uGovernIT

A Practical Approach for IT Governance

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

Walking the Talk: A Thanksgiving Story

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Walking the Talk

A few Thanksgiving seasons back,  I was in Singapore in a taxi, and it was
obvious that the driver was no ordinary person.  On the topic of Governance, which I am particularly fond of, the taxi driver articulated the key differences in the system Singapore uses to ensure that only qualified candidates are nominated for the top post.  This topic is neither about the political system in Singapore  nor about the pathetic state of affairs facing us next year here in the United States.  Interested readers can read this monograph: Introduction to Singapore’s Political System.  Rather the discussion is around the taxi driver who turns out to be the CEO of one of the top ten taxi companies in Singapore.  I was very curious why the CEO would also function as the taxi driver.  It turns out that the CEO started as a taxi driver and had the good fortune (as he put it) to rise to the level he did, but to keep his feet on the ground he spends a few days every month as the taxi driver.  He said that walking the talk was more valuable than management books, advisers and networking events.

I have always looked upon him as my role model.  FYI – the picture shown is not him, but a symbol of him.  Over the years we lost contact, but I have never forgotten my lesson.  To this day, I practice it.  When I announced I was the Consultant CIO at Howard Building, it is an example of walking the talk.  It is about my dual role as a CIO helping small to mid-market enterprises imbibe technology Governance using our product uGovernIT,  and my primary role as CEO of UGovernIT, Inc. which produces the product.  So many times, CEOs become successful and move away from the very thing that made them successful.  For the past decade I have served as CIO/CTO in six firms who could not afford a full-time IT leader.  My low consulting rates helped them get the expertise and the tools to govern IT, but I got the better end of the bargain. Our tool uGovernIT was the beneficiary of continuous improvement.  Over the years we have evolved to become a full ERP like solution for managing the IT function. It was designed by CIOs and IT management experts and built on a single integrated platform.  It is a complete solution and helps triage and manage user service requests, problems, change requests, workflow and collaboration driven project management, project portfolios, manage IT budget and IT spend, and manage resource demand.

Written by Subbu Murthy

November 22, 2015 at 11:53 am

A Three Stage Process for Project Management

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Business People and Jigsaw Puzzle Pieces

Project Management has been and will always remain a challenge.  Tools, including the best of breed, are at best enablers.  Most firms still rely on the project manager and the project team to deliver projects.  In an earlier blog post, I had alluded to the art of simplifying things as a sound guideline in managing projects.  The evolution from control-centric (Theory X) to people-centric (Theory Y) has been in the works for decades, and most firms now have abandoned the older and more rigid models for managing projects. Today it is all about people and process simplification. Management is evolving to focus on simplicity and rapid delivery.

Just being within budget and schedule is not good enough – projects need to deliver value.  While the challenge of managing projects continues to present opportunities for making improvements in how we deliver, the focus on value raises an even more fundamental question.  Which projects do we select?, and equally important, when do we abandon what we have erroneously started?

In larger firms, the traditional focus on execution has shifted to a three stage process:

In order to realize value from projects, larger firms have started emphasizing on developing strategies to select and sequence the projects to be implemented. The focus at this stage is on value.  Once the projects are identified they are generally implemented using a customized collection of processes (both agile and waterfall) to facilitate efficient implementation.  Therefore traditional project attributes such as scope, cost, schedule, and customer satisfaction become the metrics that qualify a project.  Managing risk is critical, and independent project evaluation is essential to ensure that failing projects are either fixed or cancelled.

The discussion above shows that there are three different organizational components to manage projects.  From a tools perspective, the industry has point solutions for managing the three stages identified, but they are expensive, and need significant work to get a 360 degree view of the project.

Larger firms have the luxury of resources and tools to maintain a strategic team to decide on the project portfolio, a PMO (Project Management Office) to manage the portfolio and a Governance/Audit group to assess the project risk and make changes as needed, including the option to terminate dysfunctional projects.

Mid-Market firms do not have this luxury.  They rely on tools, the leadership team and the project manager.   About 80% of the Mid-Market firms rely on Microsoft Office (Excel, Project).  They do not have the resources to integrate progress across multiple projects.   Mid-market firms should not follow the path of their older and bigger brothers.  They should recognize that integrating them to get a holistic view has significant benefits.  Gartner and other analysts have started to endorse this view, and fortunately,  our cloud based project management tool is based on these ideas.

Written by Subbu Murthy

November 18, 2015 at 3:58 pm

The Digital Enterprise and Shadow IT: A Management Enigma!

