Time for a Simplification

You know, this IT stuff is getting harder. There are more threats/risks, more control points and demands, more functionality being required and more services being delivered. There is just more and more and more going on and it is getting harder to keep on top of all of it. I wrote of wicked problems a while back and those hard problems are still here with us. And business is speeding up with supply chains getting shorter and moving faster.

The combat these changes in business we need to:

  1. Simplify where you can. Ask your team where we are doing things that are not adding value and not helping the core part of the business succeed. Tell your staff and your teams that if you are driving complexity or chaos, that you expect them to speak up. Then be sure to listen when they do. If you can’t listen to their response, then you are in the wrong job.
  2. Make non-strategic things someone else’s problem. Can you move your mail environment to one of the several cloud email providers and cut all those servers in your data centers? Can you find other SaaS solutions that will simplify your universe?
  3. Surround yourself with great people and then get out of their way. You’ve got to have great people all over the place and then trust them to run the business. The leader should focus on strategy, operational expectations, relationships and staff development. The leader shouldn’t get into the weeds of database tuning, patch management, detailed feature reviews, etc. except where there is a critical gap of some kind.  I need to keep repeating this to myself.
  4. Put good metrics and scorecards in place. Measure what needs to be carefully done and don’t measure things that simply don’t matter.
  5. Network with peers in the IT industry and listen to what they are doing and telling you. Don’t ever assume you have all the right answers. Seek out wisdom and experience all over the place. Read.
  6. Network with the leadership in your own company. Connect with them often and listen to what they are telling you too.

What other ideas do you suggest? What have you learned?

Changing Landscape of Enterprise Software

Lots of interesting articles appearing lately about changes to the Enterprise software landscape.  Here is one called Why Oracle May Really Be Doomed This Time and another one called The End of ERP. Both suggest that the era of the huge software installs is coming to an end. Or perhaps better said that it has to come to an end. I’ve said I’d rather chew off my arm than do another ERP upgrade yet CIOs are faced with those situations. One must either upgrade an ERP instance or pay ever-increasing maintenance costs or no support. And it is not just ERP instances, but there are other cases where huge low value IT projects are required in an organization.

We are seeing companies embrace SalesForce and Google/Microsoft cloud applications and companies like Workday get more and more traction. I think that CIO are 1) being forced to move these directions and 2) want to move that direction to lower costs and ease support. Resistance if future.

What are your thoughts on big ERP migrations and upgrades? Are these articles right?

Spoiled on Integration and Design Thinking

I’ve become spoiled with the smooth polish and tight integration across the iPhone and the Android applications. One can simply select a phone number in an email and the phone recognizes it and dials the number. The phones find new wi-fi networks for connections and can automatically connect if so desired. Pictures can automatically be tagged with location information. Music syncs to/from the cloud with no user intervention. In short everything just works and it works smoothly most of the time.

I recently purchased a new car and it demonstrates the other way of doing things. The car will sync with your phone via bluetooth and it will download your address book to the car for dialing later. However, that address book is not integrated with the navigation address book which is a different list. I can’t use the addresses from my iPhone to load up the destination addresses in my car navigation. However, I can type in addresses to this list one at a time or I can mark a point after I drive there or via a map in the car. Good design thinking would connect these subsystems together in a smooth fashion.

There is a second address book of sites, that can be downloaded via the car’s cellular interface, which are called eDestinations. And, there is third separate list of 5 locations that can be setup for commonly used destinations(like work) which have dedicated buttons on the navigation screen. In fact there is a fourth address book for destinations like McDonalds, Starbucks, and other points of interest.  NONE of these address books are connected together. I can’t select an address from the first book and it make it one of the top 5 destinations for the quick access buttons on the screen. Now, since there are so many places to look, I have to pause and remember where to even look on the car to set a destination. A person could literally appear in this address book mess and phone number mess in 5 different places.

Furthermore, none of the menus work in an objected oriented fashion where you can select the data (an address or phone number) and then select what to do with it. Instead, you have to decide you are going to delete entries first and then select the entry to delete from the list. Very old school, very non-intuitive, very disappointing. Throughout the car electronics, the menus are ancient thinking, poorly designed, not integrated and very frustrating to use.

Like I said, I’m spoiled.

The bar is now very high on user interfaces and their simplicity. Our employees, customers, and suppliers don’t want to find these antiquated ways of getting things done at work(or in their car, DVR, tv, etc.) because they are used to better on their iPhones.

Jevon’s Paradox and IT

I came across Jevon’s paradox the other day (can’t remember where) and it connected with me on something I’ve been thinking about the last few weeks. Jevon’s paradox, from Wikipedia says:

In economics, the Jevons paradox (sometimes Jevons effect) is the proposition that technological progress that increases the efficiency with which a resource is used tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of consumption of that resource.

While not a direct application of this paradox or effect, it seems to me that a similar effect happens with IT work in a group, department or company.  Namely, no matter how much good work is done in that area, there will be still be a list of additional work to do the next time period. If you manage your portfolio of work by organization, no matter how much you do for that organization in a year, there will be a similar list of work to do the next year. No matter how much you do or how much better the organization gets, there will be a list of improvements to undertake next year.

This ‘infinite’ amount of work is one of the key problems in IT and why always working on improving portfolio management is a critical priority for IT leadership and the business. The IT leadership team has to be constantly working with business partners, customers and suppliers to make the smartest decisions possible about what to work on.  The amount of work is infinite so being busy or having a lot to do is meaningless. What counts is working on the right things.

I’m also thinking that this effect is causing me to pause and re-think some of my ideas or beliefs about how that portfolio management should be done. Perhaps, for parts of the business, you tightly constrain the resources available to work and let the most important or highest ROI type work bubble to the top. Then, divert the large fraction of your resources to work on the truly strategic part of your business. I have to think on this more.

I’d welcome your thoughts on the matter.

Thank You and Well Done

I was in a meeting years ago where a senior executive told us that he didn’t believe other senior leaders in an organization needed to be told ‘good job’ or ‘thanks’ regarding their work.   Senior leaders are self-starters and don’t need this kind of re-enforcement.

Wrong.  Everyone wants to be valued and hope that their work is making a difference.   Everyone.

This morning I got an email from a person who used to work in my organization.  He has since moved on to a new place and then another new place.   He said at one place where he worked after leaving here they ‘had no leadership at any level’ and at the other place the highest ranking person ‘has no idea how to lead.’  The purpose of his email was just to tell me that after seeing some other IT organizations, he just wanted to say ‘good job’ for what we are doing here.   He went on to talk about goal alignment, ethics and about making a difference while here.

This is one of the nicest emails I’ve ever received and he did not need to send it.   As you can guess, it made my day and I appreciate him taking the time to send this to me.

Whereever you are stop what you are doing and send someone a ‘good job’ note or a ‘thank you’ note.    Your act of kindness  might be the only one they get today.

Rules of IT are Changing

Mark McDonald wrote an excellent article on the Rules for IT Are Changing and I wanted to highlight it here.   I read this weeks ago and keep thinking about it.

I really agree that the landscape of IT leadership is changing.   The big infrastructure investments that IT has made are just necessary to be in the game.   ERP is needed to be in the game, but it does not differentiate anything anymore.   We have to keep the networks up, telephones working, mail being delivered, etc.

Seems to me that once all the things above are well done and in control, the next difference maker or value creator is around collaboration and how well IT helps the company collaborate internally and with others.

BTW, Mark’s blog is excellent and recommended.