Wednesday, November 28, 2007

IT Manager: Evaluating 3rd Party Solutions

3rd party solutions are always an option to take/recommend if:
1. The company needs the solution right away.
2. Developing it in-house would take time.
3. The cost to develop such solution will be higher than buying one.

Below are several factors to consider in evaluating 3rd party solutions:
1. Fit - always do a gap analysis between what the process needs versus what the solution can do. How customizable is the solution to adjust to some business specific requirements?

2. Cost - consider the overall cost of the solution. From the consultants, servers, technical and user trainings, and the solution itself. Check with the higher management if they are willing to sacrifice short term returns for long term gains.

3. Support - maintenance and support is always the key for a solution to work well. After-sales and implementation support has to be included and evaluated well before buying.

4. Compatibility - consider how compatible is the technology used by the 3rd party solution to the current technology you have? How long does it take learn it? Always take into account this compatibility factors since it can create additional cost and technical problems in the future if it's not handled well.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

IT Manager : Motivation (Getting the job done)

How do you make people do things you want done? How do you make them shine and get the most out of them? Often times we face productivity issue in our workplace. Projects are not done on time, qualities of their output are low, processes are not being followed, Tardiness are prevalent and policies are taken for granted.

The challenge of having a Team is to maintain their passion in works that they do best while at the same time have fun doing so.

Below are several things to do to keep the fire burning:

1. Do talk to your staff, hear what they have to say. - this is very important for you to take the general feel of the situation. Take note on issues that affects everyone. Convey what you feel and you think is the right thing to do. Be open to any concerns that affects you as a leader.

2. Formulate a plan of action - With the intelligence you gather, To do's has to be created in order to address the issues and concerns that was raised. It may also help if you seek some guidandce from HR team or other departments if there are issues that affects them.

3. Share the plan of action with your staff - This is very important because team members also has to agree on the actions that will be taken, have them involved by getting their feedbacks and inputs.

4. Implement the plan of action - Implement and monitor the progress of each members, get their constant feedback and send them updates. The plan of action is agreed as a department so they deserve to know the progress they're making.

5. Reward you staff - Night out, Movie weekends, Beach Days, Gift Certificates, Pizza Trips, Salary Increases. Nothing beats recognition especially if people know that they deserved it and they are part of the solution.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Multi-Channel CRM: It's in Your Future by Allen Bonde (article from

As organizations become increasingly enamored with online support and other self-service applications (and yes, I’ve been happily helping folks up onto the bandwagon over the past couple of years), the question of “how much is enough” starts to come to mind. After your IT help desk moves frequently asked questions, software downloads and low-value-add support requests like password resets to self-service, should they stop there? On your customer-facing sites, what level of user adoption or successfully resolved cases or online orders should be your target? And assuming you have not fallen into some of the common self-service traps (see Can Self-Service Deliver Better Service?), once your self-service applications are up and running, how much call deflection is considered a success?

Eliminating phone calls or driving call deflection has been a central goal for self-service initiatives since the first intranets and support portals went live. But is there anyone who truly expects their call volume to drop to zero? Like any new media or interaction channel, the Web has found its role, and in some industries—think travel or real estate or certain high tech products—the majority of interactions and transactions are likely to occur online, with little assistance from traditional intermediaries like travel agents, brokers or sales reps. But when it comes to tech support and customer service, despite numerous success stories, Web self-service will just be one of the channels you will need to support, along with voice response, text chat, email, SMS, etc.

For many, the challenge is finding the right role for each channel, and the right mix of options for each user that you support. Equally important is to know what to measure across all of your service and support channels so that you can balance the mix of benefits for IT, the business and the end user. Understanding your customer and educating them about how to get help, where to find answers or experts, and indeed when to call is critical. If you do this well, when they call, there’s an awful good chance that it will be worth answering!

Know Your Customer

As discussed in prior columns, segmenting customers is essential to providing both a compelling, tailored online experience and having a chance at optimizing your various interaction channels. This includes doing surveys or focus groups, defining categories or groups of users, mapping their entitlements (recall that a call can only be considered deflected if the customers was allowed to call you), and ideally identifying each group of customers’ preferred channel for various tasks, e.g., they want to share tips with other users and get upgrades online, receive service alerts via e-mail and have the ability to call if they have warranty issues.

