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

The magic “I” of CIO sparks many imaginations: Chief information officer, chief infrastructure officer , Chief Integration Officer, chief International officer, Chief Inspiration Officer, Chief Innovation Officer, Chief Influence Office etc. The future of CIO is entrepreneur driven, situation oriented, value-added,she or he will take many paradoxical roles: both as business strategist and technology visionary,talent master and effective communicator,savvy business enabler and relentless cost cutter, and transform the business into "Digital Master"!

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

Friday, May 30, 2014

Five Digital Impacts on Modern Business

Digital makes a profound impact on a specific function to business as a whole, with the goals to delight customers and achieve high-performance.
Digital makes a significant impact on every aspect of the business from people, process to technology, both horizontally and vertically. Given the power of the cloud, social, mobile and analytics digital technologies to fuel business innovation, capability orchestration, and employee collaboration, digital becomes the very fabric of high performing business, being outside-in and customer-centric is the new mantra for forward-looking and high mature digital organizations today.

Knowledge Flow: Digital means flow, data flow, information flow, and insight flow; knowledge does not stand still! It flows into the company, it flows out of it, it erodes; it gets created, and hopefully, it flows to the customers of the company in terms of product and service delivery as well. There is a shift from more traditional knowledge management approaches to techniques that involve enhancing the "flow" of knowledge within a high mature digital organization to improve access and use. As the accepted industrial model of knowledge management is too hierarchical, too centralized for the fast-moving, increasingly social or collaborative digital enterprise of today, so digital knowledge management has been expounding many of the principles such as connect-collect-collaborate; ask-learn-share, and solving some of the pains underlying it, unlocking the latent expertise, collaborating with communities, getting the right information to the right person at the right time; geographically-distributed teams are connected by technology, there arises an opportunity to analyze and reuse the data they create as they go about their activities, and from that to generate valuable knowledge that can be shared to help everyone in their work and keep talent grow. Hence, digital makes a big impact on knowledge management.

Complexity optimizationComplexity has increased exponentially and has become part of the digital new normal. Imagine the complexity that comes in due to these characteristics such as less structure, rules and regulations, diversity, volatility, ambiguity, unpredictability, lack of linearity, and increased flux working and impacting together. There are unknown interactions and very high inner dynamics in complexity. It becomes complex if things do interact, particularly in the case of "nonlinear" interaction, you can't separate things properly or you cannot predict the actual effect of interaction straightforwardly. 

The complexity can be good or bad for businesses depending on your strategy and capability. Thus, Complexity Management is the critical digital capability to minimize value-destroying complexity and efficiently control value-adding complexity in a cross-functional approach. And organizations must learn to navigate digital uncertainty and complexity via complexity mindset, innovate and adapt to increasingly changing digital realities.

Structure design: Majority of organizations are designed to improve functional efficiency in the industrial era; and many traditional organizations today are running at two speeds, with the industrial speed, it can continue to keep the business light on; and with the digital speed, it will adapt to the more frequent digital disruptions, wired to change and designed for better innovation toward long-term digital transformation. High mature digital organizations integrate organizational design (OD) into the process design and organizational re-engineering. Hence, digital makes an impact on the speed to run business, the empathy to their people, and the orchestration of their capability in high mature digital organizations. 

In reality, fewer companies are truly using OD resources. But more often, the successful process improvement initiatives to digital transformation shall have representation and input from organizational design people management. It helps establish early buy-in and support through analysis of how the digital "initiative" impacts the people in the organization. Besides, realigning functions, structure, and management should be there to support the people -the most important asset of any organization, and not the other way around. Therefore, both organizational design and process optimization are important elements in digital transformation. The leadership team must understand that the road to achieving an effective and efficient business model is business process management with the leverage of organizational design management, and reach the ultimate goal to build a high-performing, anti-fragile, and outside-in customer-intimate digital business.

The nexus of Forces: Gartner refers to digital technologies SMAC-Social, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud as the Nexus of Forces, and, of course, IT leaders need to pay attention to their huge impact. Cloud computing is changing how businesses think about infrastructure and application procurement. Big Data is changing not just traditional areas of analytics, but also how people manage most things in the future. Mobile is changing the customer relationship; the business is always on and needs to be always available, always relevant, and always helpful. It's not enough to offer flat services.

 In the new age of consumerization of IT, digital customers and employees expect applications to be as intuitive and task-oriented. It’s that consumers and employees are using the same technology devices for similar activities. It represents a merging of corporate and consumer capabilities within the organization. It blurs the line between professional life and personal life, it also transforms the monolithic enterprise IT infrastructure into the mosaic digital backbone, and catalyze the new business culture. People can work anytime, anywhere, to access any necessary information to create an innovative idea now with partners outside the organization, sustainable innovation means products and services need to be improved via continuous conversation and open-loop feedback from customers and partners. This digital convergence of devices and services are creating new business models and revenue source as most companies across industries are being forced to become technology companies and run information business.

