Category Archives: Uncategorized

If all you had was 60 minutes with a buyer then try a 9 box grid

Only 22% of buyers belie60 minutesve traditional sales engagements actually make progress.











If all you had was 60 minutes to make a difference with a buyer what would you do.

We all remember of course (fondly or not ) the classic elevator pitch approach to capturing the interest of a prospective buyer. When all you had was the elevator journey to stamp your ‘why buy from me’, then your pitch was everything. Or at least it used to be.

Research tells us that from a buyers’ perspective the more traditional elevator pitches do not work. Comments like “sales people talk too much about themselves”, and “it feels like an interrogation and not a real dialogue” do not bode well . And when we reflect on our own personal buying preference we can probably empathize.

So why 60 minutes to make a difference?

Firstly, it is feasible that most potential buyers’ will give you 60 minutes of their time. Why?

60 minutes is a convenient slot in a calendar — neither too long nor too short. Concentration levels will probably sustain, and it suggests enough time to get across a subject with a positive outcome. One cup of coffee should do it.

Furthermore, if your brand is strong enough to warrant the time, then a buyer will give it you. Intellectual curiosity often wins over skepticism and cynicism of the more traditional ‘can I book some time with you’ approach. Getting them interested in you and what you have to say will always win — and a buyer will give you the time.

So now you have the 60 minutes booked, let me present the 9 Box Grid. ( read Right to Left please ).

The 9 Box Grid — From the Buyers’ perspective

The rules are very simple. You can draw it on a whiteboard, formalize in a slide ( if you have to ?), draw on your writing pad, use PostIT notes, scribble on a napkin even, or just bounce around in your head as the conversation flows.

Why 3? Well as a race the human likes to group things in threes. Three ghosts in Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, three levels of Olympic medal for Gold, Silver, Bronze, and three primary colours — Red, Blue and Yellow. And as humans we need to breathe air, eat food and drink water to survive. Another 3. ( If you go looking for it, you often find it — right? ).

And importantly, if you only have 60 minutes how many items can you discuss and reach a positive outcome. More than 3? How much more? 4? 5? 10? Run the risk of complexity and confusion? Better to stick to the point so you can guarantee that second meeting?

So the first set of boxes you focus on is all about WHAT IS IMPORTANT to the buyer. Call it their business imperative, strategic intent, short term goal or long term aspiration, the buyer will know this. Something they are measured against. A KPI or target. Whatever is the most appropriate language it is crucial you capture this. In fact, you cannot move forward until you do!

At this point you are using the 9 box grid to let the buyer feel that they own the content and are in charge of the conversation. Your job is to paint the frame and the purpose (to let you align what you have that relates to the important things that the buyer cares about ).

Remember its all about empathy and being in the shoes of the buyer. Yes, you can think about these intents and imperatives and do your homework on business plans, vision statements and industry norms, but there is nothing like letting the buyer share with you their version. After all, there is only correct answer — theirs!!!

The second set of boxes is called WHY IS IT IMPORTANT or put more simply, what does their heart say.

Yes their Heart. The ‘fire in their belly’. What really really matters to them. What is their personal goal, whether it is a career progression, a bonus payment or a competitive streak to win, we all have our own version of this. Or pure ego. We all have this so make sure we find out.

Some buyers will of course show theirs’ on their sleeves, others will never expose unless there is a strong level of trust and mutual understanding. Again moving past this point without capturing some level of personal stake can be a mistake. The skill is finding out and often the direct question “So why is this important to you personally” can often get the desired result.

And finally, every buyer you meet is either DOING SOMETHING OR THINKING ABOUT DOING SOMETHING. Rarely are they sitting their waiting for you to turn up and inspire them. If only it were that easy!

The 9 box is now complete, and you probably have 20 minutes left.

At this stage you now need to go through the usual reflection, playback and verification stage, where you use your industry experience ( colleagues or tools ) to sharpen your understanding of what you have heard. Clarification questions and all the usual building your knowledge will kick in.

If you have chosen the right person in terms of adjacency to your value proposition, and steered your way through the 9 box grid, then you should be in a good place with about 5 minutes left.

The 9 Box Grid — from the sellers perspective

As you eye the clock and focus on a positive outcome to close the time, you should be by now thinking 3 things;

  1. How does my value proposition line up? If you have done your research, know your solution well and have the appropriate backup then this should work. In fact, what should happen is that you can identify ways to ‘chunk up’ your value statements by connecting to what you have heard from the buyer. Now is the time to reflect back to the buyer how you can help. Don’t lose that opportunity — doing it later often will fall on deaf ears.
  2. How can I demonstrate that my organization has the relevant capability to demonstrate tangible evidence that we are ‘good to go’ with helping the buyer with their needs? This is where you can weave in a few anecdotal stories of previous success — provided relevant to the buyer’s 9 box grid. Don’t go all random and woolly just to be able to say something.
  3. Am I gaining enough trust to start to close the 60 minute session and move on? Am I in a position to (A) go away and execute on in a prompt way, and (B) gain the commitment from the buyer that we are now sufficiently engaged and have a way forward — together. ( Am I in the 22% of buyers’ who believe there is progress?).

