Monthly Archives: May 2013

Overwhelmed by overwhelming

 

overwhelmed

Evidence? Information? Issues? Workload? Choice? Opportunity?

What are we being overwhelmed about? What is overwhelming?

Here’s my story.

The other day I decided to look into one of those buyers guide to technology. I deliberately wont mention the technology area because it is not relevant to this post. That’s the sad part. It would be easier if the relevance of the post was because it was a particular technology set.

At the exhaustive completion of reading the 30+ pages of technology vendor beauty parade I reached a damning conclusion which was that I was ‘Overwhelmed by the overwhelming fact that these guides are part of the problem”. And the problem? That a decision maker is looking for something else. These decision makers need a pair of filter goggles on because we pick up these resources in a state of desperation to ‘find the answer’ knowing that we ‘never will’. Analogous to reading a horoscope, playing the lottery or reading diet books.

Without question making technology choices for an IT organization is dead easy. After all there is an abundance of choice and opportunity. The internet is full of good advice. White papers fall from the sky extolling the compelling evidence to select vendor A over vendor B. Consultants leap around their ‘nailed’ view of why this feature is better than that feature. And why not? They are close to the truth.

But there is a but. Always 🙂

You see for the over stretched decision maker there is a problem. Being overwhelmed is not a great place to be. The default reaction is too often to withdraw back to the ‘status quo’ or ‘do nothing’ position which is the human reaction to pressure. This pressure comes in many forms but in the context of technology decisions then there is a natural urge to find reasons why not to do something.

And this is why. To build a business case for a technology decision is really tough. Just because everyone else is deploying the technology in question doesn’t mean the decision makers will roll over and say “Oh well if everyone else is using this then we would be stupid not to as well”. Those days have long gone.

Smart stakeholders have some characteristics that help them avoid being overwhelmed by the overwhelming.

Lets call it a  simple 3 step plan.

  1.  Build a protective ring of Number Twos – people who filter the partners, suppliers, product roadmaps, evaluations and presentations charged with enough of the ‘strategic blueprint’ to be the stakeholders buffer.
  2.  Identify a trusted peer. Someone inside or outside the organization who provides the ‘moment of pause’ to step back and think through the pitfalls and gains from a decision. perhaps it is a quite drink in a pub to run past a few ideas or a pen pal the other side of the globe. It may be a trusted blog or magazine or someone who you follow on YouTube. The fun part is that however you go about it there will always be someone.
  3.  Develop a Red Amber Green meter.  Ugh? In English this is a simple validation calculator that runs either as a formal series of gates and hoops to make a prospective vendor jump through, or a touchy feely gut reaction knee jerk approach. Or a mental checklist. Whichever there is always a way of filtering out the pretenders from the contenders.

Now lets imagine you are someone selling to someone who is being overwhelmed by the overwhelming. What’s your story? Ask yourself – are you part of the overwhelming activity? Are you bombarding your client with noise? Are you the person who is causing the stakeholder to feel overwhelmed despite best intentions?

If you think you are perhaps you should take a step back and try a different track.

Knowing that the stakeholder you work with is faced with mountains of ‘noise’ presented to them by you, your colleagues, competitors, analysts, vendors and well wishers what can you do about it? Do you know whether any of the 3 steps above are in fact true? Have you realised that your ‘in’ is via a Number Two. Someone who is less overwhelmed yet holds the ear of the stakeholder. Remember sometimes the way in is not always through the front door 🙂

Now you may be underwhelmed by this post but I put down the Buyers Guide with a huge dread that our stakeholders out there – the people we rely on to give us jobs, reward us, invigorate us, challenge us, motivate us – are sitting there feeling a huge weight of worthlessness coming from all the ‘evidence’ we conveniently place at that door without any real due care and attention.

So the next time you see a cool white paper, blog post ( except mine of course ), video or technical webcast please – Pause – Rewind – and consider the impact to the person you are expecting to make a decision from and whether you are adding to their overwhelming burden of being overwhelmed!

 

Brummie 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Bury or drown beneath a huge mass

We can be overwhelmed by work – issues problems challenges etc

We can also be overwhelming – we expect too much we demand too much

information

choices

white papers

vendors

new infleunces – stakeholders

which decision is the right one?

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Instead of bish bash bosh perhaps a little more incubation is required

Bish bash boff

Bish, Bash, Bosh represents those 3 simple steps  we take to remove an item of technology from its ‘out of the box’ state to something that puts us in a productive state.  Consider an Apple iPad. The air tight swoosh of the box being opened, and the almost immediate tap, tap, tap to get connected and meaningful is nearly religious.  Speed and immediacy. The product is mature immediately and there is no need to do anything else.

On the other hand an incubator is there to protect. Keep things warm. To monitor and alert.  To verify the health of something fragile or weak that needs to develop strength.  Like a baby. Something important.

These two diverse scenarios represent a theme running through the IT landscape today.  The Bish, Bash, Bosh fraternity believe that with all the investment in technology and the undeniable maturity of the  bits and bytes technology is know simple and straightforward and prime for the Bish, Bash, Bosh installation and deployment.

