A Practical Approach for IT Governance

Somethings do not change …

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TimeIt is amazing that this blog post shown below was written eight years back and is just as relevant today!

The question may sound almost blasphemous, particularly in light of numerous CIOs and CTOs I know who are all looking for a job – nevertheless it is a topic of great interest. Just to ensure we all have the same understanding, let us define a CIO to be the “architect” who aligns IT to the business ensuring “best value” for the business. CTO can be defined as the individual who delivers the IT in the most efficient manner possible. To address the issue of whether a CIO or CTO is required, let us first classify companies based on size.

Ignoring the Fortune 1000, there are 17000+ companies who have between 500 and 10,000 employees. Let us call these companies Tier-2 companies. There are probably 200,000+ companies who have more than 100 employees but less than 500. Let us call these Tier-3 companies. There are millions of companies smaller, and for the sake of this discussion, let us ignore them (even though they may have IT needs).

The role of both a CIO and CTO is critical in Tier-2 companies, and I am going to assert that these roles should not report to a CFO, but should report directly to the CEO or COO. It is possible, and likely, that the CTO reports to the CIO and may not even be called a CTO, but that is less important for this discussion.

Tier-3 companies who tend to emulate a Tier-2, generally have a CIO. I take the position that in such firms, the role of a CIO is greatly exaggerated. After all, once the IT vision is articulated, the role becomes more of a lower level delivery manager. My view is that for such firms, an on-demand CIO service is valuable. Organizations like Office of the CIO, USourceIT all foster on-demand services. The advantages of the on-demand service are:

  • There are no excessive fixed costs (a small retainer plus on-demand service provides continuity).
  • Different skills are brought to the table based on demand – for example, if the focus is applications, then an applications architect may be better suited for the business.
  • Experience in different verticals and horizontals can help “reuse” the knowledge base – for example, if a firm needed CPG and manufacturing experience, then a CIO who has worked in such environments can offer rapid solutions to align the IT to the business needs.

The key to success for a CIO on-demand service is to provide a trusted value driven turn-key IT capability to Tier-3 companies that enables them to compete, grow and operate effectively.

Written by Subbu Murthy

August 30, 2017 at 8:55 am

Three Forms of Communications in Managing Offshore Resources

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They say the three rules in real estate are location, location and location.  In managing remote resources, the three rules are communicate, communicate and communicate.  These rules are derived from my experience in managing off-shore resources in India.  I suspect these apply to other sourcing scenarios as well.

Communicate Correctly

Many may construe that to communicate correctly you need a specific methodology.  For example, you may use tools for specifying requirements or the underlying technical design.  While these are helpful, we should recognize that correctness is relative.  One useful way to achieve this is to have the offshore staff walk through the specifications and share their understanding.  It may appear to take more time, but the returns come in the form of higher quality of products or services.

One useful guideline is to use more formal methodologies for products or services thatCommunications Framework 1 entail more risk, and conversely, less formal models for lower risk items.  The same framework is true for mission critical applications where you may want a more formal approach while less formal approaches are suitable for R&D and projects that lead to innovation.


Communicate Often

Typical project management books prescribe weekly follow ups and monthly status reviews in traditional waterfall development models, and daily updates/weekly status reviews in Agile models.  Irrespective of the development models, it is best to follow the agile model when managing remote resources.  The benefits of frequent communications far outweigh the costs.


Communicate Casually

Genchi Genbutsu (現地現物) means “actual place, actual thing” and it is a key principle of the Toyota Production System. It suggests that in order to truly understand a situation one needs to go to genba (現場) or, the “real place” – where work is done.  This approach of actually visiting the place where the work is carried out carries a very rewarding side effect:  site visits help show the team that you value their effort and the product or service is important to you.

While site visits facilitate casual communication, even formal meetings should have ample time for casual chit-chats.  These informal discussions often lead to a higher degree of comfort for the offshore resources to raise doubts, or even better, challenge us to raise the quality of the product or service we are seeking to achieve.

In summary, communicating effectively requires sustained effort, but the effort is amply rewarded by reducing the iterations in developing a product or service desired.