Change agentChange the game is a mindset; people are always the weakest link in any change or transformation effort. Digital makes a huge impact on talent management, the emergence of social platforms provides the new way to learn, share, and collaborate via direct applications at the corporate level. 

The organizations with learning culture have implemented the set of social collaboration tools as part of the overall talent management platform. Social or informal learning will become a mainstream learning channel and a preferred delivery method in the digital era. On the other side, the change agent is critical in radical digital transformation, as they have been an invaluable source of knowledge, business direction, insight, and support, etc.,

There are a few change agent roles:
(1) transformational leaders can provide direction as vision, mission, strategy, as well as leadership skills like delegation, decision-making, and monitoring. This role affects most through congruent behavior, continuous endorsement of the digital transformation and regular communication to keep the momentum.
(2) change specialists are the people that stand outside the political hierarchy of the changing area, a cross-functional specialist, an insightful outlier, or an outside consultant, their main skills are the understanding of the change mechanisms and human behavior as well as providing appropriate measures for facilitating change.
(3) change champion has a specific skill set in the field of the change additionally, to the specialist knowledge. This role affects as a role model, an example that pulls the rest of the organization in the right direction. If necessary, organizations shall mobilize a change agent network- a network is a group of people integrated with the execution of the digital strategic plan and who own the required transformation so that the change and digital transformation can be orchestrated via cross-functional collaboration and iterative communication.

Digital makes a profound impact from the specific function to the business as a whole, the purpose of such radical digitalization is to make a significant difference in the overall levels of customer delight and achieve high performing business result.

Empathy is a Fundamental Component of Design

Empathy is the core foundation in Design Thinking, and Design Thinking is a process of empathy building.

We live in a fast-paced digital environment of rapid technology development and utility obsolescence; it is also the era of customer centricity. As the saying’s going: Empathy is a fundamental component of the design. How have you developed an empathic relationship and spirit among your customer experience design team members? How shall you redesign the human-centered design to be even more empathic? What have been your needs, problems, and challenges with empathy in design? And ultimately, how do you drive design thinking toward creating more empathy in the world?

Design thinking vs. empathic design: Design thinking is generally considered the ability to combine empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and rationality to analyze and fit solutions to the context. Empathic design is a user-centered design approach that pays attention to the user's feelings toward a product. Design Thinking (DT) is fundamentally an inclusive approach where the intent is to go beyond just need and utility. The thinking that is added to the conventional design is almost always empathic because DT thinks of other elements such as, what may be affected in future, influence behavior and not obviously visible. While DT is considered to be a subjective delivery, a very tangible objective result of an ideal DT delivery is to enhance the "sustainability of the designed product or process".

Design thinking is about how to change and influence the people, culture and humans.  A design like art transforms emotions, feelings, cultures. Sometimes it is boring, sometimes it is impressive and wakes emotions up. The challenge is to create a product or service that does not need to be upgraded at a high cost so often. This should be considered to be one of the outcomes of a successful DT delivery because it designs by inclusion which implies empathy.

Empathy is the core foundation in Design Thinking; and Design Thinking is a process of empathy buildingUnderstanding needs does not equal to empathy. "Empathy is the centerpiece of a human-centered design process. The Empathize mode is the work you do to understand people, within the context of your design challenge. It is your effort to understand the way they do things and why, their physical and emotional needs, how they think about the world, and what is meaningful to them. " - An Introduction to Design Thinking - Process Guide

Digital is the age of empathy. Empathy is the very foundation of design thinking and the core ingredient in digital leadership. The human-centered design begins from deep empathy and in-depth understanding of needs and motivations of people from different perspectives and applying design to increase the level of empathy in a person, organizations, nations, and the world in general.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Is Agile the friend or foe of creativity?

 Agile stifles innovation when stakeholders dictate "how" and not get "why" and "what.

As an emergent management philosophy and methodology, Agile spurs many fiery debates, such as Does Agile improve software quality or is it the very reason for defects increase? Are Agile making manager’s happy, employees unhappy? Can Agile thrive in a large enterprise environment? Here is another one: Is Agile the friend or the foe of creativity?

Agile is really a means to realize value: Despite the facilitation for creativity, whether this results in useful improvements is up to your organizational culture and how well people are encouraged to be creative. The spirit of creativity and innovation will be more influenced by mindset, culture, and processes or behaviors around the teams rather than whether Agile itself is used or not. Creativity is the more of a culture and environment thing rather being tied to a delivery process. Agile projects that have great engagement and dialogue can be a fertile ground for creativity around how solutions are structured, designed and delivered. Thus, innovation and creativity are affected by the system at play in the organization. No matter what method you use to deliver software, if someone in the hierarchy offers up lots of "no",  it will be hard for innovation to take root. Some agile practices, for instance, retrospectives, primarily designed to allow for constant improvement; or iteration and sprint review, primarily designed to allow to have customer representatives and team feedback on product increment, could result in some creative or innovative improvements. 