Remember that not everyone wants self-service. And even the most Web-savvy users will encounter situations when they need to send an e-mail or will want to chat with an agent or even send a fax. From a business perspective, there are also times when you want users to call.

In situations such as a product recall where there is an issue of safety, or when there appears to be a good, old-fashioned sales opportunity, we can’t forget that a live interaction may be the most effective option.

It’s a Multi-Channel World

In a research study published by Yankee Group in 2006, analysts point out that customers often choose self-service as the way they interact with companies, and that Web-based service channels will grow the most (compared to other options), with an expected increase of 86 percent from 2006 to 2008. Meanwhile, live-agent calls are projected to decline by an average of 18 percent during the same period. Yet, the same study shows that even after this shift, Web self-service interactions will still account for less than 15 percent of all interactions, with chat and e-mail accounting for another 30 percent.

So, yes, as eVergance and others have predicted, self-service has taken off. But the phone (or e-mail for that matter) is not going away. And just to complicate things further, more and more interactions span multiple channels before they are completed. A request that starts by searching in an online knowledge base may lead to a chat session, which escalates to a call, and then is confirmed via an e-mail message. In fact, Yankee estimates that 60 percent of interactions between customers and organizations are cross-channel and span the entire customer lifecycle.

Are You Ready?

This complexity puts a premium on having a CRM optimization strategy that is truly multi-channel and supports all of the “old” (phone, IVR, e-mail) and “new” (chat and IM, forums, wikis, RSS) channels. Despite the emergence of open source components and the appeal of a best of breed approach, it also may swing the pendulum a bit back to suite vendors—and especially those that offer a multi-channel framework approach that provides the flexibility of best-of-breed, with the simplicity and scale of pre-integrated solutions.

If customer service channels behave like media channels, the latest approaches will continue to provide new capabilities (think Web 2.0) and take “share” from existing channels, but will never completely replace them. This is similar to the historical impact of broadcast television on radio, or what online media (and eBay!) initially did to newspapers. We can do things we never dreamed of online, yet despite their challenges, newspapers or broadcast radio stations aren’t going away anytime soon.

At the same time, we are all becoming more specific about how and when we consume media—and what experience we want on each channel. Just as I listen to the radio on my drive to the office and to streaming audio on my PC late at night, I want to be able to call JetBlue or Verizon or BMW if I have product questions or want to confirm an order or service appointment even though my first preference is to interact online. Each of those companies has been an innovator with Web self-service, and for the most part provides a consistent (and satisfying) experience across all of their interaction channels. But most importantly, they know me, and certainly know that if I’m calling it must be important.

Allen Bonde is Senior Vice President and CMO at eVergance, an independent subsidiary of KANA Software which delivers strategic consulting services focused on CRM optimization and knowledge management. Prior to joining eVergance, Allen was the founder of strategic advisory firm ABG, Inc., a practice expert at McKinsey, the director of management consulting at Extraprise, and an analyst at the Yankee Group. An authority on Web self-service trends and applications, he started his career in corporate R&D at a leading telecommunications company.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

IT Manager: Innovation in the workplace

We all hear different ideas from our IT staff, whether internal business process improvements, code optimizations to radical concepts. Listening to them gives you glimpse of their potential and what they can do as an individual or in a team. Knowing their approaches gives you insight and intelligence on who you can assign where on a some particular issue that needs some degree of specialization.

In my IT team, we organize ”TechTalk” and “iOpen” day wherein Team Members get to code, research on their ideas for ‘proof of concept’ every Friday so they can present it during “TechTalk” every Wednesday. These events are on top of their current project they are handling. Having these events made the staff more creative on their projects. They are also more productive since products, services and solutions are made before a real demand for such emerge.

Friday, October 26, 2007

IT Manager : Handling Maintenance and Support

Oftentimes in the organization there are tasks that needs to be done on a regular basis. On the Infrastructure side we do backup, system health check and bandwidth monitoring. On the Software Development side we have some record updates, additional report creations and minor process changes that is too small to be treated as a project.

A Help Desk strategy to address minor issues can help organize the maintenance and support challenges of an IT Department. It acts as the filter wherein only the tasks that are not solved by Help Desk are being given to key IT people.

