Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness
What is Agile Results all about? What are the most important keys to using Agile Results to master productivity, time management, and work-life balance?
If you've ever wondered what Getting Results the Agile Way is all about, or want to know how to make the most of the book, this is it. I answer these questions and more in my interview with The Entrepreneur's Library on Getting Results the Agile Way:
Interview with The Entrepreneur's Library on Agile Results
In this interview, Wade Danielson, the creator of The Entrepreneur’s Library, asks me the following questions:
Wade also gives me a chance to give a walkthrough of the book, Getting Results the Agile Way, where I explain how to make the most of the book, and what each section is really about.
It’s a unique chance to get the philosophy behind Agile Results and why it’s really a personal results system for work and life. It’s not a system that you break yourself against. Instead, it’s a simple system for meaningful results that supports you and the way you work. It helps you optimize your productivity by focusing on the wins that matter, playing to your strengths, and using your best energy for your best results.
An amazing thing happens when you become more focused and productive …
You get more out of life.
And you can get more done in a day than other people get done all week.
Bandita is one of the most amazing leaders in the technology arena.
She’s not just technical, but she also has business skills, and executive presence.
But she didn’t start out that way.
She had to learn presence from the school of hard knocks. Many people think presence is something that either you have or you don’t.
Bandita proves otherwise.
Here is a guest post by Bandita Joarder on how presence is something you can learn:
Presence is Something You Can Learn
It’s a personal story. It’s an empowering story. It’s a story of a challenge and a change, and how learning the power of presence, helped Bandita move forward in her career.
I’ve been talking to people in the halls about what they learned about goals from last year, and what they are going to do differently this year. We’ve had chats about New Years Resolutions, habits, goals, and big dreams. (My theme is Dream Big for 2015.)
Here are a few of the insights that I’ve been sharing with people that really seems to create a lot clarity:
Maybe the most important insight is that while you don’t need goals to make your habits effective, it’s really easy to spend a year, and then wonder where the year went, without the meaningful milestones to look back on. That said, I’ve had a few years, where I simply focused on habits without specific goals, but I always had a vision for a better me, or a better future in mind (more like a direction than a destination.)
As I’ve taken friends and colleagues through some of my learnings over the holidays, regarding habits, dreams, and goals, I’ve had a few people say that I should put it all together and share it, since it might help more people add some clarity to setting and achieving their goals.
Here it is:
How Dreams, Goals, and Habits Fit Together
Enjoy, and Dream Big for 2015.
Several Summers back, I used a 30 Day Improvement Sprint to share my best insights and best lessons learned on getting results. I called it 30 Days of Getting Results:
30 Days of Getting Results
It’s timeless advice to help you be YOUR best.
The overall goal of the site was to help you master productivity, master time management, and achieve work life balance. The idea was that by spending a little time each day, you would get back lots of time and energy and produce better results. And we all need an edge in work and life.
Here are the key things that I tried to help you with:
So if you’re struggling with any of the above, you might find just the piece of advice or the one or two ideas that help you find your breakthrough.
Behind the scenes, when I wrote each of the 30 days, I gave myself a 20-minute time limit (a 20-minute timebox for you in the know.) I would then write as if writing to somebody where I only had a small window of time to help them as best I could to achieve better results, in any situation.
It might seem like the first few days start slow, but things pick up from there pretty fast. Also, it’s self-paced so you can hop around to any particular day that you think you need the most.
I’ve had many people tell me that it was the course that they needed that helped them set and achieve better goals, while also helping them make new habits and break bad habits. It’s also helped them find more energy as well as enjoy more of the things that they do. It’s also helped them find ways to spend more time in their strengths and do what makes them come alive.
I will say that the user experience isn’t that great. The site was a test and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time on the site design. That said, it’s pretty straightforward. When you go to the home page at 30 Days of Getting Results, you’ll see a brief intro and overview, and then you can dive in from there, by either starting with Day 1: Take a Tour of Agile Results, or by clicking through the 30 Days on the left-hand side of the menu.
Here are all the days at a glance for your convenience:
The course is free. Hopefully that doesn’t de-value it. It has a lot of the lessons you would learn in some of the most advanced productivity and time management training.
The structure of each day is the same. It includes an outcome, a lesson, and an assignment. And right up front, I include a relevant quote and picture. Here is an example of Day 24 – Bounce Back with Skill:
If you want to start off well for 2015, and you have big dreams and big goals in mind, then give 30 Days of Getting Results a try:
If you want to take it slow and steady, then just try one lesson each day. If you’re feeling gung-ho, then see how quickly you can make it through all 30 at your own pace.
To help you stay on track, if you take the slow and steady route, build the habit by adding a simple reminder to your calendar in the morning to go and take the next lesson. Do it Monday through Friday and take the weekends off.
Enjoy and best wishes for your best year ever.
Dream Big for 2015 (my personal theme for 2015)
I did a major cleanup of my post on lessons learned from John Maxwell:
Lessons Learned from John Maxwell
It should be much easier to read now.
It was worth cleaning up because John Maxwell is one of the deepest thinkers in the leadership space. He’s published more than 50 books on leadership and he lives and breathes leadership in business and in life.
When I first started studying leadership long ago, John Maxwell’s definition of leadership was the most precise I found:
“Leadership is influence.”
As I began to dig through his work, I was amazed at the nuggets and gems and words of wisdom that he shared in so many books. I started with Your Road Map for Success. I think my next book was The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Ironically, I didn’t realize it was the same author until I started to notice on my shelf that I had a growing collection of leadership books, all by John Maxwell.
It was like finding the leadership Sherpa.
