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, January 31, 2014

A Customer-Centric Strategy

Digital is the Age of Customers. 
In essence, the digital era is the age of the customer; customer-centricity becomes the goal to right fit the business’s purpose –to create more customers. However, since there are many elements to customer-centricity, the key to success is to focus on something that will "move the needle." 

For some companies it's the customer experience; for others, product excellence. And some can build loyalty through low cost/price., etc. So how should forward-looking organizations craft their customer-centric strategy?

Customer Centricity is about linking your strategy to the customer, linking your process to strategy and linking your technology to your process. Customer centricity is about an attitude or a passion for doing what's good for customers you target. The customer-centric strategy shall serve the purpose of generating a positive customer experience that contains a commercial value. As we have entered and exist in "the age of the empowered customer" with all the challenges that it brings!

Customer Centricity is about how to sustain customer value: Customers experience is both an output/outcome as well as acting as input to future improvements and innovations. So innovation and customer centricity have to be built into the business strategy, the fundamentals of the business model and in the DNA of organization such as corporate culture.  It is important to building a new model around 'sustainable customer value' that aligns customer expectations with customer experience, staff expectations, and corporate vision and values.

Policy formulation is a crucial step in customer centricity. An organization’s policies are either Customer Centric or they are not. Process redesign should not take place until policy formulation has taken place. A move towards Customer Centricity can be delivered through policies that are taking the Customer perspective not the Process perspectiveCustomer resolution is as much driven by the policy that informs or governs the process as much as by the physical act of the task at hand. 

Customer Centricity is built upon rigorous business’s capabilities & processes. In order to improve the process, questioning the reason for the existence of the processes in the first instance, ask the questions; Should this process even exist in the first place? Or is it an inability to imagine a different perspective that could be the big resistance to Customer Centricity taking a firmer hold? The overly rigid process is an outcome of using rigid process approaches where they don't belong. Process approaches fit for service, but don't restrict – they should support by getting the right information to the right people at the right time. 

The people factor is critical to Customer Centricity. There is a unique element in effective genuine "human connection" that cannot be standardized because of its very nature. Without that human connection, the outcome is far more dependent on task excellence. It is the element that can greatly influence the "memorable" part of the experience for the customer - the part they deem worth talking about. Great people with poor processes can still occasionally give great outcomes - talented and engaged people can shelter customers from bad processes although only with much greater effort, and therefore, the much greater cost to the organization. But disengaged employees will never wow a customer, no matter how great the processes behind them.

Action-effect: Action is always part of a good strategy. It is incumbent on the organization to prove its capability to deliver a unique and differentiated experience consistently. It requires 1) a blend of strategic thinking -what do you intend to do in the future to create high contrast customer experiences, 2) an ability to execute-demonstrable evidence that the business is actually doing something to build differentiation and 3) Effect -as a result of executing against the plan, the organization is able to deliver a differentiated experience as well as generate improved business performance. The 'effect' dimension often lags of course but this is the determinant of a successful strategy. 

Measure Customer-Centric Score: There's plenty of industry research to show that customer-centricity links to business performance. Customer-centricity has, at least, five dimensions: strategy, people, process/experience design, technology, and metrics. One thing to measure an organization’s Customer Centricity score is the measurement of the gap. On one side of the gap is how well you understand your customers and on the other side is how well you deliver to your customers. The narrower the gap then the more Customer Centric (CC) you are. Once recognition of the gap exists then the journey starts towards CC starts. Usually measuring how well you are delivering to your customers is relatively easy but developing a true measure of how well one understands their Customers is the hard part. It is akin to measuring the difference between somebody knowing something versus understanding something.

The customer-centric strategy takes the outside-in view and put the customer at the center of business strategy. The customer-centric strategy needs to be full-fledged and has objective and tactics assigned to various departments and measure business performance systematically.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The 900th Blog to Ring in the Year of Digital Horse --- Are We Turning the New Page of Human Progress?

May the Year of 'Digital Horse' Accelerate the New Level of Human Progress!

The world is entering the lunar New Year-The Year of Horse today, a wood horse or a digital horse. The spirit of horse is recognized as energy, authenticity, charm, progress, and intelligence, to be able to make efforts to improve themselves. It is energetic, bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and capable. Ancient people liked to designate a talent as 'Qian Li Ma' -a horse that covers a thousand miles effortlessly. As our society has progressed from agricultural to industrial to digital era, will the year of Horse lead us to the new page of human progress?

Global empathy: More and more technology makes connections easier, faster and reliable and people- as global citizens can play a significant role in the process of societal transformation. Through the power of technology, people are coming together and exchanging ideas and views on solving the common problems of the world. Although there will always be disagreement, this new medium of communications is building empathy between peoples which will hopefully take us to a better level of global understanding, and provide solutions that improve the material and emotional well being of all the citizens of the planet.

Freedom and liberty, the best society that we can hope for is one where there are more individual, group, and collective management processes that facilitate the development of the citizens and facilitate the functioning or the collectivity, more delight and less pain; more wisdom and less fool;  more freedom and liberty. This implies acceptance and tolerance. Freedom implies that the environment facilitates the development of individuals and groups. Liberty implies that individual and groups will self-restrain so that other individuals and group can also develop. Freedom of mind precedes all other freedoms.

