Monday, June 4, 2012

Busy Being Busy

Self Preservation Over Significance

Why is it sometimes so hard to get something done with a group of people? Everyone seems to have their own agenda. It is difficult to get everyone on the same page, with the same motivation, driving towards a common purpose.
Recently, a good friend of mine gave a very insightful answer: “Because “Delivery” follows ‘Significance’, which in turns follows ‘Self Preservation’.”
In this blog entry we will take a closer look at the implications of this statement. What role does self preservation and significance play in the participatory framework for organizational delivery. We will examen how this insight helps us become better people, and also make us better managers. 
Lastly, we will see how some of Daniel Pink’s insights (What Motivates Us) applies to this topic when we use this knowledge to drive delivery for our projects, teams and organizations.
Self Preservation and Significance

In 1954 Abraham Maslow wrote a book called: Motivation and Personality. In this book he built on his 1943 paper: A Theory of Human Motivation, in which he communicates a psychological theory for a hierarchy of needs to be satisfied for human motivation. In the theory he makes the case for physiological needs to take precedence over aspects such as self-actualization for the developmental evolution of human beings.
Now, without going into the details of Maslow’s theories, and at the risk of over simplifying this enormous insight, one is nevertheless compelled to review some of its aspects for the benefit of trying to understand the behaviours and motivations of our fellow human beings in an organizational setting. As managers, it will be easier to manage if we know what motivates people, wouldn’t it?
It can easily be implied that the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs is almost a developmental rung ladder that “civilized” people can climb towards being better human beings. Better people should make better companies, that deliver better. So, to get the ball rolling first we need to be sure to satisfy our employees’ primal needs: Breathing, drinking, sleeping etc. (salary, coffee, comfortable chairs, sunlight). This is followed by our tribal needs for love and association (social clubs, staff golf days, company t-shirts). Then we start to arrive at our civil needs of esteem and self actualization (“employee of the month”, chairman’s award). 
With every step, one can pat oneself on the back that we’ve successfully contributed to the better company. Our people are becoming self-actualized, and the company will benefit from it. Once they hit self-actualization, they are civil, and ready to delivery. They should be a better contributor to the greater good of their employer and organization.
The truth though is a bit more complicated and mostly disheartening. To be realistic we need to examen how people behave on a day to day basis in their relationship to their environment and others. What better circumstance can there then be than to examen people at work, where a significant part of their motivational life is at play? 
By observing people over the last few years, I have anecdotally come to the conclusion that there is indeed no such motivational rung ladder that benefits the organization. Sorry Maslow. It may work for personal motivation, but it costs the corporation. When it comes to the group, the rules of the motivational game changes (see John Nash’s Equilibrium). 
Everyone for Themselves

What we can deduce from observing office workers is that they freely oscillate between primal, tribal and civil behaviours for their own benefit as first (and mostly only) motivation. They hardly ever contemplate the greater good of the group, unless they personally benefit from doing so. 
While a worker may profess civil commitment for the greater good of the organization, they will not hesitate to take a primal liberty of an extended lunch hour for their own benefit. Similarly, while publicly subscribing to the vision of improved change, the employee will not hesitate to constrain actions that may impact their own personal standing in rank and remuneration relative to the changing circumstance of a new direction of the company - self preservation is at play. 
It is easy to see that while self preservation and significance are perceived as higher order motivators for the individual, it similarly can be key inhibitors to the organization’s “self actualization” or purpose. What is one then to do to advance the corporate agenda under these circumstances. To implement advancement, is it all about “me, me, me”? 
Yes! One can make the case that it indeed is, regardless of a person’s position on the motivational ladder. Corporations that recognize this truth and enforces this behaviour has a way in which it can create momentum towards an overall “social” agenda of the company. If one can show people what is in it for them, then only can change successfully be executed for their benefit. When the “me” agenda is the DNA that drives the business, then it becomes significantly and profoundly powerful. 

Two immediate examples prevail:
  • Apple Computers: Steve Jobs often professed that at Apple they make products firstly for themselves. Products they like to use. If they like it themselves, chances are that people like them will like it as well. This approach has contributed to making Jobs an iconic billionaire.
  • Google: Google has pioneered “me” as the “Google Way”. Google’s philosophy can be expressed in five general principles: Work on things that matter (*to you), affect everyone in the world (*your world), solve problems with algorithms if possible, hire bright people and give them lots of freedom, and don’t be afraid to try new things. The company allots 20% of employee’s time to which they can spend on whatever they like to work on. By celebrating the individual, Google the collective benefits.
*Italics added
Therefore, once one can deduce the personal motivation at play, then it becomes easier as manager to influence harness this energy and steer it towards desired organizational outcomes. This calls for not only an understanding of anthropological behaviour in general, but also a specific sensitivity for individual behavioural patterns and preferences and its implications for the collectives we have as our organizations and companies. Managers should take time to intricately know their staff, and know their motivations.
People are in it for themselves, before they are in it for others. This is not a problem but an opportunities for organizations that can recognize the motivations and satisfy the need for the company’s collective benefit.
Keys to Motivational Energy

Daniel Pink then provides the keys for us as managers to unlocking this motivational energy in “What Motivates Us”: 
  • Autonomy: Get out of the way and allow an individual to do the job. Every person has their own unique approach to getting results. Managers should recognize, respect and encourage it. Promote autonomy and link it with accountability, and see what happens. People mostly rise to the occasions when given the space to do so.
  • Mastery: Encourage personal mastery. People like to get better at stuff. They like to be recognized for their skill and expertise. The more capable people are, the more the collective organization or team may benefit from this mastery.
  • Purpose: Start with Why. While Maslow provides the map to personal motivation, Sinek succeeds in providing the catalyst for it. If a person is clear on the purpose, and the purpose becomes their purpose, then action comes automatically.

