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The Digital Transformation Necessity

Listening to every keynote, panel discussion or reading articles relating to business sustainability through technology, one message is repeated over and over again – Digital Transformation is imperative for all businesses!

Although this message is coming through loudly, is it not always clear to business leaders and the workforce, exactly what digital transformation really is and what it means for their organisation.

In explaining digital transformation as the benefit and value that technology can enable within the business through technology innovation including IT buzz words like: Cloud, Automation, Dev-Ops, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, Internet of Things (IoT), Single Sign-On, Data Mining & Big Data, Bit Chain – does not really make the need for digital transformation any clearer.

One thing is clear though – we are living in a hyper-connected world where technology and more specifically, digital devices, are the glue linking together people and information in new ways we can hardly comprehend. In this statement, is the clue of what digital transformation entails…

What is digital transformation?

We can define digital transformation as the fundamental changes in the manner in which business and organisational operations are conducted, to adapt to the changes and to leverage the opportunities, caused by the use of digital devices and their accelerated impact on the way we live.

Digital devices, operate on digital signals running through electronic circuits to collect, store, manipulate, interpret and display information. These digital electronic integrated circuits (ICs) evolved since 1947, when the functional transistor was invented, into what we know today as computers. All digital devices are, at its core, a computer of some sorts used by humans to interact with information.

Transformation on the other hand implies a fundamental change in the way things used to be (converting something from one state to another) – it enables new creativity and innovation inspired by technology evolution, bringing change that introduces a new way, a different way to do things, rather than just enhancing or improving an old or current way.

To simplify it, you could say that digital transformation is the profound changes in the way business is conducted, to adapt to the changes in society caused by the continuous evolvement of computers.

A typical example of digital transformation is the “paperless office” – fundamentally changing the way we preserve information by storing it in digital format rather than writing it down on paper. This concept has profound implications in our commerce interaction expectations if you are comparing the speed in which information can be recalled and processed through digital means vs paper files, archives and libraries…

Who should lead the Digital Transformation?

Computers are hardly breaking news anymore as it is widely used within business where technology has become an integral enabling part of any organisation. Modern digital devices i.e. tablets, smart phones, the IoT, smart watches and other smart wearable devices, are changing the way we live and interact in commerce and hence the way we, as the consumer society, expect business to be conducted. Digital transformation is thus more about the change in business operations – processes and systems – than just the adoption of new technologies. Due to the importance of technology in organisations and the key role IT plays in the organisation’s ability to adapt to the society’s changing needs, it is the role of the CIO to lead the Digitial Transformation initiatives.

Digital Transformation matters because…

Any business change is costly and businesses might avoid change, for that very reason. Howard King of The Guardian, (Nov’13) puts it this way: “Businesses don’t transform by choice because it is expensive and risky. Businesses go through transformation when they have failed to evolve.” He continues in saying that evolving businesses never necessarily need to transform as they are continually focussed on their clients. This evolution ensures the key drivers of transformation namely: changing customer demand, changing technology and changing competition, never coincide in such a way that the business operating model can no longer service it’s customers. When it does, the business reaches a tipping point that requires transformation within the business, to adapt and re-align or tip over the edge.

The pace, at which digital devices have evolved, changed the way we interact with information and has become an intrinsic and material part of daily live. This has left organisations, which did not evolve with the technology, at a tipping point. For businesses approaching or reaching this tipping point it might be too late to evolve and hence Digital Transformation becomes a necessity for survival.

Emerging, disruptive technology driven, companies are changing industries leaving competitor companies with one choice – adapt, through digital transformation, or face the consequences of slowly loosing market share and eventually…

What does a typical Digital Transformation strategy involve?

As every organisation delivers their products and services (the value proposition to it’s clients and customers) in a different way, so will the digital transformation within one company differ from the other.

To define a transformation strategy and the associate change programme, one must look at the value chain of the organisation. Each element within the value chain can, and in most cases must, contribute to the scope:

  • Infrastructure
  • People – Leadership and the overall Workforce
  • Technology
  • Supply Chain
  • Procurement
  • Operations
  • Manufacturing (Engineering)
  • Fulfillment
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Service Delivery
  • Business Market (Client’s & Customers)

For each of the business value chain components, one must question the impact of the key transformation drivers:

  • Change in Customer Demand
  • Change in Technology
  • Change in Competition

Understanding these impacts will outline what needs to change, which generally comes down to:

  • Transform the Customer Experience
  • Transform the Operational Processes
  • Transform the Business Model

Note that IT is not singled out in the above – this is because IT is the catalyst that should overall enable these transformation initiatives.

