Monthly Archives: May 2014

Codify Speed Two I.T organisations

A two speed world is emerging. The slow down in the developed world of Europe and North America, and the speed of growth in the BRIC nations , has radically altered the business landscape. Remember the recession? Well this has a lot to do with this. organizations how have to rethink strategies for go to market propositions often requiring a speed that would have been unthinkable in the early 2000s.

Competing with traditional competitors for the high margin business is now merged with differentiating with foreign and smaller competitors in low margin high volume markets. Doing what they did in the those heady days of the 1990s doesn’t cut it anymore. Innovation is now no longer a buzz word, and agile processes to create business models quickly to create market share are now normal. People use the world lean in ways never dreamt of before in the wider economy, and the disciplines of the manufacturing sector for codifying how ‘things get done’ are smashing together with the world of digital marketing where ‘things get done bloody dam quickly’ to create products and services that 10 years would have taken a decade to build a value proposition, client base and sustainable profit margin business.

These organizations battling the challenges of running at two speeds are working hard to manage the transactional side of their speed one business ( which they need to maintain for their classic client motion ) whilst developing agile and innovation goods and services that open up new markets, stand up new initiatives and compete aggressively in the digital marketplace against timescales unthinkable a few years ago. They have mastered the art of codifying what they need to do and then just get on with it.

And then there is the IT organisation. Stuck in the middle of this speed for growth now facing identical challenges for a two speed world yet lacking a way of codifying what a Speed Two IT service looks like. On the one hand ( Speed One ) there is the traditional transactional nature of running an IT service necessary to support the business to do business. Pretty much in the 21st century this is a function best outsourced to the automatons of cloud and managed service providers with a twist of local control and subject matter experts. Technology like virtualisation and broadband has simplified running IT to a keeping the lights on activity.

And on the other there is the ‘de facto’ speed two digital strategies – social, mobile cloud and information – that are now considered to be the battle card of the modern CIO and CMO. Or put succinctly the Nexus of Forces as per Gartner Research.

Lets delve a little deeper and set some context. An IT organisation might be a client but it could equally be a supplier of goods and services or a niche IT consulting practice. It may be an old fashioned word but the Channel is a nice word to sum up the people on the other side of the client fence.

The characteristics of a Speed One IT organisation versus a Speed Two IT organization quite often is dramatic and can be summarized as below.

The words I use are deliberately emotive, and the truth is that neither speed one nor speed two is better than the other. In fact the sum of the two halves ( or speeds ) is actually what makes and IT organization strong.

But let me pick out two phrases in my little diagram.

(1) Have long experience clocks – a mouthful but one very telling characteristic of a Speed One IT organisation where the bulk of the people have ‘been there’ for a long period of time, and whilst have seen a lot of technological change, may lack the ‘agility’ and ‘foresight’ to provide Speed Two guidance to the organisation’s business leaders. Again this may also embrace IT sales people, consultants and management layers. No one is immune from the risk that ‘staying too long in a Speed One track’ gives you only a one sided view, which whilst was fine in the early 21st century is now considered as a ‘negative’ if the person the other side of the desk is a Speed Two type.

(2) Nexus of Forces – a group of people that are totally aligned to how the four characteristics of  the Nexus of Forces, and can take the Speed One components of an IT infrastructure and build services that allow the organization to compete faster and smarter. Typically these people are not the same people with the long experience clocks of working in the same organization. They tend to move about picking up relevant skills and insight that help them build their capability and relevancy. The latter word is key. Often these people are not readily accepted by Speed One people, and suffer from a round of internal politics.

Critics of this definition of Speed One and Speed Two for an IT organization will cry out that there is no distinction, and that the industry are now fully intertwined into both speeds. Other critics will say that all this talk of Speed Two is fluff and lacks the governance and structure of what running an IT organization is all about.

I disagree.

People who diss the idea that having a Speed Two focus is necessary are seeking ways of codifying the discussion before they accept it. They live in a world that has mature processes and controls that allow the Speed One transactional business to thrive. There is nothing wrong with this at all.  Yet any one who turns up and ‘talks’ in a Speed Two manner often attract uncertainty and doubt – “if it doesn’t have a part number or serial code then we cant sell it”. The irony is that the Nexus of Forces presents many ways of codifying success and it those Speed Two organisations that have just gotten on with it who are reaping the benefits.

I heard an anecdotal example of an IT business that decided to become Speed Two and setup a separate business stream alongside the cash cow transactional business which was running a risk of declining. Originally they thought that the Speed One business would decline and the Speed Two business would grow. In fact, they found that both sides of their house grew because the cross fertilization of skills and passion for success become endemic. They had a way of codifying the Speed Two business. and had Speed Two people who kept the Speed One people close and spent time ensuring

At the end of the day it boils down to two things for me.

  • Organisations that decide to become a Speed Two business yet decide to do it ‘next year’ or ‘next month’ may often be left behind. Strategy in serial may not cut it anymore.
  • Organisations that decide to run in parallel their Speed One and Speed Two operations have a fantastic chance of success.