Setting it up:
1. Automate what can be automated.
2. Gather regular issues and concerns, so the organization can create a "Knowledge Databank"of their corresponding solutions.
3. Make "Knowledge Databank" accessible to the user, sort of like a self-service offering. This will be IT Department's first level of support.
4. Create a point/contact person for every process, He/she will address specific issues and concerns that is not answered by the "Knowledge Databank". These point/contact persons are the IT Department's second level of support.
5. Reaching to 3rd level is usually the time when that issue/concern has to be treated as a project. By then, the concern must be very difficult or has to take considerable amount of resources for it to be addressed. It will then be reviewed and prioritized like any other projects.

A Help Desk strategy is very important to organization so it can maximize it's IT resources. This prevents misappropriation of staff to lesser priority tasks.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

IT Manager : Prioritizing IT Projects

Let's face it, process owners(department managers) always demand deadlines like it's supposed to be finish yesterday. It's a good thing though because you know that they appreciate what IT is capable of. They sometimes initiate some automation tasks and IT projects.

One of the challenges IT Manager face is, which will be first in the queue when it comes to resource allocation? If you ask the process owners they tend to be subjective and wants their initiative to be done first.

What IT Managers can do is to ask the question: What are the most important processess of the company? Then rank it.

Sample Processes:
- Sales
- Inventory
- HR
- Shipping
- Marketing
- Accounting

Sample Ranking and its justification :
1. Sales - Where our salary will comes from
2. Marketing - Where leads will come from that will eventually becomes a sale

3. Inventory - Products/Services that we sell
4. Shipping - Fulfillment to the sale

5. Accounting - Know if the business is doing great
6. HR - Where we ask for increase :)

If you notice, I segregate it to three major sections which are:
1. Customer Leaning processes
2. Fulfillment processes
3. Reporting/Admin processes

For most companies I've worked with, Customer Leaning processes are the most important and has to be prioritized. This is because customer experience can affect the bottomline of the company.

Fulfillment processes also plays a vital role, we have to be able to deliver the products and services we sell.

Reporting/Admin processes should have been established even before the first customer transaction occurs because it's the foundation of all major processes. All sales and inventory transactions integrates to the Financials, People are hired before they sell. This means any projects involving Reporting/Admin Processes should just be minor modifications.

In prioritizing project, updating the process owners where they are in the queue has to be done regularly in order for them to feel they are being attended to.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

IT Manager : Ways to Organize an IT Department

Organizing your IT Department by creating subteams is one of the best way to promote leadership and delegate some of your admin roles to the sub team leader. However, one has to plan the proper setup/teaming for these can cause conflict and miscommunication. There are several ways to approach such, depending on how it fits your organization.

Platform Base
This means teaming up your department members by the platform they know best. ASP guys can team up, Java/Open Source team and Flash team for example. There is a potential loophole in this kind of setup since some platform can do the same things like the other platform. So competition between who will do what may result to conflict and different teams may develop a version of the same application in different platform just to prove whose better thereby waisting time and resources.

Project Roles
Team of Analysts, Team of Project Managers, developers, testers and documentation specialists. If you want to set it up this way there is a possibility of a tier-2 subteams for specific projects involving many roles thus creating another layer and you managing more teams.

Process Specialization
This is setting up your development team by way of your company's major business processes. Accounting, Sales, HR etc. This is by fas a better approach since development teams can just focus on the process they are assigned to and build projects on it.

Hybrid Approach
A combination of Process Specialization and Project Role is personally the best approach. You can setup your team by major business processes and assign roles to each team members based on what he/she do best. Accounting team can have a Project Manager, Analyst, Developers, Testers and Documentation Specialists. Sales and HR team can also have the same setup. For cross-functional projects (projects that involves several business processes), one has to evaluate how major the roles are for each team and team leaders of those who has minor roles can just assign a point/contact person for his/her team as a resource to that project.

You can always find a better approach in organizing your IT Department, what matters is that it fits and adds value to your organization.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

CIO Balancing Act: Keeping IT on the Forefront of Creating Value (an article from Knowledge@Wharton)

This is a very nice article from Knowledge@Wharton about how IT can be a catalyst of change and driver of growth...


