Why should I believe a consulting firm that doesn’t have a service catalog or any other company?

Let’s see you’re a technology consulting firm or any consulting firm and you don’t have a service catalog.   When you’re advising my company, you bring to the table a wealth of technology-speak: Cloud, Digital Transformation, AI, Containers, Blockchain, IoT, and the like.

Asked what your firm does I hear a jumble of more buzz-words: Agile, Digital Design, and the list goes on. Pressed for a simple answer I get “We’ll assist or execute for you in implementing the latest technologies”. So basically, your service catalog contains two items: Project Management and Technology of the Moment (TotM) implementation.   “Well we do more than that. We also provide Agile Training, Coaching, and blah, blah, blah…” Isn’t all of that in support of the two services you are supplying?

I know a few years ago your firm was trying to engage with my firm’s IT function about improving operational efficiency. You were proposing that you could help us by creating a service catalog as part of implementing a service management strategy.   We’re still working on creating our catalog. Can we see yours?

Oh, you have a list of services you advertise but no real catalog of how to perform or measure? Then a quick scramble behind the scenes to dig up you Secret Sause Methodology that no one else has. But I’ve seen this by every other firm just with different company specific acronyms.

I begin to wonder why if your firm had highlighted how important having a service catalog was so important years ago, that you don’t have one also. Especially since you still insist its key to an effective organization expecting to digitally transform itself.

While this is a rude hypothetical example. I assure you the events and thoughts are real, confirmed through discussions with many Executives over the years.

I don’t claim a service catalog is the answer to all of life’s questions, nor will it make a poorly conceived business model suddenly become profitable. What I do suggest is that a well thought out service catalog is part of good business and operating models.

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These models “guide” a company to success. Provided one understands these are models not the real world. These are the visualization of planning. Eris Ries along with other notable business advisors suggests two important concepts about enterprises and growth. First, you can expect you’ll need to change your business model or plans once you engage with the market. The ecosystem will inform you what is of value to your clients and your business. Second, if you focus on doing everything, you’ll eventually do nothing. For all the resources mega-enterprises have, these still must focus. It’s when they lose focus and try to do too much outside the core the business goes off the rails.

So where does a service catalog come into play?

Service catalogs are the details behind what your firm does and does not do, and how it does these. This may be why there are so many small consulting firms with big dreams that never grow up. Either not knowing what they do, trying to do everything, or not understanding how to do it repeatedly (a service) with consistent and measurable results.

Imagine going to a Cleaners only to get your clothes back partly cleaned one time, fully cleaned another, and having the service period vary by days without any indication as to when. Then going into the back room to see people cleaning clothes in no consistent manner: a dry-cleaning machine all the way through using a tub and scrubbing board. How long would you consider using this “service”?

While there is no guarantee that having a service catalog will ensure the perfect outcome. Having a one along with management oversight increases the probability of that desired outcome. Coupled with service agreements this reduces the risk to the client.

So why have a service catalog?

A service catalog is the guide rails to good outcomes for both client and company. The services included in the catalog are the execution details behind the key activities of your business.

Cloud –hype or a lesson to learn about ongoing technology change

A while back the model was there was a market for just 10 mainframes worldwide, or so the quote goes.  The in order for a corporation to join the big boys, you needed your own.  Decades later I’ve the equivalent of a S/360 processing power in my pocket.  If one follows the technology generations: On-Prem. Mainframe; Department Minis; Timeshare; PCs; Client-Server; then Internet, Now Cloud. There is always a new technology on the horizon (e.g., quantum computing) that will solve the worlds problems and put the kids to bed on time or so the marketing hype goes.

I’m neither a fan-boy or luddite when it comes to new technology.  I believe I’m a pragmatist.  I’ve a set of simple rules when it comes to acquisition and holding onto technology:

  • Explore and examine, but do not commit till conditions point to such
  • When exploring the technology, examine both the technological aspects:
    • does it add new capabilities
    • Is it stable (mature enough, reliable enough, has enough market share to continue a reasonable lifespan)
  • and business application:
    • does that new capability add something to my business
      • Reach to customers or markets
      • Improve customer relationships
      • Allow me to do something new for customer or improve my operations
    • or reduce costs and risks

Which brings me to the latest R&D I’ve been conducting over the past few decades that fits into my larger research project of creating a CAD/CAM system for Enterprise Design, Construction, Operations, and  Remodeling.   That latest research has been all about the overlap between business and technology strategy.  This is something my mentor John Zachman had started decades ago.  By now I can imagine several people’s eyes rolling. “Zachman Framework!, that so yesterday…”  However, those that have seen the decades of methodology hype go by know that the Ontology expressed in the Framework still is relevant.  Its just not the “silver bullet” everyone wants.  It takes some work to understand that the views defined in the Framework are there for a reason: To understand the various aspects of an abstract entity, Enterprise, to be manifested.