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Background

We have all experienced some shades of shadow IT.   Gartner shared some facts at the recent CIO Summit in Orlando. In 2005, CIOs controlled 70% of IT, now they control only 58% and in 2017 they will control about 50%.  Is the growth of the Digital Enterprise a major contributor to this shift? This has led to a flurry of discussions and questions:

  1. What is the cause for this trend?  Why has the CIO lost control of IT Spending.  Is it Cloud computing, SaaS models or the push towards the Digital Enterprise?
  2. Do we encourage this trend or impose a rigid IT Governance framework that brings all control back to the CIO?
  3. If we want to encourage the trend, who should control the IT spend not controlled by the CIO?  Should we leave it to individual departments (aka shadow IT) or should we create a new position? Or should we revert to the CFO as the arbitrator?

The New Governance Model

There are no clear answers. Some argue that the reason for the shift in CIO spending is the emergence of inexpensive cloud based applications, and innovations such as autonomous robots, Internet of Things and 3-D Printing  that has led business units embrace technology easily.  Some argue that it was not the technology shift that caused the CIO to lose control, rather, it was the lack of response from the CIO that caused the business units to embrace technology on their own.

The second argument has more teeth in it.  The paradigm most CIO’s use is top-down.  Nothing wrong with it, except that the innovation is not just happening top down.   Innovation is also, in fact more often than not, happening bottom up.  Users are demanding more and oppose any structure that inhibits them.  Top down models focus on data and users focus on experience which are workflow-centric.  Therefore organizations will lose out if they do not encourage innovation.

Was the CIO a tortoise or did the technology move fast or both? In a broader sense the argument is irrelevant.  Irrespective of the cause of the shift, be it the slow CIO or rapid technology shift, the outcome is clear.  The Digital Enterprise is real – it is only a matter of time.

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.  The organizations responded by creating a new role – the “Chief Digital Officer (CDO)”.  Many CIOs disagree with this approach.  Ashwin Rangan, Chief Innovation Officer & CIO at ICANN, and former CIO at Edwards Life Sciences and Walmart, 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.”

Relationship to the CIO

If we accept the role of the CDO, many believe that the CDO should report to the CEO and be independent of the CIO.  Not everybody agrees:  Janet Schijns, Chief Marketing Technologist, Verizon shared the view that if there is a Chief Digital Officer, then the CDO should report to the CIO.  Her rationale was that IT Governance was extremely critical and the core values of security, information integrity and quality of IT cannot be overlooked. There is considerable merit in this argument – imagine what would shadow CFOs do to the integrity of financial data.

Conclusion

Organizations need to be nimble, alert and innovate. That said, if it is the CIO who is responsible for technology, then the CIO should be responsible for all aspects: Keeping the Lights On, leveraging technology to increase revenues and decrease costs, and foster innovation. The CDO may just be a function like the CISO reporting to the CIO.    On the flip-side, the CIO should be some combination  of a business genius, technology wizard, a benevolent leader, a great communicator, and to be a bit cheeky, automate routine management functions using tools.

Written by Subbu Murthy

October 20, 2015 at 8:09 am

Posted in Helping CIOs, IT Governance

Tagged with ,

The C-Suite needs to wake up to the Digital Age!

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Background

At the Avasant CIO Digital Connect in Washington DC earlier this month, Kevin Parikh, CEO of Avasant,remarked “Today’s digital technology options are creating opportunities for government and corporations to be more nimble and better serve their constituents”.  He then posed a question to us (Jay Ferro, CIO, American Cancer Society;  Vivek Kalra, Senior Vice President, Tech Mahindra; and Subbu Murthy,  CEO, UGovernIT) sitting on the panel:  “How does digital innovation impact how we design and deliver technology to the Enterprise?”

The Old Paradigm 

Over the past decade, many IT Advisers, including yours truly have been canvassing the idea that IT needs to be aligned to the enterprise, IT should be an enabler, IT should be scalable, flexible, so on and so forth.  In an earlier blog post,  I identified that for the CIOs to run IT as a business, they need to develop an IT Governance mechanism that covers four key aspects:

The first and the most critical aspect is safety and security of the enterprise. This implies providing a scalable, reliable, and secure Enterprise Architecture.  It should be pointed out that the Enterprise Architecture is not just technology components, but using a framework like Zachman, it encompasses people, process and technology.  While cost efficiency, getting value out of IT and innovation are essential components of aligning IT to business, these do not matter if the enterprise is at risk. Target, Home Depot and now Anthem Blue Cross serve as grim reminders as to how critical managing risk is to the enterprise.  So the first pillar in managing IT as a business is Security and Mitigating Risk.

The notion of shared services helps IT manage and deliver shared services efficiently. This helps IT leadership use the same service framework within the department and extend its use to other functions in the business.  The second pillar in managing IT as a business is Shared Services.