Agile stifles innovation when stakeholders dictate "how" and not get "why" and "what": When a team in agile gets "how" in the format of a user story, they tend to look only in one direction. But when they get "what" or "why" in the form of the user story (store the accepted/not accepted value), they can think of the optimal solution. So, if agile teams focus on getting user stories in the form of "why" and "what", they can be creative and innovative at the same time.

Agile is a fantastic way of working to involve everyone in the process of creation and delivery. The team does the analysis and design themselves rather than depend on a 'designer'. If this doesn't result in increased creativity, then what does? The brainstorming sessions that make up 'backlog grooming' and 'Sprint planning' help the team understand and challenge the bigger picture as well. No more can a developer say – “I know my bit of code and none of the others!”. Within the Agile family, there are many flavors to choose from. Scrum is mostly applied. Of course introducing a new method takes time and there is a learning curve. Start small with a few teams and the effect of creativity or innovation will be visible in a few months. Just be prepared to challenge the resistance from people not willing to change.

Creativity and innovation are more a function of motivation and latitude. A motivated team will be creative and will innovate, but the team must have the latitude. The organization must allow for learning, experimentation and failure. That means you cannot run at maximum capacity. All structure and business processes tend to funnel creativity in a specified direction; Agile is no different in this regard. Given no structure and no process to follow, creative individuals have ultimate freedom, but no inherent drive to find solutions to specific problems in a timely manner. 

Organizational culture stifles creativity and innovation, not the frameworks used to deliver new products and services. Agile is neither a product-oriented philosophy nor an innovation-centric philosophy; Agile is a system development philosophy that assumes your customers and stakeholders know what's best for the product and for the consumer. If a change to agile methodologies has stifled creativity, then it pays to look into the motivations that drove the move to agile originally. If the move was overly motivated by solely increasing productivity and specifically at the cost of thinking innovatively, then that could be the real reason why creativity suffered.

Therefore, when done correctly, Agile actually aids in creativity and innovation. The creative solutions come out of retrospectives and collaboration within teams. But you have to have a culture that allows people to try new ideas, make mistakes and learn. As negative culture like foe will kill creativity far faster than Agile will. If the culture is always to get it right the first time and move on, then Agile is actually like the friend to aid in creativity.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Is Data Asset

Data is like the crude oil, the primitive forest, the deep sea, the soft asset and the raw intelligence of business in the 21st century

Statistically, the amount of data stored is doubling every 18 months, and many organizations concern "we have too much data but not enough information" or "we are rich in data but poor in information, knowledge, insight and analysis.". The underlying question is whether data can be an economic or productive asset for digital business or not.

Data is the crude oil of the 21st century. Data is the input to obtain information, and information is the real asset because it's consolidated, consistent and reliable to extract the business knowledge and insight about customers, operation and future trend of business. So Data may be the new Oil. If so, then the new refineries must be BI or analytics applications. Crude Oil is not of use on its own, rather, it must be refined and often turned into petrochemicals, so data has to be turned into reports, dashboards, etc for business leaders or staffs to use. Equally, if data is the new “rock and roll”, then data scientists are the new rock stars…Data is a business asset if it can create value by answering the right business questions. Whether data has value depends on the value of the questions that can be answered through the use of that data. If you’re collecting data before formulating the questions, then you might just be a compulsive hoarder. On the other hand, if the data is answering valuable questions, then the data could represent some portion of the intangible assets of a company and be accounted for in the difference between market value and book value. 

Data is also like the primitive forest. To say that data isn't an asset is to say that a forest isn't an asset. Amassed data like the forest is a resource and can be processed into information (wood) or crafted further to knowledge (goods). To pull out the old cliché, knowledge is power. That's what data provides. Data is an asset so as long as it stays accurate, consistent, and reliable. If data is organized and analyzed properly, valuable decisions or judgments can be made to ensure prosperity. Data is an asset because its intangibles become tangible once a certain risk has been avoided or goals achieved. However, data only helps if you use it right. When you can develop data into sense-making 'tools' to assist and guide operations, marketing, and planning, your data becomes strategic. Many companies turn their untapped data into a real asset to support better business decisions. If you get a lot of data, but you are not able to extract information from them, you cannot apply actions in the correct form to reach your aims.  To quote Lucius Annaeus Seneca "If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable".

