Intellectual Arbitrage Group: Website Redesign

intellectual Arbitrage Group’s Office365 Small Business Premium website V0.7

Spent a few minutes each day this week working on Intellectual Arbitrage Group’s new public website.

intelarbgrp-website-homeOffice365 Small Business Premium IAG Contact Up Page Design

It has taken a little while to get some time on my schedule to work this activity.  Like other small consulting firms,  Time to work on marketing, backoffice systems, and practice development is always in short supply when you don’t have a dedicated people working each task.  Fortunately, using most of the Office365 Small Business Premium templates means I can focus on content and customers instead of presentation.  Only wish it had more flexibility or useful help on how-to customize like WordPress.comto is very minimal.  While the library of SharePoint web parts is helpful, the flexibility of these parts is minimal or not very well supported by documentation.

IAG-Office365 Website WP Blog-Webpart

This past Sunday, I asked my DNS Hoster [ZoneEdit] to build new records to forward my URL and Mail over to my Office365 site.  Both Registrar [DomainPeople] and DNS name service [ZoneEdit] were very fast and responsive, I switched over to new services in less than two hours.  I only hope Microsoft can match that Service Level, though I didn’t see a clear Service Level Agreement (SLA) from Microsoft when I signed up.  But then again they are still new to Services.

Creating Workflow for Modern IT Portfolio Management

On this week’s agenda is building out the workflow for the IT Portfolio Management Practice.  Unlike how IBM, DMR, and Microsoft accomplish practice implementation, I plan on creating a semi-automated workflow using SharePoint, MS Access and Excel.  While using PowerPoint and Word templates may capture content and present it in a “pretty” way, it does nothing for ensuring the quality of the output.  That was one of the reasons I created B.A.S.E. years ago.  I had gotten disgusted back then with the quality of analysis peer consultants were performing, choosing to spend all their time on formatting.  I guess I shouldn’t complain about such, as it created a market for me back then; fixing all the poor engagements and projects these people performed.  I’ve see lots of “pretty” engagements go bad due to poor analysis and thinking which creates the ultimate consulting sin in my book; doing harm to the client.  Having a structured process and supporting system may not guarantee perfect results or avoidance of harm, but it sure reduces the probability and provides better visibility to detect such.

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Structure in Three: Governance

This week’s research agenda continues on governance and the interfaces of controls with decisions processes for portfolio management.  The further I dive into COBIT 5 the more I like the taxonomy and structure.  While there are gaps, these are explicitly called out in the management guide where research is needed.  Which is interesting as those are the areas I’ve been focused upon, so at some point convergence is likely.  I’ve started to White-Board an assessment tool (MS Access DBMS) which would include COBIT-like concepts yesterday.  As I reverse engineer and rebuild my Access V1 Consultant Workbench (B.A.S.E.) I’ll be adding TIPA & COBIT to the modules I previous built for the platform.  I like using ACCESS more as an intelligence platform that EXCEL due to its ability to build relational models, however, as of late I’m looking at build highbred applications using SharePoint, ACCESS Services and EXCEL.

With more than a few years under my belt in management consulting, methodology and support tools development I have come away with insights on how to make consulting practices more efficient and effective.  B.A.S.E. was developed with that insight in mind years ago.  However at that time management consulting was operated around time & materials billing rather than outcomes, so efficiency and effectiveness in operation was counter to the revenue model.  If it took less time to deliver results to the client you were taking money out of your pocket.  Despite calls for outcome based billing by such notables such as Allan Weiss, Peter Block, and Gerald Weinberg the industry and oddly enough clients still used T&E as the primary billing method.  Which I suppose makes both parties more comfortable and believe easier to contain risk, as time consumption is easier to measure than progress to an outcome.  Just an interesting side-note.

As I continue governance research, the next major area to develop is adoption.  While COBIT 5 describes the change management within implementation, like most other implementation activity very little is defined in this arena.  The majority of efforts listed are on planning the technical rollout and communicating the schedule of such.  From my experience with reengineering processes, such approaches limit effectiveness of change programs.  If left to the end of the lifecycle, stakeholders are suddenly thrust into dealing not only with technological and process aspects but also social and emotional aspects as well.  And as experience has shown experts in the field we continue to ignore, people take longer to change attitudes and behaviors than it takes to implement the technology and define the processes.  The work that John Kotter has accomplished on change management  looks to provide a good base, the next level of development is to move from his strategic framework to create a catalog of tactics and methods to support each stage similar to the business development framework I’ve been recommending to small and medium business colleagues by C.J. Hayden .  End of week I hope to post draft of tactics and methods for adoption stages or find and post a reference by someone else that has already done the research.

