How you should create an IT Strategy

As anyone who started his or her own business, like I did, or have been in a senior leadership position with a business, yep I have that too to draw upon.

experience

You were likely asked to add to or develop a strategic plan.

Might have been 3, 5 or even 10 years.  Longer if you are in city planning or such.  There are plenty of templates along with courses on how to develop a strategic plan.  Thousands of consultants, myself included who would love to be hired to help you with that effort.

From the technology side you tie the strategy (new technology, upgrades, replacements, yada yada) with a technology roadmap.  Think of it like major house renovation.  Parts of the house will stay, but most of it will be replaced. house

 

In this case servers, switches, storage and so forth.

 

 

stopWell, you should stop doing that – now!

 

 

 

Instead, focus on capabilities.  capabilities  A capabilities strategy will not only improve alignment with business, but ensure you are working with the right partners.

If your organization says they want to know more about their customers. What capabilities are need to learn more about your customers?

Improve flexibility of getting to existing internal data, plus adding multiple external data sources from purchased structured data to unstructured social and other data sources.

Stop – don’t start listing the types of databases, servers and application integration points you will need.  That is later, like knowing what size refrigerator or TV screen you want for the house.  What you need to know is how you like to entertain.

Capabilities again.  Integration, analytics (cognitive and predictive), data cleansing, visualization and so forth to create the capability to deliver the business value will be needed with in house or consulting services.

Yes, there will be a point where you have to start talking about databases and infrastructure, but by focusing on capabilities you can start with learning your customer’s habits from the internal buying habits for insights as a start to capabilities.  The second part of the roadmap will add another data source and then another, integrating into CRM and Order Management application processes.

This works as I said not only to the benefit of ensuring the technology strategy is exactly aligned with the business strategy, but provides you the language you want to hear from your partner consultants either directly or from their customer references.

executives   It also gives you the language to explain the strategy to your fellow executives.

It works equally with growth and profit focused strategies.

Book Review: Building Internet of Things

So next up on book reviews is Building the Internet of Things by Maciej Kranz.  First anything that starts with ‘beyond the hype’ to me sounds like a person starting a sentence with ‘trust me, this will work’.

IoT has the same aura around it that the Internet did back in the nineties.  Lots of hype, tons of articles, events and the line of business people are asking –

Are we doing this?

When are we doing this?

Why are we NOT doing this?

Should we be doing this?do-this-not-that

As such, I would recommend skipping that first chapter and go right to chapter two as it hits upon the power of IoT to help you answer some of those questions or just jump to No, no we should not be doing this – yet.

Use the book as a reference to help you ask the right questions both of your line of business and for those 30 vendors calling you on a monthly basis offering to help you with IoT.  This Forbes article is a good brief and the language is more LOB focused talking about manufacturers managing maintenance downtime and expense related to that versus IoT devices, storage and analytics.

In that it provides a benefit.  But, it does not live up to its title.  This will not help you build the internet of things.  Because to leverage IoT the focus is on business process improvement and innovating new customer facing services.

As such, if your business is not ready to transform business processes or is eagerly open to leverage technology for new customer services you will be wasting your time.

This book will help you develop the questions around your business processes to either generate that eagerness bring awareness to the line of business that IoT is not a cure, but component that can optimize process steps that were considered impossible to remove inefficient profit robbing steps.

Beyond the Fitbit, the NEST thermostat their are real business solutions in manufacturing, healthcare, energy and retail industries.

Working it purely as a business problem solution design will help you find the REAL solutions and avoid the hyped.  

Aaargh – stop selling me technology

That constant barrage of sales calls, emails and even that occasional snail mail or Fedex package all wanting to talk about a growing set of technologies.  Whether it be the latest software package, servers, flash, converged, cognitive analytics and on and on and on.

finance-tech

Consider the above a list of just most of the accounting technologies out there.  Multiple this by 1,000 fold for all vendors who want you as a customer.  multiple

Now multiple that by the number of companies who are focused on calling directly into your accounting, operations, marketing and other department selling them services.

How do deal with this onslaught of activity is truly incomparable to any other function in the business.  business-function           Here is a process that helps me.

No, not the one where I never ever answer my work phone.

Categorize all activities, projects and strategies around simplify, business process optimize, customer satisfaction and compliance.

  • Simplify – removing complexity from your technology delivery whether it be infrastructure, applications, access… simplify
  • Business process optimizing – focusing on profit.  Removing costs aka waste from business processes optimize
  • Customer satisfaction – my way of saying generate revenue – new net or more per customercustomer_satisfaction-650x300

 

 

 

 

  • Compliance – the one you never have a choice to do or not to do and while you wish it was otherwise always becomes the top priority whether it be PCI, HIPPA, Sarbanes or othercompliance

Not just the IT projects, but I gather input from the finance, marketing and other functions and put them in the above categories.

Finance is easy – almost all Compliance or Business Optimization.  They they are attracted to Simplify.

Marketing yes Customer Satisfaction is their sweet spot, but again Simplify can work especially if it decreases time to delivery new services to Marketing.

Over all this pushes the complexity of cloud/public/private/hybrid, analytics, mobility, security, converged, hyperconverged, SaaS, PaaS, IaaS and so on off the table and focuses your attention, the functional areas and evidentially your key suppliers on talking about business outcomes.

open-for-business

 

 

Buzzy buzzword – business outcomes

In both technology and business buzzwords are an annually right of activity.  From the heady days of GUI to Cloud, Personas and more and more I read and hear Business Outcomes.  outcomes

With IoT, Cognitive Analytics and Cloud along with the growing list of applications as services delivering business processes business outcomes has gone from just a buzzword to what gets us past the separation of business and technology.   b-and-t

Outcomes (business is redundant) pushes technology professionals to fully understand the direct link technology has the business driving out of the data center, past the help desk and align one on one with how the business actually is successful.

