A Practical Approach for IT Governance

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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

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

CIO: Chapter 2

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Silhouette of man in the mountain


This blog is not for CIOs who are currently getting their IT aligned to business or in the midst of a major overhaul of their ERP system or involved in transforming the organization from analog to digital.   This blog is reserved for those who have done all that and asking themselves what next?  In an earlier blog post: “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.  Many CIOs, if not most,  fall into this category.  They look for a new job where they can repeat their know-how in a different setting.  They will encounter very few challenges, but 2 to 3 years later they will be in the same position again.  The average life of a CIO is around 4 years in a firm, so if you are journeyman CIO, then by the sunset of your career, you will have been a CIO in five to six companies (assuming it took you 10+ years to get there).

An attractive option is to move laterally with a view to move to the top.  Options are heading up Supply Chain or Operations or Finance or even Sales and Marketing or Strategy Planning.  You want to position yourself as the next COO or CEO.  To do this, you must have aligned the IT to your business, built a solid organization with key resources who are ready to take over your job, understand the business you are in, and built a very good relationship with your peers.  If you are interested in taking this option, you must start planning this from day 1 when you take your assignment as a CIO.

Curiously some of it happens just by chance. Many CIOs are asked to take on roles that they have never done before. I know several who are CIO/COO, CIO/CFO and even CIO/CMO.  These lucky CIOs are forced to break away from the mold. If you are not among the fortunate to get such roles, you can still break away from the mold by fearlessly following your instincts and focusing on how to deliver value to the Enterprise.

Written by Subbu Murthy

January 29, 2016 at 11:09 pm

A Lesson in Life from the CEO of Boston Celtics and the CEO of Boston RedSox

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Celtics and RedSoxAs a Lakers fan and a Dodger fan, I may have committed two cardinal sins that may not be condoned by southern californians. On a business trip to Boston, I was privileged to attend the Evanta CIO Executive Summit.  The key note was moderated by David Rudzinsky, SVP, Information Services & CIO at Hologic, Inc.  The two key note speakers were Wyc Grousbeck, Governor and CEO of Boston Celtics, and Larry Lucchino, CEO of Boston RedSox.

With CEOsUnlike “I did so and so, or you should do so and so” keynotes which is typical of CIO Events, this was different.  There was a just a panel discussion.  Neither Wyc nor Larry,  even remotely hinted about their stellar achievements.  They shared how technology had changed sports. Larry was articulating how analytics was helping the organization draw the balance between intuitive decision making and fact based decision making – scary to think how a former basketball player and baseball player is in tune with the technology trends. Wyc was talking about the role and influence technology had played in the Celtics organization. If you visit the Evanta site, you can read all about it.  I will only share two of the many insights they shared.  Wyc shared that streaming basketball games on mobile phones in China alone yielded NBA 280 million dollars in revenues last season. Larry shared that decades back, internet rights were given away by baseball owners to MLB leading to inequities between large markets such as Boston, LA or NY and smaller markets like Kansas City.

The punch line!

It was refreshing to hear these two and meet them afterwards.  But Wyc left us with a very impressive message.  When asked what advice they had for CIOs, Wyc said “All of you have achieved a lot in life.   You may want to start thinking about what your next banner will be.  In my case, I have a blind son, and while it was great to hold the Celtics banner in 2008, it will be nicer if I hold a banner for a social cause.

Written by Subbu Murthy

December 2, 2015 at 6:29 am

The Six Stages of a CIO

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CIO Icon


Over the past several months, I have been researching how best to sell ourintegrated IT Governance solution to a CIO. Being a CIO myself, I realize it is not an easy task.  One of the studies I started was analyzing the different CIO archetypes.  We have seen many theories on the different CIO archetypes.  CIO Executive Council indicates that the CIO role is made up of 3 CIO archetypes, specifically; 1) Operational/Functional (Business relationship: Service provider; 2) Transformational (Business relationship: Partner); and 3) Business Strategist (Business relationship: Peer).  Earlier this year, I felt we needed a more contemporary taxonomy for classifying CIOs. The taxonomy I proposed was on the background where the CIOs come from.

