Project Suicide

This was sort of a funny scene in a project meeting. 


One person describing the challenges at one point, spontaneously and dramatically motions to take a knife and slit both wrists.


This absolutely got people’s attention.


Understanding the struggles the person was expressing, and trying to add a little lightheartedness to the situation, I say:


“This is a tough project, pass around the knife.”


This got a good hearty laugh around the table, with one person saying that this was the quote of the day. 


Anyway, we want to make operations as effortless as possible on people, but the project work to get there is definitely making people work for it. 


Let’s avoid project or people suicide–be supportive of each other, pace ourselves, team together, and problem-solve to get it successfully over the finish line.

 

Soon we can celebrate all the challenges we overcame together and from our determined efforts, all the wonderful results. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Ballmer Led Microsoft Into The Ground

Ballmer Led Microsoft Into The Ground

Steve Ballmer, one of the forefathers of Microsoft (with a career spanning 3 decades there) and its CEO since 2000, is finally retiring.

Well what can we say except, Thank G-d!

The Wall Street Journal reports how the markets cheered yesterday with Microsoft stock rising 7% at his exit and that’s with no successor identified.

In other words, better nobody, than Steve Ballmer somebody!

Ballmer managed to take the genius of Gates and a company stock valuation of $603 billion in 2000 and turn it into less than half–$290 billion–by the time he announced he was going.

Not bad destroying over $313 billion of value in a little more than a decade.

Gates was the visionary–the inventor (with the help of Apple) of Windows and Microsoft Office.

He was brilliant and he left us with products that still today dominate desktop computing, which was predominantly what existed up until he handed the reins to Ballmer.

But since 2000–we have smartphones and tablets–bringing Microsofts’s share of market to just 15% today.

Ballmer was an operations guy (not what you need in a fast-changing technology market), while Gates was a innovator (who could spearhead the change itself).

Ballmer was the wrong man for the right job.

A technology guru could’ve taken the lofty perch Microsoft sat on in 2000 and used it as a springboard to the technology stars and beyond, but an operations nerd could only run it into the ground.

Yes, Microsoft is still highly profitable at almost $22 billion last year on sales of $78 billion–nothing to sneeze at–but the problem is they are fighting last decades technology war.

That’s why Apple, Google, and Amazon eclipse Microsoft in prestige and excitement, if not all by market share (yet).

In almost 14 years, Ballmer couldn’t manage one major fully new product innovation–except Xbox in 2001 (let’s cough that one up to Gates), Bing in 2009 (a Google look-alike), and Kinect in 2010 (Ok, maybe one cool thing).

Ballmer couldn’t even put in a place a viable succession plan and is leaving the company in a chaotic leadership void for the top spot.

Gates was smart to sell the vast majority of his stake in Microsoft–not because they are not a great company with lots of talented people, but because without a true leader at the helm, they are lost in the vast technology sea of change without direction or innovation of their own.

Ballmer, it was 14 years too long, maybe now there is still hope for Microsoft to rise and be great again. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

>ITIL Version 3 – Serving Customers Like A Fine Restaurant

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This is not a framework or vendor endorsement, but I liked this simple video explaining ITIL version 3.

It explains the five key IT service cycles by comparing them to business services in a restaurant, as follows:

1) Strategy to headquarters creating restaurant theming
2) Design to chefs developing the restaurant menu (to meet customer needs)
3) Transitions to cooks running the restaurant kitchen (reliably)
4) Operations to waiters/waitresses delivering services (and owning customer satisfaction)
5) Service Improvement to the maitre d’ ensuring quality standards

The video is a little quirky in the way it cycles back and forth between ITIL and the restaurant, but overall I think the analogy works!

>Reorganization Best Practices

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Sometimes a leader has to consider and implement a reorganization (“reorg”) as this can benefit a organization.

Organizations are not a static environment, but rather are dynamic systems. To survive, organizations must adapt to changes in the external environment and from changing forces within, by reorganizing in ways that improve the organization’s ability to perform.

Harvard Business Review, June 2010, has a couple of important articles on this topic (the articles are actually in reverse order in the issue):

1) “Change For Change’s Sake” by Vermeulen, Puranam, and Gulati

2) “The Decision-Driven Organization” by Blenko, Mankins, and Rogers

In the first article, the authors assert that “even successful corporations have to shake things up to stay ahead of the competition.”

  • Sometimes, this can be driven by changes in the competitive landscape necessitating that we adapt to meet these head on.
  • At other times, it is because of internal organization dysfunctions such as where: routines are stifling innovation, silos are hampering collaboration, and resources have become entrenched with the powerful few—these will hamper performance and potentially destroy the organization if not disrupted.

In the second article, the authors recommend that reorganizations should focus on better decision-making, i.e. on structures that “improves the organization’s ability to make and execute key decisions better and faster than competitors.”