Sure enough, over the years, he continued to fill the shelves at Barnes & Nobles, with book after book on all the various nooks and crannies of leadership.
This was about the same time that I noticed how Edward de Bono had filled the shelves with books on thinking. I realized that some people really share there life’s work as a rich library that is a timeless gift for the world. I also realized that it really helps people stand out in their field or discipline when they contribute so many guides and guidance to the art and science of whatever their specific focus is.
What I like about John Maxwell’s work is that it’s plain English and down to Earth. He writes in a very conversational way, and you can actually see his own progress throughout his books. In Your Road Map for Success, it’s a great example of how he doesn’t treat leadership as something that comes naturally. He works hard at it, to build his own knowledge base of patterns, practices, ideas, concepts, and inspirational stories.
While he’s created a wealth of wisdom to help advance the practice of leadership, I think perhaps his greatest contribution is The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. It’s truly a work of art, and he does an amazing job of distilling down the principles that serve as the backbone of effective leadership.
Everybody has a story. I thought I would share mine at Sources of Insight:
My Story of Personal Transformation
It’s the story of how I figured out how to do more of what makes me come alive, and how to share my unique value with the world.
It’s a journey, but this story is a look backwards, and how it helped me shape my path forward.
I included some of the key questions I asked, as well as some of the key resources I used to get a new lens on work and life.
Life can really be a game of chutes and ladders, depending on the questions you ask, the choices you make, and the actions you take.
I think one of the biggest challenges we have in life, is a very personal one. It’s the challenge of finding our voice. It’s the challenge of finding our passion, our purpose, and our talents. It’s the challenge of becoming all that we’re capable of. And, it’s the challenge of how to make the most of what we’ve got, while helping others in our unique way.
The other big challenge is avoiding regret, learning to live with regret, or learning how to live without regret. What we regret the most, are the things we have a chance to change. It’s our opportunities lost. Or, to put it another way, we regret the things we didn’t do. That can include things like not being true to ourselves, not expressing our feelings, not staying in touch with friends, or not letting ourselves be happier.
The top regrets in life based on research are: education, career, romance, parenting, self-improvement, leisure, finance, health, friends, spirituality, and community. Education is the top regret because it impacts so many areas of our life, and it’s within our control.
The way I learned to write my story forward is to combine a combination of answering the following questions on an on-gong basis:
Transformation is a journey of challenges and changes. And that’s where our greatest growth comes from.
Best wishes for your best year, ever.
“Another year over, And a new one just begun.” – John Lennon
Ready to get your game on?
January is a great time to focus on what you want out of this year. As you close out last year, you can reflect on what went well and what things you could improve. Focus on the growth.
January is also a great time to build some momentum. January and December are the bookends for your year. It’s interesting how they are both a month apart and a year apart.
What you fill that year with, is your opportunity.
If you’re having a hard time remembering what it means to dream big, I put together a collection of dream big quotes to rekindle your imagination.
I’ve also put together a set of posts to help you create goals with skill:
One of the most helpful things I’ve found with goal setting, is to start with 3 dreams or 3 wins for the year. I learned this while I was putting together Getting Results the Agile Way: A Personal Results System for Work and Life. As my story goes, I got frustrated and bogged down by a heavy goal process and lost in creating SMART goals. I finally stepped back and just asked myself, what are Three Wins or Three Outcomes that I want out of this year? The first things that came to mind were 1) ship my book, 2) get to my fighting weight, and 3) take an epic adventure.
It wasn’t scientific, but it was significant, and it was simple. But most of all, it was empowering.
In retrospect, it seems so obvious now, but what I was missing in my goals was the part that always needs to happen first: Dream big. We need to first put our dreams on the table because that’s where meaningful goals are born from. It’s the dreams that make our goals a force to be reckoned with. Really, goals are just a way to break our dreams down into chunks of change we can deal with, and to help guide us on our journey towards the end in mind. That’s why we have to keep pushing our dreams beyond our limits. That way we don’t try to push ourselves with our goals. Instead, we pull ourselves with our dreams.
If you want to know how to get started with Agile Results, before you get the book, you can use the Agile Results QuickStart guide. You can use it to create your personal results system. It’s a simple system, but a powerful one. Individuals, teams, and leaders use it to bring out their best and to make the mot of what they’ve got.
To give you a quick example, if you want to rise above the noise of your day, just take a quick pause, and write down Three Wins that you want out of today. If you’re day is pretty tough, you might say, “great breakfast, great lunch, great dinner.” We have those days. Or, if you’re feeling pretty good, you might say, “ship feature X” or “clear my backlog” or “finish my presentation” or “win a raving fan”, etc.
It sounds simple but by having Three Wins to hold onto for today, it helps you focus. It helps you prioritize. And it helps you get back on track, when you get off track. It also gives you a quick way to feel good about your achievements at the end of the day, because you can actually name them. They are your private victories.
So, if you want to practice Agile Results, just remember to think in threes: Three Wins for the Day, Three Wins for the Week, Three Wins for the Month, Three Wins for the Year. It will help you funnel and focus your time and energy on meaningful results that matter. And, you’ll build momentum a moment at a time, as you respond to challenges, exercises your choices, and drive your changes in work and in life.
This is a follow up to Santa Lands on a Virgin Atlantic Plane with 4D Technology. It turns out that you can measure the magic in the air.
Here is the page that’s tracking the festive magic:
There’s Magic in the Air
Here is a snapshot of the page:
How are we measuring the festive magic? Using cloud-based Dynamics social analytics software.
Via the There’s Magic in the Air site: ”At Virgin Atlantic we love the festive season and so do lots of our customers.