Imagine a three dimensional grid with one axis being business background, the other being technology background, and the third being the leadership skills. Since it is difficult to show a three dimensional grid in a blog, I developed two 2×2 grids. The two grids are separated by leadership skills – those who have it and those who do not. This framework helped me define our market.  Our target was CIOs who exhibit leadership skills to run IT like a business. They feel that their role is no different than that of a CEO of a IT company.

CIOs Based on Age

One of my colleagues asked me why I had not considered the “age factor”.   My first reaction was that age will be an absolutely weak differentiator.  Besides, you cannot discriminate based on age.  So why even look at this analysis.  Strangely enough, if you look at HR consultants they discuss why it is important to understand the various age groups and develop an organization culture that meets the needs of the different segments.  From purely a sociological perspective, I started wondering if these age based segments have any relevance in developing the CIO Archetypes.    I used the common accepted terms for identifying different age groups.  The one from Bank of America was simple and elegant.  They used six age groups: Late Millennials, Millennials, Generation X, Late Boomers, Baby Boomers and the Senior Set.  I looked around my network to see if I knew CIOs in the various age groups.  I have a network of several hundred CIOs, and over the years, I have developed a friendship with them. I found them in all age groups but one – I knew of none under 25.  For the rest of the groups, I asked what was the dominant characteristic of the CIO.  I tried the two frameworks identified in the previous section.  All age groups had overlaps and there was no clear differentiator.  When existing frameworks failed to deliver any meaningful results, a new idea emerged.  I focussed on what would be the focus if I were in the respective age groups.

If I were to be a Late Millennial (under 25), I may be focused on learning the role.  If I were a Millennial and had the CIO title, it is likely I would be in a small to mid sized firm with an eye for growth.  If I were a Gen X, then I likely would be trying to move ahead by leaping firms and gaining expertise in different verticals.  If I were a Late Boomer, I may be peaking in my job, gaining business acumen and maturing as a CIO.  If I were a Baby Boomer, I would probably be feeling that I have learnt all that is there to learn (personally speaking, learning never stops)and my focus may have shifted to stabilizing my job.  If I have climbed the hill and entered the Senior Set, I may be shifting to sharing and coaching. The good news is that there is a role for the CIO to play independent of the vintage!

Written by Subbu Murthy

October 11, 2015 at 1:45 pm

A message close to home

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SMTPSMTP is pretty much a house-hold term.  My wife, a non-technical person, was asking me questions on SMTP when trying to connect her mail agent on her smart phone to her Google email-account.  Referring back to Wikipedia, SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) can be traced to 1960s.  Communication between mainframe computers used electronic messaging.  As more computers were interconnected, especially in the US Government’s ARPANET, standards were developed to allow users of different systems to e-mail one another. SMTP grew out of these standards developed during the 1970s.  Ray Tomlinson of BBN invented for TENEX computers to send mail messages across the ARPANET.  I actually had the privilege of using a mini-computer at Annenberg School of Communications, USC in 1977 to send a message to a friend in Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.  Development work continued throughout the 1970s, until the ARPANET converted into the modern Internet around 1980.

Trojan Let us forget about my attempts to commercialize it, but what I was not aware that Jon Postel published the specifications for SMTP in RFC 788 in 1980, and later in 1982, RFC 821.  Jon Postel was part of the Information Sciences Institute, University of Southern California.

Amazing that over three decades ago, I had touched a piece of technology that would become one of the dominant pieces of collaboration today.  Proud to be a Trojan!

Written by Subbu Murthy

July 20, 2014 at 1:18 am

Posted in Social Networking

Hindsight is 20-20

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LinkedIn invited me (I am sure several of you as well) to write a letter of advice to youngsters who are just embarking on their careers. The theme was “If I were 22”. They asked me to address:

  •    What do you know now that you wish you’d known then?
  •    Are you where you thought you’d be?
  •    What advice would you give to a young person entering the working world today?

As I embark on my new role as Consultant CIO in a mid-sized firm in the Bay Area, it was nice to look back decades into the past.