Office365 Small Business

Installed and started to configure Office365 Small Business Premium yesterday.  A little buggy and limited on guidance.  Still have a lot to cleanup on configuring; Issues with ID or Email Address, etc.  Guess that means there’s a market for someone to write a “how-to” book on install, configuration and operation.  Of course this has been one of the major deficiencies in Microsoft’s Business Model.  They can tell you how to flip switches on the product, but not how and why for your business.  The entire ITSM concept for Microsoft is still primitive which is why I keep getting questions from friends & family on how-to manage their IT environment.  Additionally that last several engagements I supported behind the scenes, customers where asking for the Microsoft equivalent of an IBM Redbook.  Unfortunately my old group was not chartered to fulfill such a request despite the growing need.  This suggests that when I’m finished my first book project, I start on a IT Operations Methodology and Guidebook similar to the Strategy and Market Planning methodology IP I developed for other Global 100 corps.

Today’s agenda is more physical office clean-up, troubleshooting structured wiring system, and Structure in Threes book layout wireframe design and if time permits back to configuring Office365 Small Business (wireframe layout for external site)

Structure in Threes – Resources

This morning got a email from a colleague asking about capacity planning which is not exactly the Candlestick Charting Applied R&D I had scheduled for today, but he has an active engagement I’m helping him on as I have cycles to spare during my search for a new role.  It seems the more things change the more they stay the same.  Maybe this is why I decided to write the book.  I keep on getting asked the same questions about “How-to” –not in not in the academic sense– design an IT Organization or a Marketing Function or Consulting Group, etc.  It seems despite all the literature out there, there appears to be not practical hands on it this arena or if there is its disguised as something else.

His question was “how-to” calculate resources for an IT Organization.  Several years ago I built a calculator that did part of this on a smaller scale; a limited set of services.  I had wanted to scale the methodology up; part of my reason for rejoining Microsoft.  The approach is actually very simple.  Most of the methodology high level design is in my SharePoint Saturday presentations on Slideshare.  The basic approach is a derivative of ITIL/ITSM concepts using the modeling techniques I’ve used for the past 25+ years of engagements reengineering business processes and functions when I get called in to fix failed BPR projects — a lot more than these large corporations would like to admit to.   Usually the failures can be traced back to other issues –which is a post for another time.  However, occasionally the technical design of the function, process or group has been just a fantasy of moving boxes in the org-chart or a swag as to the resources needed.  After it becomes apparent the restructuring hasn’t worked as planned, maybe for the 2nd or 3rd try, management reaches out to find someone like me that has successfully done this multiple time over the decade and doesn’t plan on making this engagement his/her retirement home.  The difference between a corporate raider (Chainsaw Al) and myself is I’m looking at how to reuse and remission resources effectively rather than cut staff to the bare minimum.  I see reduced resource requirements as new capacity to apply to initiatives that were past over during the previous budget cycle because they didn’t have the capacity.  Enough management philosophy.

On the technical design approach, I start out with value streams and business processes which are supported by IT Services.  I use a loose definition of IT Services that are a mixture of People, Processes and Technology, a little bit more that as subscription to a computer transaction capability.  From this root I decompose the activities and transactions down to IT Assets (People, Processes and Technology) needed to support the activities.  With a little modeling, predictive analytics, and simulation a fairly robust set of scenarios [scenarios as in Scenario PlanningRoyal Dutch Shell]  can be created to define the range of capacity needs.  The can be then translated into a capacity model for IT Planning.   I’ve presented concepts before to people who somehow thing this is all academic theory. 🙂  However, had they spent time researching they would have found this has been done for years.  During my days at IBM I create a lot of capacity planning models for customers to forecast mainframe utilization and growth.  The basic logic works and continues to do so.  I’m not sure why the consulting field does not pick up on this perhaps because is more quantitative and the field likes to give more qualitative answers.  Below is a portion of a capacity planning spreadsheet I create several years ago for a SharePoint Shared Services organization.