  • Reorgs are seen as necessary for creating the right structure to perform: “Like Generals, they [CEO’s] see their job as putting the right collection of troops in the right place…Nearly half of all CEOs launch a reorg during their first two years on the job.”
  • Results of reorgs are generally poor: According to a Bain and Company study of 57 reorganizations, “fewer than one-third produced any meaningful improvement in performance. Most had no affect, and some actually destroyed value.”
  • Start with a “decision audit”: “Instead of beginning a reorg with an analysis of Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats [SWOT], structural changes need to start with what we call a decision audit. The goals of the audit are to understand the set of decisions that are critical to the success of your company’s strategy and to determine the organizational level at which those decision should be made and executed to create the most value.”
  • Align organizational elements to optimize decision-making: Organize assets, capabilities, and structures to “make the essential decisions and get those decisions right more often than not.” Similarly, align “incentives, information flows, and processes with those related to decision-making.”
  • Avoid conducting reorgs that degenerate into turf battles and horse-trading: “Powerful managers grad decision rights they shouldn’t really own while weak ones surrender rights they really should own. [Further,] people end up with responsibilities hat are defined too broadly or too narrowly, given the decision they need to make…without a focus on decisions, these power struggles too often lead too creeping complexity in an organization’s infrastructure.”

In my opinion, reorganizations are likely to be most successful when they have specific goals such as adapting to changes, creating new opportunities, closing gaps, and fixing misalignments. Simply “shaking things up” is not enough reason.

Secondly, aligning the organization around execution is as important as better planning/decision-making. Therefore, we should restructure around two areas—strategy (i.e. planning and decision-making) and operations. For example, in Information Technology, we could restructure and align the organization to improve:

1) Strategy formulation: This involves reorganizing to improve architecture and planning, investment decision-making, project management oversight, customer relationship management, and performance measurement. (Reference: The CIO Support Services Framework)

2) Operational execution: This involves reorganizing to improve IT execution of network and operations, systems lifecycle, information management, and information assurance.

Thirdly, success depends on implementing the reorg with people, funding, and other tangible changes that will help the reorg to meet its goals. This advances it from “redrawing the map” to giving it “the legs” to work on the ground, and is the most exciting stage in seeing the vision be fulfilled.

By reorganizing with specific goals, focusing on better decision-making and execution, and on fully implementing the reorganization with enabling structural and process changes, executives can broadly and deeply impact the performance of the organization for the better.

>Supercapitalism and Enterprise Architecture

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As a nation are we overworked? Are we just showing up, doing what we’re told, and making the same mistakes again and again?

Robert Reich, the former Labor Secretary and Professor at University of California at Berkeley, says that we are more than ever a nation of workaholics.

Reich’s book, Supercapitalism, talks about how we have to work harder to make ends meet for the following reasons:

  • Globalization—“our real incomes are under assault from technology and low-wage workers in other countries.”
  • Greater competition—“all barriers to entry have fallen, competition is more intense than ever, and if we don’t work hard, we may be in danger of losing clients, customers, or investors.”
  • Rapid pace of change—“today most people have no ability to predict what they’re going to be doing from year to year, and job descriptions are not worth the paper they’re written on because jobs are changing so fast.”

Reich says to temper our workaholic lifestyles, we need to “understand that the quality of work is much more important than the quantity.” Honestly, that doesn’t seem to answer the question, since quality (not just quantity) takes hard work and a lot of time too.

In terms of supercharged programs, I have seen enterprise architecture programs working “fast and furious,” others that were steady, and still some that were just slow and sometimes to the point of “all stop” in terms of any productivity or forward momentum.

Unlike IT operations that have to keep the lights on, the servers humming, and phones working, EA tends to be considered all too often as pure “overhead” that can be cut at the slightest whim of budget hawks. This can be a huge strategic mistake for CIOs and organizational leaders who thus behave in a penny-wise and dollar foolish manner. Sure, operations keep the lights on, but EA ensures that IT investments are planned, strategically aligned, compliant, technically sound, and cost-effective.

A solid EA program takes us out of the day-to-day firefighting mode and operational morass, and puts the CIO and business leaders back in the strategic “driver’s seat” for transforming and modernizating the organization.

In fact, enterprise architecture addresses the very concerns that Reich points to in our Supercapitalistic times: To address the big issues of globalization, competition, and the rapid pace of change, we need genuine planning and governance, not just knee jerk reactions and firefighting. Big, important, high impact problems generally don’t get solved by themselves, but rather they need high-level attention, innovative thinking, and group problem solving, and general committment and resources to make headway. This means we can’t just focus on the daily grind. We need to extricate ourselves and think beyond today. And that’s exactly what real enterprise architecture is all about.

Recently, I heard some colleagues at a IT conference say that EA was all bluster and wasn’t worth the work and investment. I strongly disagree. Perhaps, a poorly implemented architecture program may not be worth the paper it’s plans are printed on. And unfortunately, there are too many of these faux enterprise architecture programs around and these give the rest a bad rap. However, a genuine user-centric enterprise architecture and IT governance program is invaluable in keeping the IT organization from running on a diet of daily chaos: not a good thing for the mission and business that IT supports.

Organizations can and will work smarter, rather than just harder, with strong enterprise architecture, sound IT governance, and sound business and IT processes. It the nature of planning ahead rather than just hoping for the best.

