Improving IT Planning in 2010

Just finished reading Chris Curran’s article on CIO.com titled How to Improve Your IT Planning in 2010 – CIO.com – Business Technology Leadership.  Good article with some survey results that are very surprising.  A snippet from the article:

Diamond’s Digital IQ research, in which we surveyed 451 senior business and IT executives of large companies, found that firms spend roughly 240 man weeks per year on planning and budgeting—almost five man years! Think about what could be accomplished with 80% of that time back in the hands of your senior-most leaders. Roughly 25% of this effort is geared toward collecting the project ideas, another 25% toward preparing business cases, and only about 15% on linking the initiatives to the strategic roadmap. Our study also found that the presence of a multi-year strategic roadmap is a strong indicator of company performance, but that only 37% claim to have a clear roadmap. So, to get leaner in planning a company needs to get a clear roadmap and spend more time aligning to it and less time on (tactical) data collection.

Emphasis mine.

Interesting results.  That’s an awful lot of planning for some awful poor performance that we see in most IT groups today.  What can we do differently?

That last sentence in Chris’ points the way. Instead of spending so much time with IT planning and budgeting, why not start looking at building a strategic IT roadmap that aligns to business objectives and much less time on gathering operational and planning data that may not have any real value in the planning process.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Project Success and Failure and The New CIO

The New CIO is a weekly article about the challenges facing today’s CIO as well as what can be done to prepare for future challenges.

The CIO's role in Project Success and/or FailureEarlier this week, I listened to an interesting webinar hosted by Michael Krigsman and led by Chris Curran.  The topic of the webinar was the CIO’s role in success or failure of IT projects. Great webinar with some excellent folks. Both Michael and Chris provided after-action blog posts about webinar…you can jump over and read them at:

Chris has a few great points on his post (did you read it? Please do).  Basically, he asks whether the CIO’s role is one of Influence or Control.

Great question…because it gets to the heart of the issues we see today in organizations & how The New CIO can influence the organizations to succeed (or fail) in the projects that are undertaken.

Command & Control – The Old Model

IT groups (and organizations) have historically been run in the command and control mentality with the CIO being the one that commanded IT and taking orders from the CFO, COO or CEO.

This worked well in the old days of legacy systems,  centralized application & centralized IT.  Those days are leaving quickly with users quickly adopting web applications to get their jobs done quicker.

The New CIO – Influence First

As Chris suggests,  the CIO’s role in the future will be that of influencer in large organizations and influencer and controller in medium and small organizations.

I believe The New CIO will have to be an influencer first and foremost. The New CIO will need to influence both upward (to the CEO), sideways (CFO, COO,CMO, etc) and downward to their teams.  She’ll have to find ways to build consensus on the “right strategy” while keeping an eye on how to implement that strategy and continuously building the best the she can.

The New CIO & Projects – Influencing Success

There are a lot of things you can do to improve project success, but the most important method to improve things are often the most overlooked. Those overlooked items can be addressed via Influence…either by influence others in the leadership team, influencing the organization’s project selection or influencing the ability to deliver.

Here’s a few examples of what The New CIO can do to influence project outcomes:

  • Influence others within the organization – This helps ensure that the projects undertaken by the organization fit the organizational strategy as well as the technology strategy for the company.
  • Build relationships with the other CxO’s & VP’s – CIO’s have been notorious for not have good networking and relationship building skills.  Work on that. The better you understand your peers, the better you can understand what their needs will be.
  • Clearly communicate what success /failure means – Does your team / organization understand what a successful project looks like?  Do you have people who think that a successful project means one with zero problems?   You need to let the organization know what success looks like.
  • Build your project management team – Project Manager’s are a dime a dozen.  Certified Project Manager’s are too.  But GREAT project managers are hard to find.  Go find one, hire them, pay them well, give them the ability to lead your project team(s) and watch out.  BTW – Project Management Certification does NOT equal good project manager.
  • Build your project delivery team – How many times has a project slipped because of manpower?  If you have the ability, dedicate some of your staff to be project delivery staff…take them away from the busy work that most IT folks find themselves buried in.
  • Improve your relationship(s) with your vendor(s) – You need your vendors. You need them to make money and you need them to be happy.  Don’t treat them like second class citizens.  Your vendors can make or break your project.
  • Improve the lives of your contractors – Do you use contractors for most of your projects?  Then you need to see above.  You need your contractors to be happy too.
  • Stay Involved – A CIO that doesn’t say involved in projects is setting themselves up for failure.  Staying involved doesn’t mean you need micromanage or be in every project meeting, you The New CIO needs to stay close to the projects to be sure to see any problems that might pop up.