For the seller there are some skills that are needed of course. Simply throwing up a 9 box grid in the hope all the magic flows and orders start to appear is not what is being suggested.

9 box grid is a simple frame. It is a starting point. It is place to focus what matters for both of you. It demonstrates balance between you and the buyer.

You still need to be a great listener. You still need to observe body language and non verbal signals as you work through the 60 minutes. You still to know when to encourage and suggest the direction as you steer the 9 box grid to meet your outcomes too. Remember you are there to make a difference — not just for the buyer but for yourself too!

60 minutes can fly by if you are on a roll — or if you are making a difference :-).

“You can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.” — Dale Carnegie


How a visit to Bletchley Park gives an insight into how the Internet of Things came about

Whether you have seen films portraying Alan Turing or whether you have actually been to Bletchley Park itself, the media interest in all things codes and how breaking the Enigma cryptographic shorten WW2  is great material in our thirst for history and insight into how our technological world has developed.

In brief, Bletchley Park is the story of a labyrinth of buildings, staffed by thousands of code breakers, mathematicians, linguists and analysts  who began by tackling the insurmountable ( and believed impossible ) task of breaking the codes used by German forces.

You will be immersed in a world of machinery or things of all shapes and sizes, all designed with the specific purpose of automating the analysis of many different cryptographic systems. One glimpse of the Enigma machine engineering  up close, or the Colossus machine with its pulleys and flashing lights, will I’m sure make you realise the extent to which mankind needed to use machines to solve a real world and life threatening ( business ) problem.

You see back in those days, the mathematicians and code-breakers of Bletchley Park faced a business problem that in many ways has echoes of the problems our businesses face today.

The nature of the German cryptographic systems and the extensive communication network spread wide across all spheres of battle covering thousands of square miles, meant that the British teams were faced with a very real Big Data challenge. In fact a 159 Million, Million, Million possible settings every day challenge!

The German forces had created an enormous network of connected machines ( called Engima ) that they used to drive their operations forward. The British forces faced with the challenge of understanding their enemy’s next steps, built machines to ‘crack the code’ and give their leaders’ the actionable insight necessary to protect forces, save lives and ultimately, shorten the war. In a way, the British ‘connected the unconnected’ to solve their problem.

Every day the wheel settings of the German machines were changed, meaning the window to collect, process, analyse and compute to an actionable outcome created a volume and velocity of data that outweighed any previous human effort to draw out the intelligence hidden in the messages intercepted.

The Bletchley Park code-breakers’  had less than 18 hours every day to understand the Enigma machine settings and start reading the stream of messages, in search for the intelligence that they could use to help divert convoys, redirect forces and give military planners time to ‘think’.

Hence the confidence from the German military that the messages they were transmitting at a huge scale across their network would be safe from any eavesdropping. In effect, the British could hear the messages but were thwarted by the sheer size of the data and the velocity of possible interpretations of the messages. Humans were not the answer, and a machine was needed to overcome what was believed to be a problem that our brains couldn’t ‘think quickly enough’.

Put like this the work at Bletchley Park is an incredibly relevant metaphor for the business challenges today.  It is becoming clear that those businesses that survive and prosper are those that think differently, and have the ability to generate more value from information they already collect. The ability to connect things together, whether it is a machine talking to another machine to optimse a business process,  or a machine that collects data and passes it to a software component that exposes previously hidden information, is at the heart of a digitally forward thinking business.

For the Germans and British the concept of ‘things’ were the machines used to transmit, receive and decrypt data. Yet for a modern business, these ‘things’ are very different machines but the outcome is very similar.  In both scenarios, the goal was the need to get better insight into data. In the case of WW2, the prize was a very serious and human story-line. In the case of a modern business, the goal is often the ability to improve customer experience, create new business lines or optimise the performance of a particular operational process.

For this I believe, there is total synergy between the work at Bletchley Park and a modern business. 70 years later, businesses are realising that the inability of current methods to collect  and crunch data to gain  insight to drive an action is what is slowing them down. Just like the code-breakers who used machines to put them back in the battle during WW2, business leaders’ are using machines to put them back into their opportunities to gain competitive edge.

So if you have an inquisitive and open minded side  then it might be worth a trip down to Bletchley Park, especially if you are responsible for making decisions on how your business needs to think differently.  You may be excited with what you see, and I hope you gain a little insight into how to use machines to collect invaluable actionable insight.

And worse case I am convinced you will have a great day out! And a nice cup of tea as well.



Why 5 3 1 thinking may influence technology spend from now on

5 3 1


With the onslaught of the digital era, and the identification of business functions that need to move from their analog world into a more digital driving force, the way IT organisations’ place their financial ‘chips’ is going to change.

For many years there was a well-trodden business practice in IT circles that dictated that the cost of providing technology and support services running an organisations’ systems of record. This dictated that a percentage of overall annual revenue would be allocated to capital and operational spending on technology.

The percentage allocated would vary by company and industry, but commonly expenditure was split between Capital or Operating budgets ( CAPEX or OPEX ), and depending on the sector again, how goods and services were paid for was dependent largely on how cash was attributed and recognised.