Long gone are the days when firms expected their chief information officer to function as "chief technology mechanic." As companies look for ways to maintain a competitive edge in new markets, CIOs are playing a more central leadership role, taking on increasing responsibility for corporate strategy and other duties outside of core technology. Even so, CIOs are still expected to ensure the quality and performance of the IT organization. How can CIOs balance these priorities --delivering technology that improves business performance while helping to drive competitive growth? To answer that question, Knowledge@Wharton spoke with Mark McDonald, group vice president and head of research for Gartner Executive Programs, who is a faculty member in the Wharton Executive Education program CIO as Full Business Partner, produced in cooperation with Gartner. Joining McDonald were Michael Shannon, chief information officer of international law firm Dechert LLP, and Tony Habash, chief information officer of the American Psychological Association. An edited transcription follows.

Knowledge@Wharton: Mark, given your research [on this subject], what would you say are the top three challenges facing CIOs today, and what's driving those challenges?

Mark McDonald: That's a great question. The top three challenges that we hear from CIOs are really a combination of three things.

One is to support the enterprise's growth efforts and development efforts. So, how do I provide the information capabilities and technologies that help drive growth and customer satisfaction?

One of the other top challenges is associated with business processes, which is really about how the CIO uses technology and process to change the way the enterprise works -- not only to raise its current performance, but also to help it grow and be successful in competition.

The third major challenge that we see CIOs continuing to face is the need to control and transform both the enterprise operating cost structure as well as their own IT cost. So there is constant demand for a mix of both growth and current performance that they are facing today.

I think what's really driving these challenges are, again, three factors. The first factor is the corporate strategy, which calls for growth both at the top line and the bottom line. And in a survey of more than 1,400 organizations [Gartner] conducted in 2007, growth was actually the number-one priority for 63% of them.

I think the other factor that's driving these challenges is, in fact, the global environment we now live in and the level of competition that it creates. And I think that's really driving the notions of changing your enterprise and operating cost structures and keeping IT costs in check.

The final factor that seems to be driving the business process imperative is the recognition that just doing more of the same will not help me achieve my strategy -- that I actually have to do some things differently, change the way I work and come up with more innovative and more effective ways of working to not only attract new customers, but also to retain the existing customers I have, in an economical way.

Knowledge@Wharton: Michael and Tony, are you seeing these challenges in your particular roles?

Michael Shannon: Yes. Very much so.

Tony Habash: Yes. I think this is right on target. And in our case, I will probably put the whole area of membership [in our organization] and customer relations on top of the key issues here.

Knowledge@Wharton: Michael and Tony, How would you describe your relationship with your peer C-level executives at your firm or organization? And is that relationship changing or evolving?

Shannon: In our firm [Dechert LLP], I think my relationship with my peers is very good. I certainly established credibility and trust over the years, and I have the luxury of being at the firm for almost eight years now. I am probably the longest reigning C-level executive. But quite a few of them had been here for at least half of that time. So we have years of experience together and have gone through quite a bit of evolutionary relationship processes.

The difficulty comes when often we have to say "no." For instance, just in alignment with the various business units, we have more than 180 active projects in our project portfolio. We really are staffed to handle about 20 to 30 per month. When the projects come in, we have to make some pretty hard decisions and say "no" often. That puts some pressure on relationships.

There is only one C-level executive at our firm that's relatively new. He is the CFO, but from the moment he started, he tried very hard to establish good relationships, and we hit it off very well and very quickly.

Habash: In my case, I have been [at the American Psychological Association] for eight months, and the organization is just experiencing what this CIO role is really about. There has been so much thirst, if you will, over the last couple of years to get the role in place. And it's a new thing for my peers to see the CIO worrying about all aspects of the business, and coming to the table as a true consultant, if you will, to shape expectations, to help create strategies and directions and to help drive the collective energy of the association forward.

I feel today, after eight months on the job, that my entire executive team will probably charge that Tony is coming as a business partner to the table here. I spend a good 50% to 60% of my typical week with my peers on those kinds of issues. And we are actually collapsing the IT organization structure to be much more business facing than it is today. And that's already started to pay some dividends in that regard.

And to Michael's point about governance, when I first came here we didn't have any governance process. So we started to implement one, and we are up to 230 projects on the list. We are going next month, for the first time ever, to prioritize an enterprise list for a corporate perspective at large. There has been some excitement within the executive team about going through that process and seeing the kinds of initiatives across the enterprise, and having to debate the value of investment in A versus B, and which one to go with, and making those tough choices. But I think the atmosphere is so ready for that.

