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.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Innovative IT

The Paradox of IT is to be both an Innovation engine and governance champion.

From industry surveys, the majority of IT organizations are still being perceived as maintenance center, most employees outside of IT don’t call their IT teams very innovative, yet most believe technology is growing in importance, so IT leaders are facing unprecedented pressures to transform their IT into value center and innovation engines, but how to run an innovate IT, what’re the roadblocks one need to overcome, and which capabilities IT needs to cultivate?

IT is business: Innovative IT can only happen if IT is regarded as a partner and given the role in catalyzing innovation and driving the business. The "us vs. them" mentality is still alive. Most CIOs, even if they are a part of the Board, still claim that they have no influence on strategy. It is then like saying - "be innovative but don't tell us what to do.” Further, it is true that IT spends much more time in general on maintaining existing systems than innovating. It is hard to put down the fire hose. It's been the case for a while that IT departments are wrapped up in the heroics of bringing systems back online efficiently when really the resources should have been further up the value chain putting processes, systems, and management structures in place to stop them from going down (80% of downtime is caused by changes after all - and that is a management issue, not a un-manageable technology issue).

Leadership innovationThe spirit of the organization is from Top. ~Peter Drucker: One of the most appropriate titles of CIO is "Chief Innovation Officer." CIOs generally have a greater opportunity to stand out and take a lead in driving innovation across their companies. Though every executive should make their voice heard on this front, have an opportunity and responsibility to participate in the innovation dialog and to come up with innovative ideas, most of the functions can make process innovation within their division. IT, on the other hand, has much more of an opportunity to enable incremental top-line and bottom-line value across the business, not just within IT, but cross-organizational scope; from innovation management perspective, the innovative leadership team should well mix the innovator personas: movers and shakers, thought leaders, critical thinkers, experimenters, reframers, set the right tone to inspire the new thinking and encourage the new way to do things and lead enterprise-wide innovation management.

Process innovationThe missing part is business innovations. IT has always been very innovative regarding technology. IT has a natural innovative spirit - most IT specialist is eager to use new technologies and gadgets. But there is a significant difference between technical proficiency and business innovation. Natural IT innovation spirit can be used to the benefit of business only when IT participates in defining strategy and business goals and make IT as a business driver and strategic asset. So IT can devote more attention to what organizations really care about - putting technology to business advantage. It is the gap between the aspirations of what IT could do to the business versus what the current IT infrastructure within the respective IT department is capable of providing/ enabling. That gap may be a bigger factor contributing to tension and perception. Without a good understanding of that reality from everyone at the board level, the CIO is in a tough spot. Often time, it may not be because the CIO isn't business savvy and it may not be because other C-Suite ranks don't understand and value technology, it is because such gap needs time and resources to fill out first.

Culture Innovation: Innovation is not just about technology, Innovation is not always equal to the latest gadget, it’s about people, culture, partnership, manners, etc. Isn't that what innovation is all about: do it better, differentiate yourself from your completion, run, grow and transform the business. So educate the IT team on the business and encourage them to engage with business counterparts in a value-oriented manner. Building an environment where the only thing you get fired for is not asking hard questions. Often the most disruptive person is the one you want to harness, channel the energy, enthusiasm, and ideas. many legacy businesses come with a legacy mindset, the old way to do the things, lack three elements to spark innovation: vision, passion, and progression. Employees don’t have a sense of urgency to adapt to the changes or think differently (nonlinear or different angle). But an innovative culture encourages their people to see the old problems from every direction and find different solutions. IT needs to re-brand itself as a business innovation or transformation center. To break the mold, IT needs to rethink itself as an innovative and business leading organization composed not only of technical ‘gurus’ (who happen to live in a far off-white tower) but rather of business ‘gurus’ who also happen to be technically proficient. This requires different CIO management styles, organizational setups, and management focus. IT task is to provide innovation platforms to the business. And business divisions get empowered with effective tools that allow them to shape and create the processes they need to execute new strategies and operations. IT role is to become the supply chain that gives them value-added engagement or platforms of innovation.

Governance is key: IT needs to transform itself as an innovator yet retain its edge in tighter control over the standard processes. A challenge with the "consumerization of IT" is that the slickness or ease of the technology often clouds the risks involved, so IT governance is to ensure accountability and governance mechanism well embedded in business processes to encourage desirable behavior. Although switching back and forth between control and innovation is a difficult thing to do within the same group of people and the same portfolio. Smart IT shops know innovation and regular operations are very different and will create some separation - different unit for innovation within IT, different portfolio, allowances within innovation projects for frequently shifting dates, budget, etc.

Running IT as an innovation engine needs to close three gaps: the leadership gap, the collaboration gap, and the implementation gap. Develop a deep understanding of the business value chain, competitive landscape, business processes and capabilities, revenue models, P&L drivers, and balance sheet strengths and constraints. In many organizations, IT is the custodian of solutions and data assets that can be applied in new and different ways to generate massive business value that far exceeds what other functions can incrementally bring to the table. Innovative IT is high-performing, high-capable, and high-mature to leapfrog their business’s digital transformation. Innovative IT is an integral part of the innovative organization, and the paradox of IT is to be both innovation enabler and risk intelligence manager, to gain competitive advantage or differentiated capabilities for business’s growth.

Read More about Modern IT:

Does Complexity Diminish Business Value?

 There are both 'Trick & Treat" Pieces in Complexity. Business is Complex, Nature is Complex, and Human is Complex

Modern organizations spend significant time and resources to deal with complexity, the complex organizational structure/process or the hyper-complex business ecosystem, which factors contribute the most to making organizations more complex? How to reduce unnecessary complexity or enforce effective complexity to increase business value?

