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

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

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

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

How to Manage IT Budget Effectively

IT is facing pressure to prove that they are the most effective route.  

It states that in the typical enterprise, 70% of their IT budget is being spent on “keep the lights on” activities, leaving only 30% available for innovation. Generally, these numbers do not get any pushback. With the accelerated digital speed, IT faces the pressure to transform from a cost center to a value creator, corporate IT has no choice but to embrace transformational change or literally face extinction. From the budgeting perspective, what’s the ideal ratio to both “keep the lights on” and drive innovation and business growth?

All IT spending must be rationalized against the business benefits. This discussion and these arguments are not new. IT is always striving to improve its value to the business. Some of the "long poles in the tent" tend to be labor; depreciation and (new) capital spending. It isn't just the IT spending ratio as a percentage of budget numbers (70/30, 85/15), but the question of what is real - tangible - measurable business value? And who is measuring/driving the perceived value? When all departments truly collaborate with IT to improve the vision - realized of using IT as a competitive weapon versus just another utility, everybody wins. Top companies leverage technology. Dinosaur companies maintain legacy apps and spend the majority of the budget "keeping the lights on.”

IT is facing pressure to prove that they are the most effective route. More and more of the budget is being allocated to the departmental heads and that they are being given (demanding) the option to spend this money at their own discretion (either with corporate IT or elsewhere). This is putting pressure on IT to prove that they are the most effective route. The 'threat' that business units will procure SAAS solutions based on slick sales patter without involving IT. Organizations then inadvertently increase the overall cost of IT, creating silos of data, disjointed strategies, and integration nightmares. The best solution is to have IT represented on the Board, and Directors that understand the value of a strategic partnership with IT, and a CIO that can 'talk business' not just technology.

 IT needs to stay in the mix: IT needs to find ways to move up the stack and provide business value (innovation) and not spend their cycles "keeping the lights on" as just a cost center. For example, just keep the lights on to contribute 25 percent of the profit sounds better than just keep the lights on as an act of pure overhead cost. Part of the problem is most internal IT organizations still don't do a good job at financial management. Consequently, no one knows if those legacy systems are still contributing to the top and bottom line or not and by how much. That means no one knows if they are worth investing in to modernize them. The cost/benefits analysis started collecting dust as soon as the initiation phase ended. There may not even be a good cost model in place, let alone a cost allocation model.

With customer demand for mobility, organizations are being forced to invest in newer technologies and that is evident in reduction (reallocation) of KTLO (Keep The Light On) budget to other initiatives. More and more C-levels get to understand the need for a rearranged budget, the business leaders of large and small companies no longer look at IT as a loss leader or necessary evil, but as a revenue center.

Digital Mind Tuning: An Anthropological Mindset

Holistic wisdom is the hallmark of the holistic mindset.

The hard science such as math, engineering,  and soft science such as philosophy, anthropology, psychology continue to converge into an interdisciplinary domain or holistic science that digital leaders and professionals have to be masterful, for managing complexity, velocity, uncertainty, interdependence and ambiguity of today’s business dynamic. Regardless of your major and expertise, what can we learn from an anthropological Mindset?

Anthropology helps people understand and enliven the varied social contexts and cultural scenarios in a better way. Anthropology gives a perspective on every aspect of human life and elucidates the cultural traits, complexes, and motive of specific human behavioral aspect. An anthropological mind opens one’s eyes to a spectrum of things with so many different shades and colors of the same world; expand one’s vision of society, cultural diversity, and people.

 Seeing things from anthropological lenses can make one more open to new ideas: Different ways of doing the same things, and more tolerant of cultures and customs other than one’s own. Greater self-awareness, increasing creativity flow, more perspectives and the pleasure of knowing we are all wonderfully unique. But also discover that science is not always interest-free.

 Think through anthropological dimension means to wonder everything relating human beings: Oened one’s eyes to discovering the amazing and fascinating things that human beings do. It can give you a positive outlook on the world and the idea that human beings are really amazing creatures. The most important thing is one should have the curiosity to know and should have the behavior to understand and to learn how. Anthropology has radically enhanced the way to discover the life with curiosity and more patience. The world has become much more complex and smaller all at once. I am just as much an "other" as everyone else and, therefore, we are all in this together.

