Top 5 Articles of 2017

Thank you to the readers in 106 countries that read my articles in 2017. Following are the top 5 articles that you have been interested in:

  1. Is Internet a Distributed System?
  2. What is the relationship between Cloud Computing and Service Orientated Architecture (SOA)?
  3. How to select an Enterprise Architecture Framework?
  4. Healthcare.gov – Who is at fault?
  5. 5 Questions to Ask About Your Business Transformation

Following are the top 20 countries where most readers have come from:

  1. United States
  2. India
  3. Canada
  4. United Kingdom
  5. Pakistan
  6. Australia
  7. Philippines
  8. Germany
  9. Malaysia
  10. Netherlands
  11. Singapore
  12. Sweden
  13. France
  14. South Africa
  15. South Korea
  16. Saudi Arabia
  17. Brazil
  18. Indonesia
  19. Switzerland
  20. Spain

75 Questionable Thoughts About Organizational Transformation

Questionable Thoughts

  1. Strategies
    • People
      • Only executives can transform organizations
      • Internal expertise have no/minimum value
      • Everyone will be eager to contribute
    • Processes
      • Internal business processes and Information Technology (IT) processes don’t matter
      • Interfacing processes with partners and vendors don’t matter
      • All processes and standard operating procedures (SOPs) have been documented and followed without deviation
    • Products
      • Our products can’t serve beyond current client industries
      • We don’t need to look for best-of-breed products
      • We don’t need product evaluation feedbacks from customers, employees, partners and vendors
    • Services
      • Employee experiences are not important
      • Customer experiences are not important
      • Partners and vendors’ experiences are not important
    • Technologies
      • IT doesn’t need to get involved
      • Shadow-IT doesn’t exist
      • IT is just an enabler
  1. Politics
    • People
      • All title-holders have the same power
      • Only leaders can be the go-to people
      • There are no biases at play
    • Processes
      • We always have fair ways of making decisions
      • We always methodically assess power and its affects
      • Power-grabs don’t happen
    • Products
      • Personal experiences don’t affect product selection
      • Personal experiences don’t affect product selling
      • Personal experiences don’t affect product development
    • Services
      • There is no correlation between employee services and customer services
      • Customer services don’t affect partners and vendors
      • Unconscious favoritism doesn’t happen during decision-making
    • Technologies
      • Technologies keep us unbiased
      • The ecosystem of technologies ends within organizational boundaries
      • IT can’t help
  1. Innovation
    • People
      • There is no correlation between organizational innovation and individuals being innovative
      • The innovation and experimentation of partners and vendors don’t affect us
      • People need to explore being innovative in their own time
    • Processes
      • Incremental and disruptive innovations follow same processes
      • Can’t learn from others failures
      • Innovation doesn’t require a methodical process
    • Products
      • A particular department/individual is responsible for innovation
      • Innovation of others doesn’t affect us
      • There is no need to have feedback loops from employees, customers, partners and vendors
    • Services
      • Only customer services can improve customer services
      • There is no need to test and improve customer service journeys
      • Wise to follow industry status quo standards
    • Technologies
      • There is no innovation left in technologies
      • Adapting technologies is the easiest thing to do
      • IT is a cost center and doesn’t require an innovation budget
  1. Culture
    • People
      • Only executives can set the cultural norms
      • External environments don’t affect culture
      • Culture is only about people
    • Processes
      • Business processes and IT processes don’t create culture
      • Culture is unquantifiable
      • Culture isn’t a learned behavior
    • Products
      • Culture doesn’t impact the products we buy
      • Culture doesn’t impact the products we sell
      • Culture has no implications on product development
    • Services
      • Culture doesn’t impact the services we buy
      • Culture doesn’t impact the services we sell
      • Culture has no implications on employee and customer journeys
    • Technologies
      • Technologies can’t augment culture
      • Technologies can’t destroy culture
      • Culture-clashes need to be normalized
  1. Execution
    • People
      • Preparing sponsors, champions and leaders isn’t necessary
      • Only a handful need to know about the overall strategy
      • Layoffs are on the table
    • Processes
      • No business processes and IT processes need to be adopted for transformation
      • No business processes and IT processes need to be adapted for transformation
      • No business processes and IT processes need to be abandoned for transformation
    • Products
      • Don’t need to learn and quantify how products succeeded
      • Don’t need to learn and quantify how products failed
      • Customer, employee, partner and vendor product usage has no relevance
    • Services
      • Customer experiences isn’t a priority to execute strategy
      • Employee experiences isn’t a priority to execute strategy
      • Don’t need to map the gaps of experiences
    • Technologies
      • Technologies can’t be used to execute strategy
      • Technologies can’t be misused to execute strategy
      • Technologies aren’t and can’t be ingrained into every aspect of executing strategy

Business Agility and Digital Transformation

What is Business Agility?