Complexity is a systematic thinking concept, and it’s not the opposite of "simplicity.” In systematic thinking, systems such as organizations, biological systems, enterprise as a system, etc., can be characterized as being complex if they have non-linear feedback loops; such systems can exhibit emergent behavior. Simple systems can have complexity in that they have non-linear feedback loops which can result in emergent properties and outcomes. Complexity is diverse, ambiguous, and dynamic with unpredictable outcomes. It is often erroneously confused with the term complication. Nevertheless, complexity and complication do not mean the same thing. Something that is complex is not necessarily difficult, but something that is complicated does have a high degree of difficulty.

Einstein said that every solution to the problem should be as simple as possible, but no simpler. It means that a problem has an inherent, irreducible complexity; any attempt to simplify further than that will fail and any complexity added to it is harmful. So complexity per se is neither good nor bad. Some problems are simple in nature; others are complex. And it's a continuum, not either/or. The goal as an architect is to create elegant and useful problem solutions that accommodate a problem's inherent complexity and, depending on the system's nature and its audience, hide that complexity by abstracting up from it to a simpler level, without compromising the solution's quality, robustness, and enhanced ability. It's basically the old "novice vs. expert" tradeoff; a good system tries to accommodate as much of that range as possible. many problems become more and more complex as we dig into them,

Complexity is not the opposite of simplicity. Sometimes "complex is simple as it gets." System complexity arises from the interaction of dynamic components and can be layered and intricate. Even simple interactions can create amazing complex systems such as the game of life, Fractal images, Asparagus clouds. At the core of these complex images/patterns are a few simple elements. In some ways, “complexity” is an emergent property. The challenge is able to see the simple elements that make up these systems and understand the nature of the system, its elements, and the rules that govern them. This is not always easy. Once you have this understanding, the complexity still exists, but now you are in a better position to respond to threats and opportunities, and even modify the system – both its elements and the rules that govern them – to effect change. 

The complication is a better antonym for simplicity. Complicated systems will no doubt have layers of complexity as well, but can be simplified by reducing the number of components or changing the way they interact. Sometimes the way to do this is to make one of the elements of the system more complex, designed in such a way so that the complexity of other elements of the system is reduced. Some complexity factors cannot be simplified, you need to become more complex in order to serve, for example, customers. Other complexity factors do have less influence of external forces; these factors can be tackled and simplified in order to perform better. EA could be an instrument to handle complexity, but not conquer it. 

Tree Shape Complexity theory-Simplicity at the top, complexity towards leaves. Complex systems require systemic and holistic analysis techniques based on synthesis. Complexity and Complication are both relevant to Enterprise Architecture. EA must strive to understand the complexity and must work to simplify things that are complicated.

However, these systems typically pose a problem for architects and engineers because they are usually using the wrong tools (reductionism analysis techniques that can't detect the emergence properties). From the point of the business strategy changes, all tasks/requirements should be assessed and ranked in three dimensions:
1) criticality (value) for the business of the task
2) Readiness (maturity) of business for this task solution
3) Feasibility (Effort/ Complexity) 

Business is complex, nature is complex, and human is complex, there are beauty and harmony in it, also it is dynamic, diverse and distinct. So the purpose of managing complexity is not to, actually is impossible to eliminate it all, but on how to create synergy and build delight on it.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How to Define IT Agility?

IT Agility is a mentality, culture, process, and perspective. 
Agility is a common business term that is used frequently these days to measure how fast business will respond to opportunities or threats, and enterprises are even having key agility indicators. IT Agility is about how IT will enable business agility, how fast IT will deliver the required effectiveness and efficiency. The more alignment between business and IT the more level of agility for both will be achieved.

Agility is a measure of the ability to recognize, act and benefit from changing business circumstances. Business agility is the reciprocal of the lag time between recognizing an emerging business opportunity and being able to act on that opportunity. And IT agility is the reciprocal of the drag that IT places on business' agility. An agile business can do this, whilst competitors are still setting up change teams. Having technology which empowers business users to make changes to processes (within a control framework) without the need for expensive projects is an important aspect, but to be "agile", organizations need to focus on their business processes, and not operate in traditional silo structures. In the context of IT, from the highest strategic to the deepest technical levels, "agility" is a fast, sure response to external stimuli. Agility is the ability to "pivot" and change direction in response to market pressure or to create market opportunity, It requires distinct patterns of IT capabilities, with specific positioning in the enterprise (enterprise or business unit level). Getting the right mix is not easy. It requires a good understanding of what is meant by strategic agility, to avoid over-investing in a given layer of the technology stack. So keeping an eye on where IT initiatives cluster on the value-net (internally focused/ supply side/demand side) would be a first measure of whether IT dollars line up with the strategic direction.

For achieving agility, there should be a rolling plan in addition to the mid-term or long-term strategic planning document. Need for agility arises due to changes in underlying assumptions. If these changes are captured in the rolling plan, flexibility can be achieved. Every CIO may ask self: Is IT responsive and proactive enough to find answers and solutions in case of emerging chances? Does IT have a platform which is scalable, secure, resilient and well interconnected? IT is now the rate limiter for change, the IT infrastructure that was implemented to deliver business automation in the 20th Century, which it did quite well through standardization, now impedes business agility in the 21st Century; a movement that recognizes increasingly dynamic business environments and the need for operational responsiveness is on the way. Organizations need to adaptive IT infrastructure for business sustainability. This reflects that systems development, qualification, and deployment are complex tasks. The business aspiration to agility can often be leveraged to help align business and technology stakeholders around the case for application modernization and rationalization. Many businesses aspire to agility when they are burdened by brittle, tightly coupled systems constrained by rigid roadmaps and deployment schedules due to the underlying code debt, integration dependencies, and testing complexity. In the meantime, well-run technology organizations can demonstrate alignment by being responsive to tactical business opportunities to the degree possible while remaining focused on developing, communicating, and executing a longer-term strategy to enable and maintain true enterprise agility.

