A Practical Approach for IT Governance

Archive for the ‘Chief Digital Officer’ Category

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

Think like a CDO – Act like a CIO

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Businesswoman giving business card to client in office


In two previous blog posts, we discussed the career of the CIO: “The  Six Stages of the CIO“,  I had suggested a six stage process:  Learn, Grow, Leap, Mature, Become Stable, and Share!   This was great if you just wanted to end the career as a CIO.  In a follow up to this blog post, CIO: Chapter 2, I proposed roles such as  CIO/COO, CIO/CFO and even CIO/CMO.  I always admired these lucky CIOs as they broke away from the mold.  Some suggested that I had missed an important alternative – the Chief Digital Officer (CDO).

The Role of the Chief Digital Officer

When organizations did not understand technology, they responded by creating the position of the Chief Information Officer.  The CIO was the bridge by helping businesses communicate their technology needs and helping IT align the resources to match those needs.  Many of the CIOs focused their attention on execution.  This focus on execution meant that CIOs were slow to respond to the Digital Enterprise.  Organizations responded by creating the CDO.   Many CIOs disagree with this approach. While most recognize the need, CIOs argue that the CDO should report to the CIO.  Sadly, the CIOs are losing. More than 80% of CDOs report to the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).

Can the CIO also be the CDO?

CIO Executive Council (CEC), and yours truly, had the pleasure of interviewing Ashwin Rangan.  We asked Ashwin “There’s been some talk and more than a few articles concerning the current importance of the Chief Digital Officer. However, there is some speculation – even from CDOs themselves – that the need for such a position may be temporary as digital expertise and knowledge spreads across the C-suite and a company. Do you have any thoughts on that?”

In relationship to the CIO, Ashwin opined “To me, logic would argue that if the CIO is fully glued into the business of the organization, then the CIO ought to be the chief digital officer as well, because nobody understands the digital technology aspect as well as the CIO. The question that is being asked is who best understands the impact of the application, not the application itself. So, whenever there is a business-savvy CIO at the table who can understand and articulate the impact of digital technology as opposed to the application, I don’t believe there is a need for a separate Chief Digital Officer.”


At first glance, we may argue against Ashwin’s position.  The CIO has way too much on the plate, and the CDO’s role will only complicate things.  Upon reflection, Ashwin is right on the money.  The technology wave Analytics, Automation, Cloud, IOT (Internet of Things), Mobility, and Social Computing , have enabled enterprises of all sizes to embark on a journey where technology and core business are inseparable.  The CIO has to think about it anyway.

Let us look at it from the mid-market CIO perspctive.  Mid-market enterprises need an entrepreneurial individual who understands the technology and the business.  The key differentiators between the CIO and CDO are how they approach a technology solution.  CIO approaches it from the position of alignment to business, efficiency and risk aversion.  The CDO approaches it from the position of disrupting the market with innovative solutions.  These solutions have to be aligned to business, be efficient and low risk.   The CIO thinks top down, and the CDO thinks bottom up.  Therein, you have the answer.  Therefore, you can also be the CDO if you can think like a CDO, but act like a CIO.

Written by Subbu Murthy

April 28, 2016 at 6:35 am