Thinking through anthropological dimension questions one’s assumptions (which tend to oversimplify) about other cultures and individuals, past and present. Human culture hasn't existed that long, and our recent modern culture is of short duration compared to all human culture. Anthropology can help discover our place in the world as regards our culture, world conception, style of life, mythology and the common points among societies.

The anthropological mind can help us be able to shift the thinking to a variety of perspectives when dealing with people who do not share the same values. It enables one to navigate a variety of cross-cultural situations and has greatly helped in improving culture intelligence and communication skills. 

Everything has layers, anthropological mind helps one look at things from a multiplicity; fundamentally allow us to glimpse how interesting to be a human; as an individual, or as a social entity; professionally, it broadens our vision to see the possibility with a variety of perspectives. That’s the value to equip such an anthropological mindset.

Monday, September 29, 2014

IT Governance Approaches and Practices

 Governance is like a steering wheel, to keep business toward the right decision

The emerging digital IT trends such as Cloud, Moble, Social and Big Data bring unprecedented opportunity for business growth, and also expose business to the higher risks than ever, so what is the best approach to begin implementing formal IT Governance specifically aimed at improving the quality of demand? How can the "competition" for finite dollars be structured so that the end game, best benefit for the enterprise, is achieved? 

Each Organization is different; hence, IT governance should be looked more holistically in an enterprise. Start with the Board and C-Level sponsorship and the recognition by the officer team that the IT dollars are an enterprise resource and are finite, and must be leveraged to the benefit of the enterprise. IT governance's purpose is to facilitate all business units in competing for the dollars based on benefit to the enterprise. The holistic approach for IT governance has been the one which has aligned the framework approach with tailored IT organization’s governance capability:
A) Maturity of IT function and the expectations business leaders have from IT
B) Immediate and Long term Priorities of Organization
C) Ways of working, political equations among key leaders and Decision making approach in the organization.

Understand the Operating Style of Organization. Who holds the decision making power, Is it with the CEO, Board, CFO, PE Investors or someone else. Know what view each of the CXO roles has on organization priorities and the role they consider IT has in the organization. There is no reason the executive team shouldn't be completely aware of where and how IT assets are being deployed. IT priorities become the Board and senior executive team’s priorities, as it should be. Regarding the CIO, he/she has to keep explaining what they are doing to make operations more efficient, outside consultants, benchmarks etc. The CIO's willingness to do anything to improve IT performance usually puts more pressure on the justifications the other officers are offering. CIO can then be measured on what he/she has committed to do without all the second guessing about what IT is working on.

Begin with the CIO identifying every component of cost associated from "keeping the lights on" to business value-adding. Informally the resources can be bucketed under the run, grow, transform category at the broad organization level. This will help the organization keep a tab on the type of the expenditure and ensure that a significant portion of the resource is used to create new capabilities which help business transform. Then the current approved projects by title, executive sponsor, budget, schedule and resources dedicated to each project. Next in exactly the same format, show the requested projects for which there are no resources in the current budget. This should give a clear idea about the maturity of IT function (Sourcing Unit, Order Taker, Solution Provider, Innovation Partner) - A CXO survey could help at this stage.

Establish IT governance body, principle and disciplines: By Now some pain points from IT would have surfaced (Delayed Projects, Cost Overrun, No Innovation, No business involvement, Rouge IT) – Every organization will have some quandaries with IT. What’s the role of ITSC: what’s the composition and size of the IT Steering Committee (ITSC)? How much of a decision making body (vs. advisory or discussion forum) is the ITSC and how do they make those decisions? How does one keep the ITSC focused on WHAT IT should work on and not? HOW IT accomplishes it ("If IT was more efficient at keeping the lights on, we could have more dollars to spend on new things")? Once the ground is firmed up, a formal IT Governance can be established – Consider following
a. IT Operations - Service Catalog , SLA
b. Business Management- Projects, Innovation, Demand
c. Sourcing - Vendor Management and Control
d. Organization Structure, Learning, Leadership Development
e. Data, Process , Architecture etc
f. Security and Compliance – Information Security, Risk and Compliance

IT governance practices: Execution Approach could consider following in any order what works best for your organization
a. Newsletters – Issue Newsletters, Broadcasting good and bad about IT, This could be about ROI of IT, Project delays, Benefits Realization etc
b. Gamifcation - Create IT scorecards and benchmarking performance of business units on IT benchmarks to generate a spirit of competition
c. Decision Entities – Implement Delegation of Authority for IT, This way all the decisions are not cascaded up to IT Steering Committee. Let the Project Manager and Business Manager resolve some things at their own level.
d. Audits – While no one likes them, However sometimes they just help in drawing attention to CXO’s ears . Partner with the Audit team and explore how they can help.
e. End to End Demand Management Process – Implement an end to end Demand management process which takes care of new project validation, business case approval, project development and design, user training and rollout, user adoption and change management and benefits realization.