The following examples of Digital Transformation Frameworks can also be helpful in defining the strategy:

Change brings uncertainty… Address it!

Transformation, by definition, brings change and a typical digital transformation programme will dramatically change the organisation. This change will especially affect a key business asset within the value chain – the people working within the business – “Success?.. People come First!”.

It will also dramatically effect, if not completely change, the organisation’s culture. Culture comes from the top – make sure that the board and executives are promoting the transformation and are willing to change themselves, as change is always desired until it is required of one-self.

Empower the workforce to understand the reasons why transformation is needed. Involve everyone to actively contribute to the innovative rethinking of their roles – how does digital technologies impact their daily work experience? Articulate the core business focus (what is the value proposition to the clients and customers) and ask, how can enabling digital technologies be used in support of achieving value excellence?

Find ways to make the necessity of the change a positive win for everyone, as supporting the people through the transformation is just as important as the digital technology you are trying to embrace.

To Conclude

Digital organisations outperform organisations doing digital – making Digital Transformation the last survival action for organisations that have not evolved with digital technology.

Transformation is a dramatic change and hence must the people aspect and business culture be treated with extreme care and sensitivity. A strong CIO is needed to drive the transformation programme with full buy-in from the rest of the executives and the whole workforce.

A well executed digital transformation strategy will re-align the business with the growing digital demands of it’s customers, by addressing the needed adoption of technology innovation across the business value chain resulting in an agile business ready for a fast evolving digital future.

Let’s Talk – Are you looking to achieve your goals faster? Create better business value? Build strategies to improve growth? We can help – make contact!

IT Due Diligence – is IT an asset or liability?

Information Technology is an integral part of any organisation and enables the operations of enterprises. Through supporting business operations, IT collates and analyses business data to provide the management information required in making timely and effective decisions. IT can even be the product/service around which enterprises are built. Information is a key business asset. But IT can also be the skeleton in the closet. Technology assets can turn into liabilities costing more and/or introducing risks that are not anticipated. This makes IT a key priority consideration in strategy development, corporate governance and business risk mitigation as well as merger and acquisition (M&A) transactions.

Despite the obvious importance of IT within any organisation, do business executives, who are mostly more focused on the financial and legal aspects, often overlook it. The appropriate attention is not given to the IT diligence as part of corporate governance or during the due diligence in M&A initiatives. This might be due to the continuous limited understanding of the technology discipline amongst business executives and/or the absence of the right expertise within an organisation to conduct the needed IT review. Another contributing statistic is that IT due diligence rarely is the make or break factor in business deals, which in a lot of cases, result in unwanted surprises presented to directors. That is why IT should be part of the scope of business strategy development and be one of the key contributors in M&A negotiations, influencing the deal and price.

The key reason for IT due diligence is to ensure visibility to the directors of concerns relating to IT operations in order to develop addressing strategies and mitigating actions. Investors should also use this information in assessing a potential business asset and it’s associated opportunity versus risk.

A due diligence exercise will cover at least the following main IT considerations: Systems, Projects & Change, Data, Security and IT Service Provision. Each of these considerations should be reviewed covering at least the following four elements: People, Process, Technology and Value.

Meaningful IT due diligence can be accomplished by practitioners who can ask the right questions stemming from the appropriate industry experience and domain knowledge. The art of due diligence is in formulating the right questions around key investment and/or corporate success drivers and interpreting the answers to inform the true state of affairs and it’s associated business enablement ability, future opportunity contributions and the associated business risk. Mostly, this diligence informs on the present and future role and influence of IT assets within the overall business success, for example:

  • Product, service and information Ownership – does the business really own what IT claims to be the property and assets of the business in relation to it’s true value and the balance sheet?
  • Reliability – can the business rely on its technology, now and in the future?
  • Sustainability – does the business have the ability to sustain its IT asset and visa versa?
  • Scalability – can the technology assets keep up with the business’ growth plans?
  • Adaptability – how easy can the technology asset integrate or be adapted to integrate with other systems and new emerging technologies in the future?
  • Compliance – does an IT asset introduce unwanted risk through non-compliance? For example, the introduction of new legislation to address the continuous increase in cyber and information security concerns might have a significant impact on the legality of an IT asset that might result in serious financial risk and penalties, if not addressed.
  • Finance – how much are IT assets likely to cost the business and what contributions will these expenses have on the financial success of the organisation?