“Hard” data as the “soft” asset is not always put on the balance sheet.  Apart from people, data is a company’s biggest asset. Both loyal, well-trained staff and qualified data or information are "asset", but they may not belong on the balance sheet. Data may behave more like inventory, and it surely has a limited shelf life in many cases. In that light, to be an asset from an accounting point of view, it needs to have a "net realizable value" - and how does one determine yet? There is willing buyer matching with a willing seller. The raw data can be bought and sold. The analysis of the data can be sold –The question is: Do you really want to look for a potential willing buyer for your information with know-how and competitive advantage. The value data intelligence can bring to an organization that is willing to invest in high-quality data analytics, as it sets an organization apart from its competitors. So you need the right tools to make sense of raw data and to derive actionable information for management. A good business intelligence tool can do just that for you. Old school says knowledge is power. The new school is seeing opportunities for improvement and rallying with a team of people passionate about solutions. Given a chance, people will jump in to do anything meaningful, with impact.

Floating on the deep sea of data and drinking the “insight": The deep sea analogy is also a good articulation about big data, as it tends to be taken for granted, but most certainly, it is an asset and also has to be stored and filtered and delivered before it is useful. The systematic data management includes the following steps: 1) you must first collect data that matches the processes. 2) you must collect the data needed to support and assist in discovering the answers. 3) Then you must organize the data so it becomes insights and information. 4) Then you can make informed decisions based upon the insights the information gives usData can build knowledge. 

Data is like the crude oil, the primitive forest, the deep sea, the soft asset and the raw intelligence of business. Information will be the product of the future, your ability to produce information required in a manner will be the only product that your competitor cannot duplicate, with ever shortening turn- around time for product development, the only the advantage you really have is the information at your disposal. Any information you can leverage from your data has the potential to be a productive asset as intelligence or operative material. So your first challenge is to develop an information model for your business and ensure that the data you have is sufficient to turn it into useful business insight strategically, methodologically and economically. 

Apply System Thinking to Frame the Problems

System Thinking provides a structured process and takes consideration of the range of options

As businesses become over-complex and extremely uncertain, more often, framing the right questions to ask or defining the real problems to solve is more challenging than finding the answers or discovering the solutions. Does Systems Thinking change the way you 'define' problems?

System thinking (ST) provides a more holistic way to view the problems. System thinking provides for a better and more accurate understanding of the overall situation and problems, and hence better defining the problems and subsequently how you should go about solving them and in what sequence! Apply a "systems approach" - which applies systems thinking to understand the current situation, and then, if an intervention is needed, to guide the resolution and improvement of the situation. 

System thinking provides insight into emergent issues. Systems Thinking provides much more than the "scope" of the problem, although that is a large part of it. It provides an insight into the emergent inherent properties - both the positive emergent issues required (an engine produces power) and the negative emergent issues (both known and previously unrecognized problems) that come about, particularly due to the combination of parts and the interactions within the system and between the system and its environment. 

System thinking provides a structured process and takes consideration of the range of options. The application of systemic methods which are applied in a structured and systematic process allows a more complete and holistic approach to be taken. The main emphasis is in doing better pre-work –such as defining the situation and the "success criteria," take consideration about the range of options - rather than the more traditional "jump to solution" problem-solving method.

Systems thinking provides the framework, tools, and methodology to define problems under uncertainty; because it helps you actually UNDERSTAND the problem, and understanding a problem is the most critical step in solving it. One’s system thinking defines how one sees "problems." For examples, "predictive" cause and effect in system dynamics can include nonlinear cause and effect models. One needs to be clear about one of the common features of systems. The way any element within a system affects the whole depends on what at least one other element is doing. 

According to Rosalind Arson's book "Growing wings on the way": "Uncertainty is part of the essential nature of a mess. It starts with the mess itself – it is unclear what the problem is. It is also unclear what a solution would look like or how it might be found. In a mess, it does not seem to make sense to talk about a ‘solution’.......A mess offers no clear starting point, no clear priorities, and no end-point.' You might use system thinking for problem definition with problem boundaries smaller or larger (single or multiple goals), depending on what you consider relevant and endogenous as your hypothesis regarding why are these things have evolved in a certain way. It should be beneficial to apply system thinking to both frame the problems and provide a framework for problem-solving. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What are the CIO’s Top Priorities for Improving Business Maturity

The priority has to be set for lifting IT and overall business maturity from efficiency to effectiveness to agility.

Nowadays, information is the lifeblood of business, and technology is the big brain of the organization, there are so many things on the CIO’s agenda, IT is always in overload mode, and CIOs seem to be always at the hot seat. Therefore, in order to run IT more effectively and efficiently, how shall CIOs prioritize the projects, and what shall be put on the top of the CIO’s agenda?

