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Digital Strategy & the Board

Digital Strategy is a plan that uses digital resources to achieve one or more objectives. With Technology changing at a very fast pace, Organisations have many digital resources to choose from.

Digital Resources can be defined as materials that have been conceived and created digitally or by converting analogue materials to a digital format for example:

  • Utilising the internet for commerce (web-shops, customer service portals, etc…)
  • Secure working for all employees from anywhere via VPN
  • Digital documents, scanning paper copies and submitting online correspondence to customers i.e. online statements and payment facilities via customer portals
  • Digital resources via Knowledge Base, Wiki, Intranet site and Websites
  • Automation – use digital solutions like robotics and AI to complete repetitive tasks more efficiently
  • Utilising social media for market awareness, customer engagement and advertising

A Digital Strategy is typically a plan that helps the business to transform it’s course of action, operations and activities into a digital nature by utilising available applicable technology.

Many directors know that digital strategies, and there related spending, can be difficult to understand. From blockchain and virtual reality to artificial intelligence, no business can afford to fall behind with the latest technological innovations that are redefining how businesses connect with their customers, employees, and myriad of other stakeholders. Read this post that covers “The Digital Transformation Necessity“…

As a Board Director what are the crucial factors that the Board should consider when building a digital strategy?

Here are five critical aspects, in more detail, and the crucial things to be conscious of when planning a digital transformation strategy as part of a board.

Stakeholders

A stakeholder, by definition, is usually an individual or a group impacted by the outcome of a project. While in previous roles you may have worked with stakeholders at senior management level, when planning a digital strategy, it’s important to remember that your stakeholders could also include customers, employees or anyone that could be affected by a new digital initiative.

Digital strategies work from the top down, if you’re looking to roll out a digital transformation project, you need to consider how it will affect every person inside or outside of your business.

Investment

Digital transformation almost always involves capital and technology-intensive investments. It is not uncommon for promising transformation projects to stall because of a lack of funds, or due to technology infrastructure that cannot cope with increased demands.

Starting a budgeting process right at the start of planning a digital transformation project is essential. This helps ensure that the scope of a project does not grow beyond the capabilities of an enterprise to fund it. A realistic budgeting and funding approach is crucial because a stalled transformation project creates disruption, confusion and brings little value to a business.

Communications

From the get-go, any digital strategy, regardless of size, should be founded on clear and constant communication between all stakeholders involved in a project. This ensures everyone is in the loop on the focus of the project, their specific roles within it, and which processes are going to change. In addition, continuous communication helps build a spirit of shared success and ensures everyone has the information they need to address any frustrations or challenges that may occur as time passes. When developing an effective communication plan, Ian’s advice is to hardly mention the word digital at all.

The best digital strategies explain what digital can do and also explain the outcomes. Successful communication around digital strategies uses language that everyone can understand, plain English, no buzzwords, no crazy acronyms and no silly speak.

Also read “Effective Leadership Communication” which covers how you can communicate effectively to ensure that everyone in the team are on the same page.

Technology

While there are many technologies currently seeing rapid growth and adoption, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will need to implement all of them in your business. The choice of technology depends upon the process you are trying to optimise. Technology, as a matter of fact, is just a means to support your idea and the associated business processes.

People often get overwhelmed with modern technologies and try to implement all of them in their current business processes. The focus should be on finding the technologies that rightly fit your business objectives and implement them effectively.

Never assume that rolling out a piece of technology is just going to work. When embarking on a digital project, deciding what not to do is just as important as deciding what to do. Look at whether a piece of technology can actually add value to your business or if it’s just a passing trend. Each digital project should hence be presented to Board with a business case that outlines the business value, return on investment and the associated benefits and risks, for board consideration.

Measurement

No strategy is complete without a goal and a Digital Strategy is no different. To measure the effectiveness of your plan you will need to set up some key performance indicators (KPIs). These metrics will demonstrate the effectiveness of the plan and will also guide your future decision making. You will need to set up smart goals that have clear achievable figures along with a timeline. These goals will guide and optimise the entire execution of a transformation project and ensure that the team does not lose focus.

Any decent strategy should say where we are now, where we want to get to and how we’re going to get there, but also, more importantly, how are we going to monitor and track against our progress.

Also Read

 

Risk Management – for NEDs

Arguably the most significant adjustment to the NED role over the past seven years is that all NEDs must now be well versed in identifying and managing all forms of risk – operational, financial and reputational…

As a Chairman once described: “Risk is a massive issue now: You need to understand the risks and be clear about what the board is doing about mitigating those risk.”

So, how can you ensure that risks are being articulated appropriately and how can you probe into how risks are being mitigated, irrespective if risk management is well established within an industry or not? In the first part of this article I give some steer on how you can assess current risk management practises (governance) and the latter part covers some best practises.

Risk Maturity

If not already done within the company, you could do a Risk Maturity Assessment which gives an indication of the organisation’s engagement with risk management.

There are various models, usually with five levels of maturity (see the 5 Level Maturity Model in diagram below): from an immature Level 1 organisation where there are no formal risk management policies, processes or associated activities, tools or techniques, through a Level 2 managed organisation where policies are in place but risk reviews are generally reactive, all the ay up to the mature or ‘risk intelligent’ Level 5 enterprise where the risk management tone is set at the top and built into decision making, with risk management activities proactively embedded at all levels of the organisation.

Maturity - 5 Levels

     5 Level Maturity Model 

The outcome of such an assessment will give you clear indication of the risk management maturity level of the organisation. Dependant on how that aligns with the Shareholders’ and Board’s expected level, the needed change actions can be initiated to mature the organisation to the expected level. It will also give you measure of clarity of the rigour of process and review that is likely to have gone into the risk reporting that you see as a Board.