So this year, we wanted to see how much ‘festive magic’ our customers and employees are creating around the world.
Partnering with our friends at Microsoft, we're using cloud based Dynamics social analytics software to calculate the volume and sentiment of social posts on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. We’re analyzing the posts for positive mentions of keywords like ‘Christmas,’ ‘magic’ and ‘reindeer.’ So we can understand how much of that festive magic is being generated every day until 7January, 2015.
We're doing this in a totally anonymous way, and we're not storing any personal information. We just want to understand how much magic we're collectively creating during this period.”
What a fun and festive way to show software in action, and use technology to light up the holiday season.
Santa Lands on a Virgin Atlantic Plane with 4D Technology
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I’ve put together a roundup of the best productivity books that have helped me get better results in work and life. It contains many of the same books that I recommend to people and teams that I mentor. Here is the list:
It has a lot of books. To be productive, it takes a lot of skills, and a lot of self-mastery. And, you never know which book is going to do it for you.
I organize the productivity books in a scenario-based way:
At the end of the list, I included all the books in a simple, flat A-Z list so you can quickly check against your own productivity book collection to see if I have mentioned books that you don’t have or don’t know about.
I’ve put this list of productivity books together to give you an unfair advantage. Competition can be fierce. Remember that the best person to always compete against is you—find ways to be better, faster, or cheaper, when it comes to making things happen. It’s how you stay in the game, and it’s how you change your game.
In fact, productivity is a backbone for surviving and thriving. Yeah, it’s a big deal.
Also, bear in mind that the big idea behind extreme productivity, or effective productivity is to focus on learning and growth. If you have a growth mindset, you’ll win in the long-run, because you’ll get better over time, and you can compound your effort. Also, learn to embrace the effort, and to love the work you do, or love the way you do it.
Your work is the ultimate self-expression, and the legacy you leave behind, can be an inspiration for yourself, as well as for others.
My Productivity Books page will be a living catalog of the books I draw from, and it’s part of my bigger Great Books collection, where I share the world’s best books for insight and action on business, career, leadership, personal development, and more.
I know there are a lot of productivity books on my list. If I can only recommend one, I start people off with Getting Results the Agile Way. I wrote it specifically to help people get better results in work and life with a simple system I developed over time in extreme scenarios. It integrates proven practices for personal productivity, as well as positive psychology, project management, sports science, and more in terms of achieving high-performance with flow. And, it’s easy to get started (Here is the Agile Results QuickStart.)
I believe in the power of books to change lives. Productivity is just one area, but it’s an area that impacts all the other major areas of our life.
If you can master productivity, you can know more, be more, and achieve more.
And, if you balance that with living your values, making an impact, and enjoying the journey, that is the key to living la vida buena.
Microsoft and Virgin help land Santa on top of a plane at 30,000 feet. If you’ve been wondering where Santa’s been, he landed on top of a Virgin Atlantic plane and did a photo shoot with the passengers.
Microsoft teamed up with Richard Branson and Virgin Atlantic to bring the magic of Christmas to life. In the world’s first 4D experience in flight, Santa Claus appears to land on top of a Virgin Atlantic plane at 30,000 feet.
How’s that for some fancy flying with modern technology?!
Each passenger was also given a Windows tablet so they could track Father Christmas and chat with him during the flight.
Here’s the video of Santa landing on top of the plane and visiting with the passengers:
Video: Santa Lands on Top of a Virgin Atlantic Plane at 30,000 Feet
Here are a few scenes that show Santa in action …
Here’s one of Santa’s reindeer peering down into the cabin from on top of the plane:
Here’s Santa peering down into the cabin from above the plane before he goes inside:
Santa sees somebody he recognizes:
Santa boards the plane and walks the cabin:
The kids are excited to see Santa:
Adults are happy, too:
Santa has time for some photo shoots:
Santa leaves to get back to his sleigh on top of the plane:
Virgin Atlantic and Microsoft wish everybody a very, merry Christmas:
Here’s Richard Branson’s post on the story:
Santa Lands on Virgin Atlantic Plane at 30,000 Feet
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.
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I wrote a roundup of the best books I read in 2014.
I read a lot of books, and not all of them are worth sharing. I’m a believer that leaders are readers, and as Bill Gates says, “reading is how I learn best.”
Here are a few of the books that made my list:
For the full list and some quick perspective on each book, you can read my post on the best books I read in 2014.
Sometimes with all the hustle and bustle, it can be tough to find the holiday spirit.
It’s easy to say “Bah!—Humbug!”, but that’s a spiral down.
The key is to find the people and ideas that lift you up and remind you what you’re capable of.
I’ve put together 10 Big Ideas from A Christmas Carol at Sources of Insight.com to help you get your holiday groove on.
Here are the10 big ideas at a glance:
For elaboration, and supporting snippets from A Christmas Carol, check out my full post on 10 Big Ideas from A Christmas Carol. There’s a little smile in there for everyone.
If you take a quick time out in your day, and really step into it, I bet you'll find at least one nugget that helps you feel a little lighter, laugh a little louder, or love a little more.
Either way, remember that the choice is always yours – humbugs and all.
Happy holidays to you and yours.
Here’s a simple visual that I whiteboard when I lead workshops for business transformation.
The Sweet Spot is where customer “demand” meets Microsoft “supply.”
I’m not a fan of product pushers or product pushing. I’m a fan of creating “pull.”
In order for customers to pull-through any product, platform, or service, you need to know the customer’s pains, needs, and desired outcomes. Without customer empathy, you’re not relevant.
This is a simple visual, but a powerful one.
