Month: January 2008

R.I.P R.I.A.A

R.I.A.A. has been pursuing single moms and college kids with the vigor of the wily coyote chasing road runner. The result? Road Runner lives! Now, they are changing tact. Out with the lawsuits and in with “graduated response.” Will it work?

 

The music industry’s brute – R.I.A.A – has decided to act in a civilized manner. It has stopped “making an example of” single moms and kids in college dorms who download music from P2P networks by suing them for all they have got. The theory: their example will deter others!

Well, the success of the death penalty in completely stopping murders, the immense success of the “war on drugs” in completely eradicating the scourge of drug abuse, and of course the complete and shameful demise of terrorism thanks to the “war on terror” has given ample reason to the R.I.A.A that it is on track to, as – Benedict Arnold – Cheney would describe it “meeting its objectives!!”
As we all know, “illegal” music downloading is thriving, having morphed with every move to quash it. So one is not clear on the objectives of the R.I.A.A or they have not been met!
It is always good to see and hear about people who can think beyond their nose.
First, copyright infringement is a serious issue – authors/creators do have a right to make money off their content. However, we must understand what these rights are, how they have been infringed upon and then take action. Willy nilly bushwhacking things is a stupid idea – has been and always will be.
Second, the only parties that win in a lawsuit are the lawyers. Period.
Third, the solution R.I.A.A. has found – apparently, in collaboration with NY attorney general Andew Cuomo – is as stupid as the lawsuit idea. R.I.A.A. will inform ISPs of illegal music download by their customers and then ISP will in turn nudge – read pressure – their customer to cease and desist. The ISP’s incentive in doing anything? One word: bandwidth.
The underlying theory this time is that a customer who is made aware that their downloading activity is being monitored is less likely to continue with it. Who came up with this gem? Why a UK based lawfirm of course; they have a study to prove it!
If surveys were horses charlatans would ride. Conduct this same study AFTER R.I.A.A’s recent surrender announcement and see the change in behavior!
We eagerly await R.I.A.A. to come to its senses and commission a study on:
  1. Why people download music?
  2. How to make money from music?
The answer, as always, lies in the business model. It is time the music industry changed its.

Your Innovation department = Your Big Mistake!

Most innovations elicit the same response – a new department. Innovation itself is dealt with this blunt tool. Stop and think!
Innovation is the buzz word of the century. There are many more – and this is not an attempt to disenfranchise any of them – but this Innovation is the work of kings. The cool, “Steve Jobs types”, innovate. They attend presentations on innovation at cool places; call in top-tier consultants such as McKinsey and Booz; they drop the word in everything that they do at every opportunity they get.
Now, how can the CIO stay away when the boss has drunk the Kool-aid?
If you have the urge to innovate – it is a very good thing. But how you go about this good thing can make all the difference in the world. Please do not start another department of “innovation” or “leading edge technologies” or “emerging technologies” or something along those lines.
Departments are like hands without a body; wheels without a car; horse without a carriage…the list of corny analogies is endless. The point is that it is a process that delivers value not a department. The department will have to interact with all the other parts and pieces of the organization. That is where this “innovative” part will be, by definition, out of synch with the “old” parts and the machine will fail – usually it is the new part that is thrown out.
So creating a department is good only if you empower them with complete responsibility, and commensurate authority, over the end to end process – soup to nuts delivery of value i.e. create a little company within a company.
But that will also fail in some circumstances.
  1. The old guard will kick in: some people show up to work and some others to stop others from working. The latter also is the most threatened by innovation. They will find a way to stop the innovation department in its tracks
  2. It is hard to teach old dogs new tricks: People in any environment become set with their ways and thinking. If you staff your innovation department with trusted and tried team members it might backfire if these are long term employees of the organization. No amount of good intentions can overcome cultural inertia.
So if you insist on following this “department” approach, you may be better off having the “department” outside the company i.e. create a new company!
Now you are wondering why you read this post – I did not offer any solutions. That is what business week is for – here’s the story!

CIO Career: Are you home yet?