Positive: So do you want to change the world or do you just see problems? If the problems or negativity are all you see then you're part of the problem. Want to be part of the solution? Then stop focusing on the problem and focus on the solutions. There will be more than one. Positive attitude lifts the world. That's why, if you want to change in the world, then you have to start with yourself. If you want peace in the world and justice in the world, then you must act accordingly to yourself. You have to feel peaceful and you have to feel safe. Again, you can't give what you don't have. 

Balance. Success requires balance, balance creates harmony, harmony catalyzes progress, the societal progress is made through the balance of diversified viewpoints, creativity and discipline; opportunity and risk; individualism and team; democracy and unification; science and art; spirit and reality; intuition and analytics. Through such balance of viewpoint, that the process of co-creation, an inclusive and democratic form of decision-making, can positively affect how cities are designed, how policies are defined, how business are run and how the so-called global village can benefit through the outcomes from social inclusion to environmental issues

Peace, Love and Wisdom. Any conscientious intellectual should possessed the mission of “to find the heart between Heaven and Earth;
To search the destiny for ordinary people;
To sustain the cherished tradition and knowledge for the coming generations;
To establish the everlasting peace for the world.” 
- Philosopher Chang Zai

May we all have a prosperous and progressive Year of Horse!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Digital Knowledge Workforce

The digital knowledge workforce has innovation potential.

The idea of 'knowledge worker' was first described by Peter Drucker in his 1959 book 'The Landmarks of Tomorrow.' He also pointed out that knowledge worker productivity is the most important challenge for management in the 21st Century. After being through more than half of the century, what’re the criteria for today’s digital knowledge workforce, when the business is transforming from industrial age to the digital era?

The knowledge worker is a) a worker with knowledge. b). a worker uses knowledge to work;c) a worker to use knowledge as input to create more knowledge. The term derives from workers having specialized knowledge in order to perform their jobs. As our society has progressed from agricultural to industrial to digital-techno-logical, the masses of workers have progressed from being farmers, then factory workers to being knowledge workers, where the primary skill needed to conduct work is their brainpower. Also, instead of producing crops or products, services are increasingly becoming the primary output of today's companies. Nowadays, perhaps, we cannot find any worker who does not have the knowledge or uses knowledge to work. Certainly, as work is different, he or she needs different knowledge and expertise. Technically every worker is a knowledge worker.

Digital knowledge workforce has innovation potential: A digital knowledge worker is someone for whom knowledge is the main input for work, as opposed to another worker who obviously uses his/her brain, but depends more on expertise in using a particular tool or set of tools. It is the ability to transform which exists to which is new, that differentiate the digital knowledge worker from industrial knowledge workers. After all, we all find new ways to make our work "easier," more rewarding, better for ourselves or our customers/clients, and for our society. Everyone displays innovation at some stage - some more often than others, some make more impact than others - it is the manager's/leader's role to encourage and nurture those who display these characteristics.

Digital knowledge workers are able to transform knowledge into knowledge-based products and services. A "knowledge worker" is someone who has gained a specific understanding of their area of work through study, training, coaching, mentorship, etc, and is capable of identifying new, innovative ways of developing products, services, or customer-focused outcomes. A knowledge worker comes with more value addition who is aware and can use tools in addition to hard work; they are capable of doing work of well planned, controllable and predictable within high complexity of determination

Today’s digital professionals are innovative workers, hard workers, knowledge workers, and intelligent workers, who are exploring, innovating, and evolving bringing new digital paradigms.
  • Individuals that have the intrinsic ability to think outside the box 
  • Individual who can use explicit knowledge and generate the tacit knowledge embedded in explicit knowledge 
  • An individual that over time through learning, practice and education has become an expert 
  • An individual who process information and data and add high value to the information and create new knowledge upon it
  • Individual who has problem-solving skills
Therefore, broadly speaking, everyone is a knowledge worker now, as knowledge, under a traditional definition, for any worker is a matter of being able to use the tools, hammers, wrenches, or software and having the experience to analyze the information. or, at least, the knowledge to find a decision matrix to make an informed decision. However, a digital knowledge worker needs further ability to be innovative and intelligent, think out of the box, and solve problems with an alternative solution. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Collective Intelligence

Harness the Collective Intelligence.

 It’s evident that large businesses are increasingly using crowd-sourcing to brainstorm new ideas and solve thorny business problems in their business practices. Collective intelligence is an emerging business SMARTNESS to overcome business challenges and stretch out company goals.

Crowd-sourcing is an attitude: New generation of social business empowered by digital technologies such as social platform, collaboration tools and analytics will extend organization’s physical boundary, enhance employees’ participation and engage customers’ feedback, crowd-sourcing becomes the new attitude and reality, it also stimulates creative side of our brain and agility of our business to find better solutions for either old issues or the emerging problems, and use collective intelligence to overcome business challenges.  