Agility requires a set of complementary & strategic IT competencies: It includes but not limited to portfolio management, project management, change management, enterprise architecture, rapid adoption and deployment of new platforms, etc. It takes strategic guideline - If you have a very good idea of where you are going - what your systems will be like and how they will work - then it is much easier to choose quickly between immediate opportunities: pick the ones that take you in the right direction. As strategy as a vector has both direction and force, the goals should be clear and therefore the ability to follow a strategy more than possible. It's also worth pointing out that agility is closely related to simplicity. The simpler the business processes, the agiler the business is. And the simpler the IT systems, the agiler (in general) the IT systems are. In an architectural context, it effectively reflects the functional coverage of IT architecture. Re-purposing well-designed components and systems for changed purposes and conditions can be accomplished quickly and consistently if the underlying structures (both physical and logical) properly cover the various problem spaces.

The purpose of building an Agile IT is to pursue an optimal way running IT, to enable business innovation and transformation via taking advantage of organization’s resources and cultivate a set of the necessary and unique set of business capabilities to gain competitive business advantage. Being Agile, not just doing Agile, it's a mentality, and IT agility is like many things IT does today, is a journey, not a technological project.

Shall you Assess Talent's 'Creatibility'?

Can grade on one's creativity help unleash talent's potential?

Traditional performance management in most of the organizations usually focuses on measuring employees’ efficiency: are they doing what being told to do well. However, with increasing competition and emergent business changes, should organizations today also assess their talent from innovation angle, in order to cultivate a culture of innovation and improve business competency, if so, HOW, what’re the technique or best practices can be shared?

Innovation takes place in companies with the right culture and climate. It may depend on the organization's willingness's to motivate and use the innovation and creativity, and this is a different approach in the mind of the people running the game. Overall speaking, you need to make everybody innovative and make the proper rewarding system and provide the environment that hosts the stream of ideas,  it is forward-looking to add "innovative" to the standard characteristics evaluated in the employee performance reviews.

First of all, you should give the employees knowledge on how to identify innovation opportunities: It also maybe that they haven't been asked to give ideas in a formal way. As marking someone "innovative" depends on many philosophical criteria, is it the number of ideas, usability of the idea, relevance of the idea in the present time or in the future, the magnitude of the idea, implementation of the idea, etc. 
1). creating something new - new knowledge starting the long road to a new technology.
2). Improving something or the process that makes it better
3).Adapting another's product or process to a new use or situation.

Second: Training and quantifying innovation into measurable are also important. Innovation is very difficult if not impossible to achieve without an organization-wide culture of innovation. The other issue is that most people do not consider themselves as either creative or innovative, so mentoring and training should be put in place before innovation is made a key performance factor. Definitely, quantify into measurable for innovation such as make them attend innovation training; make them read recent trends; make them submit idea reports etc. Lower the barrier to submit ideas but ensure proper systems for follow-up into project stage gate process. Create ownership of ideas either individually or as a team member

Third: Set up certain level of standard for assessing innovation characteristics in performance review:
1) There most likely will be metrics assigned to a good portion of the workforce in the "Goals and Objectives" section of performance review. The innovation characteristic will go into the "Traits and Characteristics" section in Performance Review. Such as the description for exceptional is:
a. Brings in bright, original and creative ideas from outside the organization,
b. Has infectious enthusiasm for making things better
c. Constructively challenges the status quo and has positive ideas for improvement
d. Consistently acts to improve things in their own role or team
e. Actively supports and adapts well to changes proposed by others

2) The other best practice is to use the following as a method to grade an employee on Creativity. A score is given between 1 and 5. Descriptions of typical behaviors for 1, 3 and 5 help to give manager guidance for picking a score, and then examples of the employee's behavior over the review period support the number chosen.Demonstrates the ability to conceive and develop unique or innovative ideas/approaches. Shows originality in solving problems or completing work.
1.) Unacceptable
a. Does not develop or implement new ideas/processes
b. Seems to have the attitude that creative thinking is for others to do - has a “not-my-job mentality”
c. Often resists implementation of new ideas/approaches
d. Subscribe to the “it’s always been done that way” philosophy
2.) A score between 1 and 3.
3.) Fully Competent
a. Develops creative solutions when faced with problems or issues
b. Is usually able to offer creative ideas/improvements when working with others
c. May need assistance but is typically able to implement creative processes/techniques
4.) A score between 3 and 5.
5.) Exceptional
a. Is constantly looking for innovative, unique improvements even when things are going well
b. Is able to work through the barriers and put ideas into place
c. Will build on the ideas/insights of others to come up with “outside the box” solutions
d. Generates an enthusiasm for creative thinking and helps others to develop their own ideas

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Software Architecture vs. Data Architecture

Enterprise Architecture is not simply the composition of all sub-domain architectures, but the synthesis of them. 
From Wikipedia: In information technology, data architecture  is composed of models, policies, rules or standards that govern which data is collected, and how it is stored, arranged, integrated, and put to use in data systems and in organizations. Data is usually one of several architecture domains that form the pillars of an enterprise architecture or solution architecture.