IT maturity is proportional to overall organizational maturity: You can't determine the CIO priorities until you have fully understood the company, industry, the geographic location, and the appetite for risk. That said, as long as the business values IT as a strategic partner, the top priorities have to be on business focus whether that be promoting market share or product growth whilst optimizing the cost base and driving service quality. Generally speaking, there are five components which need to be put on the CIO’s priority list:
(1) Sustain IT operations - "keep the lights on." It is fundamental but critical. Make sure systems run according to plan, schedule, and performance standards. 
(2) Control costs to the greatest extent possible, including resource, equipment, and facility costs under the CIO's purview. 
(3) IT-Business alignment –“keep an eye on the horizon.” Look for and assess new technologies, determine viability and alignment with the organization's strategic direction. 
(4) Establish clear GRC standards for different aspects of the organization. 
(5) Running IT as the business innovation engine, take initiative to build unique business capability and drive business digitalization  

In most of IT organizations which get stuck at the low to mid level of maturity, cost control is the highest top priority: From “keeping the light on” perspective, the CIO has to control costs first. Runaway or unchecked costs will write you a ticket to a different opportunity. Every IT service must be benchmarked against competitors and other providers. If you cannot provide the service cheaper, you must develop plans to bring a provider into the mix to take over that service. There are few caveats - highly sensitive or patented solutions must be controlled in-house. From an investment perspective, advanced technologies are really good and more helpful to drive business demands. However, adopting and realizing the benefits requires investment, so most of the time, IT ended up to live with current technologies and standards rather than investing. Though from long-term perspective, with the emergent digital technology trend such as Cloud computing, IT can take advantage of CapEx to OpEx shift, and maximize IT investment to driving business growth, and move from cost control to cost optimization.

IT sustenance and business innovation are on every CIO's roadmap: Especially in well-established enterprises. Every IT project is the business project, for any business, there is a fifth component that must be sitting right by cost control and that is business innovation. IT must be managed in two ways; the utility side of the house where IT constantly drives costs lower; the second being business innovation which is the only way to lift IT from commoditized service to strategic partner; from the cost center to value creator; and from the reactive service provider to the proactive game changer. And it is doing so that IT can enable the business to increase market share, acquire new customers and increase innovation.

The fast-growing businesses set the top priority to build new capabilities in which IT is a key enabler: Fast growth companies will challenge the cost control efforts, with the drive to bring new capabilities to the business at a fast pace, this, in turn, can force some cost control measures to lower on the priority list. But once again, lack of cost oversight is a ticking time. Using agile IT methods and DevOps will help control runaway projects and keep those costs lower while bringing quick incremental value to the business through your business innovation efforts.

Prioritize to delight customers: At the age of people including both customers and employees, IT needs to set priority to digitalize every touch point of customer experience. IT has two sets of customers as well, the internal users who count on IT to equip them with the effective technology tools to improve productivity and work satisfaction; and the end customers who shop the business’s products or service and continue to compare their customer experience with competitors,' the user would need a delightful experience because if the user is bored or confused with the applications, the revenue or productivity will decrease, it will directly impact the business’s top line growth or bottom line efficiency.

There is no way to create a definitive prioritized list without more business context. These are all important, but you can easily imagine a scenario where the list is completely different given a company with specific business needs. So the really important thing is to understand the core business of your enterprise and the problem to solve, set IT priority to focus on long-term business strategy, uplift IT and overall business maturity from efficiency to effectiveness to agility.

Is Strategic Management a Process or a System

Strategic thinking is the system thinking in the new boxes whereas strategic planning, is a process of thinking within the business model and the system to embrace digital ecological value. 

Digital means change, the speed of change is accelerated, however, it doesn’t mean businesses do not need strategic planning anymore; on the opposite, strategy may become the very core of management discipline than ever in order to adapt to the digital dynamic; and strategy-execution is no longer the linear scenario with sequential steps, but a cascading business continuum cycle. So from the system thinking perspective, is a strategic management only a "process" within the system, or is strategic management a system?

 Strategic thinking vs. strategic planning: Sometimes the strategic practitioners or theorists have wrongly assumed that strategic thinking, strategic planning are synonymous or interchangeable, at least in best practice, though they are interrelated and complementary thought processes that must sustain and support one another for effective strategic management. Strategic thinking is specified as being conceptual, systems-oriented, directional, linking the future with the past and opportunistic. It deals with "discovering novel, rewriting the rules of the competitive game"  whereas strategic planning deals with horizontal scanning environmental and social monitoring, distributed sensing capability, and knowing what to look for, how to set guidelines, when to make choices, and it is a natural extension of scenario planning. Most systems share common characteristics (supplied by Wikipedia), including: 
-Systems have structure, defined by components and their composition; 
-Systems have behavior, which involves inputs, processing, and outputs of material, energy, information, or data; 
-Systems have interconnectivity: the various parts of a system have functional as well as structural relationships between each other;
-Systems may have some functions or groups of functions. 

When designing a strategy, you need to apply system thinking principles; standing back and looking at the bigger picture, or get out of the box in order to look through and look beyond the box. This has always been a rewarding approach. In systems thinking, typically processes fall within the system, part of systems engineering, and basically the interactions and the critical path that defines the "system." Applying system thinking principles to strategic planning does not change the fact that the original and evolving thinking, over the strategies lifetime, are inextricably linked to standing back observing and understanding the system at any point in time. And that is also a process ‘outside’ the system!