Organizations are organisms structured from the collective motivations of those associated with it. If the motivators are sound, the organizations flourish. If the motivators are distracted and without common purpose, then the organizations falter, wither and die. 
As managers we have the mandate and opportunity to source and structure people for their motivations. If you bring the motivated people together around a shared purpose, encourage them to personal mastery and empowered them with autonomy, then there is no end to what can be achieved. 
These are some of the golden rules for success in management. 
Hendrik van Wyk

Spreadsheet Liberation

Getting the “Why” and “How” Clear

A Company’s future depends firstly on devising an effective strategy. Such a strategy is a plan that helps to formulate why a change or direction is necessary. (See Start with Why, Sinek)
Many hours are spent by management requesting, building cases, and lobbying for investment to take the company towards a better future. Every company executive knows, that without this crucial investment, the company is doomed to a slow (or fast) demise. With the right amount of investment, channeled to the right places, the business has a competitive chance in the market. 
However, a strategy alone is not enough to propel the business towards a desired state. While a plan is good, something significantly more is needed. Fire power! The knowledge and ability of “How” to implement the strategy. This second most important factor for success is the means and ability to execute the strategy. Once you have the “Why” it is now time for the “How”.
Here is the problem. While a business has to start with good strategy, it is rather effective execution that differentiates one company, one division or one department from another. Without execution, and without the knowledge of “how” to realize the hopes and dreams of the organization’s executives, the strategy remains only a pipe-dream.
It is no new revelation. Up to now, one can say: “So what? Heard it all before!” Here is the question: “What is it then, that is holding back businesses to achieve an even more desired end-state or outcome, more effectively?”  “Why do organizations appear to be driving blind when they try and implement their strategy?” 

The answer: “The efficiency of their strategy delivery machine - their Portfolio, Program and Project Management organization determines the success of their strategy execution!”
The Machine

Most companies I know are deploying, or have deployed Project Management, Program Management, and some even Portfolio Management. PMI has done a good job drilling into the industries the value of these disciplines, and the importance of employing and contracting competent ( certified) professionals. 
Most of these companies have someone in charge of the company’s PMO (Project Management Office). It is an important support function. Yet, here is where it is getting challenging. Here is where most companies undo the good work of their strategy: Keeping tabs on a Portfolio or group of projects without the right processes and tools is every company’s PMO nightmare. It is fast becoming every company’s nightmare. It is time to recognize the importance of improving how companies utilize their project machine.
How can we as executives expect to run these very important functions, responsible for determining the outcome of our company futures, and expect these complex disciplines to be carried out over email and with spreadsheets? 
Worse even, some company’s enforce no standards, except documentation templates to ensure their Portfolio’s success, and allows every Project Manager to use what he/she deems fit (and not in violation of archaic desktop tools policies). I have personally experienced PMO “retrofits”, “upgrades”, and “improvements” where the only progress that could be made un-contentiously was yet another reformatting of the standard PMO artifacts - the very spreadsheets and documents that is failing to meet expectations, and another round of “training” on how to keep it all together.
How can one help executives recognize the time-wasting efforts, the duplication, the second class information contributed by substandard tools? Spreadsheets, emails and more reports entered manually by cadres of project administrators just doesn’t cut it if your organization wants to see the future.
Poor tools undo all the good intentions and hard work of a committed project organization. It should be eliminated and replaced with a “Work Management Toolset” that truly empowers an organization for execution! The organization see more success in strategy implementation. It will also retain more competent Project professionals. 
In this Blog entry I make the case that we need to consider changing the Corporate Portfolio, Program and Project approach and its typical players if our businesses desire improved results from its hard earned investment funds. I show the signs of a failed approach, and provide guidance on how to launch and operate a successful strategy implementation machine. It is deceivingly simple when done right! What is needed is “Work Management” capability.
Work Management versus Managed Work     

There is a new generation of toolset available that is transcending the spreadsheet, email and gantt chart generation. It is referred to as “Work Management” tools. 
These tools are no longer constrained by the narrow definitions of the PMI PMBOK process landscape and goes beyond the project schedule, budget and resource plan. It is rather recognizing that a lot more is required to get people working together effectively.
Some features include:
  • Collaboration: Allowing work teams to contribute to each other’s work in a social media manner. Volunteering for assignments. Providing real time status feedback. Answering questions. Raising issues and at the same time generating real-time data on the project progress, expense and health state without the need to write reports and fill in time sheets. A tool that facilitates work, instead of controlling it.
  • Resource Management: Being able to identify the skills, and capacity available for a project. Seeing how they are utilized and recognizing contributions to activities, etc. Understanding need, capacity and capability, and turning around the right resources where and when required.
  • Issue and Risk Management: Keeping tabs on risks and issues, their status and their progress. Also understanding the real-time impacts and workload these add to a project and a Portfolio.
  • Portfolio balancing and what-if scenarios: Providing an executive perspective of how well the organization is doing in meeting its strategic objectives. Showing how a decision about resources, strategy, etc. will impact the work in-flight. Showing when and how goals are achieved and eliminating wastage.
  • Time Management: Identifying productivity, billing, utilization and progress in integrating this information to know how are resources’ time spent. How much it costs, and how it can be better managed.
  • Process Improvement: Understanding where the Portfolio is getting stuck, and how the Project organization can be improved by measuring the efficiency of matters such as planning, approvals, reviews, etc.
  • Capacity Management: Understanding how much can be achieved with resources, how best to assign them, what impact decisions have, etc.
  • Auditing and Governance: Providing an audit trail for all the above, and enforcing governance and policies as it unfolds organization wide without the need for retraining the troops. Enforcing workflow and providing or integrating repositories for all project related data and information
  • and much, much more...
The above should provide a mere glimpse into why MS Project, EMail and spreadsheets can no longer serve an aspiring organization’s objective of realizing its strategy. A PMO without a “work management” foundation is a PMO in trouble.
Project management is no longer about managing work, rather it is about work-management. The ability to get people effectively working together without introducing barriers to the activities, holds the prize. An organization getting, real-time knowledge, of how well it is implementing it's strategy - while people are working, has the ability to be responsive and lead the market in real-time.

