A Practical Approach for IT Governance

Archive for the ‘Helping CIOs’ Category

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

Six Principles from Amazon can also guide CIOs

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos addresses a press

In the old article “6 Things Jeff Bezos Knew Back in 1997 That Made Amazon a Gorilla”,  Jeff identified key insights that can help entrepreneurs.  Sitting across the table with one of the five founders at Amazon at one of the round tables, I was astounded as to the audacity and approach they were taking.  I wrote a blog post on how those principles had guided me.  After nearly two decades, these six principles are still very true.

  1. When there is a window of opportunity – go for it.2. Think Long Term 5-7 years. 3. Focus on Long Term Market share – not short term profits.  4. OK to make mistakes but not be timid.  5. Obsess over customers.  6. Be the First.

Jeff’s guidance is not just for entrepreneurs.  IT leaders can apply these principles to transform the enterprises they work for.  The first principle of going after opportunities means that IT leadership should be proactive and seek out technology initiatives.  The second principle (long term thinking), the third principle (market share) and the sixth principle (“be the first”) all imply that IT leaders should constantly look for innovation that may not yield short term results but give the enterprise significant slice of the markets.

The fourth principle recognizes that innovation inherently carries risk.  The key is to make mistakes quickly and learn from them, but once it is deemed a failure, rapidly discard them or modify them to yield better outcomes.  It is interesting that very few IT leaders assess and abandon projects that yield no value.  The fifth principle of revolving around the customer implies transparency in building IT systems that are no closed within the enterprise.  Rather, IT systems should revolve around customers served by the enterprise.

I am proud to have built our firm around these six principles.  The new paradigm for IT management is not just ITSM but transforming the enterprise to meet the digital era! IT leaders can say goodbye to legacy tools,  uGovernIT – is the first tool to have ITSM plus Digital PMO!  uGovernIT is offered at a very attractive price and enables IT to become the change agents delivering not only IT enabled services but digital projects across the enterprise. Businesses and Customers can easily interact with IT using our automated agents, pre-built workflows and wizards. Check us out at


Written by Subbu Murthy

June 1, 2016 at 11:01 pm

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

SMDB – The New IT Paradigm

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IT Asset Management

Before the Cloud …

Cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT), and Software as a Service (SaaS) have rendered many of our IT management paradigms obsolete.  In the past IT management centered around Data Center and multiple IT assets.  Management embraced CMDB as the fundamental component of their IT delivery.  No wonder tool vendors like Remedy and ServiceNow sprung up built on the CMDB metaphor.

A configuration management database (CMDB) is a database that contains all relevant information about the components of the information system used in an organization’s IT services and the relationships between those components. A CMDB provides an organized view of data and a means of examining that data from any desired perspective. Within this context, components of an information system are referred to as configuration items (CI). A CI can be any conceivable IT component, including software, hardware, documentation, and personnel, as well as any combination of them. The processes of configuration management seek to specify, control, and track configuration items and any changes made to them in a comprehensive and systematic fashion.

CMDB was one of the most critical aspects in ensuring safety and security of the enterprise. It was essential to provide a scalable, reliable, and secure Enterprise Architecture. While very useful, CMDB based management was expensive and needed enormous resources to maintain its relevance.

The New Wave …

The Digital Age has created the need to move to a nimble and innovation centric Enterprise forced IT leaders to look for a different model.  CMDB served its purpose, but automation took over.  Tools like Airwatch made asset discovery and management a very trivial exercise.  SaaS solutions rendered expensive application management obsolete, and beacons provided assets to communicate with one other without human intervention.  In other words, the CMDB has became a commodity.  IT has shifted its management focus to a service oriented architecture.  While ITIL and vendors quickly adapted their approach to take into account the need for a service delivery framework, the tool vendors simply patched their CMDB tools to appear like a services framework.  While large companies can afford to spend money liberally on tools, mid-market enterprises cannot afford this luxury.

Introducing SMDB …

As we have done in our tool (uGovernIT), there is a need for a Service Management Database (SMDB). Not just a catalog or traditional master data database, but a self-learning and adaptable service engine that can be easily embraced by mid-market enterprises. SMDB is comprehensive solution and includes the business demand for IT including user service requests, projects, and business need for innovation.  SMDB also includes the supply chain including people and assets to meet the demand.  To be effective, the SMDB should also include the processes and automation to make management simple. SMDB should provide knowledge management, workflows, collaboration, and analytics along with project management, project portfolios.  SMDB will not only help manage IT budget and IT spend, but also help to provide transparency into IT activities and facilitate effective demand management.  Agents and automation will make it easy for enterprises to adopt SMDB.

Adopting SMDB …

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.  The organizations responded by creating a new role – the“Chief Digital Officer (CDO)”. While CIOs are still slow to adopt SMDB, CDOs, on the other hand have made SMDB their basis for managing the Digital Enterprise. If the CIO does not wake up to the new Digital Age, then the CIO era will sadly come to an end.  SMDB is an agile and nimble framework to help CIOs bridging the gap between the Analog enterprise and the Digital enterprise.  We are very pleased to play a part in this transformation.

Written by Subbu Murthy

February 4, 2016 at 10:54 pm