Knowledge@Wharton: And how are you both working to align your IT organizations with your firm's or organization's business strategies then? What are the steps you have been taking?

Shannon: I think it is important to understand that our firm is a services business, just to start. We constantly seek opportunities to add value to the firm in all of the business units, going well beyond the basic functions to enhance our competitive advantage. A big initiative right now is this concept of knowledge management. And outside of professional services, I think knowledge management is just as important, but I think it's not really talked about much.

How do you take younger professionals, whether they are accountants or lawyers or whatnot, and have them be world-class accountants and lawyers, etc.? Or financial planners, or whatever else. It's through knowledge; it's through an understanding of your knowledge base and professional growth. ... So that's not an IT initiative at all. This is a legal initiative, and it brings to light other areas like ECM (enterprise content management).

ECM in professional services businesses is huge, and I think it is something that CIOs don't pay enough attention to. Getting down to the very granular level of how you code content and how you retrieve content, and what types of people need to retrieve what content, is quite difficult.

You really have to get involved in the business at a very detailed level. You can't take just the strategic level. You have to really get into the tactical areas, and make the right hiring decisions on who you choose to handle some of those functions. That's something that's close to me right now, and I'm actually spear-heading that effort.

And there are centralization projects. Over the years, in those times when we didn't have big resource-intensive projects, I've been positioning my organization to be able to take advantage of new projects like complicated knowledge management initiatives. ECM could easily be a failure if you don't have a centralized infrastructure. Knowledge management really can't happen unless you have a solid ECM strategy. So some of those areas I've been really aligning myself with.

Habash: We are a professional membership organization for psychology. We're also a publisher. We produce all kinds of electronic products and databases and books and journals and so on. And we cater to quite diverse audiences at the national level and the international level, which vary from students to scientists to practitioners and so on, and to institutions, actually. And one of the main alignment [issues] we have is, how can we cater to these two independent pillars, if you will, but at the end of the day serve the mission of the organization?

And we do that a few ways right now. At the heart of that is the governance process that I mentioned.

The second [way] has to do with cultivating the thinking behind truly institutionalizing an innovation process for the new products in our domain. In our business, content is clearly the asset that we have. And we will continue to look for creative ways to leverage that content for the audiences we serve.

One of the things we are doing right now is positioning key IT staff leaders with much more attention to specific business areas. And then we use the IT leadership team internally as a way to synchronize with each other on the pulse of the enterprise, if you will, day in, day out. And that has been very effective for us. We've been of that model only for the last four or five months, but it's making a difference for us.

Knowledge@Wharton: Given the elements that you've already outlined, in what ways would you say that your IT organizations add the most value to your firms?

Habash: I think that, for me, we have to go back to the basics all the time. And the basics are [that] we have to make sure that the operational excellence is guaranteed. It's a given that the infrastructure will work, it's there, it's secure, it's available, it's stable, all that good stuff. So we're paying a lot of attention to that basic function, if you will.

The second thing in which I think we add value is participation. There is a very active participation with creating the new product road map for the organization. And when we bring the power of IT and how we think about projects and the power of the business, and combine those, I think we're surfacing lots of opportunities to do two things. First, for integrating the enterprise, and driving efficiency in the cost model that we have .... The second is in re-identifying the potential product line, the new product line that's really based on what we think our members and our customers would like us to serve them.

So, we're combining a lot of the research we have with a lot of the potential possibilities from a technology perspective. And we think that we'll be able to drive some new products down the line that will fundamentally change the landscape for how content will be consumed in our profession.

Shannon: Tony, I'm glad you mentioned going back to basics. It's funny, you know, I said earlier I'd been with the firm for eight years. And I think this year is probably the first time that a big part of my closing-of-the-year initiative is actually going back to basics.

Things like, you know, law firms are fairly paper-intensive. And maybe we'll talk about some operational cost-cutting methods that we're going through in reducing that paper, but for now we have to deal with it. And things like the time to repair a paper jam may seem nominal. But if people are trying to use office equipment -- and keep in mind a law-firm has a huge fleet of printers and copiers and MFP devices -- but when they jam, or they need paper, or they need toner, you really don't want someone billing between $200 and $1,000 per hour dealing with that stuff.