  • Business is “the activity of making, buying, or selling goods or providing services in exchange for…”
    • Corporations –> Money
    • Non-profits –> Social Causes
    • Education –> Knowledge
    • Government –> Citizen Services
    • Military –> National Defense
  • Agility is the “ability to move quickly and easily.”
  • Business Agility is the ability to move quickly and easily to:
    • Make products and services
    • Buy products and services
    • Sell products and services
    • Provide products and services

to employees and customers along with the ability to effectively and efficiently collaborate with partners and vendors.

What is Digital Transformation?

  • Digital is “electronic and especially computerized technology.”
  • Transformation is “an act, process, or instance of transforming or being transformed.”
  • Digital Transformation is the process of transforming:
    • How things are made
    • How things are bought
    • How things are sold
    • How products and services are provided
  • through electronic and especially computerized technology.

What is the Relationships between Business Agility and Digital Transformation?

  • All organizations are digital in one way or another. Some are more digital and some are less but fundamentally they utilize a mix of the following to achieve their desired outcomes and capabilities:
    • People who use technologies
    • Processes enabled by technologies
    • Technologies to capture and synthesize data
  • In order for your organization to survive and thrive in today’s hyper competitive business environments, your organization should have:
    • People who can quickly make decisions on how products and services are created, bought, sold and provided
    • Processes that reduce time between data capture to informed decision-making
    • Technologies that capture, manage and disseminate data quickly to decision-makers

Note that without Digital Transformation, achieving Business Agility is a hallucination!

Understand your Present to Create your Future

  • Do an honest and comprehensive analysis of how business is done currently
  • Holistically understand how current people, processes, technologies, products and services (business and technical) are affected by Strategies, Politics, Innovation, Culture and Execution (SPICE) factors
  • Determine if current capture of KPIs, SLAs and other metrics (e.g., employee incentives) are just for collection or are these measurements truly bringing change within the organization

SPICE Factors

While it is great to imagine and document your future, but any shortcuts you take in the assessing your present will come back to haunt you in the future!

Analysis

Today (Where you are)

  • Create a list of roles and responsibilities for everyone in your organization, partners and vendors
  • Map hybrid business processes that show people-technology interactions
  • Determine what data is being captured, managed and disseminated during people-technology interactions
  • Determine the relevancy of the data for informed decision-making
  • Assign a cost to each business process
  • Assess how quickly and easily your organization can respond to employee and customer needs
  • Determine the various obstacles that result in poor execution of strategy
  • Understand organizational and individual biases

Tomorrow (Where you want to be)

  • Eliminate overlapping and redundant roles and responsibilities that don’t provide value to your organization
  • Create governance, functions, teams and business processes that optimize use of data across people and technologies
  • Create metrics that result in effective decision-making and lessons learned to improve those metrics
  • Communicate effectively to eliminate any preconceived notions of your transformation journeys
  • Create test labs for all employees to test business models, enhance current capabilities and new capabilities
  • Create a new culture through norms, standards, communications and incentives and know that not everyone is motivated by the same things
  • Continuously self-evaluate your maturity level and make use of lessons learned

Asking Questions

  • Strategy
    • Who is affected by transformation?
    • What siloed/outdated/imaginary/undocumented processes are affecting strategic execution?
    • What technology and non-technology tools are used to make strategic decision?
  • Politics
    • Who is distorting transformation communications?
    • What processes and data are leading to transformation easily being vetoed?
    • What technologies decisions are empowering transformation?
  • Innovation
    • Who is assessing frontline employees, external customers, similar industries and different industries to bring innovation to the organization?
    • What processes are in place to raise people’s ability to contribute?
    • Are there technologies to test out new capabilities and business models?
  • Culture
    • Who is motivated to participate in transformation journeys?
    • What kind of processes are in place to encourage culture change?
    • What kinds of technologies are used to assess culture and changes?
  • Execution
    • Who is setting the expectation at all levels for the transformation journeys?
    • What processes are in place that obstruct strategic execution?
    • What technologies are in place that obstruct strategic execution?

Transitions

  • Organizational Structures
    • Optimize organizational structures based on a mix of functions, products, services and geography
    • Create formal and informal strategic linking through processes and coordination
  • Governance and Processes
    • Create governance structures and processes to evaluate how data can be captured, managed, modeled, assembled and deployed
  • People
    • Find people from top, middle and frontlines to champion transformation journeys
    • Show how transformation actually makes people’s lives easier
  • Program Mission
    • Views transformation journeys as an investment portfolio of multiple projects and operations
    • Connects business and technical operations to business capabilities and outcomes
    • Measures relevant metrics and abandon irrelevant metrics that cannot be connected to business value
    • Creates alignment of IT with non-IT functions (e.g., Accounting, Administration, Business Development, Customer Service, Finance, HR, Management, Manufacturing, Operations, Productions, R&D, Sales etc.)
    • Creates effective feedback loops across the organization

 