Collective wisdom improves both quantity and quality of idea generation. In the innovation studies, a group of researchers compared classic in-person, team brainstorming ('team structure") with a distributed idea generation model that had a team component ("hybrid structure"), via a field experiment. The basis of their analysis is that companies want the *best* ideas, and to get those they need to maximize the elements of extreme value theory,  they found the distributed idea generation approach ("hybrid structure") generated both the highest quality ideas and a higher average quality overall, versus team brainstorming. 
1). The sheer volume of ideas generated
2). Average quality of all ideas generated
3). The level of variance in the quality of generated ideas 

Crowd-sourcing brings cognitive minds and  pool of expertise. Like anything else, the effectiveness of an activity like crowd-sourcing and brainstorming will depend on what it’s being used for. The real value in these types of ‘group-based activities’, when done properly, is that it enables you to bring a diverse population together and a collective pool of all the expertise at the discussion table. This is not something that can be done individually; hence, it’s valued. The real problem with crowd-sourcing is that large group interactions often lack any underlining infrastructure or methodology. As a result, the loudest voice tends to dominate, hierarchical constraints limit freedom of speech, people lack alignment around issues, all insights aren’t being harnessed to their full potential, and the list goes on…

Collective wisdom enables problem-solving. It is true that some great ideas do come from brainstorming individually. Interaction with others, being able to build on each other's ideas can yield some amazing result as well. As an innovation manager, one should have a good idea when to deploy different methods and who should be involved. More often you would see, the amazing creativity "seeds" usually come from individuals and problem-solving more from groups. Not to say that creative endeavors can't happen in the groups, they most certainly can. Different cognitive styles react differently within idea generating activities and observing how people interact with one another in a way that protects privacy can provide managers with useful innovation-process-management insights.

Crowd-sourcing techniques: The vast majority of ad hoc brainstorming sessions occur globally everyday now. Business should learn when, where and how each crowd-sourcing technique could be utilized to its full potential. Like so many techniques, brainstorming can deliver great results if it is applied in the right context, and taking into considerations of its limitations. The techniques can be used to monitor and improve the social-psychological environment for creativity.  It is also important to take advantage of methodology that allows large organizations to mobilize a large group of key players, tackle complex business challenges from all the right angles, and co-create the optimal solution.

Collective intelligence is ultimate smartness of business. The digital businesses with collective intelligence are not just the sum of functional pieces anymore, they do have the capability to take advantage of collective wisdom, analyze and synthesize all sort of information from within and even outside of the business boundary, and come out creative ideas or optimal business solutions with speed.

Monday, January 27, 2014

What are the ‘Right Tools’ to Follow Up Strategy Execution

 Humans are still the Masters for any Tools.

Statistically, more than two-thirds of strategy execution fail to reach the expected result. Execution excellence is difficult to achieve because it is both art and science, hard and soft; decisions and acting, quantity and quality. What are the right sets of tools to keep track of strategy execution?

Business Architecture: The goal of Business Architecture is to enable execution of the business plan. Business architecture is about boundary conditions. Establishing those boundaries and understanding their interactions is key to how businesses are structured. It is the development of better transformation roadmaps through the use of business architecture capability mapping (current and future state) and treating change management as a core work stream. From systems thinking perspective, a holistic approach would be to look at the purpose of the business (who is the customer, what they want, what’s the value to them and how they want it delivered), then look at the function (products and markets), processes required and the structure, resources, authority of the system. This forces the organization to look at things holistically, and look at business capability (including organization, skills, culture; process; and technology) rather than just some elements while ignoring others. 

Program Management: One of the best strategy execution tools is program management. As it can be used right from where the strategy is formulated till the objective are met by operationalizing the product or services intended to bring the strategic changes in the organization. Results are best as the processes are robust not only in terms of initiation, planning, execution, monitoring & controlling, closing as well as in change management. These helps periodically review the strategy plans so as to be close to the objective in eve-dynamic business environment. The best strategy in the world is only as good as the outcomes it produces. It's the aligned programs that produce the outcomes; hence, good program management is essential for successful strategy execution. Without effective program management, you will have nothing to populate your balanced scorecard with!

Agile strategy ‘Scrum’: More and more organizations start embracing the concepts of "agile business development," a derivate from the "Agile Manifesto of software development." Accordingly, one could refer to it as "strategy scrum’, the strategy execution will follow the agile guiding principles as below:
-Collaborative strategy development over processes and tools
-Working business models over comprehensive paperwork
-Customer collaboration over contract negotiations
-Responding to change over following a plan.

Balanced scorecard offers a way for a corporation to gain a wider perspective on its strategic decisions by considering the impact on finances, customers, internal processes and employee satisfaction. The analysis takes into account financial and non-financial measures, internal improvements, past outcomes and ongoing requirements as indications of future performance. The Balanced Scorecard framework is a great way of selecting, scoping, and aligning specific projects to overall strategic objectives and the budget.  A well-defined scorecard should contain a good mix of outcome measures (or long-term strategic value) along with performance drivers to track the progress in the short term (operational value). In spite of capturing multiple perspectives, the balanced scorecard must still retain a strong emphasis on financial outcomes.

As today, the problem in the execution is mainly driven by management that is not prepared for systemic approaches or is only focused on short term effect. Thus, the tools discussed above can encourage system thinking. All good strategy planning, problem-solving, decision making or optimization tools are built on "system thinking principles”, and provide the framework to keep track of performance metrics more systematically.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

How to Assess Business Capability Maturity

There are two sets of business capabilities: Competitive Necessity and Competitive Uniqueness.

Organization’s capabilities are business competency to execute its strategy and deliver value to its customers. Every surviving business has certain capabilities; however, only very few high-performing businesses have a high mature level of capabilities, for not only running the business today but also competing for the future. Hence, from the management perspective, it’s important to assess business capability maturity accordingly, as say going "if you want to understand something, you have to be able to measure it,". But what are some attributes and what are the measurement scales?