Written by Subbu Murthy

July 24, 2017 at 7:00 am

Ken Venner: CIO of the Month – May 2017

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Ken Venner is CIO at a space company that builds rockets. Like uGovernIT, our integrated IT management solution, Ken’s focus is to deliver Information Systems and Technology services that are “Like Air”, enabling engineers and scientists to propel mankind forward as a multi-planetary species. The challenge is to provide cost effective, high-performance and “always on” tools and business processes that enable the business to achieve this goal.

Ken’s accomplishments cannot be summarized in a blog post.  I need a book for it.  Just one example may give insights into his ability. He built a customer ERP package to meet the unique needs of a 21st century rocket company involved in space explorations.

Ken brings an in depth knowledge of information technology coupled with a good vision to the future.  With his deep knowledge of the business, he successfully builds a seamless bridge between business and IT.  And further add to this, his uncanny ability of managing people of various backgrounds:  analysts, programmers, managers and even support staff who are in security and facilities.  I was visiting him at the famous space exploration company, and both the security guard and receptionist were telling me how they enjoyed being a part of Ken’s team.

Despite his lofty achievements, Ken is very humble and always willing to help.

I requested him to send a short monograph on how to succeed as a CIO.  His advice centers around five key tenets. Please read the full text  and you will see why he is our CIO of the month. He is also a good friend and a key reason behind our success at UGovernIT.

Written by Subbu Murthy

May 2, 2017 at 12:21 am

March 2017 CIO of the Month: Dan Sze

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Dan SzeDan completed his Federal Government career as Deputy Director of State programs, where he deployed multi-billion energy programs. At the Departments of Energy, Defense and State, he performed as acquisition executive, program director, strategic policy manager, contracting officer, construction manager, chief information officer and Foreign Service Officer. During that time, he was responsible for major policy and regulatory initiatives under six American presidents and construction of the East Coast Trident nuclear submarine base. He obtained his Architect registration in 1982. Dan also serves on the City Council, City of Falls Church, Virginia.

As an example of his achievements, Dan was the national program manager of Rebuild America, a network of state, community, and business partnerships focused on energy efficiency and energy technology projects in buildings and infrastructure. Under his leaqdership, energy efficiency improvements across 2 billion square feet of projects resulted in $500 million annual savings. To put this in perspective, that was the equivalent of 10% of all commercial space in the United States. To accomplish this, Dan created a world-class web based platform with opting-in, tracking and handling a variety of workflow activities, aggregating and directing responses to requests for technical assistance and workshops, and facilitating interaction among over 3,000 communities and individuals, 250 business entities and 25 strategic non-government organizations (NGOs). The Rebuild America system was validated in a DOE/KPMG Peat-Marwick study as “best in class” for the Department.

At UGovernIT, Inc., we help CIOs leverage technology and deliver true value to their enterprise.  Every month we name a CIO who has helped us understand the role of the CIO and build uGovernIT, the product that is termed “the Uber of IT Management.”  We are honored to select Dan Sze as the CIO of the month. I requested him to send a short autobiography of his career.   Please read it and you will see why he is our CIO of the month. One of his quotes I will never forget is”everything you have done up to this point in time counts for about 10%; what lies ahead is the remaining 90%.

Written by Subbu Murthy

March 27, 2017 at 8:41 am

UGovernIT’s February 2017 CIO of the Month: Fernando Gonzalez

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fernando-gonzalezCIOs of mid-sized enterprises rarely get the attention they richly deserve. I met Fernando at a CIO event where I was moderating a session on Innovation.  It was clear that Fernando had something very special to offer to all of us.
Mr. Fernando Gonzalez serves as the Chief Information Officer at Byer California, Inc. Byer designs and manufacturers clothing lines for women, both young and the not so young.  Fernando previously worked for EDS, Rand, Informix and various manufacturing companies around the world from medical device manufacturing to aerospace manufacturing, on both public and private sectors.
While many CIOs are focused on alignment, Fernando has a different take on it.  He feels that if you have the “C” in your title, then you are part of developing the strategy.  He argues that if you are developing the strategy with your other C suite colleagues, by definition, you are aligning your IT with it.  This leads to his view that many share:  it is critical for the CIO to know the business.  Fernando knows each and and every division in the firm, their key metrics, their margins and challenges.