Whether it is

  • Customer acquisition / retention
  • Launching a new product
  • or simply shipping and invoicing

conversationIt is a harder conversation to start as we are locked in our old habits of speeds, feeds, storage capacity, security and the dreaded maintenance costs (ugh).

However, do a google search on business outcomes and you will see links from Harvard, Cisco and Forrester.

They will talk about results, desired outcomes and deliverables.

Me I like the simple definition of outcome.  A consequence.  consequences

You can talk about consequences.

What happens is your business does not add new customers or starts losing others?

What would be the impact on your business if you reduce new product development/launch by half?

How would that improve your customer satisfaction and bottom line if you improved shipping and invoicing to 95% or better?

These are consequences – real, solid consequences that we all can understand and talk about.  We have already seen business analyst move out of IT and into the business and vice versa.  Transform or evolve this to alignment by consequences for new successes.  target

Customer acquisition / retention teams or new product launch teams they should have broad cross capability and authority for applications, technology and especially changing processes and roles.

My recommendations to business is identify those in your organization and new hires that have potential for cross-business/technology capability.  Anyone with Lean, Six Sigma or Agile development experience (I will argue with you the value of certifications are low compared to actual experience) are nice indicators to look for in people.  best-people

Also, anyone who has that annoying habit of pointing out what will go wrong with something.  Loath these people, but always want one on my team.

Regardless outcomes are path in one manner to the end of IT, but it is the next step in evolution that is inevitable.

 

 

Book review: BlockChain

Blockchain, blockchain blockchain-consensus  I first heard this term back in 2014 related to bitcoin.  Then again in 2016 with some legal firms looking to it in Europe as a future for transactional data.  Then when I saw the IBM Watson announcement with blockchain, I was like hmmm need to learn more.

So, I went and got Richard Hayen’s book and read it.  Then reread whole sections of it.

411wguyqgpl

Then put it down and picked it up again and realized – nope it is not me the book is not written well.  Sorry Mr. Hayen, if your Fintech book is as poor explaining a topic I will pass. Consider a couple of analogies and you know graphics.

blockchain-usecases-and-startups

Blockchain does have a future, it is a new way to store and validate transactional data, but most importantly share that data with customers and partners.  The most understandable chapter is 6 – Arguments against Blockchain…  That ‘opening a window for cybercriminals’ definitely a concern, but still understand where blockchain could be revolutionary change in business models that require partnerships across commodities, borders and languages.

I have this infographic more helpful – just sayin…

blockchain-infographic

Article review -How to Use the Single, Most Powerful Word in Business

While this article from Inc.com counters my post from a few years ago Rule #3 ask three times to get to a yes, however, I believe both are valid.

noSaying No and having support from your leader to do so is both empowering and as the article states effective time management.

Yes, as my rule #3 recommends and the article “acknowledges that some folks will push and ask more than once, or will pester you to try to wear you down.

Don’t fall for it: Just say no. And mean it.”

I agree with this from both sides.  That if you truly believe the individual should be working on your request, persistent asking is required.  Just as required is if the individual on the other side disagrees that they say no and allow the necessary activity of referring up to a higher level of management.

Lastly cannot state strongly enough my support for not “apologizing just reinforces the idea that you should be saying yes more than you say no and every time you say yes to something you don’t really want, you’re actually saying no to the things you do.”

However for this to be effective for a time they must have clear priorities and have those priorities aligned with the business strategy and tactics.  This will also discourage others from requesting non-aligned tactics.

So it is more than Just Say No, is is a focus on why no makes sense and a recommendation to use it more often than you do today.

focusing-is-about-no

 

Management Style

When I first moved into a leadership role, my style was inclusionary to a point.  That point was when I felt decision was taking too long.  Well that is how I would rationalize it.

too-long

Well experience has taught me a great deal and my management style has changed.

I describe it as Trust, Respect and Consistency.

trusthandsTrust that each and every person comes to work each with the desire to work hard and leave at the end of the day feeling successful.

  1. A leaders job is to define what success is for each role, specifically how that success can tie directly to the growth or profitability of the organization
  2. A leaders job is to ensure their teams can feel empowered to focus on the priorities that will drive success instead of getting caught up in the noise of Urgent, BUT not Important tasks
  3. This trust is not without the control you have to validate the progress on the work is actually being done and when completed done right.  This is trust with confidence.

respect.jpgI will respect all the work and experience that every person has done and is doing.  I may not agree with how or what they were doing, but that takes nothing away from what they have done each and every day they worked at the organization.

When I start at an organization I am the LEAST seniority person there.  Everyone else knows the informal rules of the place better than I.  I do respect that foremost.

I will strive to be consistent.  consistent

  1. Simple things like showing up for work the same time each day, so everyone knows when you will be there.
  2. Bigger things like how treating each person that difficult combination of the same, but also how they wish to be treated
    • That individual who likes engagement, spend the extra time listening regardless of how well you know what they are saying
    • That individual who is uncomfortable with talking, make those engagements shorter and where they are most comfortable, but more frequent
  3. When you say things are a priority, make them a priority each day through your actions.
    1. If project A is the top priority, but that loud argumentative peer keeps asking you and your staff about project B, C or other you need to stand up publicly.
      • My best suggestion is to play dumb with that peer – continually stating you don’t understand why what they want is more important then project A, but would they explain it. – Works like a charm.

This consistency is what will breed the trust of others in return for giving them your trust and respect.

manager-vs-leader