Monthly Archives: July 2015

Can I achieve my goals with the same people ( thinking ) that created the situation I am in today?

Fast-vs-Slow-Lane300px

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them – so said Albert Einstein – yet you see lots of people playing lip service to the bimodal, two speed, dual highway conversation so often slated as being the only real way to affect business change and consequently, business success.

Gartner talk that by 2017 75 % of IT organisations will have bimodal capability which is the the concept that of having two speeds of IT, each designed to develop and deliver information- and technology-intensive services in its own way. Speed 1 is traditional, emphasizing scalability, efficiency, safety and accuracy. Speed 2 is non-sequential, emphasizing agility and speed

Whether it is the IT organisation itself,  supply chain partners,  senior board or their clients ( internal and external ),  the deep routed concern C levels are having is one that would resonate easily with Albert Einstein.

And this concern is this.

  • “Can I achieve my goals with the same people ( thinking ) that created the situation I am in today?”

I posted recently about the impact of experience and the relevance of deep routed experiences that go back more than 5 years, and whether it is less about the past years’ of experience but more about what is going to happen next and the ability to forward think, envision, visualise and then work back to get the job done.

And its really interesting when you get into the weeds.

Whether it is an Enterprise Architect, Service Delivery Manager, Solution Consultant or Sales Person, the ability to ‘switch lanes’ from slow to fast to slow then back to fast ( motorway analogy is probably not too well defined – apologies ) is very very difficult – if not impossible. And why?

Well for operational reasons and human characteristics the true definition of a bi modal person is quite often all about MINDSET, and it is quite often very hard to find consistency of approach from people who juggle between the proverbial motorway lanes depending on traffic flow and road conditions.

With the looming wave of very fast speed Two technological advancements – Intelligent Cloud and Internet of Things plus Machine Learning and Adaptive Analytics – the mindset challenge is accelerating in chunks of serious magnitude, and yet you see many organisations resting their future on the same people responsible for Speed One delivery functions on the anticipation that they are ‘good people’ and ‘keen to learn’.

Is this the right strategy? it may well be from an employee progression and career development perspective supporting workers to transition their skills and capabilities. For many this embracing of our existing talent pool is part and parcel of the DNA of any organisation and is a significant success factor that is now blossoming all over the corporate world today.

Yet for others the real question is this.

  • .” Do I actually need to separate Speed One and Speed Two people to let them do what they do well thus protecting my core whilst growing my edge, recognising individual talents and matching appropriately?”

And pretty much coming up from behind as a close second ( or perhaps first ) is this.

  • ” Do I have the right management team behind me ( my Number Twos ) who can diversify and switch daily between Speed One and Speed Two events ensuring that everything we do ( core and edge ) is still consistent with our principles, standards and policies building teams based on relevant ‘bimodal’ experiences to deliver results”.

Quite often organisations – whether they are IT which is the focus of this post or outside IT – are poor at dealing with these two questions preferring to labour on using well worn excuses of ” we don’t want to stabilise what we have” or ” we can easily do bimodal  –  people just need to step up to the plate or ‘think outside the box”.

No one has the answers – and being speed one or two or both or neither – is no sign of any personal weakness. However, for an IT organisation trying to adapt and remain relevant whilst surrounded by all the emerging ‘out tasked’ events like Shadow IT and outsourcing I believe that failure to at least identify how they can mobilise for a Speed Two event could be damaging to not only their team but also to their business.

So next time you are thinking about having a conversation with a C level person consider before you enter their office whether you have seen any tangible evidence of a bimodal organisation in operation, or whether you identify that all they are doing is ‘sending the same people out on the pitch’ regardless of the speed required.

Fascinating.

Brummie.

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The ‘tech’ experience clock goes through a reset; clearing space for ‘new’ ways of experiencing

Experiences

Go back just 5 years and reflect on the world we were living with in terms of technology.