This relatively easy to understand characteristic allowed suppliers and customers to build sustainable business engagements as they collaborated to meet IT project plans and sales targets respectively. The annual cycle of IT spending profiles would align itself with the corporate budget planning rounds, and depending on whether the organisation was either a proactive or passive consumer of technology, the allocation on capital asset acquisition versus operational services would be verified.

Business Analysts would engage with the business units to capture and articulate specific IT projects and the requisite funding needed. All of this work rolled up into the budget submission, and CIOs and their supply chain waited with baited breadth to understand their ‘spend’ opportunity for the next 12 months or so. Buckets called ‘core ‘, ‘shared ‘ and ‘department’ as the financial chart of accounts mobilised to track expenditure and ownership of assets and project governance.

It was in this period that well worn phrases like “keeping the lights on” and “running the bank” were born, as CIOs’ were directed by their boss (usually a CFO ) to reduce the operational costs of delivering IT services, and ‘free up’ cash to do something ‘innovative’.

Indeed, I recall a CFO I reported into who used to say “Paul, you can ask me about anything, so long as it doesn’t cost anything”. Harsh but consistent with the commitment to apply more command and control to the perceived out of control spending on technology. Tactics were therefore developed by CIOs’ to sharpen the proverbial pencil on IT spending, and a kit bag of standard initiatives became the motto of the CIO to their teams.

The forces of influence are many for this situation to occur. The shareholders want more share, the board in return want to see products hitting existing markets faster and they want new markets to emerge. Programmes already in flight suddenly take on more urgency with the advent of cloud, DevOps and race to the bottom cost models for the raw compute. The supply chain begins to reinvent itself with more aligned managed services that aimed to be ready for these cost cutting programmes by delivering fixed price models, scale up scale down models and more innovative service options to support the growing need for resources and just in time infrastructure.

Starting with the phrase “Do more with less” , CIOs’ would go on campaigns to reduce the operational costs of running the shop, and introduce processes that evaluated their portfolio of IT projects and determine the extent to which each one supports long-term business goal in the organisation.

A “standardise wherever possible” mantra would cut through supply chain lists and reduce the number of vendors and partners in trading relationships,  and use standard building blocks like virtualisation to create simpler IT environments that are easier and less expensive to manage.

And as the world of work changed as people became more mobile, the CIOs’ would start segmenting their users and move away from the ‘One-size-fits-all solutions” that rarely work today. CIOs’ would now use technology to provide users with the functionality that they need to do their job, but resist having too many user profiles will increase cost and support costs. Finally, CIOs’ were driven to settle for a “good enough” where possible strategy working on the principle that solutions are usuallyappropriate for 70 percent of your IT requirements.

Why is all this relevant in the digital era of technology investment?

Well it’s because the thinking behind how IT budgets are constructed in the future is changing to meet the intuitive capability that organisations’ demand from their IT colleagues. I read somewhere that Gartner believe that considerably more CIOs’ distinguish themselves alongside general managers in their ability to think intuitively, and create opportunity to build more benefit from technology and supporting services with strong dexterity and insight.

I believe therefore that conversations around IT expenditure with CIOs’ are transforming ( as we may be experiencing already ) from the classic Capex versus Opex approach to a more fluid or more accurately, evolving modus operandi that I sense has a 5 – 3 – 1 rhythm.

And in this rhythm, I see CIOs’ having more and more conversations that go like this.

  • “I can see ahead for the next 5 years what the core technology building blocks I am going to need to replace, optimise and develop necessary to deliver the business vision”.
  • ” I can see a cost model to support and build IT services over the next 3 years”
  • “I will only influence expenditure on initiatives that deliver visible bottom line return within a 12 month period – if not sooner”.

Of course this is nothing spectacularly new, and the CIO will no doubt reflect that their role has these three cyclical dynamics; as a visionary planner, a financial manager and  business coach.

This 360 reversal of the business analyst function is giving the CIO a clearer perspective on the day job, as a business coach. Keeping the lights on and ensuring those building block systems of records and core infrastructure are fit for purpose will easily fall into the Run aspect of their command, and the smart CIO will have this boxed off with a combination of strong out-tasked partner support and streamlined and heavily automated service delivery functions.

The financial management will derive from a much closer advisory relationship with fellow business leaders to combine ongoing cost reduction tactics with changes in IT service delivery through cloud models and flexible expenditure terms for Buy Not Build systems of engagement. Calculating the real cost of a technology remains a CIO specialty. The CIO will deliver a keener focus on identifying the technologies that enhance marketing efforts, including customer-facing, customer-enabling, marketingoperations, and measurement and analytics.

Yet the sharper agile advisory role that shaped the next 12 months of project portfolio management calls upon less ownership of the raw number and the end to end infrastructure, but calls behavioral traits of a business coach. The CIO will transform their role as a facilitator or orchestrator of the new digital transformation.

The CIO needs to move from technology-centric planning to one that thinks about technology-enabled business strategies, and how they will manage the organisational dynamics of spending money in the Speed One world ( traditional core IT ) and influencing money in the Speed Two world ( business driven digital initiatives). This will still see those major architecture projects continue whether it is device rollout, back end migration or infrastructure expansion, but will also see a keener sense of shorter, fatter projects that deliver value alongside the heavy lifting work.