The shift is an acceptance of value and an understanding that more is required to succeed as a PMO. Moving beyond the current functions of a PMI Certification, (nicely formatted templates, and spreadsheet)  and project managers in your company that do more than fill in a Charter or spreadsheet. 
Having a PMO with templates is the first step. Having good Project Managers to manage work, the next. Making a PMO truly serve its purpose of facilitating strategy execution by effectively facilitating work, is the ultimate step. 
PMO’s need to move fast to adopt “work management practices” if they want their businesses to truly succeed. They have no choice but to move on these initiatives or face the next retrofit, cleanup or clean-out.
Without the right tools, this will be impossible. At Profiled IT People, we hope to help our associates and clients to better explore how this can be achieved. We’ve done it all before, and we have the right tools in hand to make the journey not just viable, but pleasurable as well.
Hendrik van Wyk

Poor Track Record

The company internal I.T. department unfortunately suffers from a poor track record. The track record is framed with a number of commonly acknowledged character flaws. These flaws have become so overtly part of the fabric of the department that Scott Adams turned it into an “official” satire with his comic strip named Dilbert
Failed Promises

The I.T. department is plagued by failed promises, pointless complexity, questionable business value, control envy, and an out of place executive. It lives in a self indulgent and self induced twilight zone that is ripe for being challenged.
Corporate I.T. is plagued by failed promises. The promises of prosperity and doom have over the years made a mockery of the I.T. department. If it is not failed project delivery, it is overstated benefits. While the I.T. department was quick to grab and integrate formal project management as a discipline during the nineteen eighties, it still suffers from systemic problems in this area. cites a Dynamic Markets survey of 800 IT managers in 2008, reporting that 62 percent of IT projects fail to meet their schedules. 49 percent suffered budget overruns, 47 percent had higher-than-expected maintenance costs, and 41 percent failed to deliver the expected business value and return on investment (ROI).
This wouldn't be so bad, notes, if it weren't for the fact that the numbers haven't appreciably improved over the past decade. In some cases, they've gotten worse. One of the main reasons for this scenario is the disconnect between the I.T. department and the business owners who sponsor I.T. projects. The two often have very different ideas as to what they want. From the business owner side, they are often more enamoured of demos than technology. This is sometimes good but also just as often bad, because while the feature set may be enticing, the technology providing it may be rotten. Other times, it's the IT department that leads with technology and overlooks business owners' requirements. This is the classic “I.T. knows better” syndrome where the I.T. department considers themselves the saviours and gatekeepers protecting business owners from themselves.
Not meeting the functional demands is interpreted as unintended features or consequences. I.T. often positions a technology that it justifies instead of it being user justified. When users don’t like it and don’t use it, then the fault is usually blamed on the business user not being appreciative or willing to change. Costs hardly ever stay within expectations. This is not only a project delivery issue, but also a day-to-day operational issue. Gordon Moore’s Moores Law has been used in vain to explain a number of corporate I.T. achievements and highlight more deficiencies over the years. One of the earlier misguided uses was to explain how a company’s I.T. costs should decrease as a result of computing efficiencies introduced by technology improvements. 
Large outsourcing organizations penned multi-million dollar, decade long infrastructure outsourcing contracts with expected annual cost reductions based on this belief. Only, to discover that while Moore’s law holds true for transistor capacity growth, and some other elaborated applications, that the consumption expectation of said growth will succeed in outpacing this exponential phenomenon regardless. Because computers have more capacity, users will find a way to use it, and will demand even more over time. Computing consumption and cost does not decrease over time. It increases. Yet, the corporate I.T. department still beats the cost reduction drum every time they justify an investment in a new solution or platform.
From an outsider’s perspective the benefits rarely justifies the enormous investments demanded. Enormous software deployments distract companies for years. Infrastructure refreshes fails to keep up with demand, and every year the I.T. executive dreads asking for more resources to merely keep up with the company's basic requirements.  
The I.T. department can barely keep up with technology evolution. The same enormous software deployments that were distracting organizations for years are now being replaced with new solutions in much shorter timeframes of months. For a while the battle was raged between standardized solutions and the level of company customization required to introduce a new system into an organization. Custom won over standardized. Every company thought themselves special and demanded to have the same reflected in their technology. The result was that the more customization took place, the less flexibility and opportunity the company had for upgrades and future platform enhancements, and the more it costed to grow the solution with changing corporate demands. The new battle is no longer how fast new solutions can be procured and implemented, but rather the tempo and appetite for solution adoption. Implementation life-cycles are being replaced with adoption life-cycles. 
Technology and solutions were typically amortized over five to ten years before it faced obsolescence. More recently periods as short as twenty four months apply. The software refresh cycle has advanced faster than infrastructure. The appetite for expensive and complex customizations is fast evaporating due to this increased cycle of innovation. 
Nowadays, a business barely has the solution implemented and they are already facing an upgrade thanks to faster evolving technology and applications. While fighting an ever increasing battle of obsolescence, the I.T. department still goes from meeting to meeting with an overly optimistic outlook that their next wave of technology or new tool will be the answer to the most recently discovered or maybe even long standing problems with prior solutions. Corporate I.T. appears to observers as out of step with the harsh realities of real business. 
The I.T. department cannot count anymore on soliciting sympathy for their position. For long I.T. was a closed garden with only the initiated and the anointed in the know. They were considered the experts and were treated as such, Now, with matters rapidly spiralling out of their control, and with fewer answers than the questions demand, they find their traditional approach more and more being challenged by straight thinking, common sensical business executives. The I.T. department is forced to acknowledge that maybe, they just don’t have all the answers after-al. 
This is not a problem. No one has all the answers. The I.T. folk has to come clean and take a new approach of facilitation to their responsibility. Instead of working for the business stakeholders, they have to work alongside business stakeholders to help unlock access and value from information and its ever changing technology. This also points towards a required change in the approach of the role of the C.I.O. to become a more business focussed strategist. 
Most recent research confirms that the C.I.O.’s role is being elevated in companies. The percentage of midsize company C.I.O.’s reporting to Chief Executive Officers (C.E.O.), jumped to 47% in 2009 from 38% in 2008. At large firms, 44% of C.I.O.’s report to the C.E.O., up from 35% last year (2008). The CIO’s average tenure is 11 months longer than it was 2008, and three months longer than in 2007. Small company C.I.O.’s stay in their jobs the longest: six years, one month. Which, is a direct response to the more strategic role that is expected from smaller companies that can be less tolerant of its I.T. not meeting expectations. The most notable shift in this research came from 70% of C.I.O’s saying that long-term strategic thinking and planning is the leadership competency most critical to their role, up from 56% from 2008.