5 Questions to Ask About Your Organization’s Politics

Politics in an organization is about influencing others by using official and unofficial power. Official power comes from management titles while unofficial power comes from peers, juniors and even outsiders. Everyday in organizations official and unofficial power is used to: (1) frame problems, (2) influence changes and (3) make/guide decisions. This power can affect organizational structures, business processes, technologies and even innovation. Thus, it becomes imperative that organizations understand this power and how this power can affect organizational cultures. However, despite the strong relationship between politics and culture, most organizations are unaware, unwilling and/or unprepared to address it. The three main reasons politics is not directly addressed is because of:

  1. The inaccurate thinking that politics is always negative
  2. The fallacy that politics only happens at an individual’s personal level
  3. The inability to understand how politics can destroy/enhance capabilities

An organization’s politics is the total complex of relationships between people inside and outside of organizational boundaries. What this means is that people play politics even if they are unaware of it. While these people might have the best of intentions but their experiences/biases may or may not be best for the entire organization. By not keeping this in mind, organizations might not be able to self-assess if the IT vs. Business tension is a myth or reality, if the most optimized and continuously improving processes are present, if the correct technology is being selected for collective efficiency, if the right people are asking the right questions and if questioning the status quo is just a checkmark. In order to understand politics, the following questions need to be asked:

Strategic Perspectives on Politics:

 

Currently

In the Future

1. Who is incentivized at the executive level to understand politics? Who should be incentivized at the executive level to understand politics?
2. What governance structures are in place to address holistic vs. specific unit/function/team strategic needs? What governance structures should be in place to address holistic vs. specific unit/function/team strategic needs?
3. Where is technology being affected by politics? Where should technology affect politics?
4. When and how often political motivations are revealed? When and how often political motivations are revealed?
5. Why political understanding is critical to achieving strategic objectives? Why should political understanding be critical to achieving strategic objectives?

Tactical Perspectives on Politics:

 

Currently

In the Future

1. Who is incentivized at the middle management level to understand politics? Who should be incentivized at the middle management level to understand politics?
2. What business units, functional areas and teams are included to bring forth political implications? What business units, functional areas and teams should be made aware of political implications?
3. Where technology hinders understanding politics? Where technology might hinder in understanding politics?
4. When is the start and end of political motivations? When should be the start and end of political motivations?
5. Why political understanding is critical to achieving tactical objectives? Why political understanding should be critical to achieving tactical objectives?

Operational Perspectives on Politics:

 

Currently

In the Future

1. Who sees politics as an obstacle? Who might see political understanding as an obstacle?
2. What business processes provide views on the organization’s power plays? What business processes should provide views on the organization’s political boundaries?
3. Where is technology part of your understanding the organization’s politics? Where should technology be a part of understanding the organization’s politics?
4. When were you informed about the political objectives? When should you have been informed about political objectives?
5. Why political understanding is critical to achieving your daily tasks? Why political understanding should be critical to achieving your daily tasks?

Politics and culture are two sides of the same coin and each lurking in the shadows or showing in broad daylight to change the direction of the organization everyday. To address this, (1) be transparent, (2) create an atmosphere of trust, (3) be genuinely helpful across business units, functional areas and teams.

Politics-Culture

5 Questions to Ask About Your Enterprise Content Management (ECM)

The term Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is used to describe the strategies, methods and tools to produce, share and capture information in organizations. Humans and/or computer systems use this structured (e.g., data in databases), semi-structured (e.g., social media) and unstructured (e.g., emails) information to make decisions that can improve the organization. Since every individual/team/group/unit/department produces and consumes information thus it becomes imperative that organizations start thinking about how to provide the right information to the right audience at the right time by taking into account how information flows holistically across the organization.

Organizations need to create the right balance between humans and/or computer systems to leverage information from internal and external sources. This balance comes from the understanding that humans and computer systems are both influenced by experiences and biases. The experiences and biases in computer systems emerge when humans decide (1) which data should be used, (2) how algorithms should use the data and (3) when to accept or reject the recommendations of the computer systems.

In today’s world, Big Data has captured the imagination of most organizations and how it can help improve them. Organizations are collecting more and more data everyday, writing algorithms and mining for patterns to use this data for descriptive analytics, predictive analytics, prescriptive analytics and even Artificial Intelligence. However, if an organization’s Big Data strategy lacks an ECM mindset and does not have mature data management governance processes in place then organizations would not be able to fully release the true potential of the information they continue to produce, share and capture.

To start having an ECM mindset for Big Data, organizations need to (1) identify the different structured, semi-structured and unstructured internal/external information sources consumed and produced by the organization, (2) identify all the obstacles in the smooth flow of information and (3) train all individuals to see all data as assets to be leveraged.