There are other things (feel free to share your thoughts in the comments) but as you can see, project success / failure hinges on the soft skills…those pesky people skills.

On that topic – People Skills + Analytical Skills

While analytics and metrics (project schedules, % complete, etc) are necessary, you need to be able to talk about your projects with your team & with the organization.  Engage in discussion early and often to see what’s happening in the project(s) and what can be done to address any issues.

Don’t wait for someone to bring you a problem…talk to folks and find the problems before they come up.  Have meaningful conversations about the project(s) and even take time to debate the issues to find solutions.  Add this rhetorical skill set to your project team’s skills, and you’ll see an increase in the success rate of your projects.

The New CIO – Project Manager in disguise?

Kind of. Perhaps project manager is the wrong term but you will need to be a Project Leader.  On top of the other items on the plate of The New CIO, you’ll need to do everything in your power to ensure project success.

Help the organization pick the right projects, make sure you can implement those projects by building a great delivery team and stay involved in the projects as much as you can (do not micromange…just stay involved).

Any other suggestions for The New CIO to take help influence projects along the road to success?

Join me next week for another The New CIO article.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Minding the gap between Strategy and Tactics – The New CIO Series

The New CIO is a weekly article about the challenges facing today’s CIO as well as what can be done to prepare for future challenges.

I’ve seen many strategic plans for organizations. A few of these plans have sections for Technology Strategy while some don’t mention technology at all.   While these strategic plans are nice and thick, have lots of words and graphs and are usually well designed, they are missing something very important: a discussion of, and a plan for, implementation of the strategy.

This may not be anything new to you but its appalling to me.  Why take the time to create a strategy if you don’t know how you’ll implement it?

If you’ve read any of the leading books on being IT Strategy, IT leadership and other topics, you’ll most likely find chapters like “Weave Business and IT Strategies Together” (found in The New CIO Leader: Setting the Agenda and Delivering Results) or something similar. BTW – The New CIO Leader is a great book…go read it.

These types of books and articles go into great detail about tying business and IT strategies together using things like portfolio management, financial returns, and other really important things, but very few talk about one of the most important topics: the people who will be asked to implement the strategies.

Not only does The New CIO have to consider the financial investment required of a new strategy, you’ve got to consider the human investment as well. The financial side of IT strategy and projects is important, but the human capital piece of the equation is just as important.

Where did the Gap come from?

The gap has always been there in the organizations that I’ve observed.  My personal opinion of why the gap exists differ depending on what day it is…and whether I’m drinking at the time you ask. 🙂

Today (and most days actually), I’m going to argue that in many cases, the top level leaders who are building these strategic plans are so far removed from the day to day operations that they’ve lost track of the real capabilities of the organization.

This lack of understanding of what can be done and who can do it leads the organization down the path of building a strategy inconsistent with the capabilities of the organization.

The gap is created when the human capital of an organization isn’t factored into the strategic equation.

Minding the Gap

What can The New CIO do to bridge the gap between the strategic plan and the implementation of that plan?

First: understand your business, the market and your people.  Without this understanding, you’ve got no chance.

Second: In addition to asking the normal questions about investment, ROI, governance, IT infrastructure, IT architecture, risk analysis and all the other major questions,  ask yourself a few additional questions to help you (and other senior leaders) understand the human capital affect:

  1. Will the team understand this strategy?
  2. Can the team implement this strategy?
  3. Will the politics of the organization allow this strategy to work?

Don’t just answer these as yes/no…really think about them.  If you get a negative on any of these items, your strategy will most likely fail.  You can spend millions of dollars for McKinsey to build your strategic plan, but it will fail if you don’t have a true sense of how it will be implemented as well as buy-in and understanding from your team.

Let’s look at Social Media as an example.