Since there is usually more work than resources available, one challenge is how to identify and prioritize the IT workload?  The most effective way is to proactively work with users to enhance the value of IT delivered.  Traditional project management tools do not address this interaction between users and IT.  The key to success is to bridge the IT-User-Executive gap by providing a practical, efficient, and most important, a non-onerous process of managing IT workload.  The third pillar in managing IT as a business is Effective Demand Management.

The CIO has earned the seat at the table, but will not be able to keep it if the CIO is not helping the Enterprise meet its Strategic, Operational and Budgetary Objectives.  This requires the CIO to be the change agent driving efficiency and innovation to the Enterprise.  This also requires the CIO to align IT plans to the business plans and pay close attention to IT spend versus value delivered.  The fourth pillar in managing IT as a business is Aligning IT Spend to Business Needs.

The Digital Age and the Paradigm Shift!

As I reflected on the impact of the Digital Age, I recognize that the paradigm CIO’s use is top-down.  Nothing wrong with it, except that the innovation is not just happening top down.   Innovation is also, in fact more often than not, happening bottom up.  Users are demanding more and oppose any structure that inhibits them.  If top down design worked, why did the Taxi companies not anticipate Uber? By no means I am suggesting that we abandon IT Governance. Nor am I suggesting we abandon traditional IT alignment models.  I am suggesting that we need to incorporate the users in the innovation cycle.  We have to abandon top-down only models and add the bottom up model that keeps the user experience as a key component of developing the IT architecture.  Top down models focus on data and users focus on experience which are workflow-centric.

Janet Schijns, Chief Marketing Technologist, Verizon shared a great example.  When she manages her flights via the web, there is great help in making reservations but very little that is beneficial to the experience of the specific passenger on the specific flight.  For example:  Did your luggage make the connecting flight?  If there are delays, how are you rescheduled?

A Sandwich Model!

Borrowing from an old design paradigm,  we have to switch from the top down design model to the sandwich model.  By no means the sandwich model implies that we abandon the fundamentals we have all learnt as CIOs. But it does mean that we have to actively incorporate user-centric workflows built on easy to use platforms as part of our IT architecture, manage risk (not design rigid systems that eliminate risk), allow users to innovate, embrace change rapidly and harness the rapid changes in technology.

Implications of the Sandwich Model

Not that I have the crystal ball, but I feel that the CIO’s role will be very different from the present.  While CIOs will continue to be the change agent, and the bridge between Business and IT, the role will shift to becoming the “hermit” who will facilitate innovation.  From a technology perspective, there will be a radical shift to mobile computing.  This will force a fundamental shift from large monolithic Enterprise Systems such as SAP to modular, workflow centric mobile applications.  I hope so, I have spent millions building technology on this principle.

Written by Subbu Murthy

October 11, 2015 at 1:55 pm

CIOs are judged by the Results they Deliver!

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Close up shot of a caliper, measuring the word "Results".

My very good friend, and advisor, Ashwin Rangan, pointed out that in the early stages the CIO focussed on what needed to be done. Later they recognized that processes were needed to deliver technology.  This naturally led to identifying the tools that helped them.  Today’s focus, Ashwin argues, is all about the results they can deliver.  We can use a three stage framework for understanding the paradigm shift:  Corrective, Preventive and Results Driven.

The Shift From Corrective to Preventive

Let us look at how we measure our delivery of services.  SLAs helped CIOs  identify process bottlenecks, and helped them make the necessary corrections to improve the timeliness of the delivered services.  Surveys helped CIOs improve the quality of the delivered services.  While this is great, it was a corrective set of measures – not preventive.    The old adage “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” had not lost its luster.  CIOs realized the need to empower their organization to take proactive measures to prevent/mitigate gaps in the delivery of products and services they are entrusted to manage.

It was no different when CIOs delivered major IT initiatives.  They identified cost and schedule variance, and took corrective measures when they were off-track.  While corrective measures improve how CIOs delivered technology to the enterprise, preventive measures help them deliver more for less.  As an example, look at traditional project management tools.  Initially, they focussed on using cost and schedule variance as determinants of project success. The key thing they missed was “scope management”.  Scope creep accounted for delays and cost overruns about 70% of the time.  Agile methodologies mitigated this risk to a large extent by delivering projects on a specific schedule by controlling the scope of the delivered product.

The Shift From Preventive to Results Driven

CIOs used ITIL, and ITIL based tools, to help them be proactive.   ITIL, no doubt a great framework, caters to the older school of process adherence.  Most of the tools that support the CIO are focused on process adherence.  But the real challenge was not delivering the project or service efficiently, but did the CIO deliver the results the enterprise needed?