Risk Score/Rating Matrix

As risks are identified, logged in the Risk Register and then assessed based on likelihood of it happening and the impact to the business if it should happen, a Risk Scoring Matrix (with preferably a 5 point scal as per diagram below) is very useful to assign a Risk Score to each risk.

The higher the score the higher the priority of mitigating the risk should be.

RISK Matrix

Risk Score Matrix

As a NED you need to assess the completeness of the Key Risks in the Risk Register. Engaging with the executives prior board meetings goes a long way to get input and a feel for risks existing on the floor (day to day running/operations) of the business. You should also ask if there is something that you are talking about in every meeting that either is not on the risk register, or is rated as a low risk?  If that is true, then you need to explore why you are talking about it as a Board but management are not giving it greater focus.

Risk Heat Chart

A heat chart (as per diagram below) enables a holistic view of risks with high scoring risks in the top right (coloured red) corner and low risks in the bottom left corner (coloured green).Risk-HeatMap

   Risk Heat Map

For a board to get an overview of what the key risks are, I don’t think you can beat a heat chart.

As a NED, you can use this to sense check: Are the risks in the top quadrants, the Red Risks, the ones that the Board feel are the highest risk? Are you talking about these risks regularly and challenging the business on what mitigating actions they are doing to reduce them?

Approach on Risk Review

The popular parlance these days is a ‘deep dive’ into the highest risks, usually undertaken by the Audit Committee.

Apart from the “deep dive’ into risks usually undertaken by the Audit Committee you, as a NED, want to do your own exploring, below is an approached…

1. Current Risk Score

What is the justification for the current rating – does this feel right? The impact should be measured by the potential impact of the risk on strategic objectives, and is usually quite easy to define, but likelihood can be more subjective.

Also known as the mitigated risk rating, the current rating should recognise mitigations or controls that are already in place, and how effective these are.

2. Target Risk Score

What is a reasonable target risk rating for this risk, ie where are we trying to get to?

As a Board, you need to set the risk appetite (which equates to target risk ratings).  This may vary by the type of risk, for example, targeting a very low risk rating might be necessary on something that is a matter of compliance or safety, but in commercial matters, the trade-off between risk and reward needs to be considered, so a higher risk appetite is likely to be acceptable.

There won’t be a limitless budget to spend on mitigating every risk to a minimal level, so as a Board you will have to decide what level of risk you are comfortable with; and where the balance sits between reducing the risk and the cost of mitigation.  Why would you spend more on mitigations than the financial impact of the risk crystallising?

3. Mitigating actions

How are you going to get to your target level of risk?  Planned mitigating actions should drive the risk rating to its target level.  This is a focus area for audit committee deep dives – what actions are planned, and will they be sufficient to bring you to your target risk rating?  Progress on these actions should be monitored regularly – if no progress, ask if this risk being taken seriously enough? Or is it not as big a risk as you first thought?

Good risk management should aid decision making, avoid or minimise losses, but also identify opportunities.

Let’s look now into Risk Mitigation in more detail…

Approach on Risk Mitigation

Risk mitigation can be defined as taking steps to reduce adverse effects and impact to the business while reducing the likelihood of the risk.

There are four types of risk mitigation strategies that hold unique to Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery. When mitigating risk, it’s important to develop a strategy that closely relates to and matches your company’s risk profile.

four types of risk mitigation

Risk Acceptance

Risk acceptance does not reduce any effects however it is still considered a strategy. This strategy is a common option when the cost of other risk management options such as avoidance or limitation may outweigh the cost of the risk itself. A company that doesn’t want to spend a lot of money on avoiding risks that do not have a high possibility of occurring will use the risk acceptance strategy.

Risk Avoidance

Risk avoidance is the opposite of risk acceptance. It is the action that avoids any exposure to the risk whatsoever. It’s important to note that risk avoidance is usually the most expensive of all risk mitigation options.

Risk Limitation/Reduction

Risk limitation is the most common risk management strategy used by businesses. This strategy limits a company’s exposure by taking some action. It is a strategy employing a bit of risk acceptance along with a bit of risk avoidance or an average of both. An example of risk limitation would be a company accepting that a disk drive may fail and avoiding a long period of failure by having backups.

Risk Transference

Risk transference is the involvement of handing risk off to a willing third party. For example, numerous companies outsource certain operations such as customer service, payroll services, etc. This can be beneficial for a company if a transferred risk is not a core competency of that company. It can also be used so a company can focus more on their core competencies.

All of these four risk mitgiation strategies require montioring. Vigilence is needed so that you can recognize and interrperet changes to the impact of that risk.

 

Project Sponsorship

There are multiple aspects that contribute to a successful project, for example the right people, proper planning, governance, clear roles and responsibilities, but to mention a few. You could argue all equally important but one of the most important aspects that are often overlooked is the position of the Project Sponsor.

In my experience, the Sponsor holds one of the most important roles in terms of project success or failure. An involved sponsor who really is vested in the success of the project, will bring drive and energy to the project at a senior executive level – especially needed when the going gets tough.

The Project Sponsor takes ownership for the project goals, provides overall direction for the project and is the owner of the final product/deliverable.

Project Sponsor – Definition

In PRINCE2 it is not a defined role. PRINCE2 separately defines the “Project Executive” and the “Senior User” – two of the three core elements of the Project Board. For simpler projects these roles may well be combined and this then aligns closely with the general usage of the term Project Sponsor.

The APM Body of Knowledge characterises the Project Sponsor as the individual for whom the project is undertaken and who is the primary risk taker. The Sponsor is a member of the Steering Group which provides strategic direction and will include senior managers and, sometimes, key stakeholders.