A comprehensive IT due diligence exercise should cover at least the following areas of IT operations (Some of these areas might not always be applicable in all organisations.):

  • IT Staff
    • IT Organisation Structure
    • Leadership
    • Qualifications & Skills
  • Certifications & Standards i.e. ISO9001 (Quality), ISO17001 (Security), ITIL (Service Management)
  • Products and Services
  • Documentation
  • Software Development Processes
  • Service Management
  • Software applications and Services utilized
  • IT Infrastructure
    • Hardware
    • IP Network Infrastructure
    • Hosting Environments
  • Backup and Recovery
  • Security
    • Cyber & Information Security
    • Network Security
  • Governance
    • Operating Model
    • Policies
    • Procedures
    • Risk Management
  • Compliance
  • Standards
  • Legal
    • SLAs
    • Supplier & 3rd party Service/Support Agreements
  • Intellectual Property
  • Quality Assurance
  • Financial
  • Customers

Understanding this information is vital in corporate governance, strategy formulation and capital investment decisions ensuring business critical assets are sustained and developed appropriately for a viable ongoing business concern.

The content of an IT due diligence report should focus on the objectives of the due diligence review, outlining priority findings with recommendations that present a clear call to action addressing the key issues found. A typical report should contain:

  • The objectives of the IT due diligence review
  • An executive summary with the key take aways
  • Key findings and the associated risk
  • Recommendations

The review findings and recommendations should be acted upon through appropriate remediation projects and a clear transition & support plan with inclusion into IT & business strategy. The business benefits can only be realised if these post review projects and transition, are successfully integrated into the organisation.

Let’s Talk – Are you looking to achieve your goals faster? Create better business value? Build strategies to improve growth? We can help – make contact!

SPHERE – Growth through M&A – Due Diligence Case Study

SPHERE – M&A Due Diligence – An Intuitus Case Study

Intuitus logo

Sector: IT Services, Healthcare
Region: UK
Date: September 2017

Summary

Organisations in the healthcare sector, including the NHS, are increasingly reliant on technology to ensure the smooth-running of day-to-day business. It’s important that costs are reduced wherever possible, including within technology and IT operations, to help alleviate the financial pressure faced by businesses in this sector.

West Middlesex University Hospital Trust was acquired by Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in 2015. IT service provider SPHERE, which is co-owned by Chelsea and Westminster, will be incorporating the IT infrastructure of West Middlesex into their existing IT service provision. Intuitus was approached to provide M&A IT due diligence on West Middlesex in order to identify potential synergies and key risks ahead of the integration by SPHERE.

The Client

SPHERE (Systems Powering Healthcare Ltd) is an IT service provider delivering IT service management and shared IT infrastructure services to the healthcare sector.

The company is jointly and wholly owned by Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trusts – SPHERE represents a collaboration and pooling of resources between the Trusts to deliver improved IT services to its members.

Challenges

The management team at SPHERE required full visibility of the current status of the IT services currently in place at West Middlesex, including data centre management, network and communications, computing infrastructure and storage, end-user computing, IT service management, and IT security. This would allow management to plan for the integration of the IT infrastructure at West Middlesex into the existing service offering provided by SPHERE.

The recent transition and merger of the two Trusts, coupled with SPHERE’s planned acquisition of the IT infrastructure at West Middlesex, meant that the merger of the two IT teams had to be handled with sensitivity. This had to be taken into account by any third-party consultant brought in.

How we helped

Intuitus was approached to undertake M&A due diligence on the IT infrastructure and associated service contracts and service provisions at West Middlesex, and advise on how these services align with the service proposition provided by SPHERE. The Intuitus team included Alan Lorimer, who has 20 years’ experience in IT, including many years reviewing the processes and operations of managed service companies in order to provide investment advice.

“Intuitus brought a wealth of experience, wisdom and knowledge to the engagement,” says Renier Botha, Managing Director at SPHERE. “It was a sensitive situation and we needed to get an expert, unbiased, impartial opinion. The Intuitus team was respected by everyone involved because they had been in similar situations many times before and knew exactly where to look and which questions to ask.”

The result was a comprehensive report that clearly outlined what actions were required to ensure the successful integration of the West Middlesex IT infrastructure. This report was then converted into a project initiation document, which acted as a foundation for the entire project. SPHERE was also able to use the report findings to compile a full remediation project scope with costings, which was presented to the senior management team. This clearly outlined the key risks and remediation required to successfully onboard the new infrastructure environment.

Results, Return on Investment and Future Plans

In the short term, SPHERE is focusing on delivering the IT services as they are outlined in the SLAs, and meeting the service expectations of the West Middlesex staff.