I envisage therefore that more and more CIOs’ will change their game for these coaching engagements, leveraging suppliers to build more agile proof of concept platforms to tease out the business requirement, prior to building smaller, faster, agile portfolios. For example, the Internet of Things explosion gives a great opportunity for CIOs’ to start examining the potential to extract smarter information from existing assets – plant, buildings and even people ), and also create opportunities to test new models to use technology to build new products and therefore new markets.

Funding these PoCs may come entirely from the business unit, leveraging the CIOs’ advisory role to ensure architectural the decisions line up to existing application and management plans and that appropriate due diligence in the supply chain selection is available to avoid silo decision making and misaligned supplier interaction.

While the longstanding function was IT systems and cost management, the new direction for the CIO will be how to create platforms that enable new value chains and integrated ecosystems. The CIO will develop the technical infrastructure to enable and accelerate revenue growth. He must also educate and enable the whole business to become more ‘digital’.

Why did I write this post? Well I reflect that in the IT supply chain we all assume the role of ‘commentators’ and ‘pundits’ on how the world of technology is changing the thought processes for our customers, yet we still think that we can still use many of the ‘this is how we always do it’ approaches in the hope that the CIO we are talking to is one of the ‘old school’ types. An interesting and not necessarily wrong strategy in the short term, but one that I feel will come under the spotlight increasingly as the ‘new school’ types become the de facto norm.

If we think that the cheese has moved for our clients , why don’t we think the cheese is moving for us too.



A laptop, and the unintended consequences of new ways of working

This post is all about the ever increasing relevance in the socialisation impact of change, and how the evolution of our digital workspace is now making planners stretch their horizons to articulate the true cost of change past the traditional Idea, Fix, Build, Deploy, Operate and Support closed loop world that has treated us well for the last 20 years or so.

At the heart of this transition in our thinking, is the view that for the first time the convergence of forces ( social, mobile, cloud, big data ) is forcing our planners to consider the extended consequential impact of our planning – both intended and unintended – on people and their ways of working.

Let me start by calling out a real world metaphor for this thread.

When one considers electricity and the anticipated and intended goal or consequence of this activity, we would probably all agree that production of electric power to support our ways of life is the core outcome.

We may agree also that the undesired but common and expected consequence of generating electricity is the heating of the ocean water near the plant. We may also concur that an undesired and improbable consequence would be a major explosion of the plant itself.

An unanticipated and desirable consequence might be the discovery of new operating procedures which would make nuclear power safer. An unforeseen and undesirable consequence might be the evolution of a new species of predator fish, in the warmed ocean water, which destroy existing desired species.

I hope this gives enough context to move ahead.

Another recent example I observed was the use of Drone technology. These amazing devices have come along leaps and bounds from the military connotation quite often see in movies and TV output as a means to assess battlefield terrain, identify rogue forces without deploying ground assets and ultimately, deliver payloads of destructive force without harming innocent civilisation. Buying your own drone is now no big deal, and more and more corporations are using drones to further enhance their service operations and customer satisfaction outcomes.

So I was astounded ( though on reflection not suprised ) to read of UK prisons reporting increasing drug traffic caused by outside influences flying in quantities of drugs ( over the wall ) using consumer drones and circumventing traditional security controls.(

What happened to files in cakes!!!

Social economists will of course understand these events as referencing either unexpected consequences ( luck serendipity or a windfall) or unexpected drawbacks ( a positive project aimed at improving an element of business creates a negative outcome elsewhere ).

For the nuclear plant and drone technology architects and planners I am sure due consideration as to the unintended consequences of their designs were given, and ever eventuality was considered. But for many, there is a limit to this thinking as the emphasis is designing and deploying the To Be design requested by the customer.

As we have seen with the smartphone camera ( good or bad depending on your personal preference ), and the unintended consequence the ‘selfie’ craze ( who hates the selfie stick? – just me? ), the instances of technological change and the impact on our daily lives ( good or bad ) are increasing.

For the business decision maker, the architect and the financial planner of such change programmes, the scale of their horizons for measuring the consequences of their actions is ever growing.

Something called the Relevance Paradox kicks in at this point, where decision makers think they know their areas of ignorance regarding
an issue, obtain the necessary information to fill that ignorance void (intended consequences) , but intentionally neglect other areas as its relevance is not obvious to them ( unintended consequences).

So now consider the humble laptop computer that we have all owned (used ) at some point in our working lives.

Days gone by, the IT department was primarily focused on procuring, building, deploying and supporting the laptop and ensuring the worker had everything they needed. It was a capital asset and needed to be controlled and managed, and the IT department were ‘all over it’.

Unintended Consequences1

The anticipated and intended consequence is the provision of technology to help workers complete their tasks to support the business plan. The undesired but common and expected consequence was the increased help-desk calls from frustrated colleagues when they came back into the office.

A undesired and improbable consequence would be the theft of a laptop that had all the company’s data on it, and we would associate the term ‘risk’ with this outcome, but not with the provision of the laptop.