He shared many examples of how the CIO can bring strategy to the table.  At the high end, he felt it was important to note why a particular buyer purchased or not purchased the items.  He stated that analytics do not help as their target market is driven by desire to buy something new.  So one of his innovative ideas was to embed RFID and track how many garments their customers carried to the change room and how many (if any) they selected.  Innovation, he argues does not have to be big-ticket items.  Even simple ideas can be very appropriate.  For example, most big enterprises like Wal-Mart recognize the need to manage inventory as a strategic part of their Supply Chain management.  Fernando encountered a situation where the warehouse space needed to be expanded.  It was simple, but many times overlooked, better management of inventory to reduce warehouse space requirements. Legacy ERP systems rarely provide these insights, but a relatively inexpensive customization of the inventory management module in the ERP led to significant savings.

He has so many success stories, it is hard to pen it down in a page.  Mr. Fernando Gonzalez is our CIO of the month.

Written by Subbu Murthy

February 27, 2017 at 7:31 pm

Do Mid Market CIOs have FOMOphobia?

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Many mid-market CIOs feel that they do not have the tools or processes or people to manage technology.  Mid-Market CIOs feel that that there faced with service requests that need to be done instantly, projects that have to be done  ASAP,  technology is changing rapidly, and on top of it, they have to keep systems compliant and safe.  All at the same time !

I learnt a new phrase from my daughter – FOMO.  I could not help but feel that many mid-market CIOs have this phobia of being left out.  They feel that the “Big CIOs” have the tools, the people and the big budget to tackle bigger challenges and bring innovation to the enterprise.

In reality mid-market CIOs are not missing out anything.  Big CIOs use multiple solutions from multiple vendors making it difficult to integrate and get a 360 degree view!  These point solutions cost a lot of money for license fees and dedicated teams to maintain them.  They are stuck in the old school techniques and spend enormous resources.  Mid market CIOs can learn from these mistakes.  They can leverage modern approaches that are not onerous and can be customized easily to meet their needs.uGovernIT is a tool designed for the mid-market CIO.

Instead of using four or five tools to do all this work, uGovernIT will get your staff “out of the weeds” with a complete set of workflows for managing help desk requests, problems/incidents, technical change requests, projects and resources.  Designed for the mid-market, uGovernIT is the first Cloud Based ITSM Software to incorporate Digital PMO to help CIOs leverage agile methodologies to manage the new wave of technologies. In addition to helping mid-market CIOs manage the help desk and keep your lights on, uGovernIT helps them:

  • Configure agents to automate services to drive efficiency across the enterprise.
  • Leverage agile project methodologies to implement “digital projects”.
  • Provide 360 degree view of IT to align resources to IT activities that provide most value to the enterprise.
  • Gives a complete view of the resource allocation from the resource perspective – covering both in-house staff, consultants and outsourcers!

Written by Subbu Murthy

August 19, 2016 at 12:04 pm

IT Budgeting Made Simple!

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Cost and Value


In the past, presenting IT budgets was not unlike visiting the Dentist.  We all had to do it, but hated it.  We all tried to compare how well we did in reducing costs.  We used metrics such as cost of IT per employee or percentage of revenues and compared it with our peers.  For example, mid-sized companies spent around $13K per employee on IT and large companies spent about 20% less. These cost centered IT Budgets are a thing of the past.

With the shift towards business driven IT, the single most important metric is the value derived from IT.  We can define three stages of organizational maturity with respect to IT management:

  • Stage 1 – where Cost Centered IT far exceeds Value Centered IT
  • Stage 2 – where Cost Centered IT is about the same as Value Centered IT
  • Stage 3 – where Value Centered IT far exceeds Cost Centered IT

The question naturally that comes is how do we measure value.  In general there are three types of value:

  • Real – actual benefits/value received that can be measured;
  • Algorithmic – where benefits/value is calculated algorithmically; and;
  • Perceived – subjective assessment of benefits/valuation.

While you can spend enormous resources in identifying value, we argue it can be done relatively quickly if you use a combination of the three approaches. uGovernIT offers a multitude of models that can be tailored to meet each industry.    The best part is that the businesses can tailor the models to their specific enterprise without the need for extensive IT effort.

Value centered IT is the practical way to align IT to organizations. uGovernIT provides a 360 degree view of IT to align resources to IT activities that provide most value to the enterprise.  Value centered IT helps bridge the gap between business and IT, and uGovernIT provides an elegant solution to help you automate the process.

Written by Subbu Murthy

August 14, 2016 at 11:08 am