If I were 22 today, the first thing I would remember is that vision for the past can be perfect, but the future will always entail an element of uncertainty. At 22, I would have to take you back to 1977. I was a computer operations manager (a big sounding name) for $5 an hour job on campus at the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Southern California. I was studying my Masters in Computer Engineering where I was working on operating systems designed with pipeline processing in mind. I sent a message using Arpanet to a friend in India studying at IIT. I had to write a complex script to do it. I was intrigued by the fact that it was free. Even a phone call to my family was around $4 per minute. I proposed to develop the free message idea further to make it easy to send messages. My friends and colleagues laughed at me. They said I lacked focus and it was just a wild idea. I wish I had known that the Arpanet I was using for communicating between universities would eventually lead to the world-wide web. I wish I had persisted with my idea.

That was not the only mistake I made. Intel was interested in my work on pipeline processing. At that time Intel was a small company. I wish I had accepted it. Two mistakes are good enough for life, but that is not all. I had a golden chance to move into medical industry, but I chose to work in the aerospace sector. Not that it was a bad area, but it was very bureaucratic. I wish I had good mentors around me.

Lessons Learned

  1. Nobody can predict the future, but please be around friends who can encourage you and experts who can mentor you.
  2. Failure is the best way to learn – do not take failure personally.
  3. Persist – the only real failure is giving up. Nearing 60 now, I recently got VC funding for an innovative software enabled management solution I have developed.
  4. Most important, enjoy the journey. For the ultimate success in life is joy.

Written by Subbu Murthy

June 1, 2014 at 4:18 pm

On-Demand CIOs for Small to Mid-Sized Firms

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Small to Mid-Sized Enterprises can rarely afford a full-time CIO, so I provide On-Demand CIO Services to these firms.   Although I am focused on developing technology that helps mid-market CIOs, I find that my work as a CIO actually helps improve the product.  Previously, I was a CIO/CTO in larger enterprises, and curiously, I find the SME market more challenging.

The focus of On-Demand CIO services is not just on reducing IT expenditures, but bringing the strategic thinking that can help the mid-market enterprise gain a competitive edge and increase revenues.  The best a CIO can hope to achieve is to get a recommendation from a fellow CIO, and to get one from Kristin Russell, Secretary of Technology and Chief Information Officer, State of Colorado, is an honor.  In her email to me, she stated “What you are doing is so very important and valuable, as you said especially to small/mid size firms that really need someone with your experience and expertise, but may not be able to afford it at the time.”

Kristin serves on the boards of CTA –Colorado’s Technology Association, the Statewide Internet Portal Authority (SIPA), and the Department of Business Information and Analytics for Denver University. As a result of her community and professional leadership, Kristin was honored as one of Government Technology’s Top 25 Doers, Dreamers & Drivers for 2013, awarded the Top 10 Breakaway Leader Award by Global CIO Executive Summit and named one of Computerworld’s 2012 Premier 100 IT Leaders. She is also a recipient of the Denver Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 award, the 2009 Silicon Valley Tribute to Women in Industry (TWIN) award and a finalist for the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce 2011 Athena Award. Most recently, Kristin was named CIO of the Year for 2013 by the Denver Business Journal.

Thank you Kristin.

Written by Subbu Murthy

April 10, 2014 at 5:23 pm

Posted in Social Networking

How far is Google taking us?

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Literally.  We all heard about the dozen cars in Northern California that can drive for us.   The one I thought was very cute was something much more mundane.  I was writing an email (using gmail) in which I used the phrase “as per the attachment”.  Needless to say I had not attached anything.  When I attempted to send the email, Google politely pointed out that I had the used the phrase “per attachment”, but there was no attachment.  Clearly, a “wow” moment.  Imagine I had sent an email to my wife telling her I love her but forgot to attach a picture of a dozen roses!  Where is Google taking us?

Google already has language translators eliminating that profession.  They have analytics eliminating many a bright analyst.  Imagine now that Google wants to replace managers with automated tools.  Let us take this further, they want to replace CIOs with tools.  This topic hits home.  After all I run a business providing on-demand CIO services and tools to help CIOs manage the IT department.   I am panic-stricken actually.  If they really do replace us CIOs with tools, then I will lose my business which helps CIOs run the business of IT.   Is it time to work on my resume?

Written by Subbu Murthy

August 15, 2013 at 12:30 pm