1/18/2008 1:10 PM  RssIcon

We spend a lifetime working, with little time to think. Have you thought about what you are doing with you life?
“One life to live” is a famous soap opera. It also happens to be a truism. “Life’s too short” is a cliché often repeated but seldom thought about because at the forefront of our minds is “paying the bills,” “feeding the horses,” “putting bread on the table,” and yes, “bringing home the bacon.”
If is often said that a man – or woman for that matter – on his deathbed does not think about his conquests; he thinks about the moments that made him happy. The biggest regret? Why did I not do the things I love to do; spend time with the people I love and who love me. Unfortunately, it is too late by then.
So, have you thought about your last day?
What will you reminisce about? What would your biggest regret be? I am not sure if the hedonists have taken the “live life as if it is your last day alive” mantra to the extreme but they sure do have a point. Are we doing the things we like to do or is our life a series of breaths taken doing things we do not care about?
I have seen people who wake up one morning and decide they want to change their lives – this “midlife crisis” is legendary. I have also seen men who live their entire lives for “retirement,” and when it comes, some do not know what to do with themselves, while others do not live long enough to enjoy this well earned time. Then there are those who live their entire lives in retirement bliss – I am not referring to hippies but professionals who wake up in the morning eager to start the day and go to bed yearning for the next day! To these people “work” is not a four letter word, it is what gives meaning to their existence.
This post almost reads like a “come to Jesus” commercial but it is not intended to be. It is intended to help you think through the “days of your life” and see if they have the meaning you cherish. Are you in the organization and position you want to be in? Are you in an environment that you want to be in? Are you doing the things that you want to do?
Yes, taxes and death are an absolute certainty. One is not likely to enjoy either but can we have the life we want? That is not too much to ask for, now is it?

IT Governance: IT on Board?

How many of you are on the Board of your company? How many of you report to “IT Savvy” managers? How many of you have Board members who are “IT Savvy”? The survey says…
Here’s a proposal. You are opening a restaurant, please do not hire a chef – let “blue blooded, well connected” MBA’s run the show for you. How does that grab ya or shall we say fry ya?
Now, start a baseball team without athletes – let your front office play the games. Your chances of winning? Have you seen the “professional writer free” late night shows lately? If someone did not tell me they were to entertain I would have thought they were intended to bore someone to death – when I was not yawning, I was throwing up!
If you think, these are ludicrous examples then think again. For all the noise about “IT is a strategic” weapon, fortune 500 companies do not have that expertise on the board! Yes, only 8% admitted to having “IT skills” on their boards. Say what?
We have moved mountains trying to “maximize IT value,” and get the “biggest bang for the IT buck” but little by way of giving wings to this dream. How does a board without IT skills manage organizations whose strategic weapon is IT?
Your guess is as good as mine. But I don’t have time to talk about this any more, gotta cook something. Since I don’t know how to, I will have to supervise someone. Whadda ya say, People?

eStrategy: Your Mobile Technology Strategy

Working from home? Great. Now, think about the slobs who are schlepping their way to the office – coffee mug and newspaper in hand but resentful of the image of you in jammies!
Our focus on technology driven strategy often stops at the technology – we neither get a strategy nor intended results. Business impact analysis is a must in any strategy but that is not why we are here today. We have more interesting things to ruminate!
In this age of the internet – globalization is upon us. Location independence is the imperative. So you have also jumped in. It used to be Fridays to work from home but now it is always work from home. Ubiquitous connectivity cost sales people their offices – why waste money on real estate when the slob can work from his car? Neelesh in India – who goes by Neil to his US customers – is on your team and you don’t even miss a beat. It is as if he were next door.
Yes, we live in a connected world where we work with people across the globe but do not know our neighbor’s name. The workforce is mobile and proudly moving ever faster. Business I booming and we will all live happily ever after. Thank God almighty, we are free at last!
Unfortunately, we live in a world whose underlying and most enduring principle is equilibrium. Like a pendulum, everything that moves too much to the right, has a counteracting force that brings it all the way to the left. Then back and forth till all energy is dissipated and the pendulum stands still. There is one eternal truth and this is it.
So the forces that drive mobility – 24×7 ease of business – are being countered by other forces – we have just not acknowledged them yet! Are these forces powerful enough to get us to mobile equilibrium? Time will tell.
So what are these forces? For starters, people who work in the office are resentful of the people who work from home – they are more likely to be dissatisfied with the company and leave.
Then there is the issue of collaboration. How effective are you leading a team over the phone? Don’t know about you but I am comfortable with the remote model. However, I have to see people once in a while. The team has to get together, in person, often. The bond that develops when you occupy the same space; go for that dinner while working late on a project just cannot develop talking to someone over the phone.
There are many more issues. The move toward greater mobility is undeniable – it will happen no matter what I say. However, your strategy should not just focus on the technology challenge. It must factor in the human challenge and its impact on business results.
Remember, we are all connected and so is everything else in business!