The major strategic benefit of the incorporation of the West Middlesex infrastructure in the longer term is in the economies of scale, as Renier Botha points out: “With the onboarding of West Middlesex, the scale of the service delivered by SPHERE has increased by 27%. As a result, we’ve been able to reduce the cost per user by 12%. Furthermore, the cost of running the service is 24% lower than what it would have cost the trusts individually were they to run the IT service without SPHERE. If SPHERE can successfully identify additional trusts to work with then there will be an opportunity to further drive down the total cost of providing a shared service.”

About our M&A Due Diligence

Intuitus’ M&A due diligence is an independent, bespoke assessment on behalf of an acquiring company (or strategic buyer) of a target company’s technology and/or IT operations and, where required, either an assessment or production of the technology and/or IT integration strategy and plan, including potential synergies and key risks. The buyer gains commercially focused, pragmatic insight in the form of an actionable report. Our findings and recommendations form an important part of the (integration) plan going forward and overall value enhancement strategy.

http://www.intuitusadvisory.com

 

Testimonial

“Intuitus brought a wealth of experience, wisdom and knowledge to the engagement. As a result of the M&A due diligence we’ve been able to make significant cost-savings, without compromising the quality of the IT service offering.”; Renier Botha, Managing Director at SPHERE

Original Case Study – intuitusadvisory.com

SPHERE grows – delivering shared IT services to the NHS’ West-Middlesex University Hospital

West-Mid logo

SPHERE grows – delivering IT Shared Services to West Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust

SPHERE, Systems Powering Healthcare Ltd, is incorporating West Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust into the shared IT service provision that they supply to a number of NHS Trusts. This includes Chelsea & Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which acquired West Middlesex in 2015.

The project results from several months of preparatory work by SPHERE, assessing its scope and provisioning the service transfer, with completion scheduled for October 2017.

SPHERE is an IT shared services provider to the healthcare sector, primarily NHS Foundation Trusts. It was set up by Chelsea and Westminster and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trusts to deliver and support IT infrastructure for both trusts to achieve economies of scale and bring down the cost per user, says Renier Botha, Managing Director of SPHERE:

“Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trusts is one of the founding members of SPHERE and it made sense for the West Middlesex Trusts to join the shared services management that we provide. We have a proven services model that we can take to a range of other healthcare providers to realise cost savings whilst improving service quality.

“SPHERE will now be supporting an additional 2,000 end users with the commissioning of West Middlesex. This financial year will see the cost per user for member trusts fall substantially through economies of scale,” says Renier Botha.

SPHERE is currently gearing up to support the deployment of the Cerner EPR (Electronic Patient Record) system across the Chelsea Westminster and West-Middlesex NHS Trusts for which it provides shared services.

West Middlesex will be the first Trust to go live with Cerner. Sphere will manage the provision of infrastructure and the overall IT support services and are currently assessing which first line support services will be prioritised for the Cerner platform.

In 2014 Kevin Jarrold, Director on the SPHERE board and CIO at Imperial Healthcare Trust and Chelsea and Westminster, oversaw the deployment of Cerner at Imperial. Sphere will look to capitalise on the learnings of the Imperial team to ensure trouble-free integration of the support services.

To take advantage of the capabilities of cloud computing, SPHERE is moving its primary data centre and specific systems to Equinix, a leading colocation provider, in London.

Equinix has hosted the Cerner platform since 2010 and SPHERE says that this offers a robust solution for the Trusts, improving the IT infrastructure resilience and business continuity capabilities mitigating the key business risks associated with location and services required from IT hosting facilities.

“SPHERE is well positioned to provide improved IT services to the healthcare sector – expanding on the presence of Cerner within the same data centre and utilising the capabilities of the Microsoft Azure cloud platform at Equinix,” says Renier Botha.

For further information please contact SPHERE Head Office – Systems Powering Healthcare Ltd, Unit 101, Harbour Yard London, SW10 0XD – Tel: 020 331 5888.

 

 

Quotes to shape Principles of Business Leadership

“Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.” – Dale Carnegie

“There are only two ways to live life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is.” – Albert Einstein

“Do not look for approval except for the consciousness of doing your best.” – Andrew Carnegie

“The true measure of a person is how they treat someone who can do him absolutely no good.” – Samuel Johnson

“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going because you might not get there.” – Yogi Berra

“Expect more than others think possible.” – Howard Schultz

“If people aren’t calling you crazy, you aren’t thinking big enough.” – Richard Branson

“Never, never, never give up.” – Winston Churchill

Killer Content

Killer Content: Why it Matters, How to Get it

Do the buyers you target know what you do… understand what makes you different… see clearly the value you deliver? Really?

Great content is essential at each stage of your sales and marketing process:-

FIrstly, simply to get attention and creating positive awareness. To stand out from the crowd

Then create interest and understanding about the problems you solve (you do solve problems, don’t you?)