Imagine deploying a new server. Now imagine a virtualised server. Now let’s put an application on there. Say a messaging app. Now let’s put in all the migration work. Then there is the backup and management layers. And we have to train a few people like the operations teams, the service desk and probably the users a well.  We all know this of course – we are the experienced ones. Imagine deploying a cloud service. Or a new mobile service. The list goes on for candidates to the Bish, Bash, Bosh club!

Of course there are multiple stages in the deployment of corporate technology. We know this too. There is no easy route into taking what was there before and replacing it with something new. Despite all the promise of zero touch, seamless integration, orchestration and automation there is always a bit more than Bish, Bash, Bosh.This is why we have accreditation programmes and our consultants achieve incredible certifications to demonstrate they are a little more than Bish, Bash, Bosh engineers. This is why we have experienced people qualified in Six Sigma, ITIL, ITSM and Prince methodologies. This is why many organizations are now set up in ‘domains’ to ensure there is governance between all the stages of technology adoption – security, risk, change and so on. The days of one man having all the power to affect change have gone.

Or has it?

After years’ of pain and angst caused by failed project delivery and technology failing to meet expectation both financially and functionally, IT has caught up. The layers of governance and control now protect organizations from catastrophic failure. Technology fails less as a result.

Mmmm well whilst I do believe some of this I also see two groups emerging that are hell bent at destabilising this situation. Stakeholders and Vendors.

You see  vendors have resolved the ‘out of the box’ scenario. For decades their products were an engineering effort.  We bought pain and revelled in it. Heroes were born in these times. And we loved them for it.

Now these vendors have taken Moore’s Law and other compelling events to create products that are light touch for installation. A few Next, Next, Next keystrokes ( or swipes ) and the technology is up there.  Consider cloud computing. Consider an AppStore. Gone are the days of heavy start up engineering to get technology connected to the corporate world. The magic of connecting technology with all the protocol binding, scripting and bashing has almost gone. Now IT departments can get technology up and running really quickly – Bish, Bash and Bosh. These vendors have no choice than to create this culture of almost instant on because we now all realise that their maturity around product development far exceeds our capability to use the features they bring out every two or three years ( even quicker with cloud services of course).

But as we know all know cloud has those little tentacles that like ivy hang on to other elements of the traditional infrastructure that gnaw away at the seemingly breath-taking adoption curve that promises Of course many IT organizations have not invested in the deep dive technical engineering training to understand the technology they are buying. It is now so easy to fire up a virtual machine to try before you buy. The internet is full of

Now lets think of an Incubator. We use them for plants.  Babies lives are saved because of them. We also use them for business entrepreneurship ideas.  And we should use them for technology.

Remember the large manufacturers like HP, Microsoft, Cisco and Google who spend zillions on taking ideas and build development models to verify the idea before committing to mass production. They spend billions on research units to promote ideas and to take their ideas to incubated product groups and customer feedback. They are masters at it because the stakes are very high. These guys have incubators on steroids. They get true product development and have an amazing knack of putting new products into the proverbial incubator and then encouraging customers to try and comment. This is the Incubator working in anger of course – and these guys are the pros because they have had to.

Now consider where you work. Its a lot different. Of course there are pilots, proof of concepts, model offices and testing plans. Of course money is spent on training for key individuals. New technology is tested. Beauty parades take places. Queues of vendors stand in a line to show their stuff. But too often even when this level of technology oversight is taken perhaps following an intensive tender process the overwhelming pressure to end up Bish, Bash, Bosh takes over. You see our industry cant help itself. We get impatient. We get squeezed by other things. We have the stakeholders demanding return on their hard earned investment. We compromise. We get early success so we press the button a little sooner than planned. We want to see it work. We want success. In fact, we crave success.

But we are immature. We have been sold on the Bish, Bash, Bosh outcomes of the products as they suck out of the box and end up on our screens. We forget that things are not always as they seem. We forget these vendors are often the same ones we castigated years’ ago for releasing incomplete code or poorly tested hardware components. We conveniently forgive them. We want to. We want to look good with the latest stuff from them. . And so what if we have not done the ‘incubation’ thing to its fullest extent. No one else does so why should we. Come on technology just works and its sexy to be the ones putting it out there. Right?

So here’s the thing. There are people out there who do incubate. They have learned their lesson. They remember the pain. These people create a culture where incubation is a positive thing. They build rigour and control into new technology adoption that is commensurate to their business and budget.  They  choose their battles to introduce new products. They engage supporters to help them build credibility. They treat people well and build skills and confidence with the technical teams. They bring support and others into the incubator. They are forceful with the stakeholders and push back to ensure appropriate time and money is spent on making sure something new is given the right amount of time to build up its strength. To ensure it is being monitored and kept safe.  To ensure all the background steps and processes are in place to make sure the project can survive when in the open. To ensure it can work with all the others components they support. And what is best of all. They make sure everyone who handles the incubated product knows they are and what is expected of them.