Governance is like a steering wheel, to keep business toward the right decision; high effective IT governance must create good IT performance, not only for keeping the light on, but especially for the long run business growth. Further, IT governance is converging with corporate governance. The companies which have good performance must have good governance structure and behavior as well.

Business Leaders’ Strategy Execution Mentality

The strengths of a highly effective leader include zest, optimism, intelligence, and humility.

Strategy-Execution continuum is perhaps the most significant business activity life cycle in modern business today. Crafting a fine strategy is an easy part, the real challenge is how to execute it and achieve the high-performance result.  So how can a leader foster the right set of values and qualities in order to form an execution mentality?
·         Vision: Eyes on the destination, in order to see the return on the hard work before the return comes.
·         Passion/Drive, in order to stick to the task when the task is hard.
·         Inspiration, in order to rally the troops to action and help them understand the importance. Instilling a healthy sense of urgency, building trust.
         Understanding: to truly begin a path of execution we must understand the core values a leader should develop in themselves and their teams.
Focus: ability to get attention when needed and ability to accomplish what some think is impossible!
      Intelligence: Being able to plan in a way that's highly acceptable to the team, willingness and ability to play roles at different levels.
      Flexibility: A leader should be able to create alternatives and choose the right one amongst those alternatives.
·       Delegating: Being great at follow-up. Knowing when to make changes, large or small, to the plan. Recognition for those who go 'the extra mile'.
·         Humility: Knowing the limits and drive to test the limits
·         Learning agility: Willingness to learn newer things, ability to see the risks in advance and identify the contingencies.
·         And a few more qualities can be - the ability to strike a balance, ability to identify the root cause of the issues on hand, encouraging organizational cultural changes and rock the boat when necessary, constantly question the status-quo...

The strengths of the highly effective leader include zest, optimism, intelligence, and humility. Good leaders have to be able to give people WHAT THEY NEED WHEN THEY NEED IT to move the follower's needle. As leaders, you can only do one of two things, either give direction or support. Great leaders can identify which is necessary and when, whether it be to individuals or groups, thus creating the motivating environment which people gladly follow and execute strategy relentlessly. 


Strategic-operational KPIs alignment gives the organization a powerful tool to use when implementing change.

KPIs are indicators to identify if the adopted strategy, operation, and process, etc are working toward the objective. As such, you don't "adopt" a KPI to "achieve an outcome," you adopt a strategy or operational workflow to achieve the outcome, and you define KPIs to monitor the progress and performance. That’s the name KPI –Key Performance Indicators stand for. The provocative question is: is it possible to link operational KPI's to strategic ones to reflect and track the overall progress in achieving the strategic goals? 

 It is imperative that you link lower-level metrics with higher-level strategic objectives: That’s what most of the strategy management methodologies are all about; hierarchies that are in alignment and that support the corporate objectives. Most strategies that do fail, it fails not because the fundamental strategy is flawed, but because of poor execution of an otherwise sound strategy, through misalignment and miscommunication. It should be the primary purpose of your measurement framework and metrics dictionary to creating a set of relevant operational KPIs. For example, linking your key performance indicators to other performance indicators which should link all the way back to your transactional metrics found in your source systems.

The linkage of strategic KPIs and operational KPIs is NECESSARY: One of the greatest breaks in closing the loop in any organization's CPM system is that what's measured on a frequent basis, what is built into individual performance management objectives, what is tracked and worked toward is separate from the strategic goals of that organization. This makes "strategy" a separate and distinct executive exercise with little relevance to operators, finance, and managers. It also makes it nearly impossible to cascade appropriately to create alignment. So-called Balanced Scorecard strategy maps where there seems to be a certain amount of hand-waving and big words attempt to link strategic objectives with the department, team, and individual measures. But if you trace from the valuable products/deliverables, services, and information that the company and its functions must deliver to achieve business goals back to departmental outputs and team/individual work outputs, then the linkage between strategic and operational can be relatively transparent. But it requires that you understand your business from a cross-functional process perspective in some detail.