The PMI PMBOK Guide talks about project sponsors and project initiators: the project initiator authorises the initiation of a project and the project sponsor provides the financial resources, in cash or in kind for the project. Again, these roles may often be assumed by a single individual.

Who can be a Project Sponsor

It is unusual for Project Sponsors to be full time project professionals. It is more likely that they are drawn from the management team of the business – perhaps as an interested “user”. For major projects it may be the CEO or CIO which assumes the role of Sponsor. It is preferable that the individual brings relevant experience and wields the authority and organisational ability to make things happen.

A sponsor needs to be:

  • a business leader and decision-maker with the credibility to work across corporate and functional boundaries;
  • an enthusiastic advocate of the work and the change it brings about;
  • prepared to commit time and support to the role;
  • sufficiently experienced in P3 to judge if the work is being managed effectively and to challenge P3 managers where appropriate.

Project Sponsor vs Other Project Roles

Project Sponsor vs. Project Owner

The project sponsor is a person.  The project owner is the organization that performs the project and receives its deliverables.  Normally the project sponsor is employed by the project owner organisation.

Project Sponsor vs. Project Manager

The project sponsor is one (and only one) level above the project manager.  While the project manager is responsible for the day to day operations of the project, the project sponsor seeks to promote the project to keep it high on the priority list, ensures the resources are in place to perform the project, and approves changes to the project.

Project Sponsor Project Manager
Day to Day management of project work No Yes
Project Deliverables Accepts Produces
Funding Approves Requests

The two main differences between project sponsorship and project management 

    1. Project sponsorship includes the identification and definition of the project whereas project management is concerned with delivering a project that is already defined, if only quite loosely.
    2. The project sponsor is responsible for the project’s business case and should not hesitate to recommend cancellation of the project if the business case no longer justifies the project.

Quick look at Other Project Roles:

    • Project Manager:  Responsible for the day to day project work, keeping the project on schedule and budget.  They report to the Project Sponsor.
    • Project Team:  The people who perform the technical project work and produce the deliverables.  They report to the project manager.
    • Customers/Users:  The people who use the project deliverables to improve their lives or work.  They are sometimes involved directly within the project in the form of focus groups or test subjects.
    • Vendors:  The people and organizations the project procures to provide products and/or services to fill technical gaps in the project team’s knowledge or ability, or to enhance the quality of the final product.
    • Business Partners:  The people or organizations that the project owner partners with to fulfill a specific role like installation, training or support.
    • Functional Managers:  The managers of technical groups (departments) within the owner organization, who often supply technical expertise to the project.
    • External Stakeholders:  Most project have stakeholders who are affected by the project, like government regulatory agencies, adjacent landowners, and the like.

Sponsor Responsibilities

The role of project sponsor is critical to ensuring the success of projects – therefore, when initiating a new project, you need to define the project sponsor taking into account the importance of project sponsorship. A project sponsor is to be involved from project initiation to project end. They represent the business side of the project.  They were probably involved when the project was being conceived and advocated for its inception before a project manager was assigned.

Further the sponsor is critical to strategic planning, high project sustainability, and successful implementation of project objectives. The role of project sponsor covers the financial and organizational responsibilities and activities that are directed to quick and decisive governance of the project.

The project sponsor is one, and only one, level above the project manager.  They do not manage the day to day operations of the project but they ensure the resources are in place, promote the project, and hold overall responsibility for the project’s success.

A good sponsor performs different functions during the project life cycle, serving as mentor, catalyst, motivator, barrier buster, and boundary manager. Most of the sponsor responsibilities are covered below:

  • The sponsor is the link between the project manager and senior managers, lead negotiations to gain and ensure stakeholder consensus.
  • Champion/Promotion: The project sponsor is the best ‘project seller’ that champions the project thought the business. The sponsor promotes and defends the project in front of all other stakeholders. They are the project champion that attempts to keep the project at the highest priority within the organisation.
  • Informing:  They receive project status updates from the project manager and disseminate the information to the relevant executives.
  • Project Charter:  This document officially creates the project and assigns the project manager.  It falls directly within the project sponsor’s responsibility.
  • Authorisation: They authorise the project and assign the project manager. They approve the project management plan and are kept aware of how the project is managed.
  • Scoping:  They are generally responsible for determining the initial project scope, although the project manager is ultimately responsible for the official project scope within the project management plan.
  • Goals: The Sponsor should ensure that the business need is valid and correctly prioritised within the project.
  • Communication: Clearly communicate on aspects of the project with stakeholder groups and senior management.
  • Keeping to Schedule: The Sponsor is heavily involved in ensuring that the project is kept to the original schedule along with the Project Manager. In order to manage the schedule the Sponsor and Project Manager should meet frequently and review the timeline.
  • Changes: A project can experience changes at any time. The Sponsor needs to ensure that these changes are properly managed to ensure that they don’t have any negative impact on the project.
  • Resolve Risks & Issues: Some issues are out of the reach of the Project Manager such as decisions on changes and conflicting objectives. The Sponsor takes control of these issues and ensures that they are solved efficiently and effectively.
  • Support: The Project Manager needs consistent support during a project. The Sponsor is on hand to provide this support in the form of mentoring, coaching and leadership. The Sponsor also supports the Project Team especially in terms of scope clarification, progress management and guidance.
  • Reporting: Assistance for the PM with appraisal and reporting.
  • Funding: They are responsible for negotiations to ensure funding is in place and approving changes to the project budget.
  • Leadership: Provide direction and guidance for project empowerment, key business strategies and project initiatives.
  • ROI & Benefits: As owner of the business case, the project sponsor is responsible for qualifying and overseeing the delivery of the benefits (the benefits realisation) as well as to identify project critical success factors and approve deliverables.
  • Identify members of Steering Committee and chair these Steerco meetings.
  • Involve stakeholders in the project and maintain their ongoing commitment to the project through using communication strategies and project management planning methods
  • Receiving:  Evaluate the project’s success on completion – The project sponsor receives the project deliverables from the project manager, approves them, and integrates them into the owner organization.