You want to take office services personnel and push email alerts to them. So all your devices today should be intelligent enough that they can generate some level of automation and notify people that can take quick action and help, so that the people (we call them time-keepers) who are billing and generating revenue, never have to deal with that.

Also, we talked about knowledge management and ECM. We're going back to basics with ECM. We're trying to align our ECM initiative -- it's not so much an initiative, it's actually something we do very well. But the new initiative in the alignment of ECM is taking that granular level of meta-data for various people.... [For example,] a deal could be a leveraged finance deal versus a corporate finance deal or some type of real estate deal, and the content involved in all of those deals are very, very different from each other. And how do you find that [content] when you may have 10 million pieces of content? They could be documents or parts of documents. So the alignment of that is pretty critical.

There are also big initiatives in customer service. We are a services business and we have clients that we have to service. So my internal customers are the ones that are actually servicing our external clients. And it's very important that we maintain that heightened level of customer service. We're going through a lot of operational cost reductions. Or paying attention to costs I want to say, not so much reductions. We're reducing where we can, but certainly not cutting back on services.

But just to give you an example of the paper that we store. You know, just to store a box of paper that might be an 18-inch long box or a two-foot long box, the real estate to keep that box costs $35 per square foot per month. So obviously there are some huge cost savings, not to mention boosting your enterprise content which is boosting your knowledge management initiative by scanning all that in.

Knowledge@Wharton: Mark, maybe this is a question I should direct to you. Is this a very typical situation where cost containment really does come into such play in the CIO's role that it can in some ways distract from strategy?

McDonald: Well, it's an interesting question, and I think both Michael and Tony have provided really good examples of how IT organizations are adding value.

I think the whole focus on cost containment and cost reduction is one that is probably the easiest to quantify, and the one that is most tangible for people. But where we're really seeing CIOs and leading organizations take that view of improving the financial performance or the operating performance of the company to the next level is to start there, and then also [ask] how do I transform how my company uses capital, and what's required... what's the amount of effort required to complete certain tasks?

For example, we have one of our members, a manufacturing company, [where] the IT organization has now been tasked with pulling $100 million out of their inventory levels, and they're going to be doing that through things like integration and adopting best practices, and using information more intelligently to just reduce the amount of inventory required to run the business overall.

I think where we're seeing people build off of a focus on cost and operational performance into some more transformative and innovative solutions is really to recognize that there is this opportunity to really change the way they work. Oftentimes, that involves really working to something that I know Michael and Tony are both aware of: The fact that the CIO and the IT department or group is one of the few organizations that see how things work end to end and how they work horizontally.

In a company, most people are concentrated on their functional vertical responsibilities. That whole horizontal dimension is one that I know a number of organizations are starting to come around to realize that how we perform and work together is truly how we drive customer satisfaction, service quality and cost, as opposed to doing point solutions -- so that's why we're seeing a number of CIOs, like Mike was mentioning, pointing out factors that say that it's not just a specific point factor relative to saving real estate rent, but it's actually part of a much larger transformation that can really give the organization a competitive advantage.

Knowledge@Wharton: Looking ahead, Michael and Tony, what do you think will be some of the big decisions that you're going to have to tackle in the near future in your roles?

Shannon: I think a lot of the knowledge management initiatives are probably the areas that we're going to focus on the strongest.

Back to what I have done, we've done so much over the years that we fully centralized our infrastructure, we've gone through business continuity planning to the hilt. All those things that many CIOs have on their radar as initiatives, I think we've completed those.

At this point, we really are focusing on that alignment with the business, and in a firm our size, we have a lot of different business units that are quite different from each other.

So, for defense litigation for pharmaceutical companies, that business in the business alignment versus more transactional lawyers doing initial public offerings or real estate transactions are vastly different. Everything in litigation in the future is focused on e-discovery. How can I take the same group of lawyers and review millions and millions and millions of documents where they could only review thousands of documents in the past in the same amount of time?

You do that through automation and concepts of e-discovery. That's quite different than the ECM initiative that we do well that I'm trying to take to the next level and be literally a world class support organization from the standpoint of ECM and knowledge management.

It's back to the basics of you can almost say that we're striving for the world-class basics at this point.

Habash: I think this is a very interesting question. For us, we're coming forward with a strategy from a technology perspective. As this is happening, actually the organization is embarking on creating their first strategic planning, the first version of which is going to come next year after being in the business since 1892.