  1. Nurturing prospects, building trust and generating enquiries
  2. Confirming with prospects that you would be the right partner to work with
  3. Then reassuring them that they made the best decision to choose you
  4. Finally, keeping them onboard, protecting the relationship from your competitors

But there is a problem.

Many organisations lack the structure and resources to succeed. To create the crisp, compelling content you need to fuel a high-activity programme through multiple media channels.

So what do you need? Here’s the checklist for a winning content programme:-

  1. Hone your Corporate Message: Set out your specific offering for each market sector and job position (each ‘persona’): the problems you solve, how you solve them and for whom
  2. Be ‘One Voice’ – but in many channels: Select and refine your messages for each media channel: email, blogs, social media, tele-marketing, presentations, PDFs, and others
  3. Set your Campaign Objectives: You want more than a few retweets and new Friends. You want to meet measurable programme objectives for markets you influence, sales enquiries and conversions
  4. Your Response Mechanism is Essential: Get your prospects to respond directly – such as by asking for your free PDFs, webinars, and other collateral. Show the value you deliver
  5. Plan a ‘Multi-Channel’ Programme: This is proven to be the most effective DM strategy: combining email, tele-marketing, PR editorial – even posted letters and leaflets
  6. Prioritise a Monthly Plan: You need a proper monthly plan that sets out target media, frequency and messaging. You must be consistent and persistent for a content campaign to succeed
  7. Keep it Interesting. Don’t Bore Them: In the main you want short, compelling copy that grabs their attention from the off. Written as you speak and avoiding jargon
  8. Make it topical: Great content is relevant and deals with current key issues for your target market. Do you know what the key dates and events are? Exhibitions, major contracts, industry forums, legislative impact?
  9. Keep it regular: Selling is opportunistic. A prospect may have no interest or need today; but this time next month it may be a completely different matter
  10. Be the ‘Subject Matter Experts’: You want to be the go-to company in your key sector; the recognised source of knowledge, help, news on applications and fixes for common problems. So write about the common problems in your sector
  11. Follow-up with Tele-Sales: Yes, lookout for responses to your content – whether it is email click-throughs, Likes in LinkedIn or reTweets. Then follow-up with a quick call to qualify, to express interest and offer help. The sooner the better
  12. In-House or Outsource for your Campaign? Do your staff really have the time or competence to produce professional content, consistently and persistently?
  13. Save Time & Money, get Results: The Press Unit is a single source of content expertise for messaging and media channels. Fast turnaround by professional B2B and technical writers.

 

Leadership definition

What is Leadership? How do you define Leadership in a concise sentence?

According to Forbes a leader has got nothing to do with title, seniority or position within an organisation, personal attributes and management are definitely not leadership.

So what is leadership then?

Some thought leaders of our time define leadership as…

Peter Drucker: “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.”

Warren Bennis: “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”

Bill Gates: “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”

John Maxwell: “Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.”

“Leadership is the art of leading others to deliberately create a result
that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.”

Forbes: “Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.”

Wikipedia: Leadership is “a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task“.

My definition: “Leadership is the art of leading a group of people or an organization to execute a common task by providing a vision that they follow willingly through the inspiration received from the leader’s passion , knowledge, methodologies, and ability to influence the interests of all members and stakeholders.”

What CEOs are looking for in their CIO

During the CIO-Dialogue 6 held in Brighton in November 2012, I had the privilege to listen to Simon La Fosse presenting. Simon, CEO of LaFosse Associates, is a specialist technology executive search and head-hunter with 25 years experience in the recruitment market.

What does a CEO really want from his CIO?… Simon presented the head-hunters perspective followed by a lively discussion. This presentation had a profoundly positive impact on my confidence especially after pondering on the key aspects that was highlighted (listed below) and measuring yourself to identify areas of strength and where I can improve.

What I took away from the interaction…

The CEO is looking for a CIO that he can build a professional relationship with. Someone they can trust to help them through the disruption technology is continuously causing in business.

The CIO must not be too involved in the daily operations as they have to see the bigger picture and spot opportunities through interaction with peers and bring those to the CEO in clear, concise, precise and commercial terms. To be able to do this the CIO needs a fantastic leadership team in place. Smart people that know how to do their job (see ‘Success?… People Come First’) and bring valuable feedback and management information to the CIO in support of the business. A leadership team that will give the CIO the time to focus on the bigger picture. Measuring your management team with the same criteria is important as your team in essence are the channel that will get the job done.