I remember such days and how liberating it felt that one could just put your computer into a bag, take it home on the train and plug it at home to word process a document or work on a spreadsheet. Offline became the new news in our working vocabulary as we used the laptop to be our extension to the office and for the first time released us from the 9 to 5 shackles of having to be in the office to work. And with good IT service management disciplines and processes meant the IT department could track assets, support incidents and learn from lessons. All was good.

What about the desired consequence? People could share information across office borders and communicate more effectively. Save office costs, save travel costs and improve common access to key information held in CRM and ERP systems.

And the costs? Well because IT were in control of the Build, Deploy, Operate and Support processes, the impact of change was relatively restricted to a capital and operational number owned by the CIO and CFO. A cost of doing business put another way.

And the Socialisation impact? No one knew what this meant at this stage in our maturity, and perhaps was put down to a training course on how to use the laptop!

And the risk? Pretty much every IT department followed the same cook book, and it was difficult to really get this wrong. Risk was low and everyone was relatively happy. After all, they knew no better.

Of course the fast forward button saw us get on-line through dial up modems, broadband and now wireless through various demand and supply channels. And because of this ubiquitous access now afforded to us, our laptops became notebooks, changing in importance to our workstyles, allowing us to work from anywhere, whilst improving our travel options and our and work life balance decisions.

Unintended Consequences2

In this more flexibly shackle free world, the worker was now given a lot more choice where they could work from, and from what device. As before the anticipated and  intended consequence was the provision of technology to help workers complete their task to support the business plan in a faster way to reach more customers, service more requests and sell more products.

The undesired but common and expected consequence perhaps was the increase help-desk calls from an ever increasingly remote workforce decoupled for long periods of time from the physical mother ship office. Longer hours worked impinging on family time was also an undesired consequence, quite often creating much negative fallout across personal and career development ( or lack of ) matters. Security exposure and brand impact due to worker’s using non corporate equipment, personal software and access from unsecured public networks also became an undesired consequence.

Again, the outcome and the provision of the laptop were not necessarily associated other than best endeavours for security awareness, border controls around sensitive data and content publishing.

And the costs? Well because IT were still largely in control of the Build, Deploy, Operate and Support processes, the impact of change was relatively restricted to a capital and operational number owned by the CIO and CFO with more interaction with the HR function for working policies, and specific business functions that had particularly needs for IT to help them ( sales mainly to mobilise their troops. ) Again a  cost of doing business put another way.

And the socialisation impact? Now we saw more employment guidance for recruiters on flexible working benefits, and more HR related cases for work related stress due to unsocial working practices ( because the technology allowed me to work 24 hours ) , and the risks to workers due to tiredness and overall performance meltdown.

And the risk? Technologies now offered more choice so mistakes started to be made ( expensive ones – VM sprawl, power drain, license black holes, data theft, real-time social reputational damage and so on).

Now we consider where we are today.

The modern digital workplace for some ( and increasingly for many more ) is a long way off the days of IT controlled laptop distribution and control.

The modern working space no longer represents the classic office environment ( no desks, contemplation zones, collision points, or no offices at all! ), the collaboration platforms  ( social tools, self-service data aggregation, deeper learning algorithms  ) and the ‘lightness’ of software ( cloud, app revolution with point in time ,recipe style, and self-development apps landing on our devices at the swipe of a finger. ) All in the shadows and totally away from the unaware planners and policy makers.

No longer is the laptop a default tool for many, and the consequential impact of providing IT through other means is going to lead to a much wider range of consequential impacts never considered by IT planners and budget holders in the past.

Unintended Consequences3

Of course, today the business has a clear idea of what it wants from the ‘laptop’ which probably has become a range of devices to suit particularly persona workstyles. Workers use more than one device every day to retain their optimal productivity output, and mapping personas across different environments is where the real ‘magic sauce’ of understanding the consequences of workplace change will kick in.

The intended consequences of these ways of working initiatives sees great financial savings due to better use of office space, energy and travel costs plus more socially engaged workers, sharing ideas, knowledge and talent across borders that no longer prevented them from achieving more and more, and driving a higher output and business performance. Many organisations now see ‘co-working’ as their new office environments and are reducing corporately owned or leased building estate accordingly. ( ).

The undesired but common and expected consequence  has seen stakeholders having to deal with human considerations for ‘rules of access’ and ‘information security’ that previously was totally within the IT departments domain. Whether it is because of open BYOD policies or Shadow IT data sharing via public cloud platforms, IT no longer controlled the Build, Deploy, Operate and Support processes fully.

The undesired and unintended consequence of this change is where the Relevance Paradox really does kick in.

Consider an organisation that deploys an IT asset into a modern workplace environment that just does not align well to the digital vision of the organisation. Remember organisations are on the ‘Digital Journey’ and see Socialisation a massive deal for their daily survival. A worker  ( or a group of workers ) given the wrong tool because of their working environment prevents them to exploit the new engagement protocols in place with fellow workers, suppliers or customers will very quickly create their own set of risks, and unintended consequences.

The hourly output for all of us matters more than ever. Our joy at working smarter every day is an adrenalin driven event that keeps us motivated, fresh and rich in ideas and opportunity. Conversely, our frustration at ‘being out of sync’ because of our workspace limitations drive us to seek other opportunities, or ‘cope’ with being less productive.