The business should be able to define and align Operational KPIs to Strategic KPIs for successful tracking of the effectiveness of Strategic KPIs: The effective way to track the achievement of strategic goals is to cascade those down throughout the organization with the use of operational KPIs. The cascaded approach is the best for two primary reasons. First, it allows the KPIs to be actionable when the targets are missed. Since the higher level, KPIs are tied to the next lower level you can easily drill down and see which component of the top-level KPI is off-target. This allows you to focus your fix efforts. This is particularly critical if you are to get employees understanding of what the strategic goals are and how their work fits into that bigger picture. For instance, a strategic goal might be to improve customer satisfaction levels, which might then break down into sub-objectives. However, this does NOT mean that the only KPIs used are those for the strategy. It also does NOT mean that every level of employee gets the same KPIs or the same interconnected scorecard as does the executive team. It DOES mean that at the operation level, there should be some metrics that can be tied directly to achieving strategic goals so that EVERY employee knows how their role fits in and can be freed up to do what they can to try to achieve the desired strategic outcomes.

Also, don't forget that often the path between strategic and operational measurements is via tactical measures: Put another way, in between your scorecards/dashboards and your operational reports sit your summary, management, and analytical reports. It is possible to connect as well the KPI and the KRI on the strategic level towards the tactical KPIs and KRIs connected to the operational ones so that there is one truth in the company connected to the strategy.
1) At a bare minimum, you have to test to make sure that operational metrics are not in conflict with strategic objectives or with each other among different functional groups. Minimizing customer service call time may be all well and good for department cost objectives, but at odds with higher-level customer satisfaction goals. Minimizing product costs in design may be at odds with corporate quality goals. 
2) Lower level operational metrics nearly always fall hierarchically under some higher-level general goal, such as profitability, quality, customer satisfaction, time to market, innovation, treatment of employees, etc … if the operational metrics do NOT measurably support a higher level metric or general objective, and/or are not positively correlated with the expected strategic result, then WHY are you tracking them in the first place? Drop them in favor of other metrics that do translate into your strategic goals.

Strategic-operational KPIs alignment gives the organization a powerful tool to use when implementing change. When changing a process or organization, you have to come up with new ways to measure the success of the change. Those new metrics must still tie into the 'parent' KPIs so employees understand better how they fit into the new world. Part of redesigning a process and getting better buy-in from employees is increasing their understanding of why you're changing, and what the benefits are. Being able to show those benefits in hard facts such as measurements helps greatly.

Digital Mindset Tuning: A “Fearless” Mind

Fear is the human nature, overcome it if it drags you down to the negativity and diminish your leadership influence, and dig it through if 'only the paranoid survives' in such a complex and ambiguous world.

Fear is an emotion induced by a threat perceived by living entities, which causes a change in brain and organ function and ultimately a change in behavior. (Wikipedia) This is a subtle point about mindsets and their impact on one’s thinking and reacting. Accepting does not mean that you like it or despise it.  From a leadership perspective, a courageous leader fears less and drive human progress relentlessly; from a management perspective, building a “fearless” working environment means to inspire openness, innovation, and critical thinking, and empower talent to unleash their potentials with less fear. And at the digital age, a “fearless” mind has more bold in perspectives:

 Natural leaders don’t feel fear to be different; to lead in a digital way means to be more transparent and holistic, there is a need to do away with the fear of being different. The fear of being noticed, of being laughed at or rejected prevents many to step out and lead the way into the unknown. Nature leaders just express themselves in the way they perceive the world, situations, people, projects, work etc., but the way that they communicate with others around them could scare their managers. Sometimes, natural leaders without that role intimidate others inside the organizations, and here is where we can find a good challenge to work on the companies’ development, relationships, achieves and more. It involves us being able to rise above our differences to reach a level of cognizance and each individual has the option of giving in to fear or facing it and learning what the implications are. 

The fearless digital leaders build around a foundation of character not charisma; or rewards without real value; the failure in not being what you are in the end means you are at risk to all. This is because going against tradition by trying something different that might not work makes you vulnerable. By stepping out, the fear falling off trying that the unexpected might happen and getting hurt by being exposed in the process is a function of your Ego. These are action steps you will have to take in your mind first. 1). A leader must believe in his/her vision.  2) A leader must feel the passion for the thing is doing. 3). A leader must know the ways to get it, like master the actions. 4) A leader must hear others, especially the team. 5) A leader must walk the talk. 