The I.T. department is plagued by complexity, yet it relishes in the false authority this affords its disposition, and the margins this offers those in the know. 
There is no argument that information technology and its tools are complicated. It takes hours, days, months and years to understand the extent of some technologies, and to get it to work. Technical people can spend a lifetime mastering a complex platform and suddenly find their knowledge obsolete the moment a new vendor redefines the solution. However, complexity doesn’t serve any useful purpose outside a controlling I.T. department. The expectation is for I.T. to seek out simplicity and practicality, amongst the chaos of information, technologies, methodologies, models and analyst hot air.
Information technology trades in ideas. Ideas are in the software, the process, and technology. Most importantly, the ideas relate to the application of a solution. For example: how a solution should be applied for a specific business objective or outcome. Ideas are and should be freely available. 
Technology need not be free, but the application should not be made proprietary. The I.T. industry has over the years acquired a taste and incentive for creating “false” scarcity around ideas. A scarcity that is now challenged more than ever with the proliferation of information and ideas over the Internet. In doing so, the industry could justify an economy with inflated margins. Scarcity forms the basis for economic margin. For example: While a new software solution holds substantial promise for improved business outcomes, a vendor typically walks a tightrope between getting the solution or idea widely adopted in a market, and at the same time securing high margins for its workers who are most “qualified” in its configuration and implementation. 
Every consultant offers another methodology or variation on a prevailing one as "the" answer that will solve their client's problems. Because they hold “the” answer, they can demand a price for this “scarce” commodity. The scarcity of skill working with the solution offers higher returns for the vendor, ecosystem, and the following it creates. Only the consultant and its collaborators have the "knowledge" required to make their methodology work. 
These higher margins in return promises further incentives for the ecosystem to promote the adoption of the solution. In some cases the ecosystem, made up of resellers and value added resellers (VAR),  further perpetuates the opportunity by adding modules or components to the original solution or idea. In doing so, they succeed in breathing more life into an opportunity to capitalize on the scarcity of "understanding". 
This phenomenon not only plays out in solution vending, but also in the countless frameworks that profess to direct “best practices” in the way that I.T. is managed and implemented. 
The proliferation of frameworks are followed quickly by education and certification programs that further serve as rites of passage for consultants wishing to participate in the newly created economy that is being unleashed on non-suspecting corporate I.T. departments and their stakeholders.
Identity Crisis