When you have good representation of the voice of the customer, you can really identity problems worth solving. It always comes down to pains, needs, opportunities, and desired outcomes. In short, I always just say pains, needs, and desired outcomes so that people can remember it easily.
To make it real, we use scenarios to tell a simple story of a customer’s pain, needs, and desired outcomes. We use our friends in the field working with customers to give us real stories of real pain.
Here is an example Scenario Narrative where a company is struggling in creating products that its customers care about …
As you can see, the Current State is a pretty good story of pain, that a lot of business leaders and product owners can identify with. For some, it’s all too real, because it is their story and they can see themselves in it.
In the Desired Future State, it’s a pretty good story of what success would look like. It paints a pretty simple picture of what would be an ideal scenario …. a future possibility.
Here is an example of a Solution Storyboard, where we paint a simple picture of that Desired Future State, or more precisely, a Future Capability Vision. It’s this Future Capability Vision that shows how, with the right capabilities, the customer can address their pains, needs, and desired outcomes.
The beauty of this approach is that it’s product and technology agnostic. It’s all about building capabilities.
From there, with a good understanding of the pains, needs, and desired outcomes, it’s super easy to overlay relevant products, technologies, consulting services, etc.
And then, rather than trying to do a product “push”, it becomes a product “pull” because it connects with customers in a very deep, very real, very relevant way.
Think “pull” not “push.”
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I’m always of fan of hearing about how Softies change the world, inside and outside of Microsoft.
I was reading Blind Ambition: How to Envision Your Limitless Potential and Achieve the Success You Want by Patricia Walsh. It’s an inspirational story, as well as an insightful read if you are looking for ways to up your game or get the edge in work and life.
I wrote a 10 Big Ideas from Blind Ambition to share some of the highlights from the book.
Walsh is a former Softie. More than that, she has raced in marathons, ultra-marathons and IRONMAN triathlons. In 2011, Walsh set a new world record for blind triathletes, shattering the previous male and female records by over 50 minutes.
She left Microsoft to start her own business, pursuit her speaking career, and train as a world-class athlete.
She set a high-bar.
But she also set a great example. Walsh wanted to help light the way for others to show them that they can be limitless if they set goals, put in the work, and don’t let fear or failures hold them back.
And most importantly, don’t put limits on yourself, and don’t fall into the trap of the limits that others put on you.
I was reading back through Satya Nadella’s email on Bold Ambition and Our Core, and a few things caught my eye.
One of them was the idea that if you want to thrive at Microsoft, you need to drive change.
“And if you want to thrive at Microsoft and make a world impact, you and your team must add numerous more changes to this list that you will be enthusiastic about driving.
Nothing is off the table in how we think about shifting our culture to deliver on this core strategy. Organizations will change. Mergers and acquisitions will occur. Job responsibilities will evolve. New partnerships will be formed. Tired traditions will be questioned. Our priorities will be adjusted. New skills will be built. New ideas will be heard. New hires will be made. Processes will be simplified. And if you want to thrive at Microsoft and make a world impact, you and your team must add numerous more changes to this list that you will be enthusiastic about driving.”
Change is in the air, and Satya has given everyone a license to thrive by re-imagining how to change the world, or at least their part of it.
For me, I’m focused on how to accelerate business transformation with Cloud, Mobile, Social, Big Data and the Internet of Things.
Together, these technology trends are enabling new end-to-end customer experiences, workforce transformation, and operations transformation.
It’s all about unleashing what individuals and businesses are capable of.
Let’s say you want to take your business to the Cloud -- How do you do it?
If you’re a small shop or a startup, it might be easy to just swipe your credit card and get going.
If, on the other hand, you’re a larger business that wants to start your journey to the Cloud, with a lot of investments and people that you need to bring along, you need a roadmap.
The roadmap will help you deal with setbacks, create confidence in the path, and help ensure that you can get from point A to point B (and that you know what point B actually is.) By building an implementable roadmap for your business transformation, you can also build a coalition of the willing to help you get their faster. And you can design your roadmap so that your journey flows continuous business value along the way.
In the book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, share how top leaders build better roadmaps for their digital business transformation.
If you had infinite time and resources, maybe you could just wing it, and hope for the best. A better approach is to have a roadmap as a baseline. Even if your roadmap changes, at least you can share the path with others in your organization and get them on board to help make it happen.
Via Leading Digital:
“In a perfect world, your digital transformation would deliver an unmatched customer experience, enjoy the industry's most effective operations, and spawn innovative, new business models. There are a myriad of opportunities for digital technology to improve your business and no company can entertain them all at once. The reality of limited resources, limited attention spans, and limited capacity for change with force focused choices. This is the aim of your roadmap.”
Your best starting point is a business capability that you want to exploit.
“Many companies have come to realize that before they can create a wholesale change within their organization, they have to find an entry point that will begin shifting the needle. How? They start by building a roadmap that leverages existing assets and capabilities. Burberry, for example, enjoyed a globally recognized brand and a fleet of flagship retail locations around the world. The company started by revitalizing its brand and customer experience in stores and online. Others, like Codelco, began with the core operational processes of their business. Caesars Entertainment combined strong capabilities in analytics with a culture of customer service to deliver a highly personalized guest experience. There is no single right way to start your digital transformation. What matters is that you find the existing capability--your sweet spot--that will get your company off the starting blocks.
Once your initial focus is clear, you can start designing your transformation roadmap. Which investments and activities are necessary to close the gap to your vision? What is predictable, and what isn't? What is the timing and scheduling of each initiative? What are the dependencies between them? What organizational resources, such as analytics skills, are required?”
If you involve others in your roadmap, you get their buy-in, and they will help you with your business transformation.