According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), the project sponsor role can be broken into three parts: vision, governance and value or benefits realization. They break those down in the following way:

Vision

    • Makes sure the business case is valid and in step with the business propositio
    • Aligns project with business strategy, goals and objective
    • Stays informed of project events to keep project viable
    • Defines the criteria for project success and how it fits with the overall business

Governance

    • Ensures project is properly launched and initiated
    • Maintains organizational priorities throughout project
    • Offers support for project organization
    • Defines project roles and reporting structure
    • Acts as an escalation point for issues when something is beyond the project manager’s control
    • Gets financial resources
    • Decision-maker for progress and phases of project

Values & Benefits

    • Makes sure that risks and changes are managed
    • Helps to ensure control and review processes
    • Oversees delivery of project value
    • Evaluates status and progress
    • Approves deliverables
    • Helps with decision-making
    • Responsible for project quality throughout project phases

Common reasons why the Sponsor lets down the project:

Many organisations invest heavily in project management training but are blind to the benefits of having project leaders who truly understand how projects differ from other management activities. Business are letting a project down if the sponsor:

    • is reassignment in the organisation, or distraction by other priorities.
    • is micro managing which can disrupt project manager confidence and authority.
    • fails to understand the project process and responsibilities.

The chances are that if an inappropriate project sponsor has been chosen,

    • the effectiveness of the role is reduced,
    • the project is not funded sufficiently,
    • and the overall success of the project is likely to turn into failure.

In fact, any project which is initiated without an appropriate degree of executive sponsorship (executive sponsor) stands an high likelihood of failure.

Sponsorship: project, programme or portfolio

Project

The role of the project sponsor starts before the appointment of the project manager. It continues beyond project closure and the departure of the project manager. So the sponsorship role covers the whole project life cycle.

The project sponsorship role will often be taken by the programme manager where the project is part of a programme.

Programme

The scale of programmes will often require a sponsor to be supported by a group of senior managers who perform some sponsorship duties. However, ultimate accountability will lie with the programme sponsor.

The programme manager should also be a competent project sponsor and will often perform that role for some, or all, of the programme’s component projects.

Portfolio

Sponsorship of a portfolio of projects and programmes will be undertaken by a senior executive with the necessary status, credibility and authority. This may well be a main board member, or even the CEO of the organisation. The scale of a portfolio will require an extensive governance organisation. This may involve, for example, committees with the responsibility for investment decisions or management of change.

What a Project Sponsor Does In Each Phase

While sometimes a project sponsor is clearly engaged from the start and other times they are nowhere to be seen, the best project sponsor is fully engaged with every phase of the project.

Initiation Duties

Project sponsors are instrumental in selecting the project manager during the initiation phase, and then they give that project manager a clear mandate, context for the project and set the level of their authority.

Also, during the project initiation, the project sponsor makes sure the project is appropriate for the organization, offering input on the project charter and participates in the kick-off meeting. The sponsor helps with the decision making during this phase.

Planning Duties

For the planning phase, the project sponsor is checking to make sure the project plan is realistic and feasible. This accounts for time restrictions and whether or not the team is tasked with expectations they cannot meet.

The project sponsor can help resolve issues, too, if they’re beyond the scope of the project manager. If there are other projects in play, the project sponsor is making sure they’re all working together and not against each other.

Implementation Duties

For the implementation and control phases, the project sponsor should work with the project manager, but not overstep boundaries. The project sponsor evaluates the project’s actual progress against what was planned and provides feedback to the project manager as necessary.

Sponsors also help the project manager and team work more autonomously to solve issues as they arise, while making sure that processes are being followed. They identify underlying factors that might cause problems and celebrate completion of milestones.

Closing Duties

During the closing phase, the project sponsor is part of the post-mortem evaluation on performance and other aspects of the project. They make sure that handoffs and signoffs are done properly. Project sponsors help facilitate the discussion that decides whether a project was a success or failure.

Overall, a project sponsor helps to streamline communications. They create trust and collaboration and keep problems from escalating. In terms of issues, they set up the instrument to identify problems with schedule, cost and quality. In that sense, they’re also in charge of making sure risk management is successful. Finally, they also encourage record-keeping for historical data storage.

Project Retrospective

These meetings go by many names – lessons learned, postmortems, retrospectives, after-action reviews, wrap-ups, project “success” meetings. Regardless of what you call them, they all have the same goal and follow the same basic pattern.

Retrospective – looking back on or dealing with past events or situations oran exhibition or compilation showing the development of work over a period of time.

An Agile retrospective is a meeting that’s held at the end of an iteration (sprint) in an agile project. During the retrospective, the team reflects on what happened in the iteration (sprint) and identifies actions for improvement going forward.

The Project Retrospective dedicates time to reviewing a completed project and learning from both the successes and the failures so the team and organisation can improve how they work going forward.

The general purpose is to allow the team, as a group, to evaluate its past working cycle. In addition, it’s an important moment to gather feedback on what went well and what did not.

Classic questions answered in these meetings:

  • What did we set out to do?
  • What actually happened?
  • Why did it happen?
  • What are we going to do next time?

 

“We do not learn from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience.”; John Dewey

Retrospectives give a team time to reflect on what they learned.

 

The Process

The process for debriefing a project covers roughly the same topics as the quick after-action discussion.