Key aspects that are personality trades and skills

that the CIO must possess to satisfy the CEO’s requirements…

  • Emotional Intelligence – Someone that understands and who can manage emotions. Emotions bridge thought, feeling and actions and affect many aspects of a person and hence teams. There are three aspects of the effect of emotions: Physical, Behavioural and Cognitive. How tuned in is your intuition to understand and manage emotions? Emotional intelligence is about two key principles: firstly it is about awareness, identifying and understanding emotions and secondly it is about using and managing emotions. Emotional intelligence is a key trade in the success of influence and motivation of people. How emotionally intelligent are you?
  • Ambition – CIOs have to have a desire for achievement, success, honor and the willingness to strive for it’s attainment. Ambitions drives change for the better which is should be a constant in any CIOs strategy and objectives.
  • Advocacy – Supporting the CIO in his business vision, mission and strategy and continuously recommending technology innovative ideas and plans in support of the his technology team to drive the success of the CIOs objectives.
  • Influence – Gravitas within his personality to be a compelling force in the organisation that effects peoples actions, behaviour, opinions, decisions for the better good of the business.
  • Assertiveness – Be confidently self assured and positive in his communication, strategy and decisions to build the confidence in others that the right things are going to happen. Someone that can stand his ground without being aggressive.
  • Authenticity – You get hired for the person you are. Be truthful to yourself and others and do not wear a mask at work.
  • Results – CEO are looking for results, getting the job done by not taking too high risk.
  • Simplicity – Do your thinking before hand and present to the CEO in a compelling way. Exercise the art of taking a complex subject and present it in a simple compelling way that enable the CEO to make knowledgeable and quick decisions.
  • Commerciality – Continuously keep an eye on the business commercials. Look for ways to improve the bottom line. How can you improve the revenue and reduce the cost? Question if the status quo are still relevant. Constantly drive improvements. Keep coming back with savings.
  • Dissatisfaction – Always look for ways to improve without demoralising your team. Evaluate and embrace innovative ideas.
  • Leadership – Leadership is the art of leading a group of people or an organization to execute a common task by providing a vision that they follow willingly through the inspiration received from the leader’s passion , knowledge, methodologies, and ability to influence the interests of all members and stakeholders. (see ‘Leadership by Definition‘) Do not just lead your technology team – lead from the top, also lead your piers – lead sideways. Be accountable and responsible.
  • Values – The basis for ethical action and believes. Values defines your sense for right and wrong. Values influence attitudes and behaviours. Ethical personal and cultural values are very important. Understand the business ethics and the values of your CEO.
  • Culture fit – Specifically referring to organisational culture which is the behaviour of the people working within the organisation. You must be getting on with people. Understand when the culture is changing and influence the change to the desired outcome.
  • Sector Knowledge – Know your subject (technology) in relation to the business but more importantly know your organisation’s product, their market and the opposition.
  • Supplier Relationships – Know the industry to bring options in supplier selection. Understand how the CEO wants this to be managed. Build meaningful and, more importantly, business valuable relationships. Aggressively manage the suppliers by always comparing and looking for the best value delivery – this is not always the cheapest option…
  • International Experience – We live a multi-cultural society where a dynamic mixture of races, languages and culture are working together in a global environment. The CIO must be confident and at ease in his environment through cultural understanding, exposure and experience gained through international exposure.
  • Agility – You must ensure that you and your organisation have the ability to rapidly respond to change without disrupting the stability to operations on a continuous basis.
  • Trust – The CEO is relying on the CIO and visa versa. Trust involves two parties with a ‘trustee’ and a ‘trustor’ – The trustor is reliant on the actions of the trustee. In the CEO and CIO relationship the trust is mutual to each other. Trust is the believe that the other will do as expected to ensure a positive outcome of a situation with an unknown outcome in the future. Trust is so key that if you loose the trust of the CEO, move on.
  • Accountability – According to Wiki is Accountability the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies including the administration, governance, and implementation within the scope of the role or employment position and encompassing the obligation to report, explain and be answerable for resulting consequences. The CEO has to know that the CIO will take accountability for the actions of his devision. CIOs have to take accountability with comments like: “leave this to us/ IT”, “it is our issue, we’ll sort it out”.
  • Complexity – Technology is complex but the CEO relies on the CIO to keep things simple. The CEO has lots on his mind and relies on the CIO to be short, precise and to the point explaining a complex situation or proposition in simple terms.
  • Surprise – Most CEO will agree with this, they just do not like surprises! Keep them informed so no situation or communication turns into a surprise.