Given the hype and technology priesthoods that have developed around various methodologies: TOGAF, DODAF, SAFe, BPMN, etc.. I will not enter into the fray, other than to say these all have some aspect of utility and all address some dimensions in the Zachman Framework. 

Back to Cloud and business/technology strategy:  As of late business models or various levels of business models (Campbell’s Operation Model Canvas**) are become more mature from decades ago and starting to reach across to technology or rather technology has been identified as an enabler to business strategy.  With that as an underpinning to this post.  I post the real question around Cloud and Cloud Hype:

The real issue is how or should you take advantage of such. If you’re just switching technology to “modernize” that’s fine.  If the cost of maintenance or business continuity risk due to end of life is a significant threat changing technologies is a simple model (i.e., you’re replacing you car because you can’t get anything more out of your Model T).  That does suggest however, it will be running business as usual.

That, in my opinion, is short sighted as few businesses are in an environment that enables that.  Today business as unusual is the norm.  There is so much volatility and change going on in the space we call enterprise that operating a business is now more an effort of managing complexity and change than executing a simple production line was twenty or thirty years ago.  As such prior to committing to such a change it behooves Executives to ask the questions beyond the easy just replace On-Premise with On-Cloud for a supposed cost saving, how will I exploit the technology to improve my business besides just keep it operating another day?  As well as ask what are the trade-offs I make with such choices:

  • Dependencies/Risks on a service provider
    • Will they be around tomorrow
    • Will the service change
    • Besides Security and Data Ownership, can I extract such to a new provider should I decide to
  • Will/Can I integrate a broad spectrum of services together (primary vendor and others) with moderate or less effort, or is it really a closed system
  • How long will it take to covert?  Will the conversion take more time than the technology is likely to be in place

The thing I tell my clients continually, there is no free lunch, there are always trader-offs.  Some immediately, Some during an event, and Some eventually (i.e., in the future).  It is up to your executive team, not the technology providers or operators within the company, to understand these implications and impacts.  -And if your team does not have the confidence in making these decisions get a Business – Technology Strategy Consulting firm to assist.  This is not a technology strategy consulting firm (i.e., how to install, configure, and operate), but one that focuses on how-to use the technology for business as well as what are its implications to the business.

**full disclosure I’m working with Andrew Campbell on a tool suite to evaluate Operating Models similar to the evaluation tool suite I built for the Business Model Canvas community

Zachman Ontology (Framework) and other Ontological Models

This past Friday a had a short but insightful email thread with a new colleague, Karen Morphy. I’ve been busily working on my –to quote a joke from my PDES Inc. / ISO10303 development friends and associates — Mother of All Frameworks. Except its not my framework or ontology. Its John Zachman’ s.

I had previous discussed my various discussions with John about the Architect Metaphor and the drafting paradigm that people only partly understand. My thought around such is that the Framework is a 2D projection of a Multi-Dimensional Problem-Solution Space. The issue I brought up then to John and continue to work; on sending him insights that I discover for he and I to discuss. [I am still a supporter of and hopefully contributor to the advancement of the framework] Is finding the logical/mathematical connection that binds the rows and columns together into a unified whole. The Unified Field Theory of Enterprise Architecture if you please.

I had agreed to read and review [soon to come on Amazon] Operating Model Canvas book by another colleague Andrew Campbell.

About a quarter in I found that it would provide some valuable insights to a project of mutual interest between Karen and I.   I fired off a quick note suggesting this may be of value as it focuses upon the “architecture of implementation” –cringe at the application of such a phrase, but in this context I think its true to my definition of architecture .

Her question back: “How does that differ from the Business Model Canvas? Seems like it puts the Value Chain at the center so there is more of a customer journey represented? Being a Zachman disciple, I see many of these as just a rearrangement of the Zachman ontology…”

Almost without thinking my reply came. It seemed so natural: “I see all of these models as either subsets of Zachman Ontology or auxiliary views (I.e. Combinations of columns or rows to create a specific perspective needed for illumination (same thing is done in other engineering fields)”

Which brings me back to the drafting metaphor and my original personal R&D. With so many I.T. and Business Framework popping up every day how is one supports to make rational sense of such. As stated above I believe all these others are simply views or auxiliary views of the Zachman Framework. These are not better or worse than each other, but specific perspectives needed to illuminate a specific item of interest, similar to such in the drafting domain.

 

Strategy and Vision Analysis

Digging through some old files this afternoon to find this sketch from ’95.

vision-analysis-workflow

After I had decomposed a Senior Executive’s Strategy and Vision to find some of the major weaknesses and suggest mitigations, he asked me into his office.  He had only put out the document a few hours before.  Mind you I had just joined the company a few weeks before when I sent the critique; other’s had warned me that was a career limiting move.  That this Executive didn’t like criticism.  So when he called me into his office shortly after sending my assessment.  Well you can imagine I figured; it was going to be one of the shortest careers in the company.