All this takes place while the corporate I.T. department is struggling with its own identity. On the one hand the department tries to satisfy its desire for recognition in the I.T. industry as leading the charge in good solutioning, with a very important stamp of approval from the industry "wailers". 
These "wailers", or more commonly known as the Industry Analysts, protects and underlines what it perceives to be "good" practices, industry "trends", and "leading" solutions. The I.T. department procures the "recommended" solutions, deploys the "underwritten" methodologies and yet still fails in soliciting appreciation from it's backers. Things still doesn't turn out as expected. 
On the other hand the department must serve its true purpose of doing the right thing for its business stakeholders, without appearing to be out of step with the "Jones' ". If it is found that an I.T. department is not towing the line of the industry, it's executive risks standing alone during times of hardship when the technology fails to live up to expectations, the projects run late, and the costs spiral out of control. If he or she didn't buy the industry "recommended" snake oil, then he or she must be no-good. 
Time to find a new "guy". The dichotomy exists between doing what is industry prescribed and advocated versus what common sense dictates. If common sense fails, many a C.I.O. used the industry recommended course of action as fallback to justify their actions and save their jobs.
With the Research Analyst’s support, the I.T. department has the backing from the “experts” when justifying their course of action investing in a particular technology or tool. At the same time the “experts” are fuelling the economies created by vendor ecosystems, through underlining their professed “value” to customers they appear to be serving. Customers in this case can easily be confused. Is it the I.T. departments, or the vendors?
This identity struggle further manifests itself against a backdrop of I.T. staff that is also confused between underwriting vendor economies, versus doing the right thing for their employer. Staff recognize the importance of tool and platform knowledge and certifications for their personal marketability. Therefore, they will easily support a technology that maximizes their future earnings potential, over a technology that is right for the job. 
Getting into the right ecosystem can mean the difference between being employed or not. It may be a cynical view. But, it may also be one of the main reasons why employers are more and more declining technical training. As soon as staff has the training or certification they usually move on to higher paying opportunities elsewhere as new member of the "club". This has other unintended consequences which is better suited for a later discussion. 
This dilemma of false complexity, scarcity and a subculture ecosystems mentality became so culturally ingrained in the I.T. industry that it is the modus operandi for the way of the I.T. department too. The I.T. department is considered by it's business counterparts as “special” with “proprietary knowledge” and a “secret language” and “information” that only the initiated understands. They play by different rules, and when they are challenged can quote chapter and verse of analyst supported industry “best practice” to justify their actions. They appear untouchable, yet somehow fail often to live up to expectations.

The last nail in the coffin comes from a control culture where the I.T. department sees itself as the guardians protecting business users and the company from themselves. Technology and tools are off limits, unless it is sanctioned by the I.T. department. If no better excuse exists for this behaviour, then the trump card of security, or the lack thereof, is played by an I.T. department desperate for control. This obviously doesn’t help for relations with other parts of the company and fellow business stakeholders that relies on access to these very tools to get their jobs done better.
I.T. appears to be in a parallel universe that mimics the corporate landscape. It has all the tools for the business, appear to know it better, has all the answers, and yet it is not the business. The I.T. department’s contribution to business value is regularly questioned when costs seems to only be increasing without an appreciation of the contribution it makes proportionally to improved business practice and strategy realization. 
Costs appears to be mostly vendor directed, and the benefit to a business' operation is hard to quantify. Justification is founded on industry cost comparisons instead of common sense. However, not quantifying value is fatal for every C.I.O. against a twilight of a misdirected, and until now, tolerated subculture.
The C.I.O. appears to be out of place at the executive table. On the one hand, the role is not recognized as business enough to have a say in the strategy, business practices and imperatives of the company. It is sometimes relegated to a support role slightly behind the Human Resource department, and barely above the janitor. 
On the other hand the role cannot be important enough when things go wrong. Then it is easy to blame the C.I.O. and I.T. department for the troubles of a company not able to execute its strategy, not able to balance the books, not having the data, or when the cost structures are spiralling out of control.
The C.I.O. navigates a thin razor’s edge between unsatisfied business stakeholders who has little drive to understand, nor appreciate the difficulty of delivering the information and technology for the company. Yet, as C.I.O. is expected to have a full and unending telepathic grasp of the business’ needs and wants from their information and technology. 
Business stakeholders easily criticize the role of I.T. but are not willing to recognize their dependency or fragility as a result of their information technology dependence. The I.T. department is a supplier with a captive audience. There is no chance to escape from its business stakeholders for a better, more understanding and more appreciative customer. Its chance for overall success is limited. Yet, a business customer has every opportunity to seek their information technology services elsewhere, and many do. 
This is Called Outsourcing
On the other hand, the C.I.O. is plagued by technical complexity, an ever changing platform landscape out of cycle with his or her business’ demands. Added to this is a vendor landscape that appears to only be fixated on this financial quarter’s sales targets, and its focussed plans to change the game on its competitors. 
Your company’s investments in its technology are merely collateral damage on their journey for dominating the next round of technology innovation.  But wait, they have an answer and a deal for you that you cannot refuse. Being an I.T. executive is indeed a tough job today.
Hendrik van Wyk