First up consider your personal world back in 2010;

  • The Apple ipad was just being launched; As of April 2015, there have been over 250 million iPads sold
  • Snapchat hadnt been invited ( if you have kids you will know what this is ) ; by 2014 Snapchat announces that it has raised $485 million from 23 investors at a valuation of at least $10 billion
  • Candy Crush was still two years away ( if you have a partner you will know what this is ) ; by 2013 it had an average of 324Million users each month
  •  Netflix movie subscriptions were only a year old; by 2014 there were 50 million members
  • Instagram had only just been launched as a free mobile app; 4 years later it had 400 million subscribers
  • Oculus Rift was a prototype as the gaming world of virtual augmented reality was slowly emerging; in 2014, Facebook announced that it had agreed to buy Oculus VR for $400 million in cash.

Now consider the corporate IT world in 2010;

  • Virtualisation was still the dominant roadmap for workload consolidation and IT shops were still working through data center transformation projects; Cloud was still a private or public conversation and hybrid IT was unclear.
  • Shadow IT wasn’t a term; neither was BYOD, and mobile device management was in its infancy.
  • Openstack has only just been launched by Rackspace and NASA as the open source community’s answer to cloud lock in; and Oracle was still two years away from their Cloud position and Apple iCloud was not mainstream
  • Microsoft CEO – Steve Ballmer – was standing up in University of Washington saying he was betting the company on cloud computing  with his ‘we all are in’ ( the cloud) speech; 12 months later, Microsoft commits 90% of its $9.6bn R&D budget to Cloud
  • 3D print was still really called Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM ) and had not entered the popular ‘geek speak’ world Internet of Things (IoT ) was still a best kept secret and the first economic and commercial prototypes were coming out from people like LG with their LG announces it’s first Internet refrigerator plans; by 2020 it is predicted 75 billion devices will be connected to the internet
  • Gartner had not coined the Nexus of Forces – the coming together of market forces – Social, Cloud, mobility and information; and ‘being digital’ was more likely to refer to TV signal than a business roadmap.

And this list can go on and on but reflect that for the first time ever in our lives have we blended our personal and corporate experiences together – learning together, sharing together and putting whatever happened before to the back of our minds.

In effect, resetting our experience clock.

But we have all seen this before – remember 1999? remember the first PC? Remember the days of mainframe? OK so maybe none of us were actually in work in these times but one thing is for sure – the pace of technological change is moving at a faster pace than ever before, and ever indication is that our ‘experience clock’ is going to go through several ‘resets’ as we move out old experiences ( because we genuinely don’t need them any more ) and refresh ourselves with a whole new learning and experience currency. A bit like getting used to a new language where you are not allowed to use your native tongue.

And here is the real rub.

Our experiences have made us what we are today – Subject Matter Experts. An awful term but very popular. SMEs in technology are common place and much sought after. Whether you are a back office IT SME or a ‘app dev’ SME or a business analyst SME, these skills have been honed over many years through certification, on the tools , hard knocks, lessons learned and down right ‘in the weeds’ experiences. And please don’t underestimate what this means. Significant.

Yet despite this our ‘experience clock’ is being reset around us.

You see over these years ( maybe 5 or 10 ) a change has come about that for many has been an unconscious event that didn’t need to worry us – after all we have decades of experience. We are SMEs aren’t we?

This change which I believe is resetting a lot of our experience clocks is to do with the following;

  • Businesses changed their language; businesses didn’t want to talk about technology on its own.
  • Businesses hired business people to take over CIO roles; IT senior management teams are more like business groups.
  • Businesses produced business plans that were more like 30 day plans demanding output from IT that would have been unthinkable 5 years and just plain impossible 10 years ago.
  • Businesses started talking bimodal and speed and demanding business aligned IT plans that were not just paper; expecting IT organisations to restructure from top down to create momentum to directly influenced sales performance, customer engagement and increased revenues booked.
  • Businesses worried about endless product conversations focused on features ; businesses stopped projects that were failing rather than grinning and bearing; service was turned on its head and the customer really did call the shots.
  • Businesses understood words like velocity, volume, variety and know the value of compute turning rich veins of traditional computing business into commodity and ‘click’ consumption
  • Businesses looked to the IT organisation to become a business – to act like one and to take accountability; ground up changes drove people traction, new role definitions and ultimate customer engagement.