“Designing your roadmap will require input from a broad set of stakeholders. Rather than limit the discussion to the top team, engage the operational specialists who bring an on-the-ground perspective. This will minimize the traditional vision-to-execution gap. You can crowd-source the design. Or, you can use facilitated workshops, as as 'digital days,' as an effective way to capture and distill the priorities and information you will need to consider. We've seen several Digital Masters do both.
Make no mistake; designing your roadmap will take time, effort, and multiple iterations. But you will find it a valuable exercise. it forces agreement on priorities and helps align senior management and the people tasked to execute the program. Your roadmap will become more than just a document. If executed well, it can be the canvas of the transformation itself. Because your roadmap is a living document, it will evolve as your implementation progresses.”
When you create your roadmap, focus on the business outcomes. Think in terms of adding incremental business capabilities. Don’t make it a big bang thing. Instead, start small, but iterate on building business capabilities that take advantage of Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data technologies.
“Technology for its own sake is a common trap. Don't build your roadmap as a series of technology projects. Technology is only part of the story in digital transformation and often the least challenging one. For example, the major hurdles for Enterprise 2.0 platforms are not technical. Deploying the platform is relatively straightforward, and today's solutions are mature. The challenge lies in changing user behavior--encouraging adoption and sustaining engagement in the activities the platform is meant to enable.
Express your transformation roadmap in terms of business outcomes. For example, 'Establish a 360-degree understanding of our customers.' Build into your roadmap the many facets of organizational change that your transformation will require customer experiences, operational processes, employee ways of working, organization, culture, communication--the list goes on. This is why contributions from a wide variety is so critical.”
There are lots of way to build a roadmap, but the best thing you can do is put something down on paper so that you can share the path with other people and start getting feedback and buy-in.
You’ll be surprised but when you show business and IT leaders a roadmap, it helps turn strategy into execution and make things real in people’s minds.
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Cloud, mobile, social, and big data are changing the game of business.
But to play the game well, leaders need to grow new skills.
In order to create new customer experiences and market-leading operational capabilities, leaders need to invest in digital skills.
Our Cloud-First, Mobile-First world provides unprecedented possibilities in terms of connectivity and compute resources for changing customer experiences, transforming the workforce, and transforming operations, and creating new business models. Companies every day are building amazing solutions that integrate Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data capabilities as well as what the Internet of Things brings to the table. But to take advantage of these capabilities, you need leaders that grow and invest in a digital platform and in digital skills.
In the book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, share how top leaders grow their digital skills.
Whether you want to reimagine your customer experience, or reimagine your operations, it takes new skills, and new ways of working. Companies that don’t have the right digital skills struggle. Worse, everybody is competing for the same skills, including social media analysts, mobile marketers, cloud architects, and data scientists.
“Creating great customer experiences or market-leading operational capabilities is more than technology challenge. It's also an organizational challenge requiring new skills and new ways of working. Yet, 77 percent of companies in our first year of research cited missing digital skills as a major hurdle to their digital transformation success. To compound the problem, most companies are chasing after similar skills--social media analysts, mobile marketers, cloud architects, or data scientists, to name a few.”
If you want to help your company become a Digital Master, or, if you want to be a high-performing leader, you need to invest in digital skills.
“So what are Digital Masters doing differently when it comes to skills? First, they are investing. Of the Digital Masters we surveyed, 82 percent are building the digital skills they need to support transformation efforts. Only 40 perce3nt of nonmasters are doing so.
Second, Digital Masters are accelerating and creating a gap. Our survey research shows that the masters had greater digital skills than nonmasters, reporting 31 percent higher social media skills, 38 percent higher mobile skills, and 19 percent higher analytics skills.
But Digital Masters did not start with higher skills. Burberry did not become excellent at digital marketing. and channels overnight. CEO Ahrendts hired a new, dynamic marketing team whose members mirrored the behaviors of the millennial customer. Nor did Caesars excel at delivering personalized customer experience solely because its CEO, Gary Loveman, has a PhD in economics from MIT. Caesars' executives actively incorporated quantitative skills into the marketing area. In these companies, like other Digital Masters, top executives worked hard to build the digital skills they needed.”
The gap is huge but the lines blur fast. There is a huge demand for people that are both business savvy and technology savvy.
“The skills difference extends beyond technology. Digital Masters report 36 percent higher skills in digital leadership than nonmasters. Digital transformation requires changes to processes and thinking--changes that span your internal organizational silos. 'The clear delineation between technical skills and leadership skills in blurring fast.
The impact of digital technologies is now felt not only in the IT and technical departments, but also across the entire organization. Digital transformation's need for cross-functional collaboration creates a huge demand for hybrid digital skills-- technical people who need to be more business savvy and businesspeople who need to be more technology savvy. A retail executive explained: 'We are trying for the first time to work across the company. That implies going through a new level of complexity in the organization, and requires people to manage and network differently. That, I think, is the most important skills that needs to be developed.'”
True hybrid professionals will be the leaders of tomorrow.
“The need for new skills can also result from the need to bridge the communication gap between digital and business competences. One executive said, 'I need a charismatic quant--somebody who's an influencer and can carry his weight in a senior meeting, but at the same time, someone who can roll up his sleeves and look at data tables and build models and enjoy it.'
These bridging roles may soon become the responsibility of every manager. 'I believe,' said Markus Nordlin, CIO of Zurich Insurance, 'that the successful leaders of tomorrow, in any business or industry, are going to be true hybrid professionals who have spent some time in IT but have shifted to operations and vice-versa.'”
To keep up and get ahead, you need to master Digital Skills and be able to use them in a business savvy way.