Weigh on the importance of business capability: The maturity of a business capability would be based on the ability for the capability to deliver on customer needs or to achieve the desired capability outcome. Other criteria may include the importance of each capability to the enterprise; different weighting may be applied to the capabilities. Organization’s capabilities can be categorized into the competitive necessity and competitive uniqueness.

Measure values of capability: "Adding value" and "delivering on customer needs" will be higher in a capability that is more mature. How do you measure "value?" A capability's maturity should be measured by how well it adds value to the customer. It is important to remember adding value won't be the same for every company. For example, a capability may be a differentiator for one company and measured by strategic importance while another company may have a "sourced" solution as part of the maturity measure for the same capability because it's not the core to their business. Two opposite approaches but both look to add the most value to the customer.

Assess the effectiveness of capability: One way to measure "value" is by assessing the capability's effectiveness in achieving the desired outcome. This can be accomplished by measuring a) the technology impact on capability effectiveness (service availability), and b) the process impact on capability effectiveness (# of orders delivered, order cycle time), and so on... in other words, capability maturity can be measured against achievement of desired business or customer outcomes.

“Adoption rate’ as maturity attribute: Capability maturity, which attributes should be measured? Since a capability is made up of people, processes, and technology, you can use overall process maturity as one part. What are the other parts and how would you measure them? With a maturity attribute like "adoption," you can measure the percentage of business units engaging the capability on a year by year basis. As it increases, the maturity rises.

Capability maturity framework: Use a business specific capability and readiness framework with six categories: [1] Planning, [2] Process, [3] Infrastructure, [4] Human Capital Management, [5] Financial, and [6] Projects. And incorporate six themes in each capability category: (1) innovation, (2) communication, (3) motivation, (4) empowerment, (5) collaboration, and (6) leadership. The query can be customized to any unique set of business conditions.

Five-level capability maturity: Business capability contains people, process, technology, and infrastructure and it is at this level that one should assess maturity; capabilities inherit these maturity levels via business services, why not ask the business relations network (vendors, partners, clients) about their perceived value related to the core competency + service delivered + generated value, all claimed by the company in question (outside-in view versus inside-out view). And business capability maturity can be classified into five levels:
(1). Initial
(2) Managed
(3) Defined

Business capability is an acquired and organized "ability" within a company and takes hard work to put in place; it can therefore not be transferred because of the degree of organizational learning and organization that goes with it, and the set of business capabilities directly decide the overall organization’s competency, and how well they can execute strategy, deliver the value to the customers and build long term winning position.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Common Denominator for Transformational Change

Transformation is the momentum from quantitative accumulation to quantum leap.

For many organizations, digital transformation is on the way. Transformational change implies something that is deep and broad and gets to the heart of the business or person. As the effects are meant to stick, the change has to have gone to the root of what people do, how they do it and how they think about what they do. Transformational change is that an organization is fundamentally different at the end of the change. It's like the cocoon transforming into a beautiful butterfly. As such, transformational change is high-risk, high failure, and takes a long time to achieve. The common denominators for any transformational change may include:

  • Vision, objectives and clear rationale: The term transformational change, when applied to a firm, carries with it a sense of "evolution" which means, a renewed understanding of the future of business; what’re the disruptive trends; how your organizations catalyze the positive and progressive changes and how much better one can do. 
  • Strategy: That addresses and integrates the hearts and minds of stakeholders
      - stakeholder understanding and consensus as to the non-linear nature of the process
      - An organizational commitment to developing strong change capabilities, such as leadership,      innovation, trust, adaptability, organizational learning, empowerment, diversity, forward thinking, risk tolerance, and accountability. 
  • Trust must be in place at the start, and must then extend from a healthy and aligned leadership team across key team members and processes. Trust is a prerequisite to change, as an emotion; it predisposes people to work together. All parties feel that their voice has been heard, and there’s development or deepening of the trust between them. 
  • Compatibility: always ask how the proposed transformation programs supports your understanding of the corporate purpose and vision: if you cannot see the explicit links, challenge the need for change or seek further clarification of the change program and / or the corporate purpose and vision. 
  • People: Everyone involved and impacted by change starting from the leader to the executor to the person who is outside the change cycle but will be affected. Vision, stakeholders, sponsorship, strategy etc are all secondary - they are affected by People and hence they are common denominator 
  • Cooperation: Engage the people affected by the change as early as possible and keep working with them - let them help shape the changes and indeed promote the change to their colleagues. If those who have to live with the effect of the changes are unwilling or unable to actively support your activities, it is unlikely to be wholly successful. 
  • Culture: Willingness to accept new ways of acting and thinking and feeling. The ability to let go of old ways of acting, thinking and feeling. Culture like soil; without it being there in the first place, transformation will be very difficult. 

  • Belief: Belief in self, in the organization, in the change, in the desired outcomes. Without addressing what individuals believe, at best we can hope for adaptation, in which people modify only those behaviors needed to survive. For a transformational change which will have lasting effects, people most affected will look up the organization to see what impact the change is having there. If none, belief gets fixed on avoidance rather than motivation.  
  • Capacity: it's really important to be able to assess to what extent the organization has the capacity to change; in terms of people, finances and manageability- the ability for a business to continue operating in the business-as-usual mode - satisfying its customers and continuing to deliver its commitments to shareholders - whilst putting itself under the pressure of substantial change. 
Transformation needs to touch both the heart and mind of people. The better communicated the vision and strategy is; the wider the understanding of who and what a stakeholder is, and the capacity to have credible engagement, the greater the opportunity for Transformational Change.