A view additional trades and skills – from my perspective…

  • Visionary – Have the ability to read the current trends and envision the future. Have a clear and specific view of the future incorporating the advances in technology and social or political arrangements. Bring those views to the CIO to incorporate in his vision for the business.
  • Motivator – The ability to get the best out of people through your ability to understand, manage and work with people. This links in closely with Leadership and Emotional Intelligence. You must be able to motivate and keep your teams motivated to ensure optimum productivity and delivery to expectations.
  • Coach & Mentor – Build a relationship with your staff and piers to help encourages the lending of assistance, guidance and help. Nurture relationships of learning, open dialogue and challenge to drive towards greater knowledge, experience that ultimately leads to increased wisdom which in turn achieve the goals of the business.
  • Catalyst for Innovation – Encourage and reward the continuous renewing, changing and creating of move effective products, operational processes and business models to adapt to a changing environment. This links in with agility mentioned above.
  • Integrator – Be the person that ensures the forming components of an organisation, for example the different departments, sub systems, infrastructure, governance groups and teams, etc. sufficiently integrate with each other forming a single unit driving towards the same business objectives. Technology can and should provide the glue between the different components. To accomplish this, a very good understanding of the bigger picture of the organisation is needed. Innovation with different parts of the business will not deliver it full value without effective integration into the revenue streams of the business.

What other trades and skills do you feel is key for a CIO to fulfil the expectations of the CEO?

Let’s Talk – Are you looking to achieve your goals faster? Create better business value? Build strategies to improve growth? We can help – make contact!

Decision Making – Technique or Gut-feel

Lessons in live, just like opportunities, sometimes come from the strangest sources or situations.

As I was driving from London to Canterbury University to meet an old colleague and friend, I tuned in to the radio station ‘Magic’.  The presenter announced that it was time to give away some money to a lucky family for holiday spending money in a dial-in competition. The concept of the competition is that the presenter has a particular item in mind which the contestants must determine. The presenters provides a clue through asking a relevant question to which the answer is this particular item he has in mind. Contestants dial in and can ask two questions to determine what the item is the presenter has in mind, after which a final answer must be provided.

The relevant question was: “I am going to the beech to enjoy a lovely sunny day of sea and sand, what am I taking with me?” Now usually I would start solving a mystery question like this by means of elimination narrowing down the field of possibilities and thus zooming in onto the correct answer. For example asking an initial question like: “Do I use this item in the water or on the beech sand?” Dependent on the answer of either water or sand you’ll start narrowing things down by questioning if you use the item to play, can you eat or drink the item, etc. The catch is though that you can only ask two questions and then have to guess the correct answer. So you have to carefully think of which two questions to ask, while the clock is ticking…

An eleven-year-old boy won £1800 for his family in summer vacation spending money in playing the game? Instead of applying a problem solving technique like elimination, he went directly to obvious answers, which he phrased as questions. His first question was: “Is it a spade?” to which the presenter answered: “No, it is not a spade…”. His second question was: “Is it a bucket?” “Yes! It is a bucket, you just won your family £1800 in cash!” The presenter answered in delight.

This was making me think as I participated in my mind making up questions to determine the correct answer myself – by means of elimination… “Is it something that you use in the sea? No! Is it something you use on the sand? Yes, on the sand, right. Oh, my two questions are up, now I have to guess…”

What has just happened – the 11-year-old boy, who probably had no official training in problem solving techniques or skills, solved the mystery in two questions without having to guess an answer at the end.

As a director I am facing hundreds of questions and problems (sometimes mysteries) every day. Surely there is a lesson or two I could take away from this…?

Lesson 1 – go straight for the obvious, the chances are the answer is right in front of you and if you are right you save a lot of precious time.

Lesson 2 – sometimes you do not have to analyse the situation, applying sophisticated techniques and methodologies to make the right decision just go with your gut, take small steps, adapt as you go and recover quickly as needed. Almost like the Lean software development methodology that uses the concept “Fail Early, Fail Fast, Fail Often” to ensure measurable progress is rapidly delivered that aligns with end user expectation.

Now, you could argue that the boy was just lucky, which he was, but going for the obvious, keeping things simple, in most cases provides you with the right answer without spending wasted time and energy. If you tend to make things more complicated than they are, remember the old saying in engineering and development ring true, KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid!

AGILE Software Development – What business executives need to know

AGILE Software Development – What business executives need to know

As a business executive how much do you really know about the Agile approach to software development? As the leaders within the company responsible for using technology innovation as an enabler to accelerate the business operations and improve the companies results, do you really understand your role and involvement in the technology development methodology used in your organisation? How can you direct the team if you do not understand the principals of the software development game?