“Aspiring Digital Masters are all chasing the same technical skills. The shortage of digital skills is unprecedented. In Europe alone, forecasts point to nearly a million vacancies for IT-related roles by 2015. And globally, out of the 4.4 million big-data jobs to be created by 2015, only a third will be filled.
But by the same token, business professionals will increasingly need to be comfortable with digital tools and technologies to perform their core roles. By 2015, research firm IDC expects that 90 percent of all jobs will require IT skills. Some business functions are already adding technology skills to their mix. Gartner reports that 70 percent of the companies they surveyed have a chief marketing technologist to support the digitization of the function.
This skills race won't slow down anytime soon. Having the right digital skills is an important source of competitive advantage and a key enabler of digital transformation. Companies that build skills faster will get ahead.
To win at the digital skills race, you will need to tap into multiple approaches--hiring, partnering, incubating, and the like. It's not easy, as one executive explained: 'Our recruiters don't know where to go to find these people, and people with the right skills don't look to our kind of company for opportunities.' HR organization will need to get up to speed quickly. A recent Capgemini Consulting survey found that only 30 percent of HR functions were actively involved in digital skills development. This needs to change. Many Digital Masters have a carefully crafted plan to fight and win the talent race.”
All of the capabilities of Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data are right at your fingertips.
Using these capabilities in meaningful ways takes a combination of business and technical skills, as well as great organizational change leadership skills.
If you can master business skills and combine them with great technical skills, you can lead you, your team, your organization, and others to change the world.
Don’t try to turn all of your traditional IT into a digital unit.
You’ll break both, or do neither well.
Instead, add a Digital Unit. Meanwhile, continue to simplify and optimize your traditional IT, but, at the same time, add a Digital Unit that’s optimized to operate in a Cloud-First, Mobile-First world.
This is the Dual-Speed IT approach, and, with this way, you can choose the right approach for the job and get the best of both worlds.
Some projects involve more extensive planning because they are higher-risk and have more dependencies.
Other projects benefit from a loose learning-by-doing method, with rapid feedback loops, customer impact, and testing new business waters.
And, over time, you can shift the mix.
In the book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, share some of their lessons learned from companies that are Digital Masters that created their digital visions and are driving business change.
You can grow one of your existing business units into a Digital Unit. For example, marketing is a pretty good bet, given the customer focus and the business impact.
“Changing the IT-business relationship is well worth the effort, but doing so takes time. Your company may not have the time to wait before starting your digital transformation. Rather than improving the IT unit, some companies try to build digital skills into another unit, such as marketing. They try to work around IT rather than with it.”
Don’t throw away your existing IT or break it by turning it into something it’s not, too quickly. Instead, leverage it for the projects where it makes sense, while also leveraging your new Digital IT unit.
“Although building digital skills is useful, trying to work around IT can be fraught with challenges, especially if people do not understand the reasons for IT's systematic, if sometimes ponderous, processes. This kind of flanking action can waste money, make the digital platform more complex, and even worse, open the company to security and regulatory risks.”
You can have the best of both worlds, while both evolving your traditional IT and growing your Digital Unit to thrive at Cloud speed.
“A better approach is to create a dual-speed IT structure, where one part of the IT unit continues to support traditional IT needs, while another takes on the challenge of operating at digital speed with the business. Digital activities--especially in customer engagement--move faster than many traditional IT ones. They look at design processes differently. Where IT projects have traditionally depended on clear designs and well-structured project plans, digital activities often engage in test-and-learn strategies, trying features in real-life experiments and quickly adding or dropping them based on what they find.”
Your Digital Unit needs to be very different from traditional IT in terms of the mindset and the approaches around the people, processes, and technology.
“In a dual-speed approach, the digital unit can develop processes and methods at clock-speeds more closely aligned with the digital world, without losing sight of the reasons that the old IT processes existed. IT leaders can draw on informal relationships within the IT department to get access to legacy systems or make other changes happen. Business leaders can use their networks to get input and resources. Business and IT leaders can even start to work together in the kind of two-in-a-box leadership method that LBG and other companies have adopted.”
To make it work and to make it work well, it takes partnerships on both sides. The business and IT both need skin in the game.
“Building dual-speed IT units requires choosing the right leadership on both sides of the relationship. Business executives need to be comfortable with technology and with being challenged by their IT counterparts. IT leaders need to have a mind-set that extends beyond technology to encompass the processes and drivers of business performance. Leaders from both sides need to be strong communicators who can slide easily between conversations with their business- or IT-focused people.”
With both options at your disposal, Great IT Leaders know how to choose the right approach for the job. Some programs and projects will take a more traditional life-cycle or require heavier planning or more extensive governance and risk management, while other projects can be driven in a more lightweight and agile way.
“Dual-speed IT also requires perspective about the value of speed. Not all digital efforts need the kind of fast-moving, constantly changing processes that digital customer-engagement processes can need. In fact, the underlying technology elements that powered LBG's new platform, Asian Paints' operational excellence, and Nike's digital supply chain enhancements required the careful, systematic thinking that underpins traditional IT practices. Doing these big implementations in a loose learning-by-doing method could be dangerous. It could increase rework, waste money, and introduce security risks. But once the strong digital platform is there, building new digital capabilities can be fast, agile, and innovative. The key is to understand what you need in each type of project and how much room any project has to be flexible and agile. Great IT leaders know how to do this. If teamed with the right business leaders, they can make progress quickly and safely.”
It takes a shift in processes to do Dual-Speed IT.