Innovation & Simplicity

Innovation is progress, and progress is in simplicity. 

Innovation is the light every forward-looking organization is pursuing now; however, very few companies can well articulate their innovation process. Effective innovation requires a suitable process as part of the wider holistic 'system' for innovation, encompassing other key aspects such as culture, leadership, and strategy, but how to follow the simplicity principle when managing innovation. The following five quotes may bring certain insight.

  • The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak   -Hofmann: The process needs to be part of the DNA of a company, as it may well reflect its business culture-bureaucratic or innovative; is your innovation management too complex with heavy centralized process attempted to 'manage' simple employee ideas. Such ideas should be reviewed, selected and developed locally using a simply empowered process.
  • If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough -Einstein: Innovation is the process to transform novel ideas into products/service and achieve its business value. Although more often, innovations come from bottom up, innovation management is derived from a vision, coming from top management and shared by top management with all its employees in order to profit from it. Besides vision, communication is the key to streamlining innovation process and bridging idea creation and implementation.
  • Things should be as simple as possible, but no simpler-Einstein: Innovation processes fall into one of two camps; one is so detailed and specific such that compliance with the process is impractical, or it is so high level and abstracted from the issues at hand that they do not provide useful guidance or lack of formal process. Something more balanced and interpreted is called for, but then it wouldn't be a "process", at least as currently defined. Innovation process needs to be agile and flexible. 

  • Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction  -Einstein:  When pioneering and solving problems, initial solutions are often more complex than required, and then adoption and progress come with simplification. Progress is in simplification, which often follows complexity. Either innovation process or innovation itself should move up the maturity ladder from functioning, firm to delight and agility.

  • The future of managers leads by questioning –Drucker:  Innovation takes the cycle of observing-questioning-connecting-networking-experimenting. Thought-provoking questions can frame a structure for innovation process and clarify the logic behind every step, Today, the biggest talent gap is in what refers to as “big judgment”-the art and science of knowing what questions to ask, how to discern actionable, strategically useful insights from the investment in resources to ensure innovation success.  

Either incremental innovation or breakthrough innovation, a structured process help select the best of the best ideas, and best focus on organization’s limited resources, But keep the process simple, not simpler; as innovation is progress, and progress is in simplicity.

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Popular Process

Process thinking is more fundamentally an architecture thinking, it need to be holistic, cohesive, and balancing

Process is more often not popular, because many people either do not understand the value of process, or they believe processes do not directly contribute to their own functional needs. Process is unpopular also because it makes people think. But nobody is educating them as to why thinking about it is good. There are many other valid reasons, depending on the organizations culture. But processes underpin business capabilities. Process is pillar of modern company. How to make it popular though?

Clarify the purpose of process: The word "process" is unpopular because of "fool me once shame on me and fool me twice shame on you syndrome". There is still a fundamental gap of defining the purpose of WHY is something and defining the steps HOW to get there. The latter is the promise of simplicity, the former is a continuous effort and while more promising in the long term it might discourage those who are looking for instant results. The purpose of process is to ensure that you have the tools, resources and skills you need to do your job. Once identified, the process management is to ensure you are doing job right
- Place valuable information at the tips of their fingertips
- Greater control of their organizations
- Financial return on investment (Total P&L conversation) 

Process means different things to the different people: At the top, people want to know the benefits in terms of strategic, financials, operational improvement, and alignment to objectives and so on. Process thinking is more fundamentally an architecture thinking, it need to be holistic, cohesive, and balancing, even more essentially, process thinking is about strategic thinking upon how to delight customer, optimize cost structure, and critical thinking, such as challenging the outdated thinking or the old way of doing things, etc. so if process is unpopular, it indicates the culture inertial in the organization. Thus, to make it work, processes must be set in the context of the enterprise at the same level with the people and technology that execute them. That is, in the enterprise architecture context. Delivering the process conversation would be easier if the correct conversation was being expressed to the right audience.

From outside-in view, process is to delighting customer. Process adds layers to getting a solution. Process is also as effective as the hired staff to implement them. So in the real work, the low mature process may looks like a roadblock to getting the customer what they want and when they want it. It's best to streamline that process and provide its value otherwise it will not be a welcomed addition to a work stream. At high mature level, process will enable business agility and delight customers as well.

Process agility: It is more gratifying to develop target operating models that enable change, combining strategies, processes, systems and performance models into a single approach. Process becomes a bad word when people start quoting process as a reason for not doing something rather than as a means to achieve the result. Especially in organizations with unstructured methods of work, people will do what is convenient and throw a process rule book at everything else. On the other side, there is a tendency to blindly follow process rather than think about the outcome. Often processes build in steps which are not used by anyone, but the auditors to justify their fees. The trick is to have "just enough" process precision to ensure alignment and effectiveness; where fluidity and variability are critical, leave it loose; where precision is required to have very precise processes.

There are many reasons to make process unpopular, but only one reason to make it popular, people oriented, it is either for delighting customers or improving employees satisfaction by enabling them to do work well.

Agile Team Velocity

team velocity shall not be the goal, the real business goal is how to improve project quality, manageability via well-tuning team capability & capacity, effectiveness & efficiency.  

With Agile gaining momentum, the techniques upon how to make it more successful also become hot topic.Velocity is an indicator where you may need to do something; the options like adding people, team building or to take other actions. So does a high performing agile team always have high velocity?