A culture of fear and mistrust drains energy and thwarts creativity. There is fear, there is no trust. This is true within an organization, a community, and one’s own personal life. The feeling of fear is a power unto itself. Fear can paralyze an individual to do nothing and/or become manipulated/a prisoner to the power of fear. Fear will drive you away from your personal goals, your ambitions, your standards, and norms. Likewise, fear can paralyze a company to maintaining status quo refusing to adapt to change. It turns to become such counter- productive behavior when the contribution of others offers the potential to add so much value. Hence, the good alignment of integrated leadership and change management can help stretching one’s comfort zones beyond status quo, improve the culture of openness and overcome the negative 'fear' syndrome. 

Sow the positive digital seeds. To be an authentic leader by leading a connected and influential digital way, you need to shape the fearless mindset to continuously spray the seeds of mutual trust on the soil of the environment in which you and your followers breathe in. These seeds are INTEGRITY (truth and transparency), RESPECT (esteem for other’s worth and capabilities), EMPATHY (see things through others’ lens) and GRATITUDE (appreciation for the good action of others). If your followers see you doing this all the time and without any fanfare, the mutual trust will skyrocket and they will perceive you as a true and exemplary leader.

Confident Managers/Leaders shouldn’t feel fear to have other leaders inside their teams; they must work with them to improve their area and it could be an easy way to enhance productivity, improve the process and help others to keep going. It goes without saying that fear affects not only the individual’s ability to take responsibilities but his/her productivity, creativity, happiness and it might have a negative impact on his/her professional growth as well. It takes a level of consciousness to recognize fear and control is driven by insecurity. You can't change others, their insecurities, their fear, but you can change your own response.

It will be na├»ve to conclude that fear is bad in totality! As a human being or a human entity (organization), we are and will always be subjected to various emotions (positive and negative), Feelings (soothing or irritating), and actions (right or wrong). The problem comes  When we label them good or bad in totality and create a fixed mindset to react to that label. Our label of totally bad paralyzes us, and make us defensive and our level of totally good causes euphoria in us and makes us over-confident. In either case, our overall curiosity and creativity get limited and we don’t achieve up to our full potential. 

Fear is the human nature, overcome it if it drags you down to the negativity, and dig it through if only the paranoid survives in such a complex and ambiguous world.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Excellent Customer Service as the Differentiator

Every touch point of customer experience become the potential growth opportunity for business.

Being customer centric has become the mantra for many forward-looking businesses, as digital is the era of customer empathy. And excellent customer service is the differentiator and competitive advantage for organizations to compete for the future.

Digital consumers do expect to be treated personally. The hyper-connective nature of digitalization and interdependent trait of globalization make business prospects and existing customer more careful, more selective and much more demanding. Quality products are a prerequisite, but excellent customer care and customer centricity makes the difference. Also, they deserve a premium service and experience the same one you would like to have. 

The company that is built upon strong customer service culture can win the game for long run. The human factor is the one making the differentiation. One way to really grasp how to leverage this is to understand why customer service is such a differentiator. That it comes down to each individual, how we connect, engage, and earn their trust. This same individual can have a huge impact on influencing their friends to purchase the product or service. The 3 critical areas to customer service success are:
1) Customer
2) Staff
3) Organization

Excellent Customer Service has always been the differentiation when all else is seemingly equal. That's the only way the giant industry bellweather can build the reputation and brand from the long term strategic perspective; and a small boutique company can compete with the large firms in the industry. If you are unable to build up a good reputation your market is closing up on you, sooner than you think more and more clients will be less open minded doing business with you. 

Customer service was always a serious differentiator.  But, it wasn't highlighted as such largely because either the customers had lesser expectations (either due to less awareness or just per se) at industrial speed, as well as because other differentiators (tech, price, quality, reputation etc) were placed front; now at digital speed,  every touch point of customer experience become the potential growth opportunity for business, the customer service and experience are put at front and center in people's minds. Add to this huge awareness, 'always connected' social exchanges, Customer Service is finally getting its true place on the podium.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


Each initiative should carefully weigh all factors before assuming that cloud based is the way to go.