Liberation or Apathy


The time has come to seek out an alternative and improved state for our corporate I.T. department and its leader, the Chief Information Officer (C.I.O). 
It makes good business sense to recognize the increasingly important role that information, technology and its management plays in the success of every business. Without it, businesses can no longer succeed as they did in the past. 
Without effective information and technology, there is virtually no sporting chance to compete in a world where electronic communication is immediate, information is everywhere, and kids pack more technology in their backpacks than most knowledge workers are allowed to access at the office. 
For the first time in centuries, the private individual is on an equal footing, if not better than the corporation, thanks to recent advances in information technology. Suddenly, we have a a radical change in the way information production and exchange is being capitalized in the world today. The ownership of this capital, the way the capitalization happens, is radically distributed, and companies with closed garden I.T. departments and thinking are finding themselves out in the cold. 
We are probably only at the beginning of a world where information is everywhere, and our ability to access and apply it is bound to grow in leaps and bounds in years to come. As businesses we are on the cusp of setting our companies’ information and technology free, instead of controlling it as we’ve done in the past. 
Setting it free should allow knowledge workers to create more value that what has ever been possible. This phenomenon is already taking place on the Internet, where data sharing is leading daily to scientific discovery and rapid innovation through collaboration globally. Governments and academic institutions have discovered for a while now that if you are prepared to share and liberate your information that good things happen. More value is created. More opportunities become apparent. Problems are solved, and societies overall benefit. 
Companies are waking up to the opportunity as well. However, we cannot do it with a closed and controlling I.T. department organization structure and approach. I believe that the time has come for the C.I.O’s role to be liberated, and redefined. These people have larger assignments. These executives have a unique enterprise wide perspective valuable for formulating and realizing a business’ strategy. 
C.I.O’s get this perspective from the responsibility they’ve had for the information and technology that is consumed by, and is supporting every part of the business’s day-to-day activities. For many years C.I.O.'s have been expected by their colleagues to know and understand every part of the business. Having accountability for a company’s information technology demands a comprehensive and as complete as possible perspective of the business and its operations. 
C.I.O’s not only fulfilled this assignment, but also felt the pain of contributing towards evolving parts of the business through information technology and processes automation made possible by these tools. Working through business and technology innovation at the same time has proven to be one of the hardest assignments available in any company. 
The C.I.O.’s duties included seeking out and implementing business improvements, finding ways to minimize cost, and increase day-to-day efficiencies. It is a large responsibility. In many instances incumbent executives for departments showed little or no interest in, or comprehension of the trials and tribulations that goes hand in hand with doing something that in most cases have never been done before. 
These department executives abdicated a large part of their own responsibilities and understanding of the information and process landscapes of their businesses to their company’s C.I.O.. The time has come to use this understanding and highly sought after talent for asking "what if", together with a business' increased reliance on its I.T., and allow the C.I.O. to do much more for the company. 
The time is here to explore how this additional value can materialize against a backdrop of rapid information technology evolution and information proliferation. Make no mistake, the ways of the “old” I.T. department should not, and must not make it into the overall business approach. It is not about centralized control, gatekeeping and lockdown. 
Rather, the understanding of business enablement through I.T. is the key asset that these incumbents bring to the table. It is the key asset that their fellow executives will have to learn from them over the coming months and years. The C.I.O is ideally positioned to lead this opportunity.
While this is a grand promise for incumbents in the C.I.O role, it is unfortunately not going to be “beer and skittles” all the way. It is a journey with implications for the company as a whole, for the I.T. department, its staff, and for the I.T. industry. The C.I.O's role is about to change, but so are the roles of most business executives as well.
Successful companies have realized that information and technology is foundational to their success. However, they are now grasping that a company’s I.T. is really the business of every corporate executive, every corporate department and every staff member. Individuals have almost unconstrained access to information and technology outside the company. This access is fast becoming the expectation at the office too. 
However, it comes with responsibility. I.T. should no longer be something somebody else, like the I.T. department does for, or to these executives and staff. Without information technology, most people in the company cannot get their jobs done. Even manual labourers carry smart mobile devices allowing them to communicate, collaborate, share information, and improve the way they've been doing their jobs. 
Without a thorough and responsible understanding of a company’s information technology demands, no executive can any longer steer his or her company towards success.
Today, many individuals personally carry technology that surpass the scale, application and complexity that I.T. departments have dealt with a decade ago. While it is clear that without good information and technology, the company cannot prosper, the recognition should also exist that most of our corporate I.T. departments have fallen out of step with the enterprise’s I.T. needs. Consumer consumption has outpaced corporate application, and individuals personally boasts more technology at home than what they have access to at work.
The role information and its supporting technology is playing in the success of every business venture has increased exponentially. Its place in process automation, business strategy and execution, no longer provides the competitive advantage for a business it once was. Rather, it has become the entry pass and very foundation for a place at the commerce table. 
Small businesses have discovered that simple I.T. Services like a web presence, email, online advertising, personal computer and an accounting system form an important basis for starting, and being in business. It is as important as having a good product or service, and a loyal customer. 
Equally, large enterprises are discovering that what they once perceived as differentiating information technology capability can very easily turn into a monster withholding them from competing in their respective markets. It can lock them out of opportunity. I.T. is part of a successful business’ foundation, and it is also the success determinant for a business’ future. It is no longer something that can just be entrusted. It is now everyone’s business.
Technology and its accompanying disciplines have become too important for the enterprise as a whole to be delegated to a supporting department or one executive. It cannot be perceived merely as a support function anymore. It is time to redefine why this very important attribute to every business action and transaction must become part of what a business does every day. 
It has become more and more obvious to C.I.O. executives and their advisors that they have a department and an industry in peril. Something is not quite right with I.T.. It is time to rethink the role of the C.I.O, and that of the I.T. department, as we know it, for business’ sake. Because, I.T. should make good business sense.
Hendrik van Wyk