I think the biggest decision that we have to make is figuring out the pace of the change that we would like to execute for the organization -- how to make that pace meaningful from the ability of the organization to consume change, to deal with it, to socialize it, to it becoming part of the fabric of the enterprise, if you will.

One of the biggest issues that we have on the table right now is fundamentally rethinking the use of the web channel and how we touch our members and customers. We've [already] started that implementation .... I see ourselves making quite a few key decisions next year that will probably make the organization a little bit uncomfortable in terms of the amount of change that needs to happen.

The key to that is to continue to build consensus across the enterprise [about] the pace of things. I feel that we're close to locking on the direction from a strategy perspective. We need to get the pace right.

Knowledge@Wharton: Thank you. And Mark, looking forward, what would you say CIOs in general should do, or keep in mind, when it comes to strengthening their organization's alignment with corporate strategy?

McDonald: I think the single most powerful rule of thumb they can have is to be able, and be prepared, to just discuss or connect how each major IT initiative -- whether that's a project or a major piece of the operation -- actually creates a tangible change in the business or does something or guarantees some level of business performance.

And in cases where you cannot make that connection, recognize that those projects or activities are ones that need to be done as good as possible, but that there's no extra credit for being better at them.

And so, where we see CIOs and IT organizations who are really well aligned, they can tell you how well I'm doing. So for example, if I'm doing a network consolidation to provide more ready access to players in the field or other things like that, I'm actually cutting down search time and raising productivity.

And actually talking about those end measures is probably the best way to demonstrate, not only inside the IT organization, but also to your peers in the rest of the enterprise, that you are really aligned and that you understand what you are doing because that business performance is the language that everybody uses.

Just to give you one kind of quick analogy: When you look at the effectiveness of a piece of exercise equipment like a treadmill for example, what you really want to measure is how much weight you lost and how much better you feel. So, measures that talk about what the average speed of the treadmill was and what its uptime was and etcetera are important for the technical operation of the treadmill and are certainly contribute to it, but the main focus is on the outcome you are creating.

I think that if you keep that business performance outcome in front of everybody at all times, alignment will happen naturally and will happen down through the organization, which really is a powerful way to keep IT on the forefront of creating value.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

IT Manager : Assessing Capability

My first week as an IT Manager revolves around assessing the department's capability to handle projects.

Below are the things I consider important and the questions I want to have answers during my recon operation :)

1. People
- What is their personal opinion about their department?
  • This is to get a general perception about the current culture within and to know what steps to take if you want to lead
- What are the team member's skill level?
  • This is to personally know what project you can assign to whom and on what specific role.
  • To know who can mentor whom and who needs what training.
- What are the key applications that the staff are supporting/maintaining?
  • To know who to contact if something happens to certain applications, this is to establish your fire fighting capability.
- Get their opinion about their salary?
  • This is to equate their perception on what the external market can offer and to take action if something is off on the salary grid.
- Get their opinion on other department?
  • To know the general relationship of IT department with the rest of the company. Giving you idea on how to deal with the process owners given the current situation and create some changes moving forward.

2. Processes
- What are their current processes/standards/practices?
  • For you to have an idea of how things work internally, you just don't recommend sudden process changes based on what you want. There is a possibility that their processes are better than what you want to propose, so keep an open mind and listen.
  • Know the meeting schedules, how they handle projects from requirement gathering to implementation, know their project management methodology, how they document, coding standards

3. Resources
- What is their current hardware specs?
  • To know if they are given enough resources for them to be able to perform tasks they are assign to.
- What are the software installed in their workstation?
  • To assess the function, importance and relevance of the tools they are using, it will also answer if it's worth upgrading/migrating to a better technology.
- What are their research capability? - Books, Magazines, Internet Access
  • For you to know if the company is re-enforcing their thirst for knowledge and ability to grow.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

IT Manager : Introduction

Leading a department where the product of a collective knowledge of specific business logic can result to a solution that differentiates a company over its competitor is one tought act. From dealing with the development staff, reviewing business processes, corresponding with process owners, implementing guidelines and enforcing security.

This blog is about how I approach day-to-day issues as an IT Manager, sharing it hoping that it can help fellow IT Managers who are facing the same challenges.

Learn to share, Learn to lead