IT Strategy: IT Takes a Village

You know it: you want a seat at the table. Can you get it without creating value? Do you know how to create IT value?

One of the least talked about aspects of IT strategy is the team. Any great idea is useless without execution – unless you have broken the code of team less execution, you will need a team to create an IT Strategy.
Rule 1: IT Strategy is a process
Strategy is that thing that you “do” once every three years or so. One’s time horizon might be different but the underlying logic is the same.
Now, wipe that thought off your mind and recognize that IT Strategy is a process – continuous, closed loop process. You create a strategy then monitor and control it through a feedback loop. This feedback provides real world data when the rubber finally meets the road. IT Strategy then adapts and changes based upon this feedback.
Rule 2: Every process needs a champion:
Without a champion a process is an orphan and the story of orphans do not often make the best seller list.
Who is responsible for IT strategy in a company? Often we get the incorrect response: the CIO!
Yes, this thought conforms to the first rule of management: find a scapegoat! But it does little by way of getting the job done. The CEO is the undisputed leader of an organization. IT Strategy is an issue on their agenda.
Rule 3: Every leader needs a team
Organizations go through decades without actually having an IT Strategy team. There is no clear career path; no job description; no universal titles; little by way of training. Then people wonder why IT is not creating the biggest bang for the buck!
Get a team in place. Train them. Compensate them. Remember, the Titanic sunk because the “lookout” process was flawed.
Rule 4: IT Strategy is an interdisciplinary sport
That “IT” in front of the term often confuses the uninitiated. It is a strategy for IT – in many ways – but it is not for IT to develop. Try doing it in a vacuum and you will have a document – not an IT Strategy. (I get a chuckle out of reading the definition of IT Strategy on Wikipedia – it is apparently a “document”!) Get people from all across the isle and you will unleash unprecedented value – both by identifying the right investment opportunities and getting the cooperation of the people you need to deliver on this promise.
Rule 5: Ownership comes from doing

In this day of extreme outsourcing we have seen just about everything outsourced. From child bearing to child rearing, and everything in between and after, people ask other people to take care of their problems. We have cutesy labels to go with this shunning of responsibility – outsource, in-source, near shore, far shore; vendor, provider, partner and surrogate – intermingled with brilliant theories on business models and core competencies.

There are still some boundaries that have not been crossed. Who knows when fathers will outsource child conception but given the love of outsourcing that day might not be too far along!

IT Strategy is your asset but if you live to be a “problem solver” then take it as your “problem”. You have to solve it. Problems do not solve themselves, you need to own them. Hiring consultants is a good idea – from my vantage point a brilliant idea! – but managing that relationship is what makes all the difference. Pay a consultant enough and he will say and do what you want. In the end though did you get something of value? Respect her expertise and knowing how to combine that with your team’s knowledge of your business? Priceless!

Fact remains: IT Strategy is YOUR problem so OWN it.

In most endeavors in life – it takes a village. IT Strategy is no different. Get a team together. Work with the consultant but please do not outsource your IT Strategy.

You have prayed long enough. Now, your dream to create unprecedented IT value needs wings.