Strategy management needs to embrace digital cognitive ecological values. At the heart of both system and process distinctions is people being empowered to grow in creative intelligence throughout their lives. For that emergent theory to be birthed, the old command and control of work production in systems thinking process is being redirected toward new digital cognitive ecological values currently arising in the breakdowns of the traditional industrial era we are encountering. In the future, strategic management is real living skin in the games created in which mistakes, failed launches are learning events in growing sustainable balance. The disparity in leading and following is collaborative cooperation where "trickle down" has ended and it's "trickle up" from the grassroots to building a new future together. 

Therefore, strategic management is both system and process, where strategic thinking is the system thinking in the new boxes whereas strategic planning and execution within which risk management aligns planning with execution, are the process of thinking within the business model.

To Celebrate the 1100th Blog: The Practice of Mindfulness

A mind is like a parachute, it works best when it’s open in the right way! 

Business and the world become over-complex and interdependent. From leadership and talent management perspective, are mindful leaders or workers nature or nurtured? How do human beings think? Where do you draw the line about which aspect of human activity is thought and which is mere reflex? How do you differentiate between well thought-out reflex and simple physiological reflex? What is the philosophy of mindfulness anyway?

Every person has degrees of both open and closed mindsets in different contexts. Only open mind in the positive and progressive way can push the human world forward. The mind is much more than an active brain. The brain is the hardware and the mind is the totality in action, hardware plus software. The mind is probably not brain in action alone. It may also be a whole-body phenomenon, with inputs from the environment as well. The brain is like the hands that make the bread, the mind has the knowledge of how to do it. The brain belongs to the body, the mind connected to the heart, the character, and the soul.

Everyone is born with a clean state of mindWe learn our beliefs in the life voyage. Most beliefs are learned and ingrained in our minds at a very young age. Unfortunately, these learned beliefs are oftentimes limiting cognition. Our beliefs are developed from what we see, hear and experience through the books or media we follow or the education we accept. In addition, some of these beliefs or perceptions are developed from the superficial understanding and misinterpretation of what we see, hear and experience. The question of perception also raises its own conundrum! Is perception not a product of the mind? Too often, people operate on auto-pilot, with their thoughts, emotions, and decisions coming from a subconscious level - accurate or not. Thus, the mindful digital leaders or workforce have to unlearn and relearn all the time to shape the truly mindful beliefs and cognizance.

Knowledge is like spring, can satisfy the thirsty mind; but insight is the key to changing mindsets. You have to start with creating an awareness of the need for change. Change the game is the mindset. In a company setting, that would mean identifying, agreeing and communicating the vision. Thereafter, identify the behaviors and hence mindsets required to pursue it. Next, do an inventory of the current status to show the difference between 'as-is' and 'to-be' to determine the required changes. Following this, implement training, coaching, mentoring is necessary to begin the change. Next step is to positively embed the change in favor of the new behaviors required. Good communication and feedback are essential throughout the process - if people don't regularly see the reason for changes, they will revert to type.

Creative mindfulness takes whole brain thinkingThe brain is flexible. What has happened in the transition from a pictorial knowledge only to a combination of pictures and words? Such examples are about technologically innovative thinking from the renaissance period. Being able to hold two opposites as both true is always the start of really creative possibilities; think fast (intuition) and think slow (analysis) are the other example to show brain’s capacity, capability, and resilience.

It takes time and focus on thinking deeperAnd today's leaders must be the great thinker, to think critically, creatively, independently and systematically. Thinking, like bonding with humans, takes time and focus. To save time by not having to think about everything we do, we learn automatic responses to given situations. Psychologists refer to these learned programs as "fixed- action patterns". Until we force people out of the patterns which have worked for them, they will continue to use the same patterns with as little thought as necessary. Further, for today's digital workplace equipped with multi-devices and digital workforce with multitasking on hand, though knowledge can be only a few clicks away, thinking would take better discipline and concentration. Statistically, multitasking can reduce productivity by approximately 40-percent according to some researchers. Switching from one task to another makes it difficult to tune out distractions and can cause mental blocks that can slow down your progress in fact.

We all work in progress, learning, growing, and changing in practicing mindfulness. It is an incremental and long process. So, you are not likely to see changes overnight. But that’s the worthy effort and first things first in shaping the mindful and capable digital leadership, creative and productive workforce for the radical digital transformation. Let's open mind in the positive and progressive way!

Is Differentiation a Strategy

The real strategic differentiation is to create true value, look forward, not backward, and present the advanced uniqueness to shine through.

Today’s digital business environment is unprecedentedly dynamic, complex and uncertain. There are always players starting with different resources and competitive position. And there are always different complexities at a different time. Thus, the organizations have to build the two sets of business capabilities: The competitive necessity and competitive uniqueness. There are many sources of differentiation. Differentiation just for the sake of being different isn't a strategy, it's a tactic. The real differentiation is to create true value, look forward, not backward, and present the advanced uniqueness to shine through. The question of whether differentiation is the best strategy has to be answered case by case.