All executives in businesses using an agile approach for software development must understand the basic principals, rules, practices and concepts of “Agile”. With an understanding of the methodology the software development team is following, a better understanding and appreciation of the team and their efforts are reached improving your ability to lead and direct the people involved across the business.

This series of Blog Posts provides an executive summary of the “Agile Software Development Approach” to get your tow in the water.

Agility is expected in modern software development and the customers assume that through appropriate planning, solutions are build with the ability to anticipate changes and to realign over time as requirements and needs are changing.

Agile comes from the Latin word ‘agere’ which means “to do” – it means the ability to progress and change direction quickly and effectively while remaining in full control.

Software development delivering products and solutions, usually come about through the same phases within the business:

  • A need – The business has a particular demand and/or requirement and need a new software product or changes and enhancements to existing software solutions to address this demand and deliver value to the client and/or customers.
  • Funds – Budgets are drawn up and the business secures the availability of funds required to deliver the new project
  • Project Acceptance – The business stakeholders approves the software development project and it is chartered.
  • A Plan – Project Planning and Management is the fist but also a continuous key exercise in any project.
  • Execution – Build it!
  • Acceptance and Go-Live – The business accepts the software as fit for purpose, addressing the need and it is released into production.
  • Support – The provision of operational and technical support to keep the new software working after deployment into production.

In addressing this business need, software technology development teams follow a typical cycle – The Software Development Cycle:

Requirements –> Design & Architecture –> Functional Specifications & Use Cases –> Acceptance Criteria –> Technical Specifications –> Code Engineering –> Testing –> Deploy –> User Acceptance –> Production –> Support –> Requirements for a new cycle

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In traditional software development, individual specialised groups of Business Analyst, Testers, Architects, Designers, Developers and Network Engineers completing each step by working through the full scope of the project before it is handed over to the next step. A lot of effort is spent in each of the steps and more time is spent in handing over documentation and knowledge from one step to the other until the project is done.

In agile software development, the entire project team, consisting of members from specialised groups, is responsible to complete small increments of working software that deliver value to the business. Collaboration, across the whole company and the end user, client or customer during the development of each increment, ensures the need is met. The full Software Development Lifecycle is followed in the development of each increment, which is concluded with a release of working software into production. Change is the only constant in today’s world, so the project planning is done one increment and release at a time starting with high-level functionality. More incremental releases are completed adding more detailed to the functionality until the full project scope has been completed or until the business is satisfied that the need has been addressed.

Agile project management is not meant to replace formal project management methodologies, but to compliment it.

Agile Software Development’s Prime Goal: High value, high quality software, delivered quickly and frequently!

Agile Manifesto

Agile is all about – expecting change through rapid feedback and interaction though-out the project; the ability to adapt and anticipate change events, delivering scalable components that address the stakeholder’s needs; parallel cycles of work delivery with good communication and progress feedback; keeping it simple assuming the lowest cost and simplest solution is the best; demonstrating the progress after each cycle and evaluate improvements to feedback into the next cycle.Agile Framework

Being agile is all about being flexible and adaptable to continuous change. Agile project management can help to manage change consistently and effectively. It is all about thinking lean and making optimum use of resources as well as looking after the team though continuous interaction, coaching and mentoring to increase the performance.

Inception – Setting the project up for success

During inception all members of the team collaborate and define the outcomes of the project and what success looks like. The team grasps an understanding of the business requirements, meet the stakeholders, and compile a prioritized list of the functionality required broken down as “user stories” – later more on user stories. The high level solution design and underlining technical architecture are compiled followed by an estimating exercise defining the high-level effort required to deliver the project scope.

Iteration 0 – Preparation that enables the team to be productive from Iteration 1

In this iteration preparations of the team’s workspace, tools and infrastructure are completed.

Execution – The execution consists of a series releases that each consists of a series of time-boxed iterations – also called sprints – where the software increments are planned, built (coded and tested), deployed and demonstrated to the stakeholders.

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Closing – Was the business need met by this project delivery? Ensure everyone understands how the new changes introduced by the project will work in operations with appropriate handovers from the project team to the operational teams. The team does a retrospective to discuss the ‘Lessons Learned’ – What has worked well? What caused difficulties? What value and benefits were added? How accurate was the estimates? What should be done differently next time? These answers are an important feedback loop to continuous improvement.

Cycling through the iterations, the focus is on continuous improvement of the functionality, productivity and efficiency to optimize the use of funds and reduce waste. Through this constant cycle of adapting and learning, excellence becomes an reality.

Let’s Talk – Are you looking to achieve your goals faster? Create better business value? Build strategies to improve growth? We can help – make contact!