Reflect on your working day to decide which you are, and consider how the planner of your laptop or office space considered the true consequential impact on your job performance. Measuring  this – Plus or Minus – is going to be a huge factor in the success of ‘going digital’.

I believe the socialisation impact of  understanding the true impact of new workstyles, worker personas and use of technology is going to be exponentially larger than the traditional Build, Operate and Support cost models of yesteryear.  Ways of quantifying and measuring impact will require a wider audience of stakeholders and subject matter expertise, with a Right to Left approach to leveraging the most value from the technology asset.

And the costs? Gone will the yardsticks for Capex/Opex measurement of the IT elements. Or more accurately, these costs will be the small change compared to the overall cost of the socialisation of the intended consequences of the IT expenditure. It could be in the different of magnitudes , up or down, and the Relevance Paradox will feature more for planners who ‘choose’ to ignore the real impact of their thinking.

I envisage more and more organisations will see transformational change programmes like an office move or a technology refresh as an opportunity to review their mindset thinking approach, and widen the debate to incorporate a more cognitive way of approaching the Socialisation measurement and impact on the workplace. We already see Machine2Machine and Internet of Things infrastructure managing the smart building and city assets in a way never envisaged by planners, and this technological wave will create new platforms to drive the ‘laptop’ to achieve more and more business value for individuals, business functions and organisational success.




Selling technology – When the race to the bottom collides with the race to the top

Race to the top and to the bottomEveryone wants to do things faster – and cheaper. Free is the new currency for many of us in our personal lives and for the corporate IT organisation and those who supply and support them, the cost of the raw IT commodity is engaged in a frantic Race to the Bottom. Meanwhile, the business owners want to get more from their Digital Assets as they engage in a Race to the Top to achieve more growth and customer retention.

As technology sellers and managers,  business unit owners and end users enjoy the cut and thrust of these two opposing ‘races’ whether it is over the best deal, the best service and the best outcome, compelling and fascinating collision points appear to suggest only the strong will survive.

Engineers are perfecting their science to create smaller and smaller components, that on their own matter little, but when coordinated become an extensible membrane of intelligent ‘umpf’ that can be stretched across an organisation to affect dramatic effect to business insight and corporate DNA value. Inside each of the micro-electronic components that exist in our smartphones today, and sensors that track our every move tomorrow there is a price war where the purchase price ( and production price ) is down in the weeds as the miniaturization production costs are reaching critical mass.

To highlight this ( perhaps a little extremely ) there is something happening called Digital Dust which promises a complete sensor/communication system made of sensors one cubic millimeter in size. Yes one cubic millimeter in size!

Potential uses of this technology expresses perfectly the coming together of the race to the bottom and to the top when you consider the following;

Military planners and strategists using sensor networks such as battlefield surveillance or health care professionals using virtual keyboard sensors: by attaching miniature remotes on each fingernail, and using accelerometers to sense orientation and motion of each fingertip, and communicate this data to a computer in a wristwatch or similar wearable device.Or retail
inventory managers placing miniature sensors on each object in the inventory system (product package, carton, pallet, truck warehouse, internet), each component could “talk” to the next component in the system.

Now whilst Digital Dust may not be something any of us need to think about today, it highlights the IT industry’s march to a component based world that allows us to build computational platforms, grids and infrastructures that give our masters the power they need for their ever hungry applications and i-worker devices.

And its not just the’ tech’ that is immersed in this race to the bottom. Consider the People aspect of delivering a modern IT service.

If I can self-serve myself not only in my ‘kit’ but my software and my interpretation of my data, and have a Plan B if things break, my reliance on a service desk analyst is minimised. And even if I cannot do any of these things due to corporate policy and governance, the very nature of Operating Systems and methods to support and deploy applications and upgrades is making the ‘touch ratio’ also reduce dramatically. Many IT organisations now are out smarting competitors
through rethinking their service delivery models through automation and achieving a lower touch versus cost outcome for their ‘core IT’. At the end of the day the ‘less a user is touched by IT’ and the ‘more the user touches the information they need to be more productive’ the more ‘successful individuals and the corporate will become’.

Furthermore, as legacy platforms and services retire they are being replaced by lower commodity components typically managed by cloud providers that offer a low price point for the usage whilst allowing for the first time some wriggle room for stretched IT departments to step back, reshape their organisation and build a more business orientated shop front to help support the vision for a Digital Business. The clock is ticking for these guys though as the IT shadow relentlessly marches
on, and the internal politics and people re-skilling programmes stutter through their traditional battlegrounds.

The long tail last mile of IT ‘delivery’ still needs the people factor but the race to the bottom is at its keenest here, with the self-installation capability of the components reducing the skills level and the physical face to face ‘desk-side’ visit. Look at how Windows 10 is now ingesting itself onto devices and how the future of corporate App Stores promise more self- service facility. Over time more and more corporate IT units will be looking for the lowest price point to undertake transition work from the old style ‘desk-side’ to the new style ‘self-service’ mode of IT support.

Whilst this race to the bottom is going there is also the race to the top, as organisations use these ‘low cost components’ to build up the value of their Digital Asset.

Analysts talk about the Billions of business available to these who can transform their organisations by becoming Digital and big cheques are being written in search of this holy grail.