Now wish route is the most effective? Bish, Bash, Bosh sounds exciting and results are immediate. But too often after time the cracks appear and the impact is wide ranging, Negatively. Incubation may seem dull and a bit safe. There is little room to be risky and innovative. But you know what – after time the product matures and blends into what came before it. Positively.

Moral of this post? Continue to Bish, Bash, Bosh may win some early adopters; but may lose the people in the long run. Start incubating smartly and you will win more support in the long run.

Brummie.

Are you a Blender or a Grinder?

Which picture best suites your description of how IT runs in the organization you work in?

blendA blender?

Blended in terms of an IT organization is seen as the amalgamation of a number of different architectures, topologies, platforms, devices and services that have over a period of time ( usually decades ) become the cornerstone of the IT service. As organizations move from a Back Office to Front Office business model i.e. serving more and more external customers with mobile applications, self-service portals and social collaborative tools plus serving more and more internal customers with mobile applications, self-service portals and social collaborative tools  ( – the same basically ), they are faced with some significant mountains to climb as they ‘blend’ all the different legacy environments that have. Imagine a tree that has been recently felled. You will see rings and rings of ageing identifying specific growth timelines. An IT organisation is like this also as you peel away the decades of residual IT environments. Of course, the trick is having a ‘blender’ that allows you to mix your cocktail so good that no one can tell. But we know don’t we. We know that it doesn’t work out as smooth as the ‘smoothie’ in the blender and that there are obstacles to overcome. Which is why the blenders are very good at it. These guys can take all the different ingredients and take the rough with the smooth. This effectively means the ageing IT assets. The varied skill sets. The immature or ancient processes that appear out of nowhere. Or the sporadic adoption of IT across the business. The service desk that still hasn’t understood what a service catalogue is. They take all this and throw it into the ‘blender’ and introduce agile processes, new people, different working styles and forward thinking technology and create a blended IT service delivery that not only copes but also gives a level of competitive advantage. Should a business expect more. Perhaps but ripping and replacing exists in the movies – right?

Or maybe a grinder?

Grinding in terms of an IT infrastructure  is where there is a very clear and concise strategy focused single minded approach to move from one infrastructure model to another with a all encompassing goal to rip and replace what served us well before but is now deemed to be end of life or not fit for purpose. I am sure there are formal models for all this but In my world I see this as a decision perhaps that has ended up as an RFP/ITT process that seeks to move from one seam of technology to another. Take the humble desktop. The grind of moving to Windows 7 from Windows XP is very topical. But what about say web sites. Or email platforms. Or heavy lifting ERP or CRM applications.  Decisions to grind  are rarely taken lightly as they potentially incur the biggest business risk. Grinding the same coffee beans results in one outcome – the same coffee as you had before. However, this is how you like it of course. Coffee is a good analogy as we are all ‘experts’ now as we select our particular ground bean mixture and then either grind it ourselves or order from the counter. But in technology terms the grinder has its fors and againsts. Sure it is often easier to make a bold decision to move up a technology layer and say goodbye to the last. But there are often hidden issues as the migration looses momentum or skills are pulled to other projects, and too often a project that started out as a Grind ends up as a Blend as decisions are made to coexist for a lot longer than originally planned. Desktop projects are notorious for this. So are virtualization projects.  All start out with the best intentions but end up being blended. Applications that don’t work in the new world remain blended. People with skills in the last stuff remain blended with those who have the new skills. We love to say we can grind technology change but truthfully we end up blending.

Is there a theme here? Well I often see people  Blending when they should be Grinding ,or Grinding when they should be Blending. The difficultly is that one cannot blend everything in a IT infrastructure. Some things need to be ripped and replaced as quickly as possible and often it is a brutal action that causes heartache and pain but ends up with what you need. A single platform, application, service or blend. Some things must be blended. They need to be rolled out to specific groups, departments, VIPS and so on whilst leaving the masses in the previous state.

The skills to understand how to blend, to understand how to grind, to understand how to do both, to understand how to know which one to do, to understand how to know when to stop blending and start grinding,  For example you never find blenders in technology companies. Why? Well because they want you to grind from their last product to their new one. Some of their conscious and sensible professionals smartly advise customers to blend because they are  smart and realise it is the only way to adopt their new stuff but coexisting with their old stuff. Marketing people are grinders. They don’t do blending. They only want to talk about new stuff because their budgets cant be spent on last years news. The technology press are both – often in the same article. The industry overall swoons between blending smoothies and grinding beans!

So if you are working for a company that is more blender than grinder I suspect you will have a mix of platforms, people, skills and service outcome but with a plan to over time improve things.

So if you are working for a company that is more grinder than blender then I suspect you will have big projects with big bullish outcomes to rip and replace but sneakily may have a lot of incomplete projects on your books as you realise the blenders move in ( probably the finance people ) and ask you to slow down and work with what you have.

What am I? Overall I think I am a Blender; but I can be a Grinder. All in the same meeting as well 🙂

What are you?

Brummie.