A Practical Approach for IT Governance

The Importance of Analytics – A Personal Story

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Diagrams projecting from tablet isolated on white

Many, particularly in the IT leadership field, fail to see the importance of IT analytics. They see the importance of Analytics for the business, but not for IT. This is particularly true for the Small to Mid-Sized firms. At first glance, IT Analytics may seem to be an overkill. However, the basic principles of management theory suggest that you cannot manage what you cannot measure.

I did a small personal experiment to verify the importance of measurement. I love to walk, so I wear a pedometer watch. I had a personal goal of at least 20,000 steps a day. Over two years, I kept track of the number of steps I walk on a weekly basis. A small footnote: I walk over 150,000 steps a week, more than double the recommended metric of walking 10,000 steps a day. Week after week the variance was within 10%. My job keeps me on the phone at least 2 hours a day, and I walk and talk.

One week, I stopped looking at the measurements. I was still measuring the steps I walked, but simply did not observe it on a daily basis. The average steps had dropped almost 50%! Elementary statistics tells us that there could have been other confounding factors such as a trip, weather, health etc. While all these factors were not prevalent that week, the fact that it dropped 50% gave an opportunity for me to appreciate the importance of measurement. The goal of at least 20,000 steps a day had driven me to walk, and without measurement, motivation of reaching that goal had waned.

Managing IT is a lot more challenging than one simple metric. IT leaders have to device those metrics that motivate the department to achieve. Please refer to an earlier blog post on IT Analytics. This blog post may serve as a starting point for developing meaningful IT Analytics.

Written by Subbu Murthy

August 14, 2016 at 11:05 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

On Demand CDO Services

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Online business process managing in cloud application. Concept

Background – On Demand CIO Services

A while back we had discussed the role of On-Demand CIO services in small to mid-market enterprises.  In the past without an IT leader at the helm, mid-market firms were feeling isolated from the benefits of technology. On-Demand CIO Services makes it affordable for them to develop the business strategic plan leveraging technology.  Generally, technology enabled IT Governance system helps On-Demand CIOs provide transparency not just within the technology group but across the entire enterprise, but the key to success is deep involvement with the Enterprise. While understanding the business is critical, the CIO must have deep technical knowledge as well. Simply paraphrasing a consultant or buzz words such as Big Data, Analytics, Social Media, Cloud and Mobility will not suffice. On-Demand CIOs need that deep understanding to articulate the Enterprise Architecture and IT portfolio that brings value to the enterprise. On-Demand CIOs need to build the right vernacular to discuss technology with various stake holders.

To reiterate, On-Demand CIO does not mean you have less responsibility. The scale of the company may not need a full-time CIO, however, the roles are very similar to full-time CIOs.  The focus of On-Demand CIO is not just on reducing IT expenditures, but bringing the strategic thinking that can help the small to mid-market enterprise gain a competitive edge and increase revenues.

The Digital Enterprise

The Digital Enterprise has become the new IT paradigm.  Gartner identifies a six stage evolutionary model for becoming Digital.

Six Stages of Digital Enterprise

Analog refers to the legacy method of running a business.  Web allowed enterprises to interact with the eco-system (employees, shareholders, suppliers and customers) through the Internet.  This led to B2B and B2C models that enabled the Enterprise to conduct business over the web. Gartner defines the Digital Marketing stage marked by the emergence of the nexus of  four forces (mobile, social, cloud and information/big data). Enterprises in this stage focus on new and more sophisticated ways to reach consumers. These Enterprises are more willing to participate in marketing efforts to gain greater social connection, or product and service value.  Buyers of products and services have more brand influence and they see their mobile devices and social networks as preferred gateways.  Enterprises at this stage grapple with tapping into buyer influence to grow their business.

Gartner goes on to define the Digital Business  as the first post-nexus stage on the road map and focuses on the convergence of people, business and things. The Internet of Things and the concept of blurring between the physical and virtual worlds are strong concepts in this stage. Physical assets become digitalized and become equal actors in the business value chain alongside already-digital entities, such as systems and apps. 3D printing takes the digitalization of physical items further and provides opportunities for disruptive change in the supply chain and manufacturing. The ability to digitalize attributes of people (such as the health vital signs) is also part of this stage.

The Autonomous stage refers to the use of robots, artificial intelligence and extreme automation to create a “new” species of intelligent agents.  Star Wars may be a better metaphor, but we are already seeing self-driving cars, robots that clean and serve, robots that take pictures, etc.