From a customer perspective, if you are not different, you are a commodity: Assuming the company has a great product, creating meaningful, relevant, and compelling differentiation in the mind of customers is the challenge. This is the foundation in which brands are built. This is the strategy that "helps" to protect the brand and products from the low-priced competition. The best strategy is to win extreme levels of customer loyalty. Differentiation may be a start if the result is beautiful products and services. But building loyalty requires much more. It is an emotional journey. And today's customer is not willing to pay more for a commodity. If you can't differentiate from the customer perspective, you must be much more operationally efficient, it is hard with things changing so fast. Worse, your competitors may differentiate - and that will kill you quickly.

More often, technology is a differentiator and creative disruptor: The differentiation provided by innovative technology usually is more long-lived than differentiation provided by marketing actions that can be copied easier. It just means that opportunities for cost-leadership as a strategy are now much harder as everything moves so much more quickly. At the same time, the differentiation provided by innovative technology allows companies to reach the "long-tail" customer that previously was impossible or uneconomic. And technologies can push you out of business if you are not agile enough to change your business model. Today, cost leadership depends on being proactive and having technologies that cannot be copied - to keep costs down, differentiate operationally if not in marketing. That's why a lot of conventional management talks about doing both - hybrid vs. stuck-in-the-middle strategies. You need to keep costs down and aim for cost-leadership. However, you also need to ensure your customers see you as a differentiator.

Decisive Competitive Advantage (DCA) is a sustainable differentiation. Differentiation is an effect accomplished by having a sustainable decisive competitive advantage (DCA) to the market, rooted in operational excellence which makes it difficult or even impossible for competitors to imitate. This creates a difference. Cosmetic differences or the differences which can be easily copied or surpassed by competitors should not be the essence of a strategy. Instead, building and sustaining a DCA should be the essence of developing a strategy. Sometimes people tend to confuse the differences between a strategy, its direction and the appropriate strategic moves the organization makes in the midst of available alternatives.

Differentiation is not the end game, value creation, and forward vision are: For most of the businesses, the end game is to maximize the economic value of the company over the short, medium or long term, but even then there are plenty of organizations for whom this is not the end game. Also, the value is a multi-dimensional term, besides financial value; there are utility value, customer value, and social value as well. In classic strategy, differentiation is an option that must be chosen in function of the competitive forces of the market and the internal competencies. The assumption here is that while complexity increases differentiation requires stronger internal competencies that only a few organizations own and other ones do not.

One size cannot fit all: Competitive differentiation will be essential in some sectors and less important in others, and in some areas of the business and less so in others. One size cannot fit all. If you have a commoditized product in a highly competitive marketplace, then differentiation strategies may be more important to you, rather than if you have a niche service with few or no competitors. For many companies, it is increasingly difficult to differentiate from their competitors, at least partly due to various factors caused by globalization, and there is an increasing reliance on technology to provide differentiation and to speed up innovation.

It takes strategic differentiation to overcome complexityWe usually consider as complex a system that can be difficult to control due to an excessive number of variables to take into account, and it is usually working under a lot of uncertainty. When we are talking about business or economy, this can be considered the regular case, although there are some businesses or economies more complex than other ones. The complexity of an economy (its possibility to be managed) changes over time. The complexity of most systems tends to increase, and when the system becomes unmanageable, the system collapses. Although you think that you can control your own variables, in a complex economy, your organization is linked to other systems that can be excessively complex, and they can make your strategy ineffective. Therefore, the strategists must be aware of the problems that complexity is introducing in their activity, and they must use different approaches and methodologies to analyze markets when they are selecting the proper strategy.

Differentiation is one of the many strategic options in generic strategies available to any business, but thinking that differentiation is always good and you have resources enough can be a great error. You have to plan it right and make it a true value differentiator from a different perspective.

Analysis vs. Synthesis

From a cognitive perspective, system thinking integrates analysis and synthesis. 

The terms analysis and synthesis come from classical Greek and mean literally "to loosen up" and "to put together" respectively. These terms are used within most modern scientific disciplines - from mathematics and logic to economy and psychology - to denote similar investigative procedures. In the emergent digital world with the nature of hyper-connectivity and over-complexity, we have to leave our old mechanistic view of the world behind us and look at the world through new eyes as a world of systems as a living thing. So how would you describe the difference between analysis and synthesis and why is one better than the other?

Analysis and synthesis, as scientific methods, always go hand in handIn general, analysis is defined as the procedure by which you break down an intellectual or substantial whole into parts or components (loosen, untie, set apart). Synthesis is defined as the opposite procedure to combine separate elements or components in order to form a coherent whole (put together, combine, integrate). They complement one another. Every synthesis is built upon the results of a preceding analysis, and every analysis requires a subsequent synthesis in order to verify and correct its results. In this context, to regard one method as being inherently better than the other is meaningless.