The word software architecture intuitively denotes the high level structures of a software system. It can be defined as the set of structures needed to reason about the software system, which comprise the software elements, the relations between them, and the properties of both elements and relations 

1. Data & Software Architecture are Different Architecture Domains 

Software Architecture and Data Architecture are separate architecture domains, with different concerns. Although not absolutely required, they should be integrated under the defining and governing umbrella of Enterprise Architecture.

1) Software Architecture Focal Point: If you are answering questions as to the performance or the detailed design of software that is software architecture, whether it is part of a single area or across the whole company.

2) Data Architecture Focal Point: If you are answering questions as to how information is stored, normalized, and joined together this is data architecture. Even meta-data falls into this category.

3) EA Scope: If you are answering questions as to how well the software integrates with the company's processes, its ability to change to a particular company's needs, and how this software fits within the context of the company's strategies, this is enterprise architecture. How the data fits within this context, who owns the data, how is it created (where does it originate) and how does it fit within business understanding, this is enterprise architecture. There are natural cross-over and the enterprise architect, from a sign-off, perspective takes responsibility for the overall architecture, but should be able to assign sign-off to the technical level architects to enable their decisions. 

2. Deep Connection between Data & Software Architecture 

While the techniques and artifacts of data architecture and of solution/application architecture are distinct, there's also a deep connection between state and behavior. The well defined and executed Data Architecture is a necessary prerequisite for well defined and successful software architecture. Addressing them completely independently would be unwise. 

Data and software architecture should be considered as integral components of an enterprise architecture strategy. Although many times the data architecture as it pertains to the flow of information through the organization to enable decision making (sometimes referred to as Information architecture) does not get much focus. So the check list may include:
1)     What role does business have in defining the enterprise architecture strategy so you don't end up such deficiencies?
2)     Or how does the business provide input to ensure that you don't end up in data silos? Why do so many companies end up with data silos even though they may have enterprise architects as roles?
3)     Does that mean the enterprise architecture strategy has simply not delivered on its promise? Or is there something about the way enterprise architecture is perceived within an organization that results in such situations?

3. Data and Software Architecture as two Different Aspects of EA  

Enterprise architecture is the integration of people, processes, and technologies. It touches the other sub-domain architectures and must be aware of them.

Data & Software architecture are two different aspects of EA, but they should reside under the same roof of the EA group. However, EA is new to many organizations and oftentimes, mis-managed. When not deployed correctly it leaves a bad aura and people are no longer embracing it. If you approach it comprehensively and actionably, silos will talk to each other. Know that you have in place before you gather them to talk.

 In most cases the software architecture would be an interplay of BIDAT (business, information, data, application, technology), though the emphasis of D (data), A (application), T (technology) dimensions at a point in time, could depend on several factors, including
• Extending software architecture beyond conventional boundaries, to integrate internally with other business units, externally with partners, service providers and others
• Coupling of several internal/external services to enhance software architecture.
• Flavors of Cloud: certain to extend conventional architectures, where data and integration plays an increasingly significant role

Therefore, data architecture and software architecture are two different sub-domains of Enterprise Architecture, but they are closely related, by managing them cohesively, enterprise can breakdown the data/information silo, to make business as a whole more effectively and efficiently.

Why Successful IT Absolutely Needs Project Governance

The good Governance Practices are not for Controlling, but for Enabling. 

Project Governance, or more broadly IT governance’s magic lies in guiding an organization from beginning to maturity. Lay out the formula, implement it, and corporate leaders say: “that does make sense.” Good governance takes into consideration of the organization's ability to absorb more change or invest more in technology, as well as IT ability to execute the changes requested. IT cannot or should not take on additional projects for reasons outside of how overwhelmed IT is. One big stumbling block is being able to measure time spent on current projects and then estimate resources for future projects.

Executives are tasked with three things - looking out for the top line, the bottom line, and risk. Governance works much better when CIOs are empowered in a strategic role and have a seat at the big table. When the IT organization is only being percept as a maintenance center, things do not work very well and IT is usually very operational and reactive. The good governance practices are not just for controlling, but for enabling business running at optimal speed.

One thing about governance is that you need to be agile - and the traditional budget process doesn't necessarily work with an "experiment often, fail quickly" approach. Project governance, or more broadly IT governance needs also to follow the KISS –Keep it Simple principle. Delivery of IT Services is complex and requires in-depth technical expertise. As the more complex you make a process, the more likely it will not be followed, and technical professionals will develop their own procedures that are simple but may not be consistent. However, if the process is straight forward and does not overburden the delivery with complex and convoluted process, technical people will "go along" and the whole delivery becomes more streamlined and reliable.
The formula to begin Project Governance is to have:
1). A mechanism to develop the list of current and proposed projects
2). Criteria against which to judge the list (ROI, regulatory, etc.)
3). Understanding the future work hours (by role) that will be involved in both proposed and committed projects
4). Capability to compare project demand (in hours) against resource supply (in hours) and be able to do this for a variety of scenarios.

Governance is not about maximization but about optimization. Optimization could be a term applied to good governance. Governance is a neutral term which is useful in having the ability to discuss bad governance with terms such as waste, corruption, inefficiency etc. Governance is the structure and processes of authority, responsibility and accountability in a business or organization.

Top Five Innovation Roadblocks

Innovation Management is like landscaping, not the charm for a moment, but a scene for all seasons.