First, lets identify some of the internal and external information sources. Here is a non-exhaustive list to get started:

  • Accounting Software and Systems
  • Architecture Software and Systems
  • Artificial Intelligence Software and Systems
  • Analytics Software and systems
  • Architecture Software and Systems
  • Barcodes and Quick Response (QR) codes
  • Books and Blogs
  • Business Case Software and Systems
  • Business Development (BD) Software and Systems
  • Business Intelligence (BI) Software and Systems
  • Business Process Management (BPM) Software and Systems
  • Business, Analytics and IT dashboards
  • Cloud, Managed Services and Anything-as-a- Service (XaaS) Metrics
  • Computer Output to Lase Disc (COLD)/Electronic Report Management (ERM)
  • Construction Software and Systems
  • Consumer Electronics
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software and Systems
  • Customer Service Software and Systems
  • Databases, Data Warehouses, Data Marts and Data Lakes
  • Decision-Making Software and Systems
  • Delivery Software and Systems
  • Document Management (DM) Software and Systems
  • Document Software and Systems
  • Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)
  • Electronic Data Processing (EDP) Software and Systems
  • Emails, Instant Messages (IM), Web Chats and Mobile Chats
  • Expert Software and Systems
  • Enterprise Architecture (EA) Repositories
  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Software and Systems
  • Extensible Markup Language (XML)
  • Financial Software and Systems
  • General Administration Software and Systems
  • Global economic trends and reports
  • Governments, Colleges, Universities and Internal R&D Departments
  • Handprint Character Recognition (HCR) Software and Systems
  • Human Resources (HR) Software and Systems
  • Images and videos
  • Industry, Competitor, Partner and Vendor reports
  • Information Technology (IT) Software and Systems
  • Innovation and R&D Software and Systems
  • Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) Software and Systems
  • Internet of Things (IoT) Software and Systems
  • Inventory Software and Systems
  • Investment Software and Systems
  • Legal and Insurance Software and Systems
  • Learning Management Software and Systems
  • Lessons Learned Software and Systems
  • Log Files and Incident Report Software and Systems
  • Manufacturing Software and Systems
  • Marketing Software and Systems
  • Network Software and Systems
  • Operations Software and Systems
  • Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Software and Systems
  • Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) Software and Systems
  • Paper and Electronic Documents
  • Paper and Electronic Forms
  • Partners, Vendors and Consumer Electronics
  • Payroll Software and Systems
  • Phone Software and Systems
  • Procurement Software and Systems
  • Procurement Software and Systems
  • Production Software and Systems
  • Production Support Software and Systems
  • Program and Project Management Software and Systems
  • Records Management (RM) Software and Systems
  • Retail Software and Systems
  • Robots, Software Robots and Robotic Systems
  • Sales Software and Systems
  • Social Media and Forums
  • Software Development Software and Systems
  • Supply Chain Software and Systems
  • Version Control and Release Software and Systems
  • Warehouse Software and Systems
  • Web and mobile applications
  • Websites, Portals, Intranets and Extranets
  • Workflow Management Software and Systems

Second, lets look at some of the obstacles to smooth information flows across organizations:

  1. Self-Preservation – People think that sharing information makes them vulnerable.
  2. Doubt – People are unsure of how much importance others would pay to their information.
  3. Repetition – Processes are not in place to know how many times the same data field is created, captured and shared.
  4. Awareness – Processes created in a vacuum don’t take into account why they were created in the first place and if they have run out of their usefulness.
  5. Imbalance – Too many or too few technology systems to capture information.
  6. Black Hole – Technology systems continue to ingest massive amounts of data without providing any direct and relevant benefits to the organization.

Lastly, to help individuals in considering the importance of data, (1) a culture of data as leverage needs to be created, (2) individuals should be empowered to use data to enhance and challenge the business models, (3) every individuals’ data success and failures should be encouraged and shared so that lessons can be learned and (4) there should be quicker and easier ways for individuals to sift through historical and new incoming data.

For an ECM mindset lets understand the complexities, intricacies and subtleties of data –> information –> knowledge by asking the following questions:

Currently

In the Future

Who is incentivized at the executive, middle management and frontline individuals’ levels for making information-based decisions?

Who should be incentivized at the executive, middle management and frontline individuals’ levels for making information-based decisions?
What happens to information when it is produced and consumed? What should happen to information when it is produced and consumed?
Where are the entry and exit points of data? Where should be the entry and exit points of data?
When does information become irrelevant? When should information become irrelevant?
Why all information is important?

Why all information should be important?

When you are asking yourself the above questions, keep in mind a survey of data scientist that revealed that 80% of the time in data is spent on collecting data sets, cleaning the data and organizing data. The reason for this is (1) there are no comprehensive lists of all the relevant data sets available inside and/or outside organizations, (2) there are no agreed upon consistent international standards on how data sets should be published and/or obtained, (3) there are no substantially automated ways (yet) of how to get rid of all junk data and (4) holistic global data exchange standards across industries don’t exist. Now, imagine if your organization had an ECM mindset, what benefits would you reveal?