The transition to on-demand cloud solutions is inevitable. We're hitting an inflection point where businesses are moving from traditional industrial IT environments to digital cloud-based environments. But how can IT leaders embrace the opportunity and prepare for such challenge? What's your inflection point to cloud and how to take initiatives for getting on-demand solutions in ?

Start with big WHY: The message needs to be complemented with why moving into the cloud is important & inevitable for CIOs. In terms that CIOs can truly relate to, why moving into the cloud is such a potential game-changer for Corporate IT. What is compelling is that adopting the cloud can enable Corporate IT to focus more on being a strategic partner to the business, by bridging the Business-Technology divide and applying technology to help drive business objectives, rather than being mired in IT operations and executable tasks. Private, Public, Hybrid – Understanding the different values, obstacles, intricacies, etc. is the key to utilizing this new technology trend and, in fact, any new technology. What are the needs of your business? What are the legacy dependencies? A lack of innovation can cripple any organization - but in order to innovate, you have to know and understand your own weaknesses and strengths.

Orchestrate a holistic cloud strategy: There are both on the need for the CIO to be proactive about the move to the cloud, and for the critical need to train IT teams to be business teams - that really communicate and deliver business value. That's critical for the move to the cloud – orchestrate a holistic cloud strategy, but push the cloud envelope step-by-step. Cloud solutions could be the way to minimizing the cost of core business and maximizing the availability of your IT services, but be careful on this way - not all troubles could be resolved using escape to the cloud. Cloud isn't a silver bullet and in some cases, the transition to the cloud will bring you more headache than advantages. Therefore, a well-crafted strategy will help organizations lead toward cloud with confidence and preparation.

The mindset between running IT on-premise vs. in the cloud is definitely different:, CIOs & senior IT management need to anticipate and manage the "change management" aspect of the transition. The trend to the cloud is shaping the new mindset to run IT and business. There are needs for new knowledge, skills and tools, should you gain it from training or other approaches. We can't ignore IT trends, and moving to the cloud implies driving many changes in an organization and the CIO and IT professionals must be trained for this. With increased usage of cloud-based technologies and convergence of corporate and personal data, there have to be whole new thought processes for data security and governance. Today organizations have a selective approach that needs to take additional awareness of what cloud based tech is needed; you also can't lose sight of its cost -- Each initiative should carefully weigh all factors before assuming that cloud based is the way to go. CIOs with good business sense must use their technical folks (who may not be business-minded) to ask the right technical questions before a migration to a cloud platform occurs. To say that IT staff must become more business minded at the expense of their technical acumen is short-sighted. We need good technical people to stay technical and ask the right questions of the cloud vendors.

Negotiation and contract management. It’s up to CIO’s understanding and capability to face and address the challenges. On one hand, every IT project is a business project, business buy-in is crucial for project success; on the other hand, it could imply a more hands on, a technical-centric focus that such shift will bring. There are two additional skills needed to make this transitions are negotiation and contract management. Moving anything outside the organization requires careful consideration, internal and external negotiation, and close ongoing management of the services and level of services contracted and being delivered. CIOs who focus only on the business case may lack the skills to properly vet cloud solutions and cause tremendous harm to their organizations by working with a vendor who does not deliver what is promised.

The trend to the cloud is shaping the new mindset to run IT and business. The on-demand service/solution is the future of IT. CIO's that grasp this and move toward it will be ahead of the curve. And a cloud-ready, business-oriented CIO can play in organizations today is like the proverbial forest not being seen through the trees. Cloud deployments lead to new opportunities and alleviate staff shortages that exist. Change is natural, embrace it; don't get run over by it. “You can be the subject of a strategic inflection point, or you can be the cause of one.”  - Andrew Grove 

A Problem-Solving Mindset

The problem-solving mindset has synthetic nature with multi-level thinking processes involved, such as strategic thinking, system thinking, critical thinking, creative thinking, and empathetic thinking. etc.

The lack of problem-solvers is a problem for this world. Problem-solving has no equal in the development of intellect and becoming more human. What’s the problem-solving mindset though?

It takes big picture type of strategic thinking and the scientific logic of system thinking to dig through the root cause of problems: It is a sense of perspective, stepping back to see a bigger picture than others. For those who are trying to solve problems, they may find the problems evolving as they try different solutions. These are complex problems that may be difficult to tame. Probably, an integrated approach includes the systematic analysis of, and perspective on the others' failures; break down and the transformation of one difficult problem into the easier ones. Hence, fact-finding and prototyping with the problem-solving mindset that cycling back through the process might be necessary so the best solution is found in overcoming the challenges.