Team effectiveness: The focus is handling unavoidable distractions that affect the team velocity. First, the assumption is these "distractions" are important to the company, that is, addressing them has value. In that case, they should count towards the team's velocity. If they are not important to the company, they don't add value, why is the team spending time on these distractions? Try to push back if the time spent by the team is not adding value to the company. Otherwise, it is perhaps useful to dedicate a particular part for the day or a particular day of the week towards addressing these "distractions". If the time spent can be planned, the distraction will be minimized.  Focus on measuring team effectiveness, as there is some power in individuals but there is HUGE power in teams.Creating the focus on measuring individuals is counter productive to creating a team that want to share knowledge, want to pair program and want to bend over backwards to help their peer come up to speed.

Team capability & capacity: The real purpose of velocity is not to measure productivity but to be able to have a number which signify the CURRENT capability and capacity of team so that near future releases can be planned or visualized. The velocity of the team will not remain same forever and may go up and down which may not help visualize farther releases. The point is how to improve team capability & capacity:
-Have a team with all the required skills for the project.
-Manage and resolve external dependencies in an organized way.
-Resolve impediments in an efficient way.
-Avoid any tasks that hinder the team to perform sprint tasks.
-Retrospective is an important ceremony to understand what is stopping the team from doing the tasks.

Eliminate Waste. Waste is basically anything that doesn't directly contribute to user value. The activities aren't absolutely necessary to decide an implementation issue, that include team members who can't contribute, time wasted on waiting for somebody else to finish something; time wasted on waiting for an approval, time wasted on coming up to speed on an overly-complex technology when a simpler one would do, time wasted on doing up-front design that will have to change, time wasted on writing reports that could be delivered verbally, time wasted on meetings which are not running effectively, time wasted on waiting for input from the customer because there is no one on site.

Quality: What's far more important is having consistent, stable velocity while maintaining quality of work. Then you can establish a level of trust between yourself and stakeholders that you can deliver on what your promise. In fact, velocity should not be a goal at all. As a team improves their practices, some will cause velocity to go up and some will cause velocity to go down. Improved engineering practices will cause it to go up as the team spends less time on rework and less time on the debugger. Improved story skills may cause it to go down or seem to stabilize as the team creates smaller stories and do a better job of isolating their uncertainty. A stable velocity can also be created by a team committing under their predicted capacity as is commonly recommended and working only to that commitment.
Well alignment of skills, tools and processes. Avoid the situation where the business only wants to increase velocity, and people just put more stories in, have their team "push harder" and work overtime. This may at least temporarily increase velocity. Long term however, people will get burned out. People will rush to finish things, sacrificing quality. This will hurt your velocity due to bugs, missed requirements, poorly written code and unhappy, stressed developers. It is more important to well align the skills, tools and process to achieve Agile team effectiveness:
1). Keep the scrum team same. Avoid attrition.
2). Have a good mix of the technologies that you need for getting the work done, among the team members.
3). Ensure team estimates right and makes right and realistic commitments..
4). You can catch stories with impediments right at the beginning and move them away or not take them into the sprint at all.
5). Choose the 'right' user stories for the sprint backlog 

Therefore, team velocity shall not be the goal, the real business goal is how to improve project quality, manageability via well-tuning team capability & capacity, effectiveness & efficiency.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

An Objective Board

Independent directors practice independent thinking.

The modern corporate board plays critical role to exemplify digital leadership and influence corporate culture as well, how do boards ensure they remain objective even when members are/or become friends?

Check the friendship at the door: The smart thing to do is to understand and agree to the following when someone joins your Board: Friendships are great, but they should be checked outside the door to the Board Room. Inside the Board Room, everyone has a fiduciary responsibility to use their personal knowledge and experience in the best interest of the company. Good people can sometimes be blindsided when doing business with good friends. It is natural to want to protect them from harm and to feel connected in ways that could affect one's objectivity. And the fact that duality can lead to a blurring of roles leading to potentially compromised decisions. Thus, theoretically one should be able to check the friendship role at the Board door

Be "friendly," but not the friends: Always considered board member colleagues and reserved the term 'friend' to something of a more personal nature. At the senior leadership level, being friends with your colleagues can make the job a bit tougher. As in high-stakes business keeping today's friends too close may rise for concern for future competitive endeavors. The other thing is to maintain a healthy separation for the appropriate discharge of your corporate director responsibilities, if you are pressured by the relationship than objectivity goes out the window.

Independent directors practice independent thinking: The other issue with friendship is that the ability to be seen as an independent director has diminished, especially when it comes to motions that require the independent thinking. Even if you believe yourself to be objective and independent, your fellow directors may not see you that way. People can become close, however, it may simply cloud objectivity and the organization suffers the most from this. It is an act of business maturity and placing fiduciary duty ahead of everything is what matters.

Focus on asking the right questions than just socializing: The main dilemma here is, traditionally, many board members suggest friends or friends of board members to join them for ‘quality’ concerns. However, human nature prevails and one may tend to not realize about one’s own biases. Friendships, partisanships, and passiveness can settle in and develop myopia. So, while you want to ensure that self-awareness has been developed, what can you do from a board perspective to ensure that objectivity prevails? Respect of oneself to voice an opinion; respect of your colleague or friend and listen to a differing opinion.