Yeah…I know…i’m talking about Social Media in the Enterprise…again! 🙂

Many of you are probably discussing Social Media and how you can dive in to use this great ‘new’ tool to help drive your business.   You’re probably trying to determine a strategy for how you can use Social Media in the Enterprise or perhaps you’ve already built your strategic plan.

But have you thought about the people involved?  Who will implement your strategy?  Will it be your PR team?  Your marketing team?  IT staff? Will you bring in an external team to implement it?

I would argue (and I’m sure many will agree) that these things should be considered and included in the strategic plan. Perhaps the human capital equation is considered in your strategic plans, but from experience, I’ve not seen it happen much.

Let’s look at the three questions as they relate to this example:

Question #1: Will the team understand this strategy?

Does your organization understand social media? At a more granular level, does your marketing and IT teams? How many people within your organization are active in the social media space?  If the answer is very few, you are in trouble. You can’t possibly hope to implement a social media strategy without at least a few people around the organization that ‘get’ Social Media.

Question #2: Can the team implement this strategy?

So you think your team understands the strategy…but can they implement it?

More importantly, does your team have the capabilities to implement Social Media tools into the enterprise? Do you have cobol developers or do you have .NET, PHP or Ruby on Rails developers? Does your IT staff have the bandwidth to take on another ‘big’ project?  Are you already ‘doing more with less’ to the point where taking on a project like this will overload the team?

Answering this question (can they implement it) has as much to do with your team’s bandwidth as it does with their capabilities.

Question #3: Will the politics of the organization allow this strategy to work?

In my experiences, this is one question that is often overlooked.  Will the many levels of bureaucracy and the different silos within the organization allow your new strategy to work?  If not, what are you going to do about it?  Will your PR team see Social Media as an encroachment to their ‘turf’?  Will portions of the IT team undermine your social media efforts because they feel it opens you up to new security vulnerabilities?

You’ve got to figure these things out before finalizing your strategy so you know how you’ll address the political issues that will arise.

Start Minding the Gap

By answering these questions, The New CIO can better mind the gap between strategy and tactics by considering the human capital within the organization. Thinking about the human side of strategy & tactics will also help with the communication of these new strategies because the people will have been considered while the strategy has been created.

In addition, if you’re doing your job right, a good portion of your team should have been involved in creating your strategies anyway…so you’ll have their buy-in.  Once they see that the organizational capabilities are considered when creating an IT Strategic plan, they’ll get excited because their situation, bandwidth and capabilities have been considered.

In a previous post titled ‘Strategy, Tactics and Hope‘, I argue that its not enough to just have a great strategy nor a great plan for implementation…you’ve got to have both. In addition to strategy and tactics, you’ve got to throw in a sprinkle of hope to help bridge the gap.

Thinking about the human equation while developing strategy will help bring out that hope.  You’ll start seeing an optimistic team rather than one that feels overworked and under appreciated. Not only will you get buy-in to the strategic plan, you’ll also have an implementation plan that considers the human and financial capital required to make the strategy a success.

Next time you start thinking about strategic plans, mind the gap…think about your team and your capabilities before committing to that strategy.

Join me next Thursday for the next article in The New CIO series.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Keeping your IT staff Engaged and Happy – The New CIO Series

The New CIO is a weekly article about the challenges facing today’s CIO as well as what can be done to prepare for future challenges.

Today’s CIO is having a tough time. They’re being asked to do more with less.  Budgets are being slashed.  Projects are being canceled.  Tough times indeed.

What can the CIO do to make it through?  Well…many are working their staffs harder and longer.  Because, you know its time to do more with less, right?

Wrong.  Well…actually it is right…but Doing More with Less doesn’t mean you’ve got to cut your staff to the core, work them to death and ignore their personal development.

So what can The New CIO do to keep the IT staff happy, engaged and working hard?

First, understand the type of people that seek out careers in IT. Then understand what drives them.  Once you understand what drives them, give them the opportunity to work on those things that excite them.  Maybe your IT Operations guru really wants to be developer…find a way to make that happen. If your technical support lead wants to move into project management, find a way to let her work her way into a new role.

Keep focusing on personal development, listen to your team and lead your team. Do these things and you’ll have a happy & engaged IT staff who will work hard for you in good times and harder for you in the bad times.

Let’s take a look at what drives IT professionals (and perhaps many other non-IT folk).