Service Resource Calculator

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Structure in Threes

Spent this morning detailing the book outline.   The two part approach looks like it will work nicely: Part One explaining the concepts to those unfamiliar with the techniques giving a foundation to work with, Part Two providing a step by step methodology and explanation of how to use the templates I’ve created.  From a one and a half page outline the planning effort has yielded five pages of chapter and section objectives with small screen shots of templates to be used and a good start on the bibliography and suggested reading list.  The collection of templates I’ve created in past years that I have to update or clean up is growing rather rapidly, that even before I’ve integrated all of them into a common system.  I’m considering creating a common platform like Azure to be the base to integrate all data.  However, I don’t think Azure comes with my Office365 Small Business subscription, so I may have to use SharePoint and Access Services which is not a significant limitation for now.

In the meantime still working on getting Home Office back in shape, today’s task will be getting some of the library in workable form.  I’ve about twenty stacks of books in front of book cases to reorganize.  Now’s the time I wish I had hired that librarian I was talking to at the library of congress.  –At least the stacks are chunked into useful clusters by the taxonomy I created for quick access.  Glad I sent time years ago researching Ontology, Taxonomy and Semantics; it has really helped throughout the years with research.

Governance Visualization

Reading Enterprise Architecture -creating value by informed governance.   The one take-away I’ve gotten so far from the book has been confirmation of Stafford Beer VSM’s concepts: the recognition that management and control within an enterprise need to be designed with the same discipline and rigor or more that are used for products and services.

Designing effective governance directly effects an enterprise’s ability.  In an environment and economy that demands that enterprises be flexible, adaptive, efficient and effective, having the appropriate governance system is a critical enabling factor.  Some of the spectacular business failures of the past decades have not been failures of product, production process or services.  These failures have been lapses of effective governance.  This goes beyond the financial and ethical scandals that have brought about SOX legislation.   One only needs to look at the issues that the US Government is going through.  Almost everyone is looking towards the government with frustration and wondering why it does not appear to be working or unable to get things done.  A simple look indicates a failure of governance by the very body that has been delegated that responsibility.   I bring these circumstances and events up as proof-points to my original premise; management and control have gotten complex enough in today’s environment that governance needs to be designed and built.

If I haven’t lost you reading this you’re asking now what?  What do I do if I buy your premise?  As an Enterprise Architect, the next step appears simple but is quiet hard: recognize that governance is a subsystem in the enterprise which is a system in the environment.  Usually Enterprise Architects spend significant time articulating how the value creation process is exposed by a product or service system.   Or Infrastructure Architects focus on creating the information system that enables or embodies this creation process.   However, the sub-discipline and practice of governance creation is still emerging as a practice within Enterprise Architecture.

The diagrams below are but one visualization method on how governance can be displayed.  While overly simplified, I find this method clear and concise to communicate in a less jargon filled discussion.  The first diagram illustrates how the management system aka governance reacts with both the environment and operations.  The management senses the environment and operations and sends control instructions to operations to adjust to environmental needs.  In this context environment is the ecosystem that the business operates within.

In this second illustration the system is diagramed in more detail showing how the management system is partitioned is to sub-control activities and the mechanisms (triangles) used to coordinate activities.   This does not take the place of business rules, charters, and other textual representations of governance, however, it does enable visualization on how the components interact as well as help identify gaps in governance.

 

Enterprise I.T. Strategy and Governance Vacuum

Over the past two years I’ve been observing the dialog within the SharePoint community around governance.   There are hints that the community is evolving as several people are now discussing the role of business in governance.   This discussion was missing during initial treatments of the topic at conferences I attended.  It was emblematic of the IT community as a whole during the past decade.

Much of the focus of IT governance has been on execution of permissions for access to information or applications.  While this is important and the end goal of governance, this is the equivalent of law enforcement more so than actual governance which is the process by which decisions on access is made.  IT organizations have become surrogate business asset management boards and in some cases the role has been pushed down to the lowest levels of IT.  A natural result of such unrestrained delegation has been this focus on execution with the decisions on who and how information assess becomes an ad hoc process or left to those that build but do not use the systems.

IT Catch-22

These factors have left IT organizations frustrated as the businesses as they serve.  IT organizations are either blamed for not “just taking care of it” or being “too arrogant, bureaucratic, unresponsive and out of touch with business needs”.  IT Leaders are not complacent about this situation, but confused as to how to address it.  Candid discussions the past two weeks with several organizations facing these challenges confirm this.