“Dual-speed IT also takes new processes inside IT. Few digital businesses have the luxury to wait for monthly software release cycles for all of their applications. Digital-image hosting business Flickr, for example, aims for up to ten deployments per day, while some businesses require even more. This continuous-deployment approach requires very tight discipline and collaboration between development, test, and operations people. A bug in software, missed step in testing, or configuration problem in deployment can bring down a web site or affect thousands of customers.”
DevOps blends development and operations into a more integrated approach that simplifies and streamlines processes to shorten cycle times and speed up fixes and feedback loops.
“A relatively new software-development method called DevOps aims to make this kind of disciplined speed possible. It breaks down silos between development, operations, and quality assurance groups, allowing them to collaborate more closely and be more agile. When done properly, DevOps improves the speed and reliability of application development and deployment by standardizing development environments. It uses strong methods and standards, including synchronizing the tools used by each group.”
DevOps is the name of the game when it comes to shipping better, faster, cheaper and more reliably in a Cloud-First, Mobile-First world.
“DevOps relies heavily on automated tools to do tasks in testing, configuration control, and deployment—tasks that are both slow and error-prone when done manually. Companies that use DevOps need to foster a culture where different IT groups can work together and where workers accept the rules and methods that make the process effective. The discipline, tools, and strong processes of DevOps can help IT release software more rapidly and with fewer errors, as well as monitor performance and resolve process issues more effectively, than before.”
In order for your Digital Transformation to thrive, it takes building better bridges between the business leaders and the IT leaders.
“Whether your CIO takes it upon himself or herself to improve the IT-business relationship, or you decide to help make it happen, forging a strong link between business and IT executives is an essential part of driving digital transformation. Strong IT-business relationships can transform the way IT works and the way the business works with it. Through trust and shared understanding, your technology and business experts can collaborate closely, like at LBG, to innovate your business at digital speeds. Without this kind of relationship, your company may become mired in endless requirements discussion, filing projects, and lackluster systems, while your competitors accelerate past you in the digital fast lane.”
If you want to thrive in the new digital economy while driving digital business transformation without breaking your existing business, consider adding Dual-Speed IT to your strategies and shift the mix from traditional IT to your Digital Unit over time.
Think in a Series of Sprints, Not Marathons
It’s possible to change IT from a poorly respected cost center to a high-functioning business partner.
Driving business transformation is a people, process, and technology thing.
Some people think they can change their business without IT. The challenge is that technology is the enabler of significant business change in today’s digital landscape. Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data all bring significant capabilities to the table, and IT can hold the keys.
But the business doesn’t want to hear that.
Business leaders don’t want to hear about the HOW of technology.
Business leaders want to hear about the impact on their business. They want to hear about how predictive analytics can help them build a better pipeline, or target more relevant offers. Business leaders want to hear about how they can create cross-sell/upsell opportunities in real-time. And, business leaders want to hear about the business benefits and the KPI that will be impacted by choosing a particular strategy.
The reality is that the new Digital Masters of the emerging Digital Economy bring their IT with them, and in many cases, their IT even helps lead the business into the new Digital Frontier.
In the book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, share some of their lessons learned from companies that are digital masters that created their digital visions and are driving business change.
While it takes work on both sides, IT can change it’s game by creating transparency around performance, roles, and value. This includes helping employees think and talk differently about what they do. IT can show very clearly how it delivers value for the money. And IT can change the way IT and business leaders make investment decisions and assess the returns.
The CIO and everybody in IT, needs to speak the language of business.
“Poor relations between IT and business leaders can have many causes. Sometimes it's the personality of the IT leader. A common complaint among senior executives is that their CIO seems to speak a different language from the business. Another is that the CIO doesn't seem to understand what's really important. For example, a chemical company CIO we interviewed described how he communicates regularly with business executives about the innovative possibilities of digital technologies. Yet none of his business executive peers (whom we interviewed separately) seemed to find the discussions credible.”
It’s a competitive world and IT needs to continuously find ways to deliver solutions in a way that makes business sense.
“Sometimes the issue arises from IT's delivery capability. According to Bud Mathaisel, who has served as CIO in several large companies, 'It starts with competence in delivering services reliably, economically, and at very high quality. It is the absolute essential to be even invited into meaningful dialog about how you then build on that competence to do something very interesting with it.' Unfortunately, some IT units today do not have this competence. One business executive we interviewed said, 'IT is a mess. It's costs are not acceptable. It proposes things in nine or ten months, where external firms could do them in three to nine weeks. We started offshoring our IT, and now our IT guys are trying to change.' A legacy of poor communication, byzantine decision processes, and broken commitments is no foundation on which to build a strong IT-business relationship.”
In order to bet on IT, it needs to be high-performing. And in order for IT to be high-performing, it needs to have a good digital platform.
“However, the fault doesn't always rest only with IT leaders. In many cases, business executive share some of the blame ... high-performing IT requires a good digital platform, and good platforms require discipline. If your approach to working with IT can be characterized by impatience, unreasonable expectations, or insisting on doing things your way, then you'll need to think about how to change your side of the relationship.”
Key business transformation takes technology. CIOs can help lead the business transformation, whether it's through shared goals with the business, creating a new governance mechanism, or creating a new shared digital unit.
“Regardless of the case, if your IT-business relationships are poor, it's essential to fix the problem. A bank executive stated, 'IT has been brought closer to business during the last five years. It is very important to success because man of the important transformations in our business are enabled by technology.' With strong relationships, IT executives can help business executives meet their goals, and business executives listen when IT people suggest innovations. Executives on both sides are willing to be flexible in creating new governance mechanisms or shared digital units. At Codelco, Asian Paints, and P&G, the CIO even leads digital transformation for the company.”
CIOs can help drive the bus, but it takes more than senior sponsorship.