Governance: Fox guarding the henhouse

CEOs serve as Chairman of the board. An American tradition fraught with potential for mischief
I have often read the “in the interests of national security” argument with interest, amusement and yes, a healthy dose of cynicism. Government officials often use it to prevent disclosure of information. As subsequent revelations prove, more often than not, someone is hiding something that can get them in trouble. This is the single most potent tool used by Governments across the globe use to shield themselves from wrongdoing.
The question is not with the argument – it is in the interest of the scum bag to use this argument – but with governance that allows it to stand. Who is the arbiter of which information is a national secret? Why should we – the stakeholders in the “nation” – take the argument from someone who obviously has a vested interest in hiding that information?
This problem, unfortunately, does not stop at the door of governments in “democracies.” It permeates the culture – every aspect of that society’s existence. Business, you see, is not conducted in a vacuum. So forms of the same argument are used in business – various privileges used by corporate “evil doers” to defraud their stakeholders – the shareholders of companies.
Here again, the same question must be asked: who is guarding the henhouse? The short answer: the fox itself!
This ludicrous practice of CEO serving as the Chairman of the board is as American as the apple pie. We accept it without much thought because it is ingrained in our tradition. How can the person who is being “managed” be the head of the people managing him/her?
We also accept things because we want to believe that people are fundamentally good and will do the “right thing,” not realizing that people, always do the right things except for the odd instance where the “right thing” is to further their own interests! Enron et al. are those instances.
It is time shareholders asked – no, demanded – that CEOs do not serve as Chairman of the Board and stop hiring friends and family as board members. Then and only then can we be assured that our “trust is verified.”

Enterprise Architecture: Certify This!

EA movie promo: In a world full of mistrust and hate, one man’s fight for justice. Certification – now playing in an IT Organization near you.
There are more people practicing IT without a license than psychics in America. There is more quackery in Enterprise Architecture than gurus and swamis in India. So how do you separate the wheat from the chafe? How do you present your credentials with confidence and get the respect you deserve as a practitioner?
That, unfortunately, is the $64,000 question in most things related to the IT profession. Enterprise Architecture is no exception.
Often, the response in such situations is certification. Certified public accountants. Certified financial advisors. Certified IT security experts. Certified this and certified that. If certification and degrees could absolutely portend the capability of an individual how do you explain a Harvard MBA bankrupting America the way he is? How do you explain “board certified” doctors who leave scissors in patients’ stomachs? How do you explain Enron?
The list of certifiable blunders is as long as certified professionals. Nothing, in my opinion, is a guarantee of capability in complex fields such as IT – Enterprise Architecture does not lend itself to this solution any more than anything else.
Then we fall back upon “experience.” People look for past accomplishment as a gauge of future results. Nothing could be more dangerous. History is replete with examples of “experienced” professionals making a mess of things they profess to have “extensive” experience in. A Robert McNamara – who, apparently, also had an 800 on GMAT – gave us Vietnam. A Dick Cheney has given us Iraq. In IT experienced professionals have given us a 50%+ waste in ROI – with no end in sight.
I have seen some real tools who pass themselves off as Enterprise Architects. They are no less in numbers than tools who pass themselves as CIO! We all have to do what we have to do to make a living so I do not hold anything against them. It is the rest of us who have to wake up and take notice – protect ourselves from these monkeys with swords at the same time make sure than their incompetence does not reflect on or diminish our capability and accomplishments.
As a CIO, before you hire or promote an Enterprise Architect, you do not have a choice but to look at some certification or experience but do not take them at face value – “trust but verify.” Probe the certification. Challenge the experience. Most importantly, do not “fire and forget” – evaluate on the job performance; link pay to performance; stop disasters before they happen. Yes, governance is the name of the game here too.
As an Enterprise Architect you may not have an option but to get certified. You are what you eat so your experience is also very important. But do not live on your past laurels – insist on mechanisms that keep you honest. This is not an issue of trusting you. It is an issue of protecting your investment in your career.
An open, honest governance process, linked to employee performance evaluation process, that monitors and controls Enterprise Architecture – including the Enterprise Architects – is in the best interests of the CIO, Enterprise Architecture professionals and most importantly the shareholders in the corporation.
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