 

If an IT organization attempts to just take care of managing an enterprise’s information it faces the challenge of understanding what information is needed, who needs access, how it is to be used, and a variety of other attributes for this information.  All this and then attaining agreement and adoption from the business community.  This is a tall order for a organization that has spent the majority of its efforts on deploying and maintaining technology.  One only need look at IT group budgets over the years to understand where its capabilities and competencies lay.  One could blame MIS directors and CIOs for this however, this is what they were missioned and incented to achieve throughout the past decades.  The typical IT Executives had been constantly receiving directions to lower costs of the infrastructure, increase capacity, and maintain the current technology.  If one looks at IT Industry focus over the past several decades aside from the technology generations the one initiative that stands out is TCO, Total Cost of Ownership.

Doing the same thing and expecting a different result…

When management consulting started to address Information Technology management it has continually put its efforts into optimization of existing resources.  This is equivalent to efforts that these firms put toward manufacturing hard goods products.  The thoughts behind doing so was that human labor was cheap but equipment was expensive.  So methods such as operations research to cut idle time through scheduling and a limited version of portfolio management meant to reduce capital holdings became the prevailing wisdom of the day.  Most enterprises unaware that the paradigm of work was changing from expensive equipment to expensive labor accepted this IT strategy.  During the 80s human resources became more expensive than physical resources, however, the management strategies and techniques have not kept pace with this reality in most enterprises.

Acceptance of this old strategy has meant that over time enterprises and IT organizations as a result, spent what resources not devoted to technology deployment and maintenance to developing competence on cost management or cutting.  The areas of information strategy and architecture that had started in parallel were gradually thinned out, demoted and discounted as the orders of the day was cost management.  Enterprises had by default outsourced their information management strategy to vendors.  Those that disagree with this assessment can look no further than the details of most technology strategy groups within IT functions and see the primary activity is around technology purchase, deployment, maintenance optimization.   Very little investment has been put forth on developing information management verses information technology capabilities.  Of the fifteen organizations I’ve surveyed the past two months, all had Portfolio Management initiatives with a mission on reduction of application and hardware investments, only two had just the start a practice for the management of information as an asset and both are struggling with understanding how to ensure alignment with business.

This is not a condemnation of enterprise management, management consulting or the IT organizations.  This is just a reporting of what I’ve seen over the decades as someone who has cycle through multiple  functions within the business and multiple organizations.  The circumstances, the decisions and actions made have resulted into the situation enterprises are in today.  Like issues with the US Economy or the Environment these are results from the build up of small effects over a long period of time.  Long horizon effects is something that most people and therefore organizations are not well suited to address, especially with the instant gratification culture we’ve developed into today.    So it should not be unexpected that managing information –a new discipline — has not developed as a competency in the business side or IT.

 I’m going to show them … a world without rules or controls, borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you

Where does that leave business and IT?  Businesses need to reexamine their role in managing information.  I say information specifically not information technology.  Business members cannot delegate the responsibility to manage their information.  Abdicating control over this critical component results in losing control of the business itself.  For IT figuring out how to partner with the business to address complex issues is key.  Discussing EA with my fifteen IT organizations and on LinkedIn CIO Network forum the questions I’m repeatedly asked is “how?”.  How do we partner with business?  How do we get business engaged with information/technology decision issues?  Senior and technical leadership within IT organizations asking these questions does not suggest arrogance to me.  IT’s focus on IT specific issues without linkage to the  business paradigm and goals suggests a blindness or one dimensional quality which can be seen as arrogance by other disciplines in the enterprise.

I don’t have a magic formula for Business-IT engagement other than to open a dialog.  However, for dialog to occur a common language or effective translation needs to occur.  IT organizations need to develop an understanding of business and the means to translate business concepts into IT execution.  This is more than just a word for word translation but an active exchange where concepts such as business models are investigated for IT enablement options, the alternatives are relayed back to enterprise executives and line of business management as well as the consequences of choosing an alternative from a business perspective so joint decisions can be made.  This model of engagement is not new to industrial enterprises.  Marketing, Engineering, and Manufacturing now team on making decisions in most leading corporations since the 80s under the banner of concurrent engineering.   This is focused upon decisions about products and goods sold.  Today as products and services include IT components, IT organizations should be prepared to “participate” not direct in these teams.  Likewise IT needs to prepare itself to discuss business strategy, organization and operations on more than just a technology thread.  Failure to be able to converse on content beyond IT will continue to relegate the IT organization as a suspected subordinate function.

How this effects Enterprise Strategy and IT Governance?  Without the executive and line of business management participating in governance as full members the IT organizations will always be viewed as autocratic and detached from the business.  IT organizations need to prepare, educate, and reach out to other’s as a colleagues.