Build the Board's assessment tool to address objectivity: Of course, the results of the assessment need to be addressed in a constructive manner. At that point relationships go out the window and things get real clear to the ownership, board members, and management team. It comes down to the level of value you are adding to the organization and not based on relationship, but what is proven. The board is either an asset or a liability; without an objective evaluation process, it is impossible to make this determination.

Hence, an objective Board is important to practice effective corporate governance; build a cognitive strategy; set culture tones and make right decisions.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Strategic CIO

Strategic CIOs wear many colors: the color of their thoughts; the color of their character, the color of their role and the color of their talent.

 Modern CIOs have to wear multiple hats nowadays, from business strategist to tactical manager; from customer champion to talent master. A qualified CIO has to be a strategist, but what image comes to mind when you think of strategic CIOs?

A strategic thinker is a big picture person and set the direction: Trust your staff to get things down without having to do all things themselves. Chief information officers must weave IT strategy as a key ingredient in overall organizational strategy and have the right people in the right positions to maximize strategy execution to help the organization win in the marketplace. Leveraging IT for business growth is a great strategy.

A Strategic CIO keeps the business goal in mind, and doesn't leave this goal solely to businesses, use information and leverage IT to achieve the goal: Most of the time, CIOs limit themselves to execute some business initiatives and running the IT-based systems, but leave the information usage and conceptualizing the future state of systems mostly to business leaders. This works perfectly fine under the assumption that business leaders are as technology oriented as a CIO could or should be. However, at most of the time, that is not the case.

A strategic CIO creates a blue ocean and changing the dynamics of the business enterprise: A strategic CIO creates IT and leverage information to create the long-term sustainable competitive advantage for organizations. A Strategic CIO is changing the dynamics of the business enterprise by leveraging technology for strategic advantage. The difference between the tactical and strategic IT leader is that the first one thinks about the tools while the second one is thinking business, and how to use the tools to gain an advantage over competitors. In this way, the CIO will create a blue ocean for his/her organization which will provide a competitive advantage.

A strategic CIO has a role to play in balancing, not just leveling the internal playing field: Information is power and it depends whether that power is used for the good purpose of the organization or political point scoring.  Most organizations create a sense of internal competition that can easily make the C-level participants lose sight of the end game, a strategic CIO can well balance a positive internal relationship via systematic information management.

 A strategic CIO is people oriented. Strategic and tactical planning all lead to the vision. The vision is built for the people and organizations. CIOs always discuss aligning departmental strategies with organizational strategies. A strategic CIO needs to be more people-centric, create both employee growth strategies and customer experience strategy. It would be great if CIOs can mix people, departments and organizations strategy together. Indeed all strategies are made for growth.

A strategic CIO is a multidimensional thinker via different lenses: Mathematics or probability -you build the best strategy based on the circumstances that will allow the highest probability of success and controls risk. People- you need to understand your competition and build a strategy that includes consideration of competitive forces, and long-term thinking you play to win over a lifetime. Process -you need to digitalize the key business process and build a set of competitive capabilities to enable the business competing for the future.

Hence, strategic CIOs are visionary, creative, people-driven and multi-dimensional, they have the big picture to set the right direction and have the discipline to execute it diligently.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Innovation Agility: How to Accelerating Idea Validation

Innovation agility is a critical capability to strive your business. 

 Innovation agility is a critical business capability to manage innovation life cycle with speed, Idea validation is a crucial step in managing innovation with effectiveness and agility. The idea evaluation is a critical part of successful new product/business development. The basic goal of Idea Evaluation should be to quickly and thoughtfully weed out potential projects that are not a good fit for your particular business, so you can focus on the good ideas and commercialize its potential business values.  It is also an important aspect of innovation agility. 

  • Collective intelligence: So to accelerate an innovation process, you need to create an environment that brings together the people, from inside and outside the walls of the company in a collaborative way; the various "innovation actives" they perform, and the information that they need. By using the collective intelligence of your audiences (employees, customers, partners etc.) in the three front end disciplines; ideation, knowledge sharing and prioritization, you will be able to work much more efficient in bringing ideas to implementation 
  • Front-end process: A paradox is that you have to get the new products to the market as fast as possible; as a result, you may run the risk of compromising the comprehensiveness of the work you do and sacrifice the quality to get a product out of the door quickly, in order to meet a market need. or in the other case,  you can make the most visionary products that have no market yet; therefore, it is important to use a front-end innovation process between strategy and concept development, experiment, prioritizing and measuring what to invest in “value” the early ideas and unmet needs. 
  • Information management: Information may be one of the most time intensive pieces to this puzzle. Information is growing exponentially and it is humanly impossible to explore all of the "art" out there around a subject or technology. Big data analytics may provide certain customer insight or product foresight for drawing the beams of innovation light. Following are some critical pieces of information needed for accelerating idea validation:  
1) Facts about business ideas: definition, benefits and shortcomings, applications, and competing technologies.
2) Root causes of business problems need to be solved.
3) Components or operations of ideas, what can interact with ideas, and what parameters the innovative ideas might have?
4) Who else is using such new ideas? Who are the industry players? You also learn what the trend of such new idea is. Identify important technology trends, including potential next-generation innovation waves, as well as the key players who are involved in their development.

Hence, innovation agility may directly make an impact on business's survival nowadays. It's about to have a clear purpose, stay ahead of the competition in the delivery process. It's about to be able to get all the way around the task, to capture all relevant information, to see it from all interests; and to use collective wisdom. It's about creating a structure that delivers what your need! 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Digital Balance: How to Strike it Just Right

Like running up to the string, keeping digital balance is critical in reaching the digital high.