ECM Mindset

 

5 Questions to Ask About Your Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Customers are the lifeblood of any organization. In order to capture and track customer information (e.g., demographics, buying habits, satisfaction and loyalty etc.), organizations use information systems called Customer Relationship Management (CRM). CRM is utilized by sales, marketing, customer support services and other organizational functions to capture new and potential customer information from multiple sources (e.g., websites, email, phone calls, chats, customer lists, social media, government data etc.) into a single source of reference.

CRM provides the organization to have “one voice” when addressing customer-related activities and provide internal organizational consistency. However, a standalone CRM is useless unless it is augmented with the right people, efficient processes and effective technologies. From a people’s perspective, customer relationship development becomes the responsibility of any individual who interacts with the customer at any level. From a processes perspective, enhanced customer experiences should be the goal. From a technologies perspective, information systems should be able to quickly capture customer information, be easy to use and always be available anytime anywhere.

In order to understand if CRM is helping or hurting your customers, ask the following questions to assess what is happening and what should be happening within your organization:

Currently

In the Future

Who is responsible for customer relationships? Who should be responsible for customer relationships?
What happens when customer relationships do not pan out? What should happen when customer relationships do not pan out?
Where does customer relationships take place? Where should customer relationships take place?
When are customer relationships developed? When should customer relationships be developed?
Why customer relationships are important? Why customer relationships should be important?

When you are asking the above questions across all levels of the organization, take into consideration the direct and indirect (e.g., word of mouth, organizational reputation, (ex) employee feedbacks etc.) ways of developing customer relationships. Keep in mind that customers are there to buy into your ideas, products and services and thus they need to trust you at some level. Customers should be able to:

  1. Trust that your organization will be transparent about how information is collected, used and distributed
  2. Trust that your organization will keep information safe
  3. Trust that your organization will provide the most efficient process for resolving issues
  4. Trust that your organization will provide customized services
  5. Trust that your organization will not try to sell them something they don’t need

5 Questions to Ask About Your Customer Relationship Management

SPICE for Business Transformation

Imagine an organization where people, business processes, products, services and technologies are in sync. Where an organization performs at its most optimal levels and miraculously everyone is happy and contributing for the wellbeing of the organization. No, I am not talking about a fictional scenario in a far off land. I am talking about an organization harnessing all the power of its capabilities to achieve Business Transformation. And I believe that there is a lot organizations can achieve if they view Business Transformation as a holistic and all-encompassing endeavor. So, today I am going to talk to you about how SPICE can make your organizations better.

slide02-about-me

I help organizations pursue a better version of themselves. In this pursuit, I collaborate with front-line employees, middle management and the C-suite to understand issues beyond the obvious so that individuals and organizations can achieve their objectives. Over the years, I have held many titles but the underlying theme is to always do and look for Business Transformation opportunities.

slide03-what-is-bt

Business is “the activity of making, buying, or selling goods or providing services in exchange for money” for corporations. For non-profits, business is the pursuit of social causes. For educational institutes, business is the pursuit of knowledge. For governments, business is the pursuit of citizen services and for military business is national security.

Transformation is “a process”.

Now, that you have a baseline understanding of what Business Transformation is and how it helps, the next time when you hear this term you would be aware that it is not just another buzzword and not just another business initiative that would disappear with time.

slide04-meet-john

Now, imagine a person named John who is walking through an unknown and dark tunnel with just a flashlight in his hands and he is carrying some baggage behind him. John does not know what is in the baggage. He continues to use the flashlight to look ahead to find his way out. His resources are limited. Thus, his objective is to reach the correct end of this unknown and dark tunnel as efficiently as possible.

Would John make it?

According to some experts, if this person were an organization pursuing Business Transformation then he would have failed 70% of the time. Think about this for a second, this means that only 30% of Business Transformation endeavors are able to achieve their full potential. Why is this?

slide05-business-vs-it-1

While there could be a variety of reasons for this high failure rate, I have observed that the number one reason for this is related to a typical conversation within organizations.

How many times have you said or heard someone say, “the business” wants this and “the business” wants that and that “the business” doesn’t understand that systems cannot be developed overnight. Ingrained in this sort of thinking is the idea that somehow IT is different from “the business”.

Somehow there is this “Us” vs. “Them” mentality.

If we think about it, all organizations take advantage of technological advancements. Paper, which was once considered a technology itself, is now used in every organization today in one way or another. Today, all organizations are digital in one way or another even if they don’t realize it yet and to think that they are not stems from this “Us” vs. “Them” mentality.

slide06-business-vs-it-1

Perhaps it is time to change the conversation! Perhaps it is time to think about IT as not something that is outside of “the business” but it is part of “the business”. To have this conversation, there has to be mutual understanding that neither “side” should downplay the importance of the other. This requires an understanding that all technical and non-technical aspects of the organization are there to support the end objectives of business transformation and that collaboration works much better than just mere animosity.