Lack of strategy for the innovation
, so a lack of focus kills innovation far too often, especially when organizations are pulled from all directions. Innovation needs the right perspective from the beginning. Why is the organization focusing on innovation? What is the end goal? How will the innovation improve the customer experience?

 A sustainable culture of innovation doesn't happen by chance. It requires focus, energy, effort and leadership willing to put in the time and commit to achievement.

Lack of communication is an innovation roadblocks. People that don't know about organization's goals and challenges will not be able to participate on giving focused ideas and creating innovation...Indeed, communication innovation is one of key elements in innovation practices, and the foundation of all other sort of innovation such as product/process/culture innovation., etc. 

Lack of Process to Orchestrate Innovation Effort: Often time there are a lot of interest and many exploratory efforts going on within large organization. However innovation is not just about some great ideas and a few nights of hard work. It takes a lot of energy to bring some fruits. How to channel the innovative thinking and bring the innovative brain powers together will be key to having a meaningful innovative environment. It takes strong leadership and commitment to make it happen.

Lack of Risk-Tolerance Culture: Risk of failure is irritated where large organizations do not want to experiment or too much bureaucracy. Also organization culture not supporting creativity, resistance to change and not willing to try out new things act as barrier. For example, an unwillingness to support the remote - anywhere, anytime, any device -- mantra embraced by the new generation of professionals. Often times these tech-fueled professionals have a tremendous amount to offer to an organization as it innovates. Yet, they fail to work within the realm of tradition. If businesses have a desire to innovate, they need to embrace a collaborative environment with enriched video, text, and voice capabilities,

Lack of Standards/Governance: Standards determine benchmarks on which innovation can be applied for continuous improvement. Without standards, innovation can go in many directions, often redundant, sometimes canceling each other, cost too much; the innovation does not address a need. The set of standards or guideline are based on solid governance principles, like landscaping, can ensure innovation garden blossoms at four seasons of changes.   

Monday, October 28, 2013

Is Agile Team too ‘Tactical”

Agility is the ability to adapt to the change. It takes both strategy and tactics. 

Practicing Agile has many benefits with three “I’ (Incremental, Interactive and Iterative) characteristics. However, some practitioners warn that Agile teams have a tendency to focus on tactical accomplishments at the expense of strategic goals. Is it true, If so, how did you handle it?

This can happen. And if so, it’s a management problem. This is one of the weaknesses of most Agile practice. 'Going Agile' shouldn't be a pretext for forgetting the big picture of what the project is all about. Sometimes you keep working on tiny stories that everyone (including the Product Owner) loses the big picture vision. Engineering teams can get caught in operations and forget longer term strategy. This is a sign of leadership deficiency and rewards given for the wrong things.

You need to think business goals strategically before embarking on a project. Keep in mind only about 3 percent of the population thinks strategically, the rest tactically. Usually engineering teams are like a tactical strike force. They are interested in tactical accomplishments. It is up to organizational leadership and management to well blend the strategic focus with tactical implementation. Without strategic leadership, vision typically gets lost in translation through the organization. Teams are part of the overall picture. The team implements part of the vision of leadership.

A truly cross-functional agile team tends to have the different levels of focus needed to cater for both the technical and business goals that the project is trying to reach. Developers often have a tendency to focus on the means to the solution and may well lose sight of the overall strategy. There may be reasons where you cannot share certain details due to sensitivity, but most teams perform best when the understanding why what they are doing is important to the business and what goals are to be accomplished. The challenge is when the folks who have an interest and strong opinions (but no accountability) disagree with direction from top. One of the functions of the owners is to make sure that the project is proceeding in a useful direction. That is also a product of well defined stories that deliver sequentially useful and visible results. 

It's very important for the entire team to be aware of the overall vision of the project and the product(s) being produced to meet that vision. Leaders need to keep in mind three key things: Vision, Message and Execution. Have a vision, articulate that vision well throughout the organization and surround yourself with those who can execute on that vision. This is especially important in terms of being able to successfully do 'emergent design'. The awareness of what is planned to come is required in terms of 'leaving room' for the other upcoming features, both in the architecture and even elements such as the UI.

Agile - and specifically Scrum in the software world is the good way to ensure that you actually do execute what you plan - it enables you to do the right stuff quickly and efficiently, and always keep re-aligning to the business objectives and key priorities. These are the "Goal-driven" Sprints (the real intention of Scrum) and the same also applies with the Release Planning activities (a defined Release Goal - typically a set of objectives). 

Therefore, a high performing agile team should be strategic enough to fulfill business vision and tactical enough to deliver the project with customer satisfaction timely. 

Five Signs of Bad Strategy

A Good Strategy is abstract enough to develop further, but detail enough to guide through. 
A Bad Strategy is too empty to follow through, or too verbose to highlight the KEY...

Every forward-looking organization has a strategy, but not every strategy is a good strategy, Like a GPS, a good strategy clear defines the destination and the alternative route to get there. What're the signs of bad strategy though?

The leading executive has chosen a goal and called it a strategy. Most of the times the so-called "strategy" document only gives the goals objectives but does not state the roadmap or path to achieve the goal. The executive team needs to provide vision to the staff and then share the differentiating recipe for how their strategic approach will accomplish "goals" that exceed those of their competitors. Simply stating the goals with no indication of how to accomplish them (strategy and tactics) does not rally the troops. Indeed, it's actually the "non-strategy" approach of stratospheric statements that are too lofty for the average employee to connect with and understand how they can contribute to achieving the goal. 