From a cognitive perspective, system thinking integrates analysis and synthesis. System thinking bridges these two approaches by using both analysis and synthesis to create knowledge and understanding and integrating a holistic perspective. Analysis answers the ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions while synthesis answers the ‘why’ and ‘what for’ questions. Synthesis merges a dichotomy or in other words, the “for” and “against” perspectives, incorporate thesis and antithesis into a higher level of understanding where you synthesize and where both perspectives are incorporated. Analyses, on the contrary, are any objective understanding of a given or implied situation.

Analysis and synthesis are different "mental muscles" which serve different purposesEach providing a different kind of understanding of the phenomenon under consideration. Where it gets a bit more complicated, is that whereas inner skills concerned with analysis help us break things down into their components; synthesis seems to involve not only putting the bits together but blending them in such a way that the emergent whole is somehow more than the sum of its parts.

Analysis is pre-phase of synthesis. synthesis is the analysis' "goal."Human science, as a response to the use of positivistic methods for studying human phenomena, has embraced more holistic approaches, studying social phenomena through qualitative means to create meaning. (1) Analysis - to understand something that already "exists" (building a model of an existing system). (2) Synthesis - building something that does not exist (building a system according to the model) (3) Analysis may not be able to answer the why questions about a system. (4) Never attempt to improve a part of the system unless it improves the whole.

Analysis and synthesis always go hand in hand systematically and scientifically. There are, however, important situations in which one method can be regarded as more suitable than the other. They are both the critical thinking methodology in framing questions and problem-solving. Only through mastering both, one can see the world in the systematic and optimal way.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

CapEx vs. OpEx

CapEx to OpEx shift benefits businesses to maximize the investment potential.

More and more IT organizations are pushing up their Cloud envelope, though Cloud Computing still takes time to get matured
and it doesn't necessarily equate to faster software development or better quality of software, still, there are some significant advantages such as the ability to scale up or down as demand waxes and wanes, global availability and transforming from CapEx. To Opex., etc.

 Unleashing investment potential: Shifting CapEx to OpEx can save on capital expenditures, and use your limited budget to its fullest. While your budget may be thin, a cloud solution can maximize it and get your organization the updated technology you need. You’ll have a system that’s more affordable to implement and maintain than traditional on-premise technology. Shifting IT spending from Capex to Opex might be a good strategy for organizations that have already solved the riddle of delivering excellence in IT operations. It provides the opportunity for any CIO worth his/her weight to shift the resources and focus on strategic projects that will benefit the business's long-term goals. This in itself might incur additional capital expenses to deliver on initiatives that would add to the value of the company. Also, as you identify areas in IT portfolio that have become commoditized, they should be prime candidates to move to the cloud.

In pursuit of business agility: Often Business Agility is the more common goal driving enterprises to the cloud. Cloud Computing by itself is not the answer. It comes down to the organization to rethink how it offers IT services (both hardware and software). If your IT organization has very defined and rigid operational silos, moving to the cloud won’t improve such reality. All the problems and frustrations you have today (speed to deployment) will now be in the cloud. But if your organization wants to figure out how it can improve your customer's experience and is willing to "change", Cloud computing with the proper management can be a possible enabler. And the appropriately designed cloud environment can bring speed and efficiency to organizations with long procurement and deployment cycles. 
 • Expand your workforce to any location - employ the best, regardless of where they live. 
• Scale capacity quickly (up or down) and cost-effectively with the Cloud. 
• Only pay for what you use – nothing more. 
• Connect multiple systems and customize to your specifications - integrate systems and share data between them. 

Benefit-cost alignment: CapEx to OpEx shift can well align the business benefit with the cost. A move from Capex to Opex does, at least, help align the business benefit (that should come from the service being offered) with the cost. So it means that large CapEx projects are more likely to be strategic investments in things that are not commoditized services. Indeed, there is a definite time and place for cloud services to both large and small business. Small business can leverage cloud services versus building the infrastructure needed. Medium and large customers can scale forward and back their infrastructure with just in time IT resources so that things are done more efficiently and quickly. If you have the correct perspective and the right methodology, the cloud can be a win-win situation. You just need to figure out what the right moves are for your organization. Sometimes cloud makes sense and sometimes it does not.

Enforcing finance discipline: Cloud can be seen as a consumption model, you pay for what you actually consume, and this can force some disciplines on the company in general, that otherwise might not even have been adopted. In reality, Cloud alone won't change a lick of the speed of provisioning unless the rest of the process is modified as well. And the elastic nature of the cloud is a good fit if your I.T. demand is very dynamic, expanding or contracting in significant ways that need to be addressed and provisioned quickly.

Cloud Computing doesn't suddenly make IT organizations faster and more efficient, but it does provide an elastic scale and CapEx to OpEx shift that benefits businesses to maximize the investment potential from the limited budget, and achieve business agility.