When I started assessing and improving organizations in 2003, I didn’t know what it was called. All I wanted to do was help organizations apply the full potential of their capabilities beyond what they perceived them to be which included but not limited to IT capabilities. Over the years, this took on new meaning for me as the conversation quickly changed from just doing my duties to fundamentally reshaping organizations inside out.

A couple of years ago Business Transformation, IT Transformation and Digital Transformation started to pick up steam and it took off. A lot more individuals and organizations started to pay attention when they saw their bread and butter business models being shattered in light of the new economy. Startups like Uber took on the Taxi Services around the world and now are expanding into other means of transportation as well. In response, Taxi Service companies pushed back hard by either through legislation and government policy or creating their own taxi mobile apps. If the taxi service companies think that they can compete with Uber with just their own taxicab apps then they are hugely mistaken. This is just one example that illustrates how one industry became complacent and within a short period of time a competitor emerged with a new business model that directly tied its operations to technology and the rest, as we know it, is history.

So, if you think about it, Business Transformation is not a standalone activity but a holistic one. Thus, if the people, business processes, products, services and technologies are ignored or not paid enough attention then Business Transformation becomes just another pipe dream.

slide07-business-transformation-5-ws

As I see it, organizations that are committed to figuring out the Business Transformation journey have to ask 5 fundamental questions from an internal perspective and an external perspective. These questions are:

  1. Who is helped by Business Transformation efforts? Is it management? Is it employees? Or maybe its customers and shareholders? Perhaps answering this entails understanding customer experiences issues and long-term value propositions to shareholders.
  2. What does Business Transformation teach us? Is it better internal communications? Is it Governance and Standardization? Or is it Branding? An organization that showcases and does actual Business Transformation has better stories to tell about improvements and thus can attract customers who see value in an organization that is trying to do better.
  3. Where does Business Transformation start? Does it start in IT? Does it start in Marketing or Operations? Or does it start with customers, vendors and partners? When a customer comes to you and requests a system to be developed, do you ignore this request since your organization does not develop these types of systems or do you explore this further and figure out how you or a partner could help your customer?
  4. When should Business Transformation be considered? How about when an employee has a conversation with a customer? How about when established competitors are eating your lunch? Or should it be considered when new innovations and methods arise?
  5. Most importantly, why do Business Transformation in the first place? Is the organization looking to become optimized and have better cohesiveness? Or is it better long-term value and creating positive societal ripples such as the creation of Corporate Social Responsibility groups that look into Green Technologies to save electricity and in turn save the plant as a consequence.

These are all important questions to ask before, during and after the Business Transformation journeys. But if there are no effective feedback loops then most Business Transformation journeys would be just a one-time initiative and not something that makes organizations become self-improvement entities.

slide08-so-what

By this time, most of you might be thinking “well ok I get it that Business Transformation is more than what meets the eye but so what?!!”

What does Business Transformation really have to do with Business Architecture?

A valid question. I want you to think about this…

Do you see Business Architecture as just a plan, as just a design or a model, maybe perhaps a guide, or a way to create documentation, or for the purposes of alignment? Or do you see Business Architecture as a way to accomplish a vision and even to improve an organization’s mentality.

The fundamental reason we do Business Architecture in the first place is to fully leverage the technical and non-technical capabilities of the organization to transform itself. You don’t create a plan or a model or a guide to just document it but you do create it so that these insights can be used to make the organization better otherwise why do it in the first place anyways!

Thus, Business Architecture and Business Transformation are highly intertwined. An effective Business Architecture would open up avenues for Business Transformation so that when it comes to responding to market demands, strategy does not get lost in translation when it comes time for execution.

slide09-spice

I have spent many years recognizing patterns in my own engagements, academic literature and case studies and have determined that there are fundamentally 5 factors that affect the journeys towards Business Transformation.

These 5 factors are Strategies, Politics, Innovation, Culture and Execution or simply called the SPICE Factors.

I represent these factors in a pentagon shape. On its edges are the 5 factors which start from Strategies on the left hand corner and going clockwise until Execution. In the middle of the pentagon shape, there is a loop in yellow indicating that Business Transformation is a continuous process and not just a single project or initiative. Besides each SPICE factors there is a performance indicator to represent that each of the factors have to be measured. This measurement can entail Key Performance Indicators and even Service Level Agreement checks.

The red pentagon indicates where the organization is today (aka the current state) while the green pentagon indicates where the organization wants to be tomorrow (aka the future state). In the middle, the yellow arrow from the red pentagon to the green pentagon indicates transition and indicates what the areas that need to be taken into consideration namely people, business processes and technologies. By extension, these areas influence the products and services provided by the organization.

I am going to go through each of these 5 factors and make you think about how each of these factors can affect Business Transformation within your organizations.