Jumping from mission formulation to strategy development without sufficient time to determine the critical success indicators embodied in the mission statement. Or management rejects the formal planning mechanism and make intuitive decisions that may conflict with the formal plan. Or the management is becoming so engrossed in current problems that insufficient time is spent on long-range planning. This also creates confusion for other employees on how the plan is to be deployed in their work activities

Many times the strategy storyboard is written and approved but without a solid commitment to overcome both in internal and external challenges. It is usually the internal challenges that are hidden, and executives may not be aware of the demand for the challenges as well during execution. The strategy is nothing but the answer to the question where the resources should be allocated to get the max leverage for the advancement. This resource allocation (Focus, time, money and people) commitment will be fuzzy till the key challenges are understood and agreed upon.

Treating planning as something quite different and not an integral part of the entire management process. Top management believes that it can create a plan by delegating the planning function to a "planner." While the planner may facilitate the planning process, management must still take ownership of the plan itself. Otherwise, they will fail to use the plans as a standard for measuring performance

Top management fails to communicate the plan to the other employees, who continue working in the dark. Fail to involve key employees in all phases of the planning process (preparation, strategy development, evaluation, and implementation). Or the planning is becoming so formal that the process lacks the flexibility and creativity needed to address the uniqueness of each company. To put simply, fail to create a climate which is collaborative and not resistant to change.

There're no such absolute criteria to differentiate good strategy and bad strategy; the right strategy should be ambitious enough to inspire organization up to the next level, and practical enough to execute it with confidence.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

How to Perform Cost Benefit Analysis for EA

EA is philosophical, systematic, linguistic,  scientific, artistic.

Not being able to provide a clear value proposition is a big hurdle for EA to clear and get the credibility to be able to make a difference within an organization.

When you propose an EA initiative to the C-level executives who look at how the EA initiative will contribute to the bottom line or even top-line growth. So how would one go about justifying the costs for such an initiative when you cannot measure the intangible benefits?

The value proposition EA is about improving the medium to long term performance of an enterprise: The first stage is to define the boundary of the enterprise in question, which could be anything from a transformation program to a complete multi-national enterprise. The next stage is to define the degree and nature of any medium-term performance improvement needed. If the performance of the enterprise is going to be good enough in the medium term, then there is no business case for Enterprise Architecture

EA is a management philosophy more than anything else: If senior management holds to a philosophy that planning things is better than reacting to them, they will see the benefits of EA. Since EA is the enterprise-wide architecture, watch for benefits from the rationalization of resources, streamlined operation, and alignment of resources to operation and strategic planning, faster understanding of the enterprise, common vocabulary, the realization of vision and objectives.

EA by itself is a philosophy, but you can do a cost-benefit analysis for EA when it comes to EA specific initiatives: The cost-benefit would be done for things such as admin costs for meetings, design/ modeling, and then figured as a function of a cost-benefit analysis of infrastructure projects that come about as a result of the EA taking a pragmatic approach. You have to instill the philosophy first, then you can go about building the infrastructure, otherwise you get the same mess as you had before. The important thing is not to look at EA as a project, but rather a driver of initiatives with common appeal across the organization.

EA is an indirect value proposition in the same way that a strategic planning group is and thus, any ROI or Cost/Benefit analysis is extremely difficult. Architecture aids in the transformation from strategy to plan and acts as an assurance of the quality of the strategy and contributes to improved quality of the plan - the higher likelihood of success, lower risk of failure, earlier delivery of outcomes. Statistically, more than two-third of business strategies are not successfully implemented. EA contributes to increased success rates.

Steer the program to drive maximum benefits: EA as a type of upfront analysis would not only let you measure the impact of EA, it would also help you steer the program to drive maximum benefits in the right direction. Then by factoring some assumptions from risk/rework reduction into NPV/probabilities approach, it should be possible to illustrate the costs and benefits that might have been achievable on past projects with different approaches to planning. Applying the insight gained from this exercise would then allow a reasonable degree of confidence in the order of magnitude of benefits achievable by using an EA approach on future propositions.

C-Levels want to hear about customer value proposition or business value proposition: When you think of intangibly specific value proposition gets replaced by probabilities (you have a 30% probability of seeing a $2.1 million NPV over 5 years, with a 5% chance of $-25,000 NPV, and a 67% chance of seeing a $600k NPV). Each intangible can be assigned an estimated probability that it will affect one or more tangible, which you can then use to derive these types of summary statistics. If you want to get really ambitious, you might use a Monte Carlo analysis to generate those statistics

Enterprise Architecture must be goal-oriented from the beginning: Once you identify the goals, it would be easy to understand and agree upon leading and trailing indicators to measure the impact of EA. In situations where it is difficult to measure, the typical approach is to develop some indicators rather than direct objective measures. There is nothing to say that this could not be done for EA. Again, the timescale for measuring cause and effect, so to speak, and the number of complicating factors is such that it may not be possible to achieve high levels of confidence in the results. An EA cost-benefit analysis is just like any financial analysis; you make a lot of assumptions. That’s OK, the C-Suite is used to making with assumptions

EA is an integrative philosophy intended to give better survival attributes to the organization: The biggest challenge with evaluating the ROI of Enterprise Architecture comes from the difference in time scale between EA decisions and measurable changes in EA derived actions. This state exists because of three elements, one of which is the time it takes between EA efforts and the results. The other two include the fact that people seldom follow the plan, and that if someone actually follows the plan there is no way to attribute success or failure to any element in the plan. EA is an integrative philosophy intended to give better survival attributes to the organization (that is better sustainability and growth). An EA driven change is systemic (affects many interdependent parts) and, as such, costly when compared with single-purpose local poking.

