Business Improvement and Transformation

5 Questions to Ask About Your Organization’s Strategy

If you have a strong understanding of how culture affects your organization’s strategy then you have better ideas of creating strategies that are truly transformative for your organization. Having said that, most organizations don’t make the time to strategize about strategy development processes and thus are not fully aware of the intended and unintended affects of their pursuits. The three main reasons for this lack of awareness are:

  1. The fallacy that strategy should always be top-down
  2. The lack of a holistic approach to strategy development and feedback
  3. The half-baked idea that strategy can only be created by a few people

An organization’s overall strategy is a combination of policy and plan of action that is intended to improve making, buying, or selling of goods and/or services for the customer. Thus, it becomes imperative for organizations to keep customer at the center of what they do and create customer experiences that make their lives easier.

If you want strategy to be something that is shelf-ware that looks pretty on an executives’ file cabinet and it is cool to only talk about it then don’t read ahead. For those if you who want strategy to be more than just an exercise then I would invite you to ask the following questions about strategy and strategy development processes within your own organization:

Strategic Perspectives on Strategy:

 

Currently

In the Future

1. Who is incentivized at the executive level to create strategy? Who should be incentivized at the executive level to create strategy?
2. What governance structures are in place for transforming how strategy is created? What governance structures should be in place for transforming how strategy is created?
3. Where is technology used to help strategy? Where should technology be used to help strategy?
4. When and how often strategic objectives are communicated? When and how often strategic objectives should be communicated?
5. Why holistic strategy development processes are critical to achieving strategic objectives? Why holistic strategy development processes should be critical to achieving strategic objectives?

Tactical Perspectives on Strategy:

 

Currently

In the Future

1. Who is incentivized at the middle management level to give feedback on strategy? Who should be incentivized at the middle management level to give feedback on strategy?
2. What business units, functional areas and teams are included to develop strategy? What business units, functional areas and teams should be included to create strategy?
3. Where technology hinders in strategy development processes? Where technology might hinder in strategy development processes?
4. When is the start and end of meeting strategic objectives communicated? When should the start and end of meeting strategic objectives communicated?
5. Why strategy development processes are critical to achieving tactical objectives? Why strategy development processes should be critical to achieving tactical objectives?

Operational Perspectives on Strategy:

 

Currently

In the Future

1. Who sees strategy development  processes as an obstacle? Who might see strategy development processes as an obstacle?
2. What business processes provide views on the organization’s actual vs. perceived strategy? What business processes should provide views on the organization’s actual vs. perceived strategy?
3. Where is technology part of your understanding the organization’s strategy? Where should technology be a part of understanding the organization’s strategy?
4. When were you informed about the strategic objectives and strategy development processes? When should you have been informed about the strategic objectives and strategy development processes?
5. Why strategic objectives are critical to achieving your daily tasks? Why strategic objectives should be critical to achieving your daily tasks?

To be clear, strategy and strategy development affects everyone inside and outside your organization which includes executives, middle management, front lines employees as well as the customers you are trying to acquire. Thus, your organization’s strategy development processes should be robust enough that they take long-term holistic views but also flexible enough to cater for bumps and take advantage of technological advancement.

5 Questions to About Your Organization's Strategy

 

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5 Questions to Ask About Artificial Intelligence

In 1956, John McCarthy, the father of Artificial Intelligence (AI), brought together expert thinkers from multiple disciplines to explore how machines could “mimic” certain human traits. These expert thinkers came from the fields of Computer Science, Engineering, Logic, Mathematics and Psychology and wanted to find out how machines could:

  1. Use language
  2. Form abstractions and concepts
  3. Improve problems reserved for humans
  4. Improve themselves

Today, the field of AI also draws from the fields of Linguistics, Philosophy, Statistics, Economics and others. Due to the advancements and inclusion of various fields, the definition of what AI is has also evolved. What was once considered AI, is now considered just one of many things a computer system does. In my view, AI is a capability and thus a computer system that can independently solve routine and non-routine problems through self-learning has AI capabilities. These capabilities of a computer system can range from Object Character Recognition (OCR), Natural Language Processing (NLP), Computer Vision, Motion Manipulation (in Robotics) and others.

Under the hood, AI-capable computer systems are a combination of algorithms, data, hardware and software. When writing algorithms and eventually code for AI, software developers cannot really take into account all the various scenarios a computer system might encounter and what to do in those scenarios. Thus, AI-capable computer systems are coded in a way where they can learn from experience through training by using baseline datasets and then extrapolating them to other scenarios.

However, the problem with creating AI-capable computer systems is that these systems are still highly dependent on the quality of the underlying algorithms and the datasets, both of which can be created/provided by humans. As humans, we are prone to biases in not only creating algorithms but also in incomplete data that can create AI-capable computer systems that are biased and would be making incorrect decisions.

For organizations that are looking to improve themselves, AI-capable computer systems can be used to help enhance customer experiences, improve operations and provide insights for making decisions. On the flip side, AI-capable computer systems that have weak algorithms and/or bad data can result in horrible decision-making. Now that we understand what is AI and how it can potentially be used, lets ask the following questions:

Currently

In the Future

Who is creating the underlying algorithms and cleaning the data?

Who should be creating the underlying algorithms and cleaning the data?
What happens when AI-capable computer systems make bad decisions? What should happen when AI-capable computer systems make bad decisions?
Where AI-capable computer systems are relevant for decision-making? Where should AI-capable computer systems be relevant for decision-making?
When is data being acquired? When should data be acquired?
Why AI-capable computer systems are being used?

Why AI-capable computer systems should be used?

As we can see, the human factor in AI-capable computer systems is a real threat/opportunity. And while we are far away from creating sentient beings that are capable of general intelligence, right now we do have AI-capable computer systems that can perform narrower tasks better than humans. What this means is that today and in the near future specific tasks would be given to these AI-capable computer systems rather than humans. Keeping this in mind, organizations and governments are trying to figure how to address this AI wave and put programs in place when certain jobs would go extinct.

Artificial Intelligence - Algo + Data

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