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The first SPICE factor is Strategies. Strategy is a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time. Depending upon how far out your organization can think, a long period of time can be 1 year, 3 years or even 10 years. Of course as you go further out in time, your strategy gets complex as you might not be able to anticipate what is going to happen.

There are many levels of strategies within the organization such as Financial Strategy, Marketing Strategy, Operations Strategy and IT Strategy to name a few. Additionally, strategies can be top down, bottom up, cross-functional and hybrids. But fundamentally, I put strategies in three big buckets namely Organizational Strategy which affects Executives (e.g., performance compensation, M&A etc.), Team Strategy which affects Middle Management (e.g., Operational Improvement, Tool Selection etc.) & Individual Strategy which affects front-line employees (e.g., career trajectory, hiring etc.).

In addition to these strategies and the types of people that they affect, it gets more complex and the real relationships actually look more complicated. Upon further depth, we realize that all of these types of strategies have an internal perspective and an external perspective.

For example, from an internal perspective, organizational strategy looks at things like the type of organizational structures such as functional, matrixed, product-based or hybrids. Depending upon what structure your organization has or wants to evolve into, there would be repercussions. In a functional organizational structure, focus on areas of expertise is increased but what is lost is the cross collaboration which leads to silos. On the other hand, in a matrixed project-based structure, the individuals are only needed for the duration of that project and then they go back into a pool to be picked up or not. What incentive do people have in this type of structure to get the job done efficiently? Something to think about.

Depending upon what the end goal is, these strategies can

  1. Affect performance compensation for executives
  2. Create or destroy middle management fiefdoms
  3. Affect Hiring, Training and Layoff of frontline employees
  4. Create and destroy bloated expectations

The last point is interesting since a strategy with bloated expectations or no expectations at all can lead to misalignment namely between IT Strategy and other Organizational Strategies. Lets think about this…

  1. Was this misalignment always there or somehow it evolved over time?
  2. Why did this misalignment happen in the first place?

A root cause understanding from technical and non-technical views can reveal something that might have been taken for granted. For example, IT teams creating and acquiring tools that have no relationship to the Organizational Strategy or perhaps revealing the purchase of technology by non-IT teams which again has no relationship to the Organizational Strategy.

In short, there are 3 key points to consider for Business Transformation in terms of strategies:

  1. The real an unreal organizational structures matter more that you might like to believe
  2. Plan to plan and measure performance both at an organizational level as well as at individual levels
  3. Alignment is a two-way conversation that is not a top-down demand but should be a collaborative approach

Having said that, as corporate citizens of the organization, we have to realize that Strategies are not shelf-ware.

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Merriam Webster defines politics to be the complex of relations between people living in a society. For our purposes, here society would refer to your organization. No one wants to talk about politics in the organization and yet there are decisions made everyday that are political in nature. 

Politics in organizations is about power; the power to frame a problem; the power to influence decision and the power to make decisions. While we are all aware of the official power that is the power of your superior within the organization but most have also encountered unofficial power where regardless of the title an individual is able to persuade others. Some people call this leadership while other call it manipulation.

In organizations, while it may seem that all similar titles should hold the same power but that is certainly not the case. Even with VP titles, not all VPs are the same. Some have more power based on the number of people they manage, based on the revenue generated by their teams and even based on the relationships they have with others within the organization. So, the next time you look at an org chart and see all VPs at the same level you will know that an organizational chart is just a fairytale representation and not reality. Why this matters? This matter because the next time you are looking for champions to support your projects keep a vigilant eye on who has power and how much of their power is used to make decisions.

The display of power is more relevant today in the age of big data than ever before. As you know, most Big Data initiatives revolve around gathering massive amounts of data and then finding patterns. The thought behind is that once we can figure out patterns then we can make better decisions. This however is not the complete picture. Beyond the usual Vs of Big Data, I believe there are 4 Vs that are critical but missing in most conversations.

These Vs are Vitality meaning how important the data is, Versatility meaning how data could be applied to various scenarios, Vocality meaning the supporters of data-driven approaches and lastly Veto meaning the ultimate authority to accept or reject big data conclusions. As you might have noticed, Vocality and Veto are about Power.

The idea of power also applies when you are creating an ERP System. The executives who have official and unofficial powers can become champions or become obstacles. One way to remedy this is to get them involved early on; have a discussion, find out pain points and get feedback. So, when it is time to standup an ERP system, the people have been engaged from the begining and it is not a surprise. Also be prepared that business process optmization should be done first prior to any large scale systems because otherwise all you are doing is automating broken business processes and thus when it is time to optmize them it would become much harder to do so. Other examples of displaying of power would be in Cloud Computing and Shadow IT.

In short, there are 2 key points to consider for Business Transformation in terms of politics:

  1. The official and unofficial power considerations matter and can make or break a project
  2. Create a Power Map to know where a power resides, assign quantitative values to them to set a baseline and then verify with projects that those baselines are correct

Remember, politics needs to be understood especially in the case of organizations.