Gartner talk about Every Business Unit becoming a Technology Startup citing that in the last two years “.. 650 million new physical objects have come online. 3D printers became a billion dollar market; 10 percent of automobiles became connected; and the number of Chief Data Officers and Chief Digital Officer positions have doubled”. As control shifts away from IT and towards digital business units that are closer to the customer, Gartner highlight that “38% of total IT spend is outside of IT already, with a disproportionate amount in digital, and that by 2017, it will be over 50 percent.”

And here is the killer statistic that underlines how these price wars are changing the engagement approach for all of us.

And the proof is in the pudding.

Look at how much organisations are now spending on exposing value from their digital analytic platforms. They do this because they are now seeing that the rich information insight they can now see from accessing and visualising their data in a smarter way is giving them the competitive edge they need to reduce their operating costs whilst driving innovation and agility into how they build products and service their clients. Look at the retail market. Investments in technology that
can ‘mine’ client data smarter and with more revenue attached is priority number one. And all those ‘low cost’ IT actions that are needed – big data, BI tools, productivity tools, cloud – are all falling into the race to the bottom bucket in terms of acquiring the raw component. Just like Digital Dust!

And all of this is inevitable.

Organisations are realising in super quick time that now they have embarked on a race to the bottom for their core IT commodity assets, they can now focus their attention on the value of their digital differentiating assets. What is now of the uppermost importance is not the per unit acquisition cost of these commodity assets, but the cost of being able to take analog information that is scattered across systems and datacenters, and build insight becomes where investments are now being made. And not just in the search for better decision making and predictive analysis.

And people are becoming the real differentiator as they evolve in new workplace environments, using emerging technologies to collaborate smarter and accessing business insight on their terms.

So as I reflect on this post I consider how the IT world has changed 360 to a world where the most value comes from the least valuable component, and that to remain competitive and relevant having a strategy that can deliver both is fundamental whether you are the IT owner or the IT seller.

I will leave it to Gartner to have the last word, as they estimate that “50 percent of all technology sales people are actively selling direct to business units, not IT departments”.

Perhaps the time is coming that the ‘seller’ needs to broker more of both sides of this race, and not just where they sit comfortably today.


Moving from a Common Operating Environment (COE1) to a Common Optimised Experience ( COE2) – IT organisations face a challenge

” Our goal is to build a COE or SOE” to support our users” said many IT architects and service delivery leaders.


Back in the 1990s and early 21st century this phrase was at the heart of many a mid size to enterprise organisation, and it drove many a life cycle project as the IT organisation upgraded core elements of their IT service to address legacy concerns and continuous service improvement programmes ( CSIP ). And they said this for a simple and valid reason.

The more you standardised your back office platforms the more the chance of delivering a consistent and repetitive service to the business. This is why ITSM and ITIL became synonymous for IT leaders as they spent deep to train and drive staff to behave in semi-automated ways to support a COE decision. It made sense then and still makes sense now. Whether it was the build of datacenter infrastructure – servers, storage, networking, management of a PC environment – hardware, apps, patching, remote access, or the creation of a Dev Ops group that used standard application lifecycle concepts, tools and codebase, the directive from the IT business owners was to simplify IT. Decades of highly expensive silo IT projects had taught them well and building a COE was the inevitable outcome.

in these days of COE the IT organisation controlled most of the IT assets, IT support and the data, so they controlled the budget and therefore could mandate ‘refresh cycles’ with relatively easy governance as it was ‘part of doing business’ just like maintaining telephone systems, buildings and having departments like HR, finance and accounts. Lets say 80% of the IT ‘asset’ was controlled and managed by IT. Bottom line was that if you wanted to do something you needed IT to provide it to you and it typically came as a COE.

Now roll forward not that long until today and consider the relevnace of the COE goal against today’s more complicated landscape.

  • IT no longer controls most of the IT estate ( BYOD or unoffical BYOD challenges this percentage ),
  • IT no longer controls most of the IT support ( end users find fixes themselves or workarounds ) and
  • IT definitely no longer controls most of the data ( end users find their own apps, access external data sources, use social media and store corporate data in public and uncontrolled clouds.)
  • IT no longer controls the budget, with many other stakeholders commissioning IT services either directly with providers or demanding creativity and flexibility from the once locked down COE IT departments.

Ultimately, a cloud computing business whether it is a Infrastructure player like Amazon or Microsoft, or a Software player like SalesForce or AirBNB, are all about combining the best traits of a Common Operating Environment ( call it COE1 ) with a Common Optimised Experience ( call it COE2 ) as they make attractive portfolios to their ever demanding client base. Utility computing is the ultimate in driving this change with a race to the bottom in the COE 1 components and a rave to the top in providing a COE2 outcome.

Sweeping statements of course and in some sectors and organisations this will not be the case, but the underlying trend is that IT is losing more and more control, as an ever increasing shadow excites the friction of how organisations can take all the ‘digital might’ they possess ( or need to ) and create new value propositions, goods and services, and platforms to do their ‘business better’. Corporate IT policies are under review as security officers balance the needs of corporate governance, risk and control with the demands of Shadow, and the increasing reduction of IT’s ownership of ‘intelligence’ and ‘data’.