What is badly needed is an outcome focussed tool that helps the CIO define and deliver results to the enterprise.  CIOs need to walk the talk – they talk about the role of technology in transforming the enterprise, yet they fail to use the tools internally.  In an earlier blogpost I identified that “We are so involved with day to day challenges, we seldom get the time to use some of the same tools we are delivering to our customers. The solution is quite simple – we should think and act like CEOs of an IT company. Using Key Performance Metrics (KPMs) to help manage your IT as an enterprise, IT Analytics provides you the ability to prioritize your demand and allocate resources that best serves the interest of the enterprise.”  

However, shifting to Results Driven management is much more difficult.  It requires that IT is aligned to the Enterprise, and more important, the Enterprise has not just accepted the CIO to sit at the table, but to listen and act on the CIO’s advice as well.

Written by Subbu Murthy

October 11, 2015 at 1:51 pm

Five Rules of Thumb to help us Manage IT

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Lance Mooneys CartoonAs CIOs we are used to leveraging our experience and creating a cheat sheet (aka rules of thumb) to manage IT.  When IT was focused on costs, a few of the common measures were:

  • IT Benchmarks:    Our goal was always to be lower than others in our industry, particularly so if we reported to a CFO;  and if we were higher, we justified it by showing other indicators such as higher quality, customer satisfaction etc.
  • Adherence to Project Budget: We targeted actual versus planned consumption of financial and personnel resources to be within x% (we felt good if we were within 10%).
  •  Gaps in Process Automation: We kept the number of identified gaps to be minimal in the core business areas.  We were very good in creating new projects to cover these gaps.
  • Number of Planned New Services: Our goal was that the percentage of new services correlate with the allocated budget. We really did not care how many new services we created as long as they correlated with the IT budgets.
  • Duration of Service Interruptions: We maintained the average duration of service interruptions to be just a few and the impact mitigated in less than an hour.
  • Customer Satisfaction: We used a Likert scale to get responses and if we got within 25% of the top, we felt we had done a good enough job, and if we were within 10% of the top, we were bragging about it in CIO events.

All of these are important, but they do not help us keep the seat at the table.  As we shift our focus from managing cost to creating value for the Enterprise, what are the new “rules of thumb”?

  1. Spend at least 20% on Innovation: If you are spending less than  20% of your IT budget on projects that bring innovation and increased value to the enterprise, you are not likely to get traction at the leadership table.  This generally means that you should be spending less than 50% of the IT budget in maintaining your core IT systems to meet your business needs. Not that this includes applications (licensing, support, changes, etc.) and the infrastructure (data center, network, voice/multimedia and user devices).  If you are spending more, you are likely not leveraging the current technology (Cloud, Mobile Computing, SaaS, etc).  This also implies that managing IT should cost less than 10% of your IT expenditures.  This includes all management costs including the cost of the office of the CIO, PMO, tools you use for service desk, project management, reporting, etc. This implies you have a hands-on management team and are leveraging modern IT management tools – not legacy and onerous IT Governance practices.
  2. Spend at least 20% on shared services:  Build efficiency by sharing services.  Many services are found in more than one part of the organization or group. CIOs recognize this as an opportunity and have funded the development and implementation of shared services.   The services are delivered based on defined measures (KPIs, cost, quality etc.).  Examples of shared services are salesforce automation, employee on-boarding, business project request, adjudication and execution, financial reporting, content management, compliance and other core business activities that are typically not part of an ERP.
  3. Discretionary Projects Should Have an ROI:   Today, the businesses expect you to treat IT as an investment.  What is the return you are providing to the enterprise?  If you carefully observe the proposed metric, there is no specific ROI value I have proposed.  These depend on the type of project.  As a CIO, you should be very proud if you are thinking about ROI. The very fact that you are providing an ROI puts you in a different category of CIOs.
  4. Work Backlog Should be Less than 6 to 9 Months: The business units always wants more IT than you have resources available.    Good CIOs recognize that if you have a very huge backlog, you will be constantly prioritizing and triaging business project requests.  This leads to political friction.  You can minimize it by reducing the backlog.
  5. Most Projects Should be Less Than 6 Months in Duration:  This is probably the most difficult to achieve.  There may be a few that are necessarily longer term, but your goal should be that longer projects should be an exception – not the rule!  Businesses are fickle – they change their needs constantly.  Shorter projects help avoid costly mistakes.  Breaking up complex projects into smaller ones (each one having their own value proposition) is the best way to mitigate IT risk.  In fact in our tool, we have crafted a special 6 Month Project Methodology that combines agile and traditional waterfall models into a nimble yet managed project request and delivery process.

Written by Subbu Murthy

October 11, 2015 at 1:49 pm