  1. Review the Project
  2. What went well and did not
  3. How can we do it better next-time

Review the project

Start by reviewing the project facts: goals, timeline, budget, major events, and success metrics.

In order to come up with useful ideas that everyone can agree on, the team needs a shared understanding of the facts and insight into the parts of the project in which they may not have been involved.

It’s important not to skip or rush through this step, especially for larger projects. People will arrive at the retrospective ready to discuss and solve problems, often assuming they know everything they need to know about what happened. This is rarely true.

If you are reviewing a project as a team, that means it took many people with unique experiences to get to that point. This step ensures everyone gets all the facts straight before they try to solve problems they may only partially understand.

What went well and what did not

This is the heart of the meeting. Everyone shares what they learned during the project: both the good and the bad.

In my opinion, this is the most fun and most challenging part of the meeting. As the meeting leader, you have an enormous impact on the success of your retrospective by deciding which questions you’ll ask and how the team shares their answers.

How can we do it better next-time

Real change is the ultimate measure of a retrospective’s success. To ensure that your retrospective results in something actually getting better, you’ll end the meeting by creating a specific action plan for improvements.

Top quotes on Change & Trust by Stephen Covey

7Habits-Covey

I’ve first read this book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” in the 90’s – timeless inspiration!

 

 

 

 

  1. “There are three constants in life – change, choice and principles.”
  2. “Make time for planning; Wars are won in the general’s tent.”
  3. “Be proactive.” 
  4. “Begin with the end in mind.”
  5. “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage – pleasantly, smiling, nonapoloegetically – to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside.”
  6. “Put first things first.”
  7. “Think win-win.”
  8. “Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.” 
  9. “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. Most people listen with the intent to reply.”
  10. “If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to keep getting what we’re getting.”
  11. “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” 
  12. “Treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.” 
  13. “The key is not to prioritise what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.” Leadership is a choice, not a position.” 
  14. “I am not a product of my circumstances, I am a product of my decisions.” 
  15. “Strength lies in differences not in similarities.” 
  16. “Listen with your eyes for feelings.” 
  17. “The way we see the problem is the problem.” 
  18. “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” 
  19. “Accountability breeds response-ability.” 
  20. “Highly proactive people don’t blame circumstances, conditions or conditioning for their behaviour. Their behaviour of their own conscious choice.” 
  21. “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” 
  22. “Be a light not a judge. Be a model not a choice. be part of the solution not part of the problem.” 
  23. “He who has a why can deal with any what or how.” Stephen Covey
  24. “Our ultimate freedom is the right and power anybody or anything outside ourselves will affect us.” 
  25. “The only thing that endures over time is the Law of the Farm. You must prepare the ground, plant the seed, cultivate, and water it if you expect to reap the harvest.”
  26. “A personal mission statement becomes the DNA for every other decision we make.” 
  27. “Courage is not the absence of fear but the awareness that something else is more important.” 
  28. “To achieve goals you’ve never achieved before you need to start doing things you’ve never done before.” 
  29. “Live out of your imagination, not your history.” 
  30. “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” 
  31. “Every human has four endowments – self-awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom. The power to choose, to respond, to change.” 
  32. “I teach people how to treat me by what I will allow.” 
  33. “Motivation is a fire from within. If someone else trie to light that fire under you, chances are it will burn very briefly.” 
  34. “You can change the fruit without changing the root.” 
  35. “Our character is basically a composite of our habits because they are consistent. Often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character.” 
  36. “Be patient with yourself. Self-growth is tender; it’s holy ground. There’s no greater investment.” 
  37. “If I really want to improve my situation, I can work on the one thing over which I have control – myself.” 
  38. “Once you have a clear picture of your priorities that is values, goals, and high leverage activities, organise your life around them.”
  39. “What you do has greater impact than what you say.”

 

Also see quotes from Peter Drucker

Humans are smarter than any type of AI – for now…

Despite all the technological advancements, can machines today only achieve the first two of the thee AI objectives. AI capabilities are at least equalling and in most cases exceeding humans in capturing information and determining what is happening. When it comes to real understanding, machines still fall short – but for how long?

In the blog post, “Artificial Intelligence Capabilities”, we explored the three objectives of AI and its capabilities – to recap:

AI-8Capabilities

  • Capturing Information
    • 1. Image Recognition
    • 2. Speech Recognition
    • 3. Data Search
    • 4. Data Patterns
  • Determine what is happening
    • 5. Language Understanding
    • 6. Thought/Decision Process
    • 7. Prediction
  • Understand why it is happening
    • 8. Understanding

To execute these capabilities, AI are leaning heavily on three technology areas (enablers):

  • Data collecting devices i.e. mobile phones and IoT
  • Processing Power
  • Storage

AI rely on large amounts of data that requires storage and powerful processors to analyse data and calculate results through complex argorythms – resources that were very expensive until recent years. With technology enhancements in machine computing power following Moore’s law and the now mainstream availability of cloud computing & storage, in conjunction with the fact that there are more mobile phones on the planet than humans, really enabled AI to come to forefront of innovation.

AI_takes_over

AI at the forefront of Innovation – Here is some interesting facts to demonstrate this point:

  • Amazon uses machine learning systems to recommend products to customers on its e-commerce platform. AI help’s it determine which deals to offer and when, and influences many aspects of the business.
  • A PwC report estimates that AI will contribute $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030. AI will make products and services better, and it’s expected to boost GDP’S globally.
  • The self-driving car market is expected to be worth $127 billion worldwide by 2027. AI is at the heart of the technology to make this happen. NVIDIA created its own computer — the Drive PX Pegasus — specifically for driverless cars and powered by the company’s AI and GPUs. It starts shipping this year, and 25 automakers and tech companies have already placed orders.
  • Scientists believed that we are still years away from AI being able to win at the ancient game of Go, regarded as the most complex human game. Recently Google’s AI recently beat the world’s best Go player.