To my surprise and delight, he gushed over my assessment.  Saying it was a brilliant piece of analysis and wished others in his organization could do such.  All he could ever get from his subordinates was a weak “Because we’ve always done it that way” or other “I just don’t like it without any rational explanation.  His next request during the meeting was simple,  he asked me how I could do such so quickly.  I pulled out some paper, sketching out my process as I describe how I performed each step, and how each step fed the next in line.

Today I’m still analyzing strategy and enterprise architecture, design and construction; though my tools have matured some what, the objective of each step are still the same.

 

I guess the saying the more things change the more they stay the same still rings true.  Though many don’t realize, most of the new solutions touted are really the same ones from the past, just masked in newer technology

 

 

Anti-value and Process Measurement

 Anti-value

The problem with Earn Value (EV) has applied by many PMs and Enterprises is that often there is not value achieved. What has been done is to expend effort (work) towards a goal which is hoped to achieve value. Too often lately earned value and effort have been used as interchangeable; they are not. These are two different concepts.

It is said “Value is in the eye of the beholder”. However, if the beholder is not the ultimate consumer of the effort I would contend you may or may not have achieved value. It is my assertion that value is in the eye of the consumer external to the working entity.

The example I use is rather down to earth rather than using abstract deliverables. Take an aluminum billet, rough mill it into the shape of an aircraft wing spar. Many PMs would claim some percentage of EV at this point. “See we’ve accomplished x percent of the steps towards creating the spar, so we’ve achieved x percent of EV.

However, if we stop there can you sell this rough spar to the customer or another customer for the cost of the materials plus level of effort employed?   Typically, not. More than likely the enterprise would be selling the rough billet as scrap or salvage rate (cost of the raw material). So really what has happened is the enterprise has created Anti-Value.

Process Measurement

In 1985 Dr. Arno Schmackpfeffer, et al. put forth an article in IBM’s Journal of Research and Development “Integrated Manufacturing Modeling System”. In that he and his peers asserted there are five primitive activities in a process: Make, Move, Verify, and Rest. These activities are the basis for creating value.

Five Primatives

At his point many would put forth the argument that only one of the five, make, creates value. However, that neglects other forms of value creating activities. These again are in the eye of the consumer.

Does “Move” create value? Clearly it must, as people are willing to pay firms to move things for them. Even investment firms use move to create achieve value: Arbitrage, moving goods from one location to another to gain value from the price differential in locations.

How about “Rest or Store” this activity? Does nothing but leave an item in place, what value is in that? How many people lease self-storage space to keep things? So there must be value in rest or store as people are willing to pay for it.

Now what about “Verify” clearly verify adds not value? With verify the consumer of verify is looking to get assurance that what was accomplished previously was actually accomplished. Auditors and Consultants are examples of service providers that engage is such activities that enterprises are willing to pay for.

Summary

I had labeled the above section process measurement as a correction to a previous blog article https://briankseitz.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/structure-in-threes-process-value/  to put it in better alignment with the assertion I have that value is not achieved until someone is willing to “pay” for it.

In 1998 I had taken the five primitives a little further to develop a quick analysis method for BPR/M engagements. This approach enabled my team to analyze business processes to determine what activities could be eliminated to increase process efficiency and value contributions

Process Analysis

 

Enterprise Portfolio Management insights

This weekend’s brainstorming and reading brought up some interesting insights.  So much so I couldn’t sleep and woke up around 2am with the following visuals in my head.

First of was a refinement? on Govindarajan and Trimble’s concepts about two competing engines within an enterprise in their book Beyond the Idea.  Their proposed model theorizes whay its so hard to get innovations deployed and adopted in existing concerns while startups do not seem to have this internal conflict issue.

Gravity Centers in Enteprise

Second was an idea I’ve been refining over the years; that portfolio selection is not just a single event but a series of filters applied to narrow down the pool to the portfolio member to actively work on.  There are lots of models on sections methods (BCG Matrix) Balanced Scorecard, etc.  What is common to all is a concept of sorting and filtering members into groups, which creates a group of members to actively work on.

 

Portfolio selection is a filtering process

While these are not likely the final visualizations of the presentation I’ve proposed for an internal conference in February.  The metaphors speak clearly to me; I wonder if they do the same to others?

 

Capability Rationalization

Had a great weekend figured out the basic logic for Application Portfolio Rationalization, now I need to add upper and lower limits for fulfillment, interdependency, lifecycle and a few other factors for a balanced scorecard approach.

Capability Rationalization