It takes critical thinking to frame the right problem and empathetic thinking to address the correct need: Problem-solving is about seeing a problem and actually finding a solution to that problem. Ultimately addressing the correct need is what determines the right problem. It's called empathy. It’s the ability (and desire) to look through the eyes of someone else, and to see what they see - as if you were that person - but without ever losing the "as if" part. That is, being who you are while you are looking because you care enough to want to see both why and what the way they do - even if that way is different to what and the way you see things.

Apply creativity in a recursive way for problem-solving: Creative and methodical solvers exhibited different activity in areas of the brain that process visual information. The patterns of “alpha” and “beta” brainwaves in creative solvers were consistent with diffuse rather than focused visual attention. This may allow creative individuals to broadly sample the environment for experiences that can trigger remote associations to produce an Aha! moment… In addition to contributing to current knowledge about the neural basis of creativity, this study suggests the possible development of new brain imaging techniques for assessing the potential for creative thought, and for assessing the effectiveness of methods for training individuals to think creatively.“ -Academic study

It also takes a collective thinking and collaborative mindset to brainstorm the solutions: One of the problems with brainstorming in an organizational context is that everyone thinks it is easy! The reality is that a competent facilitator (brought in at the right point -the beginning) will spend as much effort in 'problem identification' as in solution finding. In reality, the leadership team has often decided they know what the problem is and then you end up with the situation you have identified. There is as much creative thinking, critical thinking, strategic thinking and system thinking that goes into problem identification as well as solution discovering!

Problem-solving is a mindset with curiosity, self-inclusiveness, creativity, and progression. Human nature is one of the components in a self-inclusive model: in other words, they should be included as partners in taking challenges of solving complex problems facing humanity.

Business-Savvy CIOs

 It takes creative IT pros to make the business really grow. 

Nowadays, IT has permeated into every core process of businesses and is the key component of differentiated business capability. CIO as an IT leader, how can you become more business savvy and strategic cognizant?

CIOs have to become business savvyLike any C-suite members, they have to participate in forming the organization's strategy, its implementation, and assessing its performance. They have to make sure that all IT investments are aligned with the organization's strategy and the approved priorities. Within their understanding, they are responsible for highlighting evolving IT technologies such as analytics to the board members and their impact on the organization and its strategies.

 CIOs need to cover the Business Dimension as well as the Technology Dimension with their team. Would even go one step further, that the best CIO understands what current Technology Innovations can add business value and transfer this to the business. The best IT managers & leaders always have a strong understanding of what the business does, how it does it, and how it could be better with 360 degrees of view. They've also been excellent at articulating the benefits of making changes to the business' operating model, and showing how IT can make these changes happen. Above all, they've been strategy influencers and persuaders.

Empowering CIOs and improving IT maturity is the two-way effortIn other words, the CXOs and the board members must empower their CIOs and enable IT to ensure its success and its positive impact on the organization's performance. Most of the organizations still consider IT as a service and IT is normally treated as the cost. There is a reluctance to involve IT leaders in business strategies to consider digital/technical resources for quick and desired results. The real requests for NEW initiatives really come from the business, and IT can bring things forward - but the business units can actually fund and get things done. Organizations, where management/business is technologically evolved and keeping up with digital/technology developments around them become key drivers for the desired synchronization with IT teams.

CIOs are absolutely vital in the digital age. IT professionals can work their tails off to "keep the lights on" and try to make their business move, but it takes creative IT pros to make the business really grow. Hence, business-savvy CIOs can envision the upcoming business trends and ride the digital waves for accelerating business growth; enable cross-functional business communication and collaboration, and enlighten both end customer and internal customer with tailored solutions and delightful experience.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Top Reasons for Software Project Failure

Every IT project is a business project. 

The success story is perhaps similar, but in terms of failure, there are so many influencing factors (large and small) on negative project outcomes, what’re the aspects of analyzing the top reasons for software project failure.  

Communication: Speaking the common business language, not the domain dialect gives executives the foundation for better strategic conversations. If they have a better understanding of how coding and data process work, they get realistic expectations of their speed and their power. If executives are able to think in the same terms, it will enable them to have the context in which to make business decisions. The same applies to customers. If they also don’t speak the same language, requirements specifications will be problematic from the beginning. With the same language, they have the context in which to make business decisions - and that provides greater opportunity for innovation. A very subtle cause is the misalignment in what business leaders expect a technology to provide and what the technology truly can provide. That is common in recognition-oriented technologies, where the evolution of the technology isn't as advanced as the business expects.