To date computer hardware followed a growth curve called Moore’s law, in which power and efficiency double every two years. Combine this with recent improvements in software algorithms and the growth is becoming more explosive. Some researchers expect artificial intelligence systems to be only one-tenth as smart as a human by 2035. Things may start to get a little awkward around 2060 when AI could start performing nearly all the tasks humans do — and doing them much better.

Using AI in your business

Artificial intelligence has so much potential across so many different industries, it can be hard for businesses, looking to profit from it, to know where to start.

By understanding the AI capabilities, this technology becomes more accessible to businesses who want to benefit from it. With this knowledge you can now take the next step:

  1. Knowing your business, identify the right AI capabilities to enhance and/or transform your business operations, products and/or services.
  2. Look at what AI vendors with a critical eye, understanding what AI capabilities are actually offered within their products.
  3. Understand the limitations of AI and be realistic if alternative solutions won’t be a better fit.

In a future post we’ll explore some real life examples of the AI capabilities in action.

 

Also read:

Raspberry Pi – Tips & Notes

OS Install

NOOBS – New Out Of the Box Software

https://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads/noobs/

https://www.raspberrypi.org/learning/software-guide/

https://www.raspberrypi.org/help/videos/#noobs-setup

https://www.raspberrypi.org/documentation/installation/noobs.md

Download the latest hoop – unzip and copy it to a overwrite formatted SDCard which are then used to boot and load an appropriate OS for the RPi

 

Remote Desktop Control RPi from Mac using XRDP

sudo apt-get install xrdp

 

GPIO – General Purpose input/Output

A General Purpose Input/output (GPIO) is an interface available on most modern microcontrollers (MCU) to provide an ease of access to the devices internal properties. Generally there are multiple GPIO pins on a single MCU for the use of multiple interaction so simultaneous application.

Pinout – https://pinout.xyz

 

I²C – Inter-Inter Circuit

I2C is a serial communication protocol, so data is transferred bit by bit along a single wire (the SDA line). Like SPI, I2C is synchronous, so the output of bits is synchronized to the sampling of bits by a clock signal (the SCL line) shared between the master and the slave.

I²C, pronounced I-squared-C, is a synchronous, multi-master, multi-slave, packet switched, single-ended, serial computer bus invented in 1982 by Philips Semiconductor. It is widely used for attaching lower-speed peripheral ICs to processors and microcontrollers in short-distance, intra-board communication.

http://www.circuitbasics.com/basics-of-the-i2c-communication-protocol/

  • The default device address for I2C is 0x18

 

PWM – Pulse-width modulation

Pulse-width modulation, or pulse-duration modulation, is a way of describing a digital signal that was created through a modulation technique, which involves encoding a message into a pulsing signal.

Pulse Width Modulation, or PWM, is a technique for getting analog results with digital means. Digital control is used to create a square wave, a signal switched between on and off.

PWM is a way to control analog devices with a digital output

Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) is a fancy term for describing a type of digital signal. Pulse width modulation is used in a variety of applications including sophisticated control circuitry. A common way we use them is to control dimming of RGB LEDs or to control the direction of a servo motor.

There are many different ways to control the speed of DC motors but one very simple and easy way is to use Pulse Width Modulation.

 

Ultrasonic Sensor HC SR04

https://randomnerdtutorials.com/complete-guide-for-ultrasonic-sensor-hc-sr04/

Projects:

Three Wheeled Smart Car – Freenove

https://github.com/Freenove/Freenove_Three-wheeled_Smart_Car_Kit_for_Raspberry_Pi

Servo – servo control accuracy is 1us = 0.09degrees

 

 

GANTT Charts

A Gantt chart is a horizontal bar chart developed as a production control tool in 1917 by Henry L. Gantt, an American engineer and social scientist. Frequently used in project management, a Gantt chart provides a graphical illustration of a schedule that helps to plan, coordinate, and track specific tasks in a project.

Gantt charts may be simple versions created on graph paper or more complex automated versions created using project management applications such as Microsoft Project or Excel.

A Gantt chart is constructed with a horizontal axis representing the total time span of the project, broken down into increments (for example, days, weeks, or months) and a vertical axis representing the tasks that make up the project (for example, if the project is outfitting your computer with new software, the major tasks involved might be: conduct research, choose software, install software). Horizontal bars of varying lengths represent the sequences, timing, and time span for each task. Using the same example, you would put “conduct research” at the top of the verticle axis and draw a bar on the graph that represents the amount of time you expect to spend on the research, and then enter the other tasks below the first one and representative bars at the points in time when you expect to undertake them. The bar spans may overlap, as, for example, you may conduct research and choose software during the same time span. As the project progresses, secondary bars, arrowheads, or darkened bars may be added to indicate completed tasks, or the portions of tasks that have been completed. A vertical line is used to represent the report date.

Gantt charts give a clear illustration of project status, but one problem with them is that they don’t indicate task dependencies – you cannot tell how one task falling behind schedule affects other tasks. The PERT Chart, another popular project management charting method, is designed to do this. Automated Gantt charts store more information about tasks, such as the individuals assigned to specific tasks, and notes about the procedures. They also offer the benefit of being easy to change, which is helpful. Charts may be adjusted frequently to reflect the actual status of project tasks as, almost inevitably, they diverge from the original plan.

Also Read…

Management Communication Plan

PERT Charts

A PERT chart is a project management tool used to schedule, organize, and coordinate tasks within a project. PERT stands for Program Evaluation Review Technique, a methodology developed by the U.S. Navy in the 1950s to manage the Polaris submarine missile program. A similar methodology, the Critical Path Method (CPM) was developed for project management in the private sector at about the same time.