>IT Planning, Governance and The Total CIO

>CIOs are consumed by day-to-day tactical/operational IT issues and firefighting IT problems, and as a result, there is a lack of focus on IT planning and governance—two of the biggest problems facing CIOs today.

ISACA, an organization serving IT governance professionals, conducted a survey consisting of 695 interviews with CEO/CIO-level executives in 22 countries, and published the results in IT Governance Global Status Report 2006.

Here are some of the amazing findings from this study.

Firefighting predominates: “Organizations are suffering from IT operational problems…only 7% of the respondents experienced no IT problems at all in the previous year…Operational failures and incidents…are mentioned by approximately 40 percent of respondents.”

IT’s alignment with Business is weak: Only 56% of the organizations surveyed “understands and supports the business users’ needs.”

Strategic Planning is underrated by CIOs: “More than 93 percent of business leaders recognize that IT is import for delivering organization strategy…Somewhat paradoxically, general management perceives the importance…slightly higher than does IT management.” In fact, in the public sector, IT was viewed as a commodity versus strategically by 47% of respondents!

IT governance is lagging: “CIOs recognize the need for better governance over IT,” to align IT strategy and manage risks. Yet, “when asked if they intend to do or plan IT governance measures, only 40 percent replied in the affirmative.”

Liza Lowery Massey, who previously served as CIO of Los Angeles, says in Government Technology, 9 July 2007:

“Establishing IT governance up front is the No. 1 thing I would do over in my career. IT governance is crucial to a CIO’s sanity.

Further, Liza wrote in Government Technology, 14 April 2008:

“Now when I help my clients implement IT governance, I see the benefits firsthand. They include shrinking your IT department’s to-do list, achieving IT/business alignment, putting teeth into policies and standards, and focusing departments on business needs rather than technology. My work life would certainly have been smoother had I set up governance to address these issues instead of trying to handle them all myself.”

CIO Magazine, 1 November 2006, has an article by Gary Beach, entitled “Most CIOs Fail to Convince Top Management That IT Can Transform Business.”

In this article, Gary notes that the rate of investment in IT is half the rate of corporate profit growth, and he asks why?

Certainly, the failure to align with business, and effectively plan and govern IT is hindering CIO’s ability to succeed.

The unfortunate result, as Andy McCue reported in Silicon.com on 26 April 2007, is that “CIOs and the IT department are in danger of being relegated to the role of support function because of a lack of vision and technology innovation.”

The answer is clearly for CIOs to “stabilize the patient” and get out of firefighting mode, and allocate sufficient time, attention, and resources to IT planning and governance. Only in this way will CIOs effectively align IT with business requirements, solve genuine business problems, innovate and transform the enterprise, and fulfill the strategic role that the business is looking for from them.

>Balancing Strategy and Operations and The Total CIO

>How should a CIO allocate their time between strategy and operations?

Some CIOs are all operations; they are concerned solely with the utility computing aspects of IT like keeping the desktops humming and the phones ringing. Availability and reliability are two of their key performance measurement areas. These CIOs are focused on managing the day-to-day IT operations, and given some extra budget dollars, will sooner spend them on new operational capabilities to deploy in the field today.

Other CIOs are all strategy; they are focused on setting the vision for the organization, aligned closely to the business, and communicating the way ahead. Efficiency and effectiveness are two of their key performance measurement areas. These CIOs are often set apart from the rest of the IT division (i.e. the Office of the CIO focuses on the Strategy and the IT division does the ops) and given some extra budget dollars, will likely spend them on modernization and transformation, providing capabilities for the end-user of tomorrow.

Finally, the third category of CIOs, balances both strategy and operations. They view the operations as the fundamentals that need to be provided for the business here and now. But at the same time, they recognize that the IT must evolve over time and enable future capabilities for the end-user. These CIOs, given some extra budget dollars, have to have a split personality and allocate funding between the needs of today and tomorrow.

Government Technology, Public CIO Magazine has an article by Liza Lowery Massey on “Balancing Strategy with Tactics Isn’t Easy for CIOs.”

Ms. Massey advocates for the third category, where the CIO balances strategy and operations. She compares it to “have one foot in today and one in tomorrow…making today’s decisions while considering tomorrow’s impacts.”

How much time a CIO spends on strategy versus operations, Ms. Massey says is based on the maturity of the IT operations. If ops are unreliable or not available, then the CIO goes into survival mode—focused on getting these up and running and stable. However, when IT operations are more mature and stable, then the CIO has more ability to focus on the to-be architecture of the organization.

For the Total CIO, it is indeed a delicate balance between strategy and operations. Focus on strategy to the detriment of IT operations, to the extent that mission is jeopardized, and you are toast. Spend too much time, energy, and resources on IT operations, to the extent that you jeopardize the strategy and solutions needed to address emerging business and end-user requirements, and you will lose credibility and quickly be divorced by the business.

The answer is the Total CIO must walk a fine line. Mission cannot fail today, but survivability and success of the enterprise cannot be jeopardized either. The Total CIO must walk and chew gum at the same time!

Additionally, while this concept is not completely unique to CIOs, and can be applied to all CXOs, CIOs have an added pressure on the strategy side due to the rapid pace of emerging technology and its effects on everything business.