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Innovation is defined to be the act or process of introducing new ideas, devices or methods. Innovation can be a new product, a new way of hiring people, a new way of doing business processes, a new service and it can also be a new technology. If there are so many ways of being innovative, why organizations and individuals struggle in this area?

For most, innovation is something that is considered difficult since people don’t know where to start or how to continue. Innovation comes from inspiration and I believe that organizations and individuals can be inspired by things around them. The left picture represents the possible sources of organizational inspiration for innovation. These sources include:

  1. First, the organization’s internal customers. By internal customer, yes I do mean anyone who is within the boundaries of your organizations and yes that includes your employees. Employees who can see beyond the immediate needs and are able to connect the dots should have an avenue to express it. Thus, there should be some sort of innovation process that captures the wisdom of these employees.
  2. Second, the organization’s external customers. We are all aware of the external customers who are outside the boundaries of your organization but they too can provide feedback to improve your products and services.
  3. Third, within your own industry, which includes looking at what competitors, partners and/or startups are doing something that could be applied internally.
  4. Fourth, outside your industry. Think about the field of Project Management that emerged from the construction industry but now it is used in Software Development.
  5. Lastly, the integration, customization and combination of inspirations from the above four ways. Think about the evolution of writing from cave walls to stone tablets to paper and then eventually to computers.

The picture on the right represents the possible sources of individual inspiration for innovation. These sources include:

  1. First, your direct circle of influences namely your friends and family. Have you considered talking with them about problems that you might be facing and what they would recommend?
  2. Second, your indirect circle on influence namely your co-workers, educational and professional associations. Perhaps what you are having trouble with they have already solved or at least they can give you a nudge in the right direction.
  3. Third, increasing your understanding of areas that interest you which includes reading books, blogs, news articles and talking to people who have experience in that area.
  4. Fourth, increasing your awareness of areas that you are not that knowledgeable in which includes different types of readings, experiencing cultures beyond your own, conversation with diverse people, observing the plant kingdom and observing the animal kingdom.
  5. Lastly, the stitching, applicability and combination of inspiration from the above four ways. Think about the invention of Velcro by observing cockleburs in the plant kingdom.

Thus, it would be naïve for organizations to think that they cannot fully take advantage of innovation at the organizational and individual levels.

They have to remember that innovation is the lifeline.

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Culture is a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization. Often times when there is a discussion of culture within organizations we immediately think this is something fuzzy and it is only equated with people. While people definitely create a culture but there is more to this than meets the eye.

You see culture is not just one thing but a combination of things. Most organizations don’t have one culture but they have a mix of sub-cultures. The way people are treated creates a sub-culture. For example, how are people within the organizations at all levels incentivized and rewarded? The way people dress creates a sub-culture. For example, if executives dress differently vs. non-executives this visibly creates the culture of in-crowd vs. outsiders. The posters in public locations, the discussion between Mac. Vs. Windows, IT behind closed doors and even an individual can create sub-cultures within an organizations.

All of this matters because culture is not just having a foosball table or other “perk”, it is creating an environment where employees are appreciated not just by talk by the executive but by tangible actions through incentives, rewards and performance goals.

Culture is at the base of the SPICE factors for a reason.

Culture can make a strategy just another paper-exercise, culture can drastically affect politics, culture can resist organizational innovation, and culture can prevent effective execution of operations and all of this means that culture can diminish any hopes for Business Transformation.

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Execution is the act of doing or performing something. If you notice in the above-mentioned factors, all of them need to be executed; measured and performed otherwise all we are doing is just wasting our breath and paper. As I see it, execution also has an organizational level and an individual level. Both of them are highly intertwined. If there are no structures and processes to determine and quantify execution issues then how would you know where your baseline is and if you don’t know where your baseline is then how would you know if your Business Transformation efforts have been successful or not.

Note that execution is highly based on biases and perceptions of organizations and individuals as discussed earlier. They have to be considered and if needed be persuaded to be changed.

Rewards and incentives can not only change behavior but it can enhance cohesion and collaboration across the organization.

Lesson learned are useless when all they are is a paper exercise of capturing what happened wrong or right but not an input for other projects so that they can avoid similar mistakes or repeat successes.

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All the factors that have been discussed are not something that are done in isolation but they all come together to create an organization that is able to transform it self based and stay ahead of the game.

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As we can see from the live survey, the most important area for Business Transformation is People and the most important factor for Business Transformation is execution.

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Now, let’s go back to our dear friend John (aka your organization). With his understanding of the SPICE Factors and his awareness of how the SPICE Factors can affect people, business processes, products, services and technologies, don’t you think he would have used his flash light to find out what was in the baggage. Perhaps some of the baggage was dead weight that he needed to get rid of and perhaps in the baggage there were additional resources he could use such as food, liquids and even a map. But the only way John would find out would be to look behind and just check his baggage!

All I am saying is…help John find his way and help him succeed!

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