There is no guarantee and hard work is a bedfellow of both speed one and two – of course.

Dam – I meant to describe how to Codify a Speed Two IT organization. Sorry. Another time.

 P.S. Remember the cloud is not a part number!!!!!! 



To move on we need to first unlearn


There is a school of thought that our brains are not in fact, hard wired from birth, but actually soft wired. The brain was thought to be hardwired to functions in predetermined ways,  but it now seems that this is not true. We may all remember hearing teachers and family tell us that our genes dictated our thoughts, emotions and behavior. In the 1980s the media filled our heads with thoughts on how genetics predetermined everything we experienced. Now neuroscientists are telling us that our brain is quite plastic and that our brains are modified by our experiences throughout our life.

Of course there are strong arguments for and against what I am saying, and thankfully just being an IT person and not a neouroscientist made me think about posting this blog. I see far too many times examples of ‘hardwired-ness’ in peoples’ behaviour as they do their IT jobs. Hardwired-ness is the word I have made up to describe the behaviour that “demonstrates that people are still thinking and learning in the past as they go about their day’s at work”.

Three examples to kick this along a bit.

(1) Why is that in this age of cloud, always on, tactile touch access to anything that the world of selling still follows age old characteristics -“Whats the agenda for the meeting” or “when will get the proposal”.

Of course we need to know what meetings are about, and we need proposals to agree the language of a commercial opportunity, but as we strive to unlearn and soften our brains, we may learn new ways of running a meeting, setting the scene, framing the conversation and presenting our solutions. After all we are surrounded with bundles of technological innovation that makes it  possible to get what we want with any interaction with anyone.  Amazon, Apple and E-Bay have mastered this softening of the brain to attract us all to their products and services without any of the hardwired baggage we were so used to “speaking to sales people” or ” i like to see what I am buying first”. Through our unlearning of what we used to know, our brains have now been ‘experienced’ to buy our stuff on line, immediately and without having to speak to anyone. We have all effectively unlearned the traditional ways of doing commerce and our children without this hard wiring are making the world even more soft-brained for their children.

I recall a meeting where a supplier turned up ( he was young ) , took no notes,  yet two hours later sent me an email with a link to a video of himself outlining my Why, his How and the What. Slick , agile and very soft-brained!!

(2) Why is it that in this age of mobile freedom and new ways of working, that the world of IT management still follows age old characteristics – “Whats the asset tag of the machine you are using”, “

Of course we need to track assets and managing the core IT infrastructure is a fundamental function of any business today. Assets cost money and we must account for what we spend. After all assets are the things that we use, share with others and search for. But now the world of work is transforming how we use assets, and what these assets actually do for us. Our world of work and life is becoming an asset rich environment where we rely on ‘machines’ to control our lives and keep us safe. One look at what IBM is doing with their Smarter Planet strategy and cities of the future, really does indicate what ‘smart assets’ are really about.

(3) Why is it that in this age of Speed do we have strategies, policies and frameworks that conspire to make our ‘hour at work’ really hard work in terms of getting even the most simple things done – VPNs to access client server tools,  barriers to socio-corporate collaboration , hand cranked IT service desk requests and so on.

Of course we need controls and governance on how we use IT at work. Organizations need to protect their brand,intellectual property and oversee what their workers are doing. However, it is a well known belief that the most successful organizations are the ones that empower their people by  putting in  place environments that make the ‘hour at work’ the most productive as possible. Can you imagine how many 60 minutes make up the average enterprise organization each day? Hundreds of thousands and if a ‘soft wired’ approach to providing productivity could be applied, how many more minutes would be available to help that organization  serve more customers and sell more product? Hard wired IT organizations too often struggle to realise the potential they have to make a real impact to making their ‘customers’ more productive.

Some of us will have already unlearned some of our hard wired experiences from the days of sales training, technical training and proposal writing events. Some of us will have developed more agile styles for presenting solutions or writing that compelling one page Exec Summary. Using visualisation is a perfect example of how we can unlearn from the days of static one dimensional slides and content, into more living and interactive data points to help drive home our value propositions. For many this is now the norm and their brains have totally unlearned from their past experiences, and are now searching for new experiences to let them soften their brain even more.

Now controversially I am going to say that for people who have not embraced the ‘cloud’ then it is very likely that their brains are still hardwired, and any opportunity to sell more innovative solutions is lost until they soften their brain, and unlearn first. Speed Two organizations demonstrate this ‘unlearning’ in abundance and have put in place sensible controls to still maintain the governance for Speed One functions. Put simply – they have mastered the art of “keeping the lights on, while changing the light bulbs”.

You can see the signs of organizations moving into this soft-brained thinking with appointments of Speed Two C level leaders, treating buildings with a different lens to transform working environments, introducing Systems of Innovation to empower workers to have more productive 60 minute experiences and building networks of coaches and visionaries to keep them true and to stop their ‘brains’ becoming hard wired again.

Fascinating stuff don’t you think?