and Compliance Committee as compliance does have an impact on strategic matters. More importantly, they should use the same (risk) methodologies and talk the same language. Failure to comply with any operational process is in the bigger picture primarily a failure to comply with the operational policy from which the process (in the end) is defined.        
Therefore, there’re pros and cons for Risk and Compliance get merged completely, but risk management and compliance are as closely linked as they need to be under the GRC umbrella.