Populosus Liberare

Liberate the People

Steve Jobs made a comment recently at E3 about the fact that Apple builds products for consumers and not the enterprise
“The Enterprise is not a market we feel comfortable to pursue, for a very simple reason: Consumers decide for themselves what technology they use, and vote for their through buying it, or not. That is why we pursue the consumer market. Users in companies do not have that choice. I.T. departments decide for them what they can and cannot use. These decisions are not always the best decisions, because I.T. departments are... confused.”
This made me think of an analogy I covered in an earlier blog entry. It drew a parallel between the way we treat knowledge workers, and the way we treat trades people and other Professionals.
A trades person depends on the quality of the tools for their trade. When one hires a plumber or electrician for work, we don’t prescribe to the person which tools he or she should use. We trust them as professionals with the knowledge of their trade, and with the skill to use the tools required for the job. We expect them to come with the best tools and knowledge, so that we get the best outcome for the money we pay.
However, when we engage or employ a knowledge worker, we strip them from their tools the moment they step into the office, and we provide them with the tools the internal I.T. department considers “fit for purpose”. This is similar to telling the plumber to leave his tools on his truck, and to use what we think is appropriate, because it is more “secure”, more “efficient”, “cheaper”, or whatever other “good” reason we can come up with as I.T. department to exert control.
If we do that to a trade professional we will get one of two responses: They will either turnaround and walk away, or increase their price tenfold. They will make us pay for their troubles of using something with which they may not be familiar, or prefer. We curtail their ability by being prescriptive on something that we are probably not qualified to prescribe in the first instance.
Why is this happening?  Why do we allow our I.T. departments and I.T. executives to neuter hired talent. Why do we limit the effectiveness of our knowledge workforce by limiting their ability to bring to bear whatever tool it is they use to get their job done, in the best way they know how? What makes us, as I.T. departments the “experts” in deciding how technology should or could server the needs of our business stakeholders?
Because, I believe our I.T. departments have lost their way. Instead of helping facilitate business outcomes, they consider themselves as the guardians. They confuse their role as support and enabler and instead act like gatekeeper and controller. This may have been a justifiable role when technology was complex, expensive and outside the realm of most office workers. However, times have changed. Information Technology is now truly in the hands of everyone. School children pack more processing power and information in their smartphones than some I.T. departments  are prepared to provide for day-to-day work at the office.
Furthermore, the I.T. department holds the perspective that it is responsible to protect business from technology and from themselves. When it comes to I.T. tools, “I.T. knows best”. I.T. has morphed from a niche function of technology experts to an “all knowing” group of “supposed” business experts, that considers it a right to be prescriptive, not only of technology or information, but business process and strategy as well. Instead of being accommodating and supportive, the function battles a “laggard” user base that just “doesn’t get it”, when they refer to their business stakeholders.
There are more unintended consequences of this assumed, and in some cases delegated assignment. The I.T. department erects a walled garden that is mystified in cloak of complexity, frameworks, acronyms, secret handshakes and gobbledygook. The rest of the organization is locked out and has to work with what they get.
The Protectors

There is another side to this story. The I.T. department is not the only villain, and cannot take all the blame for trying to safeguard the company from the technology quagmire and vendor onslaught. 
For a long time, I.T. was (and probably still is) indeed complex and outside the grasp of most people. It was something that needed to be entrusted to those with the expertise to tame the electronic information processing monster. They are the people in the downtown computer room. These were the people in charge of selecting and protecting the enterprise’s information and technology interests. 
The I.T. department was the only expert, and it dealt with the company’s technology needs, on behalf of the company. Business Stakeholders entrusted it to them. In some cases this trust bordered on abdicating of responsibility for their company’s supporting information and technology. I.T. relished the opportunity and importance this heightened responsibility brought. Justifiable, some I.T. departments are still operating from this mis-perspective
Entrusting such an important part of a company’s success to a department made the I.T. department an easy target. If someone else is doing it, then it is very easy to criticize and complain. Having delegated and abdicated responsibility  for the company’s I.T. made it easy for other company executives to escape the accountability of the demands they placed on their I.T. department. 
The I.T. department very quickly found itself in a race that cannot be won. It found itself in a position to satisfy ever changing business expectations, against an increasing pace of technology innovation, and at the same time being under-appreciated for doing so. Their best has just not been good enough, lately.
Billy Connolly explained it well in one of his rants: “I want this. I want that. I want now. I want it yesterday. And, I want f*&^&% more tomorrow. And it is all going to change, so f*&^%! stay awake!”
This rant personifies the day to which most CIO’s wake up every day, around the globe. On the one side is the technology beast with unwieldy vendors, temperamental platforms and treacherous technology. It is something that  more and more defies management and control. The beast is becoming uncontrollable, and the speed of innovation staggering. On the other side you have the demanding business user that abdicated involvement and yet somehow is never satisfied with the outcome. The same users never seem to take accountability for the impact of their expectations on their company’s I.T. department.
How should one react to these challenges? 
For a while the I.T. department tried to control the environment. However, this task is becoming more and more desperate with the proliferation of gadgets and information inside and outside the organization. When consumers are now choosing their technology, and their gadgetry are becoming more sophisticated than the I.T. department can offer, then it is clear the writing is on the wall for corporate I.T.. While the I.T. department is clamping down, standardizing and trying to control, they unknowingly participate in the elimination and demise of the very essence of value creation in information and technology. They limit the opportunity for knowledge workers to truly create value.
Set them Free