We are experiencing the dynamics of the most significant business transformation since the industrial revolution. The majority of us will work in an organization that is somewhere between old and new; at both industrial speed and digital speed; in the physical building and remote environment; or will remain to be a mixture of old and new. It is the biggest management challenge to be a change agent, where we respond to the current state of the organization and we try to take it from there to a next level. Just like running up to the string, the point is how to strike the right digital balance?

1. The balance between long-term vision and short-term perspective

Companies today have huge pressures to survive and thrive in today’s hypercompetitive economic dynamic. Yes, businesses have to achieve certain financial targets quickly but they are, in many instances, unsustainable. It's not until we can make lasting process improvements to meet or exceed long-term goals. The digital normality-volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity may also bring a certain ‘side effect” to decision-making and business management, such as:

  • Ambiguity effect – the tendency to avoid options for which missing information makes the probability seem "unknown.” 
  • Bandwagon effect – the tendency to do or believe things because many other people do or believe the same. 
  • Near-sight effect – the tendency to focus on short-term goals, because the future seems to be so hard to predict.   
A good leader is someone who doesn't lose the sight of long-term or 'Big picture' and spends the majority of his/her time, efforts, and resources on achieving the short-term goals. The digital harbinger gives a balanced focus on achieving both short term and long objectives. The critical thing here is that short-term goals should be aligned with the "big picture." An effective leader should be able to immediately ascertain which term would benefit the situation most as he or she becomes aware of each unique objective. 

2. The balance between ‘local’ and ‘global’

Because of classic management, the business units often do not work in collaboration, as they are driven by a culture of silos, they fight for the limited resource in order to do what they believe is “locally” right instead of working together in order to do what is “globally right.” There are quite many silos in traditional industrial organizations:

  • Geographical Silos – arise with difficulty in collaborating when different parts of the organization are in different geographical locations. 
  • Project Silos - occur when best practice information isn’t shared among groups working in similar ways towards similar goals. 
  • Functional Silos – arise when there is uncertainty about peoples’ roles within an organization and lead to redundancy and feelings of under-appreciation among members. 
  • Information Silos - exist due to barriers to sharing of information freely across the organization. 
Silos result in overlapping functions, increased costs, duplicated efforts and inconsistent decisions among entities. The digital leaders have to bridge both industrial silos and digital divide today; with emerging digital technologies, organizations can now have better opportunities to share best practice and next practice, the collective wisdom and cultural quintessential; it is true, deserts, mountain ranges, and oceans will no longer be the walls to connectivity & collaboration, it is strategic imperative to strike the right balance between local & global; to bridge the silo and think globally. 

3. The balance between digital speed and industrial speed

Majority of well-established companies today are running at both industrial speed and digital speed; the silo structures and legacy infrastructure limit the pace of their digital transformation, but every forward-looking organization also explores the new arena to speed up with digitalization;

 It’s from within the massive gray area between these two styles that movements like Management 3.0 come from, and help push this shift toward flatter hierarchies, and empowerment of employees, which in turn leads to the radical speed and efficiencies seen in agile companies today. Until business leaders come to terms with the reality that digital structure really are smarter and faster than ‘pure hierarchies’, managers who understand the paradigm shift have to find ways to resolve the manager’s paradox, to strike the right balance between digital speed and industrial speed, and to build optimized processes/capabilities in order to accelerate execution and create better business result. 

4. The balance between 'virtual worlds' and 'the human connection'

A hybrid nature of organization well mixes the virtual platform with the physical functional structure to enforce cross-functional collaboration and dot-connecting innovation. The impact of digital/social technology is right on- that the future of the organization will become more ‘virtual’ and that virtual organizational design expertise will become more important in the coming years. But deep human connection may still be important, and the connection is not only just about physical touch but more importantly as an emotional connection. While technology provides new frontiers for work systems, there are also challenges with issues of human 'connectivity'. What's intended to bring us closer together may leave us feeling further apart. 

Therefore, bridging the paradoxical gap between virtual workforce and the human touch; between digital strangers and a growing workforce of digital natives is the single most important management task for today’s managers. The successful managers are those who resolve this paradox by learning how to navigate the digital divide skillfully and keep balance upon digitalization and manageability.

5.    The balance between the standardization and flexibility 

Agility is a competitive capability to keep businesses strive at digital age; agility is the strategic mix of standardization and flexibility, targeted at those organizational pressure points where they’re not only needed today but will most likely be needed tomorrow. In order to survive and thrive amid constant change, companies must reclaim the right balance of standardization and flexibility and build strategic and operational agility into their business foundations. By developing a business agility blueprint—a shared view of an organization that promotes a deeper understanding of core processes, risks, and transformational opportunities—business leaders can approach change confidently

In an era in which every tweet has the potential to plunge a company into a global reputational crisis, the demands for corporate transparency are unprecedented. It's so easy to focus on the bad. It's so easy to see faults and mistakes, instead of seeing the positives, recognizing good and bringing those to light. Thus, today’s digital leaders have to balance the optimistic spirit and cautious attitude; balance openness and standardization; balance discipline and flexibility; and balance effectiveness and efficiency.

How to strike the right digital balance is critical to digital transformation, it takes both strategic planning and tactical mechanism; and it has to well align the right talent, the optimized process, and the effective technology in order to reach the next level of digital high.