Dreams

Many IT professionals are inquisitive and love the idea of their job.  They got into IT because they love technology and they love finding creative ways to solve problems.

Then…they get a job in ‘the real world’ where they are asked to ‘do more with less’ and worked harder then ever.  For the most part, these IT pro’s are happy working hard. They like their jobs.  They like a challenge so they do whatever it takes.  Until they realize that they aren’t appreciated.

The IT employee (and group) takes a beating from the organization when things go wrong.   The email server crashes?  You hear things like ‘those IT guys can’t do anything right’. People within the organization can’t understand why it takes so long to get anything done in IT.  They don’t realize that the IT staff is way understaffed and overworked…those things don’t cross their mind.

The IT Pro wants to do the best they can but for various reasons (overworked, stressed out, disengaged, etc) they can’t.

Disappointment

IT folk are a fickle lot.   When they feel under-appreciated (or not at all), they can get defensive and morose.  It doesn’t take long for a happy IT professional to be disappointed.

The dreams of the ‘fun’ they thought they’d have while doing what they love soon turns into a nightmare of disappointment.  They don’t feel as though they get to have any ‘fun’ because they’re so busy doing more with less.

The IT Pro is disappointed.  They are struggling to keep up with current technology.  They have to sneak some time to try to pick up new technology.  They buy books at the bookstore and try to learn new programming languages.  They try to keep up…but without a strong focus on personal development from IT leadership, the IT Pro is left alone to toil on their own.

Disengagement

Disappointment inevitably leads to Disengagement.

The IT professional has worked themselves till they are bone tired.  They don’t feel appreciated by the organization.  They feel overworked and underpaid (even though they make decent money). The IT professional has put their heart and soul into their job and, in their eyes, they’ve received nothing for their effort other than a big ol’ shiny turd landing on their desk.

Now…you’ve got a highly trained & extremely technical IT professional who’s heart isn’t in their work. They don’t feel loved.     They feel overlooked, overworked and tired.  They are on the verge of disengaging from their job…and that isn’t good.

What can The New CIO do to make a difference?

First, understand your staff.  Understand what drives them and what excites them.  Then, let them spend some time doing just that.  Push personal development & training as a top priority. Follow Google’s example of letting their folks work on personal projects for a percentage of the time.  Let your team pick up new technologies and see what they can do.  Don’t be afraid to sniff around the open source world for your next big platform or project.   If you’ve got to cut costs and projects, look at the open source world as a way to cut platform costs and let your team loose on the challenge of integrating open source into the enterprise.

Second, communicate, communicate, communicate. Oh…and don’t stop communicating. Communicate to the top of the pyramid and communicate even more to the individual contributors.    Talk about what’s being worked now and what’s being planned.  Talk about the successes and failures. Discuss your plans for the short- and long-term.  In other words…talk to your team and the organization constantly. Tell them what you are thinking…be open and honest and you’ll get some great feedback…if you listen.

On that note, the Third thing The New CIO has to do is Listen.   I capitalized that on purpose BTW.  Listening is a skill that must live within The New CIO.  You’ve got to listen to your team’s needs and to the organization’s needs.   Work on your listening skills and not just the skill to hear what people are saying…you’ve got to listen intently to what your team members & the organization are not saying.  You’ve got to understand the real issues at hand…not just what comes out of someone’s mouth.

Fourth, The New CIO must understand the businessTruly understand the business.  What does this have to do with keeping your team engaged?  Lots.  It’s hard to provide technology for an organization if you don’t understand what the organization does.  Understanding the business, and communicating that understanding to your team, will help you craft your vision and strategy for technology services.   By understanding the business and building the information technology strategy for the organization, you and your team will have a full understanding of why things are being done and where you are headed.

Lastly, The New CIO has to lead. Leadership is a key factor for keeping your team engaged. There’s nothing worse than a CIO (or any manager) who can’t make a decision and/or back their team up.  Leadership is more than ‘being in charge’…it means standing up for your staff when things are tough.  It also means that The New CIO is the person in the organization leading the charge to find better, cheaper and faster ways to get things done.

Conclusion

The New CIO has a lot on their plate.  In addition to the old standards of running technology teams, setting strategy and keeping the lights on, The New CIO has to focus on the softer skills.  Selecting the right people and keeping those people engaged in their work is a difficult job but must be at the top of the list of priorities for The New CIO.