Because I believe we are moving from the traditional meaning of a COE to something more end user specific – Common Optimised Experience or a COE2.

The advent of the ‘cloud’ demonstrates that this technological shift right is bringing is allowing the IT organisations to relax some of the Common Operating Environment or COE1 as they flex to meet new scale challenges and end user opportunities. Policies are flexing to allow for some element of shadow IT, and technology selection is now moving into the end user domain as self -service becomes one of the key principles of a modern IT support organisation.

And it is because of this that I believe that we are moving away from the Common Operating Environment to this suggested COE 2 world.

Let me explain.

The combination of low cost high speed broadband, ever increasingly powerful mobile devices and the always on availability of applications ( and data storage ) from the cloud is making for an environment, where Experience is the number one outcome. People have a thirst for speed, immediacy and availability that is fast out-scaling
the earlier era of Common Operating Environments as they seek new platforms to do their work. Many have taken the traditional COE from their IT department and either found workarounds or use other devices and access methods to get their job done. Some do it under the radar or around the barrier while others do it in full glare of the IT department. Many others do this as part of being in a particular business domain that has ‘justified’ such behaviour as part of a speed two business project or initiative.

Our personal lives are a form of COE. We use common interfaces ( or APIs ) to collaborate and communicate with our friends and family, our banks and Amazon sites, even if they are using different devices and increasingly so, different applications. I mean do you care or even know whether your friend is using an Android or an iOS device to send you a Facebook message or post a direct Twitter message to you.? Of course you dont. Take a look at IFTTT for a glimpse of how people are now creating recipes of different applications in the cloud to get everyday organisational and productivity tasks done. Already many organisations are now allowing users to use lightly coupled cloud applications to interact through common API standards to get things done. For example, every time something happens to customer X in the CRM send me a private tweet or update my calendar as a reminder to speak to them tomorrow.

Everything we do now is about the Experience. Whether it is speed, ubiquitous access from any device we want or the ability to get to the information we need as painlessly as possible we are now all of use firmly in a COE 2 world. Gone are the days of getting the PC to work with the software we needed, getting connected to the internet and getting even a simple message to a friend, bulletin boards and shareware sites?

We are now using common architectures to communicate – Wifi, Bluetooth, NFC – however, allowing our experience to be adapted to the speed and availability of such networking ‘wires’. And we will increasingly use common tools to communicate in different languages, look at Google Translate and the Cortana / Siri work Microsoft and Apple is doing.

And finally look at the neural and probabilistic networks that are spinning up that promise to let us to ‘crunch’ our data in more meaningful and inciteful ways.

All of this stuff is giving us a Common and Optimised Experience without us really worrying about the hardware and software bits and pieces. And I believe that in many ways a modern organisation is now turning away from having to mandate the operating environment and moving to more a world where outside certain core building blocks
such as a logon to Active Directory for identity and address book, a back end platform for payroll, CRM and ERP and levels of security access to physical assets, the rest of the IT organisations function is to support the end user and ensure they are enjoying a Common Optimised Experience.

And this is way more than a BYOD policy. No this is more about blending a rich mix of IT owned and individually accessed assets to create a meaningful and productive experience that in turn ensures the organisation is optimising its investment in the IT team, the core assets and the individual in question. The true definition of Shadow IT is where decisions on technology hardware and software occur outside the governance and knowledge of the IT organisation as individuals and business units meet their particular needs out of their own pockets without any recourse to IT for any decision making engagement and ultimately, sanction. And in many organisations shadow IT is a significant contributor to a COE 2 landscape.

Of course many far reaching IT organisations are fully aware of the implications and unintended consequences of this evolution from COE 1 to COE 2. Many see this as a balancing act of course, and I see many organisations going through levels of experimentation as they turn up or turn down their approach to moving from a COE 1 to a COE 2 world. Some are being cautious allowing only small micro changes, others are going hell for leather to create a COE 2 and others are steadfast in sticking to a COE 1 strategy.

It would serve the IT organisation well if they took a step back and considered their own journey from COE 1 to COE 2 and indeed, whether they even have a COE 1 mindset today. Quite often the hardest step to aligning to a bimodal business that is moving at a pace not seen before in that organisation’s history is to look at how the IT service is driving bimodal working or perhaps, slowing down bimodal working. Just because the IT organisation supports new ways of working initiatives or allows a user to use their own tech to share information doesn’t mean they are a Speed Two group transitioning from a COE 1 to COE 2 approach. And it is deeper than running service improvement surveys as well. Each of these elements are part of the answer but it requires a 360 approach not standalone initiatives. Factor in UX design for common applications or universal apps for example. Factor in also how data platforms are being mashed together to provide deep insight to any mobile device seamlessly and without limitation to the amount of data being analysed. I could keep going.

Who know who will be right at the end of the day, but I believe that for the end user Experience is now paramount to allow them to be a more productive worker and ultimately to avoid silos of shadow activity as the worker builds a parallel COE 2 in secret for themselves, the IT organisation will need to address the bimodal world they are now in and have a conscious approach to a Common Optimised Experience.


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


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.



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


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.


What makes a good consultant

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


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.’


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”.