And it is because of this that I believe the experience clock of the ‘industry’ was being reset.

Reset in terms of developing new skills and talents that became more well defined and sharper as the challenges of the customer and business become so new that the decades of experience of being a ‘IT pro’ or ‘sales guy’  fast lose their relevance.

Being relevant suddenly becomes more important; whether it is how you make money in this new world or how you demonstrate you have up to date skills. After all being a deep SME relying on your ‘legacy’ and ‘depth of experience’ may be under the spotlight, especially as the conversation becomes less about the technology and what it meant 5, 10 , 15 years ago,  and more about business workload transformation, hybrid architectures, data governance and digital workplace.

In essence, right to left thinking took over left to right thinking and ‘product SMEs’ were being replaced by ‘outcome SMEs’., focused on how ‘being digital’ was the overriding strategy relevant to anything technology biased.Just like we have all moved our TV experiences from the analog world to the digital entertainment highway, so has the business reset their expectation from ‘the past’ to ‘the future’.

Predicting and building for what is coming becomes possibly more interesting, not in some wishy washy crystal ball way, but in true pragmatic ‘ this is what we need to do ‘ style, leveraging your most recent experiences with a blend of anticipation and experimentation.

Who was it that coined the phrase ” We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them” ? Yes – Albert Einstein. Astute comment and every business needs some of their people to be in this camp – not of all them though!!

To close the days of being a fountain of all knowledge – the guru or the SME – is fast changing, and whilst totally relevant and in demand, does need to sit alongside a whole new breed of ‘experience’ workers. These workers emerge not just from the young person bucket, but from people who have become unshackled from the the analog world,  immersed in keeping apace with the speed of the business and aligned thinking about how technology can affect change. Such people are so far ahead of the thought curve that they are In fact ahead of the business, as they race to anticipate new experiences, and to identify what the business is going to need to remain productive and relevant.

And the most exciting aspect of all this is when you meet such ‘experience clock resetters’ you will realise they have mastered a way of knowing where there old experiences are, but blended an acute sense of knowing when to press the reset and come up with ‘new stuff’ that people want.

Brummie.

What makes a good consultant

As I typed the word consultant I immediately realised my mistake.

coach

The technology world has ( and is going through ) faster and faster cycles of change. Like its predecessor – The Industrial Revolution – The Digital Era is all about speed, acceleration and route to market. Never before has clarity existed in what technology can do for a business, and never before has the human interaction with technology been so immersed.

Of course the nett impact of this speed of change is felt no more acutely than in the human aspect. The worker is now supposed to be a Digital Worker, and the IT support person is now supposed to be a Service Orientated colleague. And the IT supplier is now supposed to be a partner.

The Digital Era is unquestionably rewriting job roles, functions, descriptions and ultimately value expectations from the intended benefactor.

And so we arrive at the Consultant.

For decades the Consultant was that person who had strong SME skills in a particular range of technology and was called upon to deliver the commercial coup de grace by evangelising to the audience why a particular piece of technology was a ‘no brainer’ for an immediate purchase.

Many consultants will have privately ( and publicly no doubt ) expressed a view that it is ‘they’ who actually did the selling.

At this point let me tell a little story.

Someone I know has a role where they have horizontal and vertical capability in a number of technology and commercial stacks. Actually this is doing them a disservice because their background as a senior leader at CIO level and in a specific industry segment has earned them the right to be called a thought leader. They have the tools experience of actually delivering business change but can also back this up with real world experience of how things get done.

This person calls themselves a consultant.

In action this person has a particular trait that I believe makes them less a consultant in the traditional sense ( listen, question, challenge, capture and go away and propose something ) but more of a Coach.