The Need for the CDO

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.  The organizations responded by creating a new role – the“Chief Digital Officer (CDO)”.   Many CIOs disagree with this approach. While most recognize the need, the 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).

The Need for On Demand CDO Services

If we set aside the argument on where the CDO should report into, most will agree that small to mid-market enterprises also need this skill set.  I will argue that it is even more important in small to mid-market firms as they survive due to their innovative capabilities.  Innovation does not happen just from the top-down management models, rather, they more often than not, are taking place at grass-toots level.  And most important, Enterprises must seek out CDOs who are business savvy and tech savvy, besides being good motivators and leaders.  The flip side is that CDOs can be very expensive, and beyond the reach of small to mid-sized enterprises.  On Demand CDO Services help organizations enter the the Digital world without incurring the expenses of a full time CDO.

The second question on who is right for the job is a bit harder. The small to mid-market enterprises need an entrepreneurial individual who understands technology and the business.  Unlike a CIO, the CDO does not have the responsibility to keep the lights on, so the focus is extreme automation to reduce costs and innovation to gain market advantages.  A former technology entrepreneur or CTO may be a good source for On-Demand CDOs.

Finding On Demand CDO Positions

Just like On-Demand CIOs, finding such assignments are rarely through recruitment firms. They are usually based on a personal relationship or a referral to the CEO, COO or the CFO of the small to mid-market Enterprise. These referrals can come from other CIOs, CEOs, COOs or CFOs. So networking is the key to getting such assignments. Keeping in contact with your network via social media such as LinkedIn is good, but face-to-face networking meetings are very critical. It is also important in your profile to state that you are looking for such opportunities.



Written by Subbu Murthy

February 13, 2016 at 9:13 am

Posted in IT Governance

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

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 Simple Scorecard for building a Healthy Project Culture in a Technology Centric Environment

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CultureIn a very useful HBR study that attempted to build a scorecard for assessing company culture,  Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi, argue that “Creating a business case for culture isn’t impossible. While it is difficult to measure whether someone is being creative, proactive, or resilient in the moment, it’s actually not difficult to calculate total motivation.”  They identify six factors: three encouraging (Play, Purpose, Potential) and three discouraging (Emotional, Economic and Inertia or Friction).  They go on to provide a simple score card for assessing the net cultural score (they call it ToMo) based on surveying the employees.  The specific factors they use or their scoring technique is not as relevant as the approach an organization should take.

Let us start by acknowledging that while there are literally thousands of articles and models for understanding and building organizational culture.  However, the harsh reality is that very few in the leadership team have the time to devote to building a corporate culture.  The approach presented here is simple and can be implemented with relatively less effort.  To credit the authors cited above, their technique bears some resemblance to the one I am presenting.  The methodology shared here is built into our IT Governance tool (uGovernIT).

To start, baseline the current state.  Identify measurements and set a weight for each measurement.  Note that measurements can be positive or negative.  For example, excess emphasis on technology cost may hamper the innovative culture of the organization.  For technology centric-companies,  typical positive measurements may be organizations ability to tolerate mistakes, organizations ability to promote from within, flexibility in work styles, etc.   Example of negative factors include emphasis on cost and not on value, emphasis on meeting schedules and and not on quality, emphasis on onerous processes, etc. Once these factors are identified and the measuring instruments chosen, the implementation typically involves a survey mechanism.

Many use the survey ranking from 1 to 5 or 1 to 7, but this may be a mistake.  As eloquently quoted by Mr. Ken Venner, CIO at SpaceX, the best technique is to use a 1 to 4 ranking forcing the responder to select an opinion.  The baseline score is readily computed using the weights associated.  Once the base line is established, then a specific set of expected targets are established.

The diagram above shows six measurements (three to enhance the positive focus and three to diminish the negative focus).  To achieve the expected state, let us assume that the organization works out a strategy, perhaps in conjunction with experts.  Once the strategies are implemented, and survey is again conducted to measure the actual state.  This process can continue as a normal aspect of organizational change.  Scorecards will help keep us honest.  Instead of giving lip service to a serious topic, the scorecard gives organizations the current state and helps them plan for a better state.  The very fact that a scorecard is created has the Heisenberg effect.  It shows that culture is important to the organization.

The simple technique illustrated above highlights that even small organizations can undertake the effort to improve culture.  A strong organization culture is a strong brand.  All of us in technology know the value of a strong brand.

Written by Subbu Murthy

December 2, 2015 at 6:46 am