The primary benefits of EA are risk mitigation and cost avoidance: Although cost-benefit analysis for EA is difficult to perform, it is much easier to perform if you have a project that has at least implemented aspects of EA as well as projects that have not. A similar example would be what's the cost-benefit analysis of using an architect, who has been able to show a benefit when you have implemented EA especially showing how projects are able to meet budget and schedule, which in the end the C-suite is most concerned. The primary benefits of EA are risk mitigation and cost avoidance. It is like any planning activity. The benefits are reduced rework, etc.

EA's "promotion technique": The simplest way to "sell" EA is to do it in an incremental fashion and in a manner where there are clear deliverables with the clear value being added. It is reasonably feasible to be adding value to virtually every enterprise encounter. More often than not, this is through a focus on the core process, the outcomes required of the process and the changed capabilities which will support the realization of the outcomes being soughtHowever, the narrower the time and scope window of evaluation, the lesser the visibility of the EA ROI is. In architecture there is intuition; this is why it is related to both science and art.

EA as an answer to the enterprise's needs which are the result of problems and pain points. So you may look at benefits in problem-solving. Benefits can be counted only in connection with proper organization. Looking for universal value is seeking of Holy Grail. You need also to remember that EA is not a one-time action that solves the problem, it is building capabilities that are leveling organization to a higher level of management. So check what assets will you provide and look at what will be benefits - ROA. It may be seen in the better decision process, risk avoidance ... And the last thing - adjust the chosen benefits to decision-maker. Even the highest ROI may not give you a "GO" decision if the solved problem won't be the concern.

Either EA as philosophy or practice, the ‘ivory tower’ approach is no longer fit for the rapidly changing, doing EA with justified cost-benefit analytics is not only necessary but also imperative. Actions speak louder than words. Leading by example is powerful. Practicing what you preach is essential.

Is There such ‘Magic Formula’ from Good to Great

The organizations are crowded to the way from Good to Great, but the right path is less traveled.

Every aspiring organization is looking for such magic formula from ‘Built to Last’ or ‘Good to Great,’ as the average lifespan of the organization is significantly shortened in recent years due to the fierce competition and technological advances. Although the secret recipe is hard to get, at least, what are the key ingredients in business success and how to cultivate the business competitive advantage as well?

Leadership: The step from good to great rises and falls on leadership. Without it, the vision of greatness can never be adequately communicated, shared, translated and implemented. Subsequently, the wrong types of people will remain in positions critical for the ascending. Companies are reflective of the type of leadership in the organization as such good to great will never occur if those who lead do not create the environment for it.

Excellence, instead of what most companies do, which is managing for mediocrity. Expect the absolute best from people and give them the tools, materials, and support they need to provide it. Those that can provide it, reward them well. Those that can't quickly help them on their way to another opportunity.

Innovation - The ability to look ahead, solve problems in a new way, create something where there was nothing before. The success factor was always doing business inside the passion zone as well as in the competence zone and only when innovation is the light to shine through.

PEOPLE, PEOPLE, PEOPLE. Your employees are the greatest asset and hence must be treated very well as well as motivated. Because after the mission or purpose of the company has been defined, they are the drivers of this purpose. Let them have a sense of purpose, stability and you are surely on your way to becoming the greatest company.

The culture of Empowerment: It is the development of a culture driven by a 'growth mindset,' where people are empowered, engaged and enthusiastic and can directly associate their role to the delivery of customer and business value. Where status quos and limiting beliefs are challenged, and the organization is focused on helping each other be better tomorrow than they are today.

Values is a gesture, a commitment, a path driving factor but the only thing with Value has to come from deep inside the organizational culture. Values are directing one to do the right things, things or projects you will not regret after a while. Values have to do with what you "regard as important”. The value changes the focus toward a goal regardless of the nature of business or circumstances.

Focus: Gives the energy to complete a task or project we are engaged in. The focus has to do with "what we concentrate on”. It is one of three components of the Adherence Equation. Focus x Competence x Passion = Adherence (ability to consistently execute). The leader needs to build and nurture focus to achieve the desired results. If a leader is passionate about a certain goal then that has the potential to be contagious and spread throughout the group. Values and Focus make a couple like Mind/Body Health or Effectiveness/ Efficiency; you need BOTH of them to achieve any Sustainable success. 

The magic formula to success may not be existing, but well mixing those ingredients above can direct business in the right direction and achieve the high-performance results.

Three Categories of Questions to Ask When Scoping a Change Project

Either Step Forward or Leapfrogging, the Pace of Change is Changed.

Organizational change has three dimensions: (1) what's to be changed (2) what's to be left alone and (3) Understanding the goals of change is just as important as change itself. However, more than 75% of change effort has not reached expectation, is it due to lack of strategy, or fail to execute smoothly? When scoping a change project, what are the top questions you should ask? Should a series of well framed questions help make change management more as science than art, and increase the success rate?

1. The Drivers to Change 

1)     What are the business drivers? What are the imperatives that are driving the proposed change commercially, economically, politically, managerially, operationally, environmentally and ethically?