You see this person does something I rarely see in consultants today.

Faced with the challenge that getting a message across or helping the person the other side of the table understand how their business challenges could be resolved, this person does something ridiculously simple yet so powerful.

They give something away that the other person wants and that they didn’t expect to get.

Call it free advice if you want, or more accurately I like to call it deep insight.

Deep because they can in short time understand the business challenge the other person is facing, clarify the desired outcome and through visual means articulate an approach that not only meets the desired outcome but draws in other sub layer challenges that the other person is also facing, without often knowing they existed. They are so sharp and adept that they can in short time capture, compute and effectively ‘strawman’ an outcome, but in such a subtle way that they appear to be coaching the other person to make the right decisions based on their ‘initial story telling’.

At a recent meeting I was fortunate to attend, the conversation being played out was all about the impact of change and the application of significant heavy lifting infrastructure projects – some technology, some not – but all of them very expensive in terms of capital, human and environmental outcome.

This person through nothing more powerful than a single piece of paper articulated visually the journey for the business change programme in terms of impact and outcome, and also embraced the impact of unintended consequences of the change. This visualisation was more than a hand drawn scribble that we all do at times as we try and relay our message. No this was a hand draw scribble that had depth in understanding and clarity of vision.

And the really impressive aspect was the body language of the other people – very senior stakeholders. As the scribble was been drawn in front of their eyes physical changes occurred. Bodies lent forward, chairs were bought closer to the table and necks were craned to take a good luck at the single piece of paper coming alive in front of them.

And what was the beautiful moment for me was that at the end of the meeting there was that subtle pause where the senior people (lets  call them Client now) desperately wanted the piece of paper but were unsure whether to ask, and the person – (lets call him Coach now )- who in their eyes owned such powerful IP just lent across and pushed the paper to them saying ‘you can take this of course – not a problem’.

In that moment a human transaction had occurred to such an extent that a level of trust was established, so often missing in the traditional consultant/client relationship.

it was pure deep insight delivered in such an accelerated manner that was so not expected, yet created a bond of trust and confidence that the follow up meeting proposal or presentation was already being engineered by both parties in a mutual not supplier approach.

It wasn’t over complicated and oozed clarity around the business problem and the solution all delivered on a single piece of paper with a sketch of the journey and outcome. No fancy slides, interactive device nor chalk and talk pitch.

As I reflect on this true story I actually am not sure if Coach is even the right title for this piece of consultancy.Perhaps the title doesn’t exist today but I am pretty sure as the Digital Era enters more phases of transformation and alignment of the ‘tech’ with business outcomes, people like my Coach example will surface with their own particular style of ‘giving something away for free that the other person wants but didn’t know it.’

Brummie.

The CIO is important but ignore the Number Two at your peril

Number Two

Type the word CIO into a browser and you will be swamped with analysis about the evolving role that these leaders find themselves transforming into. The emergence of all things Digital have raised the profile of the ‘person who manages IT’ to a level never witnessed before, with the influence that the CIO can have on a business success deep and far reaching.

The title CIO has powerful connotations whether it is because of the financial responsibility for delivering an effective IT service, or having being the ‘innovation engine’ that drives technological change that in turn drives business process improvement. The stretch from traditional Back Office IT ‘direction’ through to Front Office ‘direction’ is considerable and many new hire CIOs are less focused on the commodity Back Office, and spend their time embedded in the business working with peers to effect true business change through better use of information, application modernisation and ‘all things digital’.

Many in fact see the CIO role as being the stepping stone to becoming CEO with digitisation being the ‘right of passage’ to the main job.

Yet as one reflects on the CIO and the thirst in the sales community to ‘make sure you are talking to the CIO’ there is quite often an overlooked person that in many cases is equally or more important that the CIO themselves.

Take a look at the household technology giants for glimpses of the power of the Number Two and their rise to the top.