PERT Chart 1

A PERT chart presents a graphic illustration of a project as a network diagram consisting of numbered nodes (either circles or rectangles) representing events, or milestones in the project linked by labelled vectors (directional lines) representing tasks in the project. The direction of the arrows on the lines indicates the sequence of tasks. In the diagram, for example, the tasks between nodes 1, 2, 4, 8, 9 and 10 must be completed in sequence. These are called dependent or serial tasks. The tasks between nodes 2 and 3, and nodes 2 and 4 are not dependent on the completion of one to start the other and can be undertaken simultaneously. These tasks are called  parallel or concurrent tasks. Tasks that must be completed in sequence but that don’t require resources or completion time are considered to have event dependency. These are represented by dotted lines with arrows and are called dummy activities. For example, the dashed arrow linking nodes 6 and 9 indicates that the system files must be converted before the user test can take place, but that the resources and time required to prepare for the user test (writing the user manual and user training) are on another path. Numbers on the opposite sides of the vectors indicate the time allotted for the task.

The PERT chart is sometimes preferred over the Gantt Chart, another popular project management charting method, because it clearly illustrates task dependencies. On the other hand, the PERT chart can be much more difficult to interpret, especially on complex projects. Frequently, project managers use both techniques.

Also Read…

Management Communication Plan

Project Failure? How to Recover and/or Prevent…

Statistics indicate that 68% of all IT projects are bound to failure!

The PMI’s definition of a high-performing organisation, is a company that completes 80% or more projects on time, on budget, and meeting original goals. In a low-performing organization, only 60% or fewer projects hit the same marks.

Projects fail for all kinds of reasons:

  • Stakeholders can change their objectives
  • Key team members can leave for other companies
  • Budgets can disappear
  • Materials/Vendors can be delayed
  • Priorities can go un-managed
  • Running out of time
  • …and others

In this post:

> How to prevent project failure (with some statistics)

> How to recover a failing project

How to prevent project failure

Prevention is the best cure, so what can you do to prevent projects from failing? Here is some statistics…

  • Organisations that invest in proven project management practices waste 28 times less money because more of their strategic initiatives are completed successfully.
    Source: PMI’s Pulse of the Profession Survey, 2017.
  • 77% of high-performing organizations have actively-engaged project sponsors, while only 44% of low-performing organizations do.
    Source: PMI’s Pulse of the Profession Survey, 2017.
  • 46% of CIOs say that one of the main reasons IT projects fail is weak ownership.
    Source: The Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey, 2017.
  • 33% of IT projects fail because senior management doesn’t get involved and requirements/scope change mid-way through the project.
    Source: A Replicated Survey of IT Software Project Failures by Khaled El Emam and A. Güneş Koru, 2008.
  • 78% of respondents feel that business is out of sync with project requirements and business stakeholders need to be more involved in the requirements process.
    Source: Doomed from the Start Industry Survey by Geneca, 2011.
  • 45% of the managers surveyed say business objectives are unclear to them.
    Source: Doomed from the Start Industry Survey by Geneca, 2011.
  • Companies that align their enterprise-wide PMO (project management office) to strategyhad 38% more projects meet original goals than those that did not. They also had 33% fewer projects deemed failures.
    Source: PMI’s Pulse of the Profession Survey, 2017.
  • 40% of CIOs say that some of the main reasons IT projects fail is an overly optimistic approach and unclear objectives.
    Souce: The Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey, 2017.
  • Poor estimation during the planning phase continues to be the largest (32%) contributor to IT project failures.
    Source: PwC 15th Annual Global CEO Survey, 2012.
  • Projects with effective communication are almost twice as likely to successfully deliver project scope and meet quality standards than projects without effective communication (68% vs 32% and 66% vs 33%, respectively.)
    Source: PwC 15th Annual Global CEO Survey, 2012.

How to recover a failing project

These statistics show that the odds are not in your favour. It is inevitable that you will have to deal with a failing project or two, some time within your career… You could turn the odds in your favour by taking action in recovering failing projects.

Here are four steps you can use that could save a failing project — backed up by original research from GartneriSixSigmaPMI Project Zone CongressThe Institution of Engineering and Technology, and Government CIO MagazineFollow these four steps and salvage your failing project!

Step 1: Stop and Evaluate

Step 1 – Big action items:

  • Issue a “stop work” order
  • Talk with everyone

Metrics/Indicators: The right project Management Information (MI) should give you the needed early warning signs when things are not going according to plan and heading to failure. These signs should drive you to action, as rescuing a failing a project is not a task to be sneezed at. It takes planning, and the process can consume weeks of key resources time and effort.

People: To help ease the pain of stopping a project, work with the team members’ managers (resource owners) to identify and assign interim work. As people are your most important asset, it is important to keep them productively engaged while you are evaluating and re-planning your project recovery.

Project artefacts/deliverables: Make sure all the project artefacts and deliverables are safely stored where it cannot be tampered with for the interim period.

Communicate: (clear, concise, and concrete) – Communicate to your team why their project is on hold. Spend the needed time to learn as much as you can about each team member’s opinions of the project and of each other. Learning that their project will be put on hold will inevitably create distrust. Transparency and tailored messaging is the best way to mitigate bad feelings. See blog posts “Management Communication Plan” and  “Effective Leadership Communication

Project/Delivery Manager (You):Check your ego. Go to the major stakeholders and ask for anonymous feedback on their view of the overall project. When evaluating their responses, don’t forget to consider company culture and politics and how those factors may have played a role in forming the stakeholders’ opinions.