2)     Why do you need change?
a. Market/industry shifts force us to change now.
b. We are taking a calculated strategic gamble on something new for us.
c. We're undergoing an organizational shift / post-merger / new organizational  structure

3)     Which following level of organizational change are you scoping?
a. Adjusting to continuous, normal variation (general strategy is establishment of robust business/production processes.)
b. Continuous Process Improvement (aimed and perfection of an existing system. This is the traditional realm of TQM)
c. Business Process Re-engineering (used when a business process has been pretty well optimized, and advances in technology, processes, fundamental principles, or other practices allow a leap, rather than a step change. This is the realm of BPM.)
d. Organizational Transformation (this gets into the realm of culture change, realignment of rewards and recognition systems to support just a new business process, but whole interrelated sets of processes. Organization Vision, Values and Guiding Principles are fundamentally changed/updated, often under new leadership. This is the realm of OT)
e. Organizational Reinvention (a company moves from being a manufacturer to a service provider, a company is bought and its operations are subsumed, etc. This is the realm of "turn-around gurus", mergers and acquisitions managers, etc). 

2. Expected Outcomes 

1)     What outcome are you planning to achieve, what supports this objective and what are you concerned about risks in this regard?

2)     Who is this for? (Meaning all stakeholders)? What will "success" look and feel like? How will the proposed change(s) support the achievement of the organization’s purpose and vision?

3)     What is the current situation? (Meaning the good, the bad, the issues, etc.) ? What is the new situation sought? (Meaning the goal, the vision, the happy ending)?

4)     Questions about destinations - What is the expected outcome of the proposed change? What do you want this to do to your bottom-line? Where should the organization be in xx months/years? If this change project works perfectly

5)     What solutions have worked for you? What elements of the solution led to the success? What are the target business and new behavior outcomes? What would happen if this didn't happen? 

3. Strategy 

1)     What strategy will be utilized and how will it be measured? 

2)     What are the boundaries for the change (that is, what's in, and what's out)? 

3)     How will you navigate the "change journey”? Who needs to be engaged, and how? 

4)     How much pain are you willing to withstand to see this change through? or more provoking to introspection like, "What pains (obstacles) do you foresee in the process of change to achieve the outcome you desire? How do you intend to deal with them?”

5)     Shall you set up guidelines in reflecting upon current practice and highlighting what you should value can save the change project being a knee jerk reaction to difficulties

6)     If you had to pinpoint one thing that might stop it from happening, what would it be? What's working? What is it that you do really well? 

7)     How do you know when the "change initiative" is done?
a. Financial: better earnings, higher revenues, lower costs, etc. (Longest)
b. Behavioral: employees act differently, decisions made differently, etc.
c. Procedural: new policies, new protocols, new SOPs, new staff, etc. (Shortest) 

With clear understanding upon the driver to changes, well-articulated goals for change efforts, as well as a comprehensively-defined change strategy, organizations can master the change management, and become more adapt to the rapidly change environment.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Is Big Data ‘Bigger’ than just Analytics?

Big Data project involves Engineering practice, Science and Arts, it's an inter-disciplinary pursuit.

Big Data has been defined as: 'high volume, velocity and or variety of information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing that enable enhanced insight, decision-making, and process automation.”. And there are many definitions you can find for Big Data and it is all about using technologies that were not existed 10 years ago that allow you to process great amount of data in various forms and create Value/Insight out of it. 

Analytics is part of the equation, but isn't "Big" data concerned more with the volume and complexity of data available. The statistical and analytic tools available haven't changed dramatically over the last ten years but the different types of data and behavioral interactions that are now captured and stored have multiplied exponentially. The customers know the value of their Big Data; but they have difficulty to just store the data while this is probably less than 1% of the challenge.  "Big" data is more about how captured data is described/codified/structured in a way that enables data to be "remixed" to solve problems, provide new insights or create new services.

There are many challenging pieces in Big Data. Analytics is effectively one piece; but it is only part of the equation. Departments were receptive to the improvements. The technology in these departments swings between two extremes: advances that enable better, faster performance, and equipment that becomes easily inundated by data demand. So there are many other challenging pieces like
1): Sensors technologies
2): Technologies to transport this tsunami of data
3): Technologies to store
4): Technologies to compute and extract the value from the noise
5): Need billions of brains to find new ideas,  "some brains will be engineered"
Clearly there’s an endless field of opportunities to solve important problems
6) Avoid Big Data pitfall, it is called "dark data" or ‘WONR’-Write Once Never Read’ 

Big Data project involves Engineering practice, Science and Arts (This is the most interesting part when you need to be creative and find the question you want to ask). And it’s also about imagination, and having an understanding of the working principles of an industry, vertical, or a problem. Then figuring out a way to improve it or change the mechanism. Analytics is the analysis of historical data done by BI tool. Big Data is the challenge faced by cross-organizational boundary in storing, processing, & reporting of nearly 80% of the unstructured data collected in this world. 

Key Big Data issue is not storage or processing of data. BUT processing "any data type" from source, and able to send to target "requested" data type. It can be any data type too. So the potential issues include:
1). "Open Data Processing" Frameworks/ Architectures
2). Data Quality, a must if you have legacy data to be moved into big data suite
. Data Integration, if they come from different stacks/systems in different formats/type
4). Self Service – So make sure that all above components work together seamlessly. Also make use of monitoring & automation languages or tools.

Big Data is not just the storage and data analysis; it's the complete ecosystem from capture with new instruments or sensors to the emerging neuro-morphic analytics; this is the complete redesign of industry around the focus on extreme data. The drive for more data and the technological advances to support that demand aligned at just the right moment, Now with Big data, you can close this loop of analytics and action as continuous and iterative process, but it's also created an insatiable hunger -- a hype factor -- that has taken the industry by storm, more precisely, it reflects the fundamental shift to converge machine intelligence with human wisdom.   

There's risk in managing Big Data, but there is a much higher risk and failure not making any move in the Big Data direction in particular in this ultra competitive world. Big Data is a reality, more than analytics.