  •  Without question Apple would not be the force it is today if Jobs had not had the foresight to appoint Tim Cook when he did.
  • Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to add a second-in-command to his burgeoning social media empire showed a mature recognition that he couldn’t be alone at the top and needed someone with different skills. Sheryl Sandberg, brought management savvy and government relations experience, both essential to an expanding high-profile company.
  • Ballmer as 2IC to Gates at Microsoft.

Number Twos are those unheralded heroes that sit just to the right or the left of the leader.

  • They liberate their leader from tasks and concerns thus freeing up tine to concentrate on the ‘big issue’.
  • They enlighten and regularly inform their leader ensuring that only the ley developments and prevailing discussions are bought to their attention.
  • They are authentic avoiding the need to stroke their leader’s ego but instead hold up a mirror and reflect their true self.
  • They quite often in public situations take the lead and drive the solution demonstrating a total alignment to their leader’s vision and direction.
  • They are the person behind the wheel of the ‘Speed Two BiModal’ IT change organisation.
  • They may quite often ‘own’ the decision you are looking for.

A Number Two therefore can be the most important person in an IT organization – not knowing this can be very damaging indeed.

These Number Two types are very hard to find, and many organisations are weakened by having a big gap between their CIO and the IT team making decisions hard to execute on the ground. Many CIOs arrive at new posts with their previous Number Two in tow  – a bit like football coaches.

A strong Number Two is the stakeholder at the coalface. They have a really important role, as they work closely with the CIO to understand the rhythm of the business and technological imperative, and translate vision and strategy into pragmatic activities.

  • They may have an organisational remit to structure people and suppliers to deliver the goals leaving the CIO to strategize business development and strategic intent.
  • They may have the technological remit to drive innovation incubators to deliver speed and agility.
  • They may own the service element of the IT business and manage back office functions and service fulfillment.
  • They may control procurement and spend across business units.
  • They may own the development arm of business applications and so on.
  • They will run the CIO office either formally due to governance expectations or less formally based on personality and physical location. ( I know one CIO who has organised the desk layout in such a way that despite committing to an open door policy to all his staff has ensured that no one can actually get near his desk without walking past his Number Two (s ) – yes he had several ).

Some may flip between all of these. And this is key.

The Number Two is in all respects the CIO, bathed in the same insight, behaviour and challenging style.

For many you don’t get to see the CIO ever without going through the Number Two.  Some say the Number Two is the hardest audience of them all, because they  not only mirror the CIO in many personal traits but also have an edge in conversations driven by their oversight to where priorities need to be set, reset and redirected. ( Note – if you find you are always meeting the CIO on their own I would question the meeting – without the Number Two present question how will actions from your meeting be communicated and executed. Don’t fail to challenge the solo meeting – it will pay dividends and it will at worst challenge what the meeting really is about.)

So why is this all important?

Well if you are looking to get the pulse of an IT organisation, because you are a sales person or seeking to further your career, the age old adage of ‘get to know the CIO’ and ‘do you have a relationship with the C person’ may actually not be doing you any favours. Because even if you strike lucky and get an audience with the CIO, any CIO worth their salt will have their Number Two in the room, and you will find that all the dialogue flows through that person, and it is that person who you will follow up with ( subject to how well you did of course).

Whether you know it or not your ‘proposal’ or ‘pitch’ will be going through the Number Two who will be giving honest critical feedback to the CIO in quite often the most classic thumbs up , thumbs down motion. Brutal but it is what it is. Be wary.

Any tips therefore?

Well apart from the obvious the importance of getting to know the Number Two cannot be overstated.

Put in the extra legwork to fully understand how the Number Two role operates, where it has influence ( or not ), what works in terms of presentation approach, what key messages are important ( or not ),  how are decisions communicated into the CIO and back down to the troops.

So when asked if you have a good relationship with the CIO, pause and consider whether you can actually say “Yes I do, but my relationship with the Number Two is where I get all the real business done”.

 

Brummie.