Planning: Poor planning on the scope and breadth of a project tend to cause stumbling blocks with less and less ability to recover from the glitch or set back. Delivery in phases requires triage of requirements and steps of progress evident to the enterprise. Risk planning necessitates options when schedules hit hurdles which are inevitable did too many variables internal and external to our control. In addition, lack of insight into emerging technologies limitations and strengths. Planning is thwarted when user experiences are assumed to be the same when in fact there are different ones due to different requirements of mobile users, those in-house and those remote and off the grid. Success and failures are mostly linked to value/added. Projects bringing measurable values or driven by regulation and compliance are likely to succeed more than vision and strategically driven projects. Management could take a different perspective and attempt to identify the critical success factors that have a major contribution to success, and that if not present, pose a serious risk to the project.

Mindset, skills and resources. Inadequate skills and resources are always a problem; but one should never attempt to start a project unless you have the necessary skills and expertise in place, it's a recipe for disaster, Better doing nothing than screwing up from day one. Poor design again is a question of getting the right person, with the right skills in place so that isn't hard. The main reason for IT projects failure is that they are executed by people with a (great - sometimes at least) technological mindset. However, they don't see the need to execute the project with a business mindset, or if they do, they don't know what it means and what it really implies. Or the management driving force tends to alienate the entire process either forcing something to move faster during a problem with the plan or not engaging enough to ensure the problem is solved.

Change Management: Ensuring the customer, business unit, & support staff are intrinsically involved in change provides the greatest amount of pressure for a successful project. Overall, the root problem of change does not necessarily stem from funding but from the failure of the process team to ensure all key stakeholders involved understand and want to assist with the change involved in a new project. Once you successfully finish a project on one site, it is imperative you use this knowledge to show case the ability of the product and/or the process to down stream sites or partners receiving the change in the future. Innovation is a requirement; even when it is a well-defined project with known technology.

Commitment: The reasons for the failures may come in many folds such as planning, scoping, resources..etc.; however, one common element is the commitment of key resources to the project, when one or more key resources are committed, skilled, and passionate about the project, it is a sure shot; but when you only have a team that is there to finish hours in a day, it is a project that is known to fail. This can be detected at any stage of the project, provided there is a good technical leader who can assess effectively.

Governance: Lack of governance is a very common problem too and can lead to scope creep but can cause a plethora of problems and is something that companies should be looking at seriously in the current financial climate where they literally cannot afford to allow projects to fail. Governance should be a living thing and should not be, as it is in most companies at present, a set of rigid statements that do very little to help anyone working on projects; and they are generally compiled by senior execs, to allow them to say that they have governance in place, in most cases it is a cop out, as they don't. Companies following this course of affairs are building up big problems for themselves, they need to sit down with IT and Business people and rethink the whole governance thing seriously to make it practical and beneficial.

MetricsThe main reason is that too many of those projects doesn't have "business sense", and are not tied to specific business goals and “SMART” measurement principles. Many IT projects require alternatives to financial measures (ROI, NPV, PP, IRR) of success and the negative perception of seemingly failed IT projects outcomes (based on hard measures) could be tempered through the (additional) adoption of more holistic approaches to successful performance such as Information Economics and the Balanced Score Card. These approaches include measures such as: 
- the lifetime value of a project;                                                                                                                - the maturation of a learning organization (starts with building knowledge and corporate memory);    - the evolution of capabilities around core competencies, for competitive advantage and ultimate sustainability 
- the level of contribution to operational excellence 
- the level of contribution to strategic positioning 
- the level of contribution to the mission 
- the level of organizational impact 
- the level of reduction in complexity of EITA

By in-depth understanding the top reasons of software project failure, management can also change the angle to sum up the success factors of project delivery:                                                                   
1) Alignment of project outcomes to business goals and strategy 
2) High-level management oversight of the project 
3) Complete project plan 
4) Sense of urgency relating task completion to project milestones 
5) Proper resourcing in terms of both number and fit for the project 
6) Scope control / Effective change control to meet users need at the end, not the start point.              

7) SMART metrics and KPI to keep track of progress and ultimate business goals and strategy.