Step 2: Why your project is failing – Root causes

Step 2 – Big action items:

  • Establish allowable solutions for project rescue (including project termination)
  • Identify root causes of the problem
  • Identify risks to project continuation

Determine the root causes: Most times the cause of project problems is not immediately obvious. Even the best project managers — those with excellent project plans, appropriate budgets, and fantastic scope control — also struggle, on occasion, with project failure.

You’ll only get to the bottom of it by doing a Route Cause Analysis (RCA) and the “5 Why’s” technique can help with that. See “The 5 Whys for route cause analysis

Surface-level answers are often the temptation when project managers reach this step. They might focus on the complexity of their project, their outdated project management softwareor methodology, their unclear objectives or their stakeholders’ lack of involvement. All of these problems are so generic that they don’t provide enough insight to create real solutions.

Apply the “5 Whys” and be specific when answering these questions… i.e.

  • Why are objectives unclear?
  • Why aren’t users getting involved?
  • Why are the estimates wrong?

Of course, some of these answers may be hard to hear, and solutions can range from the challenging to impossible. Remember: if these issues could be easily remedied, they would have been addressed and resolved. Even simple problems — like a team member leaving — can take months to fix. Ask yourself: are you using the right technology for the job? Are your dependencies so external that project control is simply out of your hands?

If you’re still struggling to figure out where the root of your project failure is, consider these seven issues – the most common causes of project failure.

  • Complexity
  • External
  • Financial
  • Operational
  • Organizational
  • Schedule
  • Technology

Risk Assessment:What are the risks when trying to salvage the project? Are those risks worth it? Is the project salvageable? Answer these questions before moving on.

Step 3: War Room

Step 3 – Big action items:

  • Set up the war room
  • Re-engage stakeholders
  • Create a tentative plan to move forward

Okay, General!

Assemble the team, seat them all together, and work through a rescue workshop. You’re in the mentality of “kill” or “fix” you’re done fact finding, asking question for further research, or finding other excuses to delay the process. That should all have been done in step two. You’re focussed to figure out what to do with your project.

The “war room” will be intense – all members need to be prepared and the right mindset  of problem solving!

The decision-making process could take two hours or several days. All key decision makers must be present. As this is not always possible some executives may prefer to be called in as the meeting is nearing its end, where team members can present prepared options.

To get the most out of the workshop, conduct the meeting face to face (take the meeting offline). Try to limit the meeting to ten people, including the most important stakeholders (like the sponsors), project manager, senior team members including technical representative to give insight to plan feasibility.

The war room is serious business –  prepare for it. Create an agenda to go over findings, from quantitative reporting to team member interviews. Encourage pre-war-room collaboration (covering the outcomes of steps 1 and 2) toward the ideal shared result.

When you start the war room meeting, all project material should be readily available. That’s your fact base driving factual data driven assumptions and decisions.

Using the facts, the purpose of the war room, in essence, is to answer three deceptively complex questions:

  • Is the business case still valid?
  • If the business case is no longer valid, is there potential for a new, reimagined, justified business case?
  • (If so): Are the added costs for project rescue worth it?

Encourage your task force to focus on identifying the project’s primary drivers (i.e. business need/value, budget, schedule, scope, or quality). Ideally, there should only be one driver that controls the outcome of the project – this is usually the business need for the project’s deliverables.

Sometimes the primary driver is beyond repair. For example, if the core due date has passed and it was aligned with a market cycle (ex: Black Friday to Christmas), then the project is irremediable.

Least case scenario: Clearly articulate the primary goal. Then identify what the team can do with the least amount of effort. Develop a scenario that costs the company the least and gets closest to achieve the primary goal.

Project termination considerations: If the primary goal cannot be achieved, prepare a recommendation to terminate the project… but not without scrutiny. Several variables must be considered and thoroughly addressed in the war room.

  • Consider trade-offs that could make the worst-case scenario more possible than originally thought.
  • Think about the potential backlash from killing a project.
    • How does that decision affect business strategy?
    • Other projects?
    • Public perceptions?
    • Potential future clients? All these variables must be considered and thoroughly addressed in the war room.

Alternatives: Should the least-case scenario makes sense, explore more alternatives. Are there alternative options that can deliver more of the project’s objectives, and consider how adding those solutions to your plan can create additional potential scenarios — positive or negative.

New project charter: Write down the main points of your plan in a revised project charter.

Replacement project option: It’s not uncommon for stakeholders to propose a replacement project instead of a rescue. That’s a totally viable option — kill the project, salvaging only essential, functional portions of the original attempt, and work to create a new plan.If the decision is to completely start over, abandon project rescue altogether. Justify the replacement project on its own merit (a new scope, budget, resource plan, etc.)

Step 4: Set your project in motion

Step 4 – Big action items:

  • Finalise how your project will move forward
  • Confirm responsibilities
  • Reset organizational expectations.

Following your war room meeting, your next steps are all about follow-up. The real project rescue starts here and is the most challenging part of project rescue.

Re-engage stakeholders around the contents of the new project plan and complete the detail with precise commitments for each team member. Plans should be finalised within two days.

Be careful as hesitation and procrastination can limit team commitment and lower morale. You’re the general; get your troops ready to re-engage and to stay committed and focussed!

Reconfirm all project metrics: Validate all project aspects especially resources, as people has been allocation to productive work while you were reworking your rescue plan.

As the project rolls forward, be sure to detail the new project’s profile, scope, and size to the core team and beyond. Emphasize expected outcomes and explain how this project aligns with the company’s goals. Don’t shy away from communicating what these changes can mean on a big-picture scale. While you may receive some feedback, be direct: the project is proceeding.

Make sure all communication is clear. Confirm that stakeholders accept their new responsibilities to the project.