For information, and the technology that supports it, has to be shared to become valuable. The most recent advances in social media and online collaboration services are proving the point. By sharing, the value creation process is accelerated. By enabling and allowing individuals to collaborate, the value creation process is improved. Companies that doesn’t set out to control, but encourages collaboration and cooperation internal and externally to the office are seeing rapid growth and recognition.
For a while businesses have been clear on the benefits of sharing information. When supply-chain information is shared it helps to lower inventory and provides more flexibility. The company, and more and more the industry’s technology for sharing information facilitates this value.
The same benefits come through where consumer buying behaviours are shared responsibly. Fred H. Cate Michael E. Staten summarized it as follows:
  • It allows businesses to ascertain customer needs accurately and meet those needs rapidly and efficiently.
  • It permits consumers to be informed rapidly and at low cost of those opportunities in which they are most likely to be interested.
  • It promotes competition by facilitating the entry of new competitors into established markets, reduces the advantage that large, incumbent firms have over smaller startups and encourages the creation of businesses specialized in satisfying specific consumer needs.
  • It expands consumer access to a wide range of affordable services and products, and enhances customer convenience and services.
  • It improves efficiency and significantly reduces the cost of many products and services.
  • It facilitates the detection and prevention of fraud and other crimes. 
The I.T. industry has numerous examples of open source collaborations that have and are creating products and services for the benefit of larger eco-systems. We have computer operating systems, database technologies, mobile computing technologies, online references, public databases, forums, help forums and you name it, where people collaborate, volunteer information, share, and consume technology. Being proprietary, or exclusive is a sure path to the grave in the current information technology landscape.
Many of today’s corporate technology deployed, somehow had their roots in people sharing something freely to create value in the first instance. The I.T. department cannot, and should not stand in the way of this evolution, even internal to the company. The industry, like Apple Inc. and Google are equipping private individuals with ever powerful devices and solutions to generate, consume and share information. And, the corporate I.T. department cannot, and must not stand in the way of this, but rather encouraging more technology consumption and more sharing.
“How will you support all the stuff if you allow users to bring their own technology to work?” asked one prominent CEO. “What about security?” asks another.
Maybe it is time that we, as corporate I.T. executives re-evaluate our role and perspective of what it means to “support” or provide “security”. When our assumptions are founded on control, standardization and scaremongering, then we are losing the plot as I.T. incumbents. When we believe that we need to do it all company internal, and cannot trust in vendor supplied services, cloud based or otherwise, then we have delusions of grandeur about our own abilities. When we curtail the proficiency of knowledge workers by limiting their access to technology and information, we are overstepping our mandate. 
We need to find new paradigms for “support”, “supply”, and keeping things “secure”. We need to innovate a world where technology and information inside the company indeed supports abundance, collaboration, and access control to tools and solutions doesn’t stifle innovation. We should also support access to technology and information outside the company when it offers potential for even greater success.
I am not advocating any irresponsible actions that may jeopardize a company’s intellectual property, or the fiduciary responsibility it has with relation to information entrusted to them by their customers. The company must still do the right thing with its information and for its customers. However, when it gets to devices and solutions there are more opportunity to do well by allowing a proliferation, than there is by curtailing and prohibiting access and use of a knowledge worker’s preferred tool or platform of choice. 
When the role of corporate I.T. it is founded on consumption, proliferation, encouragement, adoption and sharing then we will do better in meeting the needs of the corporate I.T. user. Then, the I.T. department will start thinking of their users as consumers, in the same manner as Steve Jobs think of his customers. These are the consumers that not only vote for the next iPhone, but will also vote for the next I.T. leader for their company. 
A 2009 survey from Gartner discovered that more than 40 percent of companies support employee-owned laptops. And those firms expect the number of staffers allowed to use their own notebooks for work to hit 14 percent this year from 10 percent last year.
Among the more than five hundred I.T. managers that Gartner questioned in the U.S., Germany, and the U.K., 48 percent still prohibit the use of personal PCs as primary work computers. But 43 percent now allow and address such use with company policies. The reason why is simple: cost savings and higher efficiencies. It is argued that while companies are hurting by the economic downturn, I.T. managers in large organizations have been eyeing a variety of ways to cut costs, including the use of employee-owned PC’s. Forward thinking businesses are also recognizing the additional value they get from allowing their knowledge workers to choose and use their preferred information technology.
By country, 60 percent of German firms surveyed let employees use their own personal PC’s as work computers, while only 30 percent of those in the U.S. and U.K. allow their use. And with an ongoing need to keep the budget slim, and the workers efficient and able, these companies see an increase in employee-owned PC’s over the next 12 to 18 months. I.T. managers in the U.S. expect the largest increase at a whopping 60 percent. Those in Germany predict a 40 percent jump, while managers in the U.K. are eyeing a more modest 15 percent rise.
If corporate I.T. can make useful and great products accessible, or encourage the adoption of new “consumer” lead and like corporate supported and introduced technology to allow value creation for the company, then we have success in empowering our knowledge workers. Then, the I.T. department has succeeded in redefining its role in a new era where abundance is no longer a threat, but an opportunity.

Consumer technology is, and has been outpacing I.T. department supplied solutions. The I.T. departments that recognize this phenomenon and challenges their traditional perspectives of command and control, will succeed in equipping their stakeholders much more effectively.
Companies and their I.T. departments still need to remain diligent and responsible with the corporate and customer information. However, in doing so recognize that, sharing information, and making it accessible to the right parties at the right time is the only way that business value can and is derived from it. The challenge will be to make it accessible, allow collaboration and ensure that it is done with a positive outcome. That will remain the company’s accountability as a whole, and cannot be entrusted to the I.T. department anymore.
Corporate executives are taking ownership of their own gadgets. Similarly, they must take an interest in, and take back abdicated accountability for their information and their tools, for the sake of good business.
Recognizing that the I.T. department has the opportunity to truly inspire through technology and information sharing is the great chance we have as incumbents in a new era where tools are everywhere. Information is everywhere, and the only limitation is our creativity and drive towards a technology and information abundant business innovative future.
I personally welcome the opportunity.
Hendrik van Wyk

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