The mantra today is ‘do more with less’…..don’t let that creep into your mind when it comes to your people.  Keep developing them, keep them happy and you’ll be amazed at how much an engaged IT team can do even in the tough times.  Keeping them engaged during the times of ‘less’ will provide an amazing advantage when the ‘good’ times come back around…you keep your team happy today and watch the exponential increase in output when the budgets come back.

Join me next Thursday for a new edition of The New CIO where I’ll be talking about the chasm between Strategy & Tactics and what we can do to close the gap.

Leading IT Transformation

In November 2008 I was asked to take a look at Leading IT Transformation: The Roadmap to Success from Oulette & Associates (O&A) and thought the book sounded interesting…so I agreed and Oulette & Associates sent me a copy of the book to review.

It took a while to get to this book with the holidays and other things on my ‘to do’ list, but I’ve finally gotten around to reading it.

This is a good book, with a lot of relevant information if you are willing to put the time into reading it. The book was written by Dan Roberts, President of O&A, and nine O&A Consultants…and you can tell it was written by consultants.

Don’t get me wrong…I don’t believe ‘written by consultants’ is necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, I like the content of this book and the writing is clear and thorough.  The consultants who wrote the chapters in this book and noted O&A consultants that have been practicing what they preach in consulting engagements and workshops for years.

But (there’s always a but), sometimes we consultants can say much more than we really need to. This is the only complaint I have about this book…each chapter has a lot of extraneous information that isn’t necessary to get the point across.  This is the only flaw I see with the book.

The book has 10 chapters, each with a different topic written by a different person.  The chapters are fairly short but packed with information (and sometimes extraneous info as previously mentioned).

Some sample chapter titles:

  • Creating your 21st Century Workforce and Culture
  • Transforming your IT Team
  • Building a client-focused IT Culture
  • Marketing IT’s Value
  • Sharpening your political savvy

All interesting chapters written by people who’ve been involved in IT for a while.

So…now that I’ve critiqued the book, let me tell you that, if you are an IT Consultant or IT leader, and you have a chance to pick this book up, you should do it. There’s nothing ‘new’ in this book, but there are some interesting ideas and points of view that make it worth picking up.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Top Issues for CIO’s

According to Information Week, the Top 10 issues for CIO’s in 2009 are:

  1. Customer-Facing Innovation
  2. Attacking the 80/20 Ratio
  3. The Challenging Economy
  4. The Strategic CIO
  5. Cloud Computing
  6. The SaaS Effect
  7. Virtualization
  8. Outsourcing
  9. Green Computing
  10. Radical Desktops

I don’t disagree with this list..everything there is important for the CIO’s to consider for the coming year.

But, the issues in the Information Week Top 10 list are indicators of a larger problem aren’t they? Issue’s 1,2,3,4 and 8 are topics should have always been ‘issues’ for CIO’s….the rest are technology strategy issues. Take “Customer-Facing Innovation” for example. This should’ve *always* been the focus of every CIO and every IT organization.  The role of IT isn’t to just implement and manage technology…IT exists to allow the organization to innovate and embrace the organization’s customer base.

Rather then focus on “Saas” or “Cloud Computing” and the associated pros/cons of the technology, why not take the strategic approach to these issues?  Take a look at your organization and determine if these approaches fit into your overall business strategy…if they do, great…if not, move along.

Take a good look at the Top 10 list again.  If you think about it, this Top 10 list can be categorized into three main areas for CIO’s to focus on:

  • Leadership
  • Strategy
  • Technology

Think about it.  Everything in that Top 10 list falls into these three areas. For example: virtualization is covered in Strategy & Technology, outsourcing is covered in Strategy and cloud computing is covered in Strategy & Technology

    If CIO’s focus on the three main areas of Leadership, Strategy and Technology,then the “Top 10 Issues for 2009” or “Top 10 Issues for 2020” will be easy to solve.  Why?  Because the CIO and IT Leadership should have been leading the IT group to a proper technology strategy that aligns with the business strategy.  When new technologies or new business realities come along, the organization can shift quickly and appropriately.

    Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

    If you'd like to receive updates when new posts are published, signup for my mailing list. I won't sell or share your email.