“So, how can you start to improve your IT-business relationship? Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry, told her CIO he needed to help drive the bus with the executive team. However, leadership changes or top-down mandates are only the start of the change. Few CIOs can change the business by themselves, and not all business executives will climb on the bus with the CIO, even if the CEO demands it.”
Start by fixing how you communicate between the business and IT.
“Fixing the IT-business relationship can take time, as people learn how to trust each other and redefine the way they work together. As with any struggling relationship, the best starting point is to fix the way you communicate. Does IT really cost too much, or are costs reasonable, given what IT has to do? Is the IT unit really too bureaucratic, or do all of those procedures actually serve a useful purpose? Are you a good partner to IT or a difficult one? How can IT make it easier for you to get what you need, while still making sure things are done correctly? What investments can help IT improve its technology, internal processes, cost-effectiveness, quality, or speed?”
It’s possible to change IT from a low performing cost center to a high-performing business partner. Companies do it all the time, and MIT has the research.
“MIT research into IT turnarounds has identified a series of steps that can change IT from a poorly respected cost center to a high-functioning business partner. The key change mechanism is transparency--around performance, roles, and value. The first step is to help IT employees think, and talk, differently about what they do. The second step proceeds to showing very clearly how well (or how poorly) IT delivers value for money--the right services at the right quality and right price, and where problems still exist. And then the third step moves to changing the way IT and business leaders make investment decisions and assess the returns that projects deliver. Through transparency around roles, performance, and investments, both sides can make smoother decisions and work together to identify and deliver innovation.”
If you’re part of a business that wants to change the world, start by reimagining how IT can help you achieve the art of the possible.
Building Better Business Cases for Digital Initiatives
Drive Business Transformation by Reenvisioning Your Operations
How Digital is Changing Physical Experiences
The Future of IT Leaders
When you create your digital vision, you have a few places to start.
One place to start is by reenvisioning your customer experience. Another place to start is by reenvisioning your operations. And, a third place to start is by renvisioning your business model.
In this post, let’s take a look at reenvisioning your operations.
If your financial performance is closely connected to the performance of your core operations and supply chain, then reenvisioning your operations can be a great place to start.
“Organizations whose fortunes are closely tied to the performance of their core operations and supply chains often start with reenvisioning their operations.”
There are many great business reasons to focus on improving your operations. A few of the best include increasing process visibility, increasing speed of decision making, and improving collaboration across the board.
“The business drivers of operational visions include efficiency and the need to integrate disparate operations. Executives may want to increase process visibility and decision making speed or to collaborate across silos.”
Proctor and Gamble changed their game by focusing on operational excellence. The key was to be able to manage the business in real time so they could keep up with their ever-changing world.
“For instance, in 2011, Proctor & Gamble put operational excellence at the center of its digital vision: 'Digitizing P&G will enable us to manage the business in real time and on a very demand-driven basis. We'll be able to collaborate more effectively and efficiently, inside and outside the company.' Other companies in industries from banking to manufacturing, have transformed themselves through similar operationally focused visions.”
If your business is a provider of products or services to other businesses, then your operational vision is especially important as it can have a ripple effect on what your customers do.
“Operational visions are especially useful for businesses that sell largely to other businesses. When Codelco first launched its Codelco Digital initiative, the aim was to improve mining operations radically through automation and data integration. As we described in chapter 3, Codelco continued to extend this vision to include new mining automation and integration operations-control capability. Now, executives are envisioning radical new ways to redefine the mining process and possibly the industry itself.”
When you change your operations, you can change the industry.
“The operational visions of some companies go beyond an internal perspective to consider how the company might change operations in its industry or even with its customers.“
When you improve your operations, you can help others move up the solution stack.
“For example, aircraft manufacturer Boeing envisions how changes to its products may enable customers to change their own operations. 'Boeing believes the future of the aviation industry lie in 'the digital airline,' the company explained on its website. 'To succeed in the marketplace, airlines and their engineering and IT teams must take advantage of the increasing amount of data coming off of airplanes, using advanced analytics and airplane technology to take operational efficiency to the next level.' “
One of the best things you can do when you improve operations is to put the information in the hands of the people that need it most, when they need it most, where they need it most.
“The manufacturer goes on to paint a clear picture of what a digital airline means in practice: 'The key to to the digital airline is delivering secure, detailed operational and maintenance information to the people who need it most, when they need it most. That means that engineering will share data with IT, but also with the finance, accounting, operational and executive functions.' “
When you improve operations, you enable and empower business breakthroughs in all parts of the business.
“The vision will improve operations at Boeing's customers, but will also help Boeing's operations as the information from airplanes should help the company identify new ways to improve its product designs and services. The day may also lead to new business models as Boeing uses the information to provide new services to customers.”
When you create your digital vision, while there are lots of places you could start, the key is to take an end-to-end view.
If your financial performance is tied to your core operations and your supply chain, and/or you are a provider of products and services to others, then consider starting your business transformation by reenvisioning your operations.
The Future of Jobs
Reenvision Your Customer Experience
You probably hear a lot about the Mega-Trends (Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data), or the Nexus of Forces (the convergence of social, mobility, cloud and data insights patterns that drive new business scenarios), or the Mega-Trend of Mega-Trends (Internet of Things).
And you are probably hearing a lot about digital transformation and maybe even about the rise of the CDO (Chief Digital Officer.)
All of this digital transformation is about creating business change, driving business outcomes, and driving better business results.
But how do you create your digital vision and strategy? And, where do you start?
When it comes to creating your digital vision, you can focus on reenvisioning the customer experience, the operational processes, or your business model.
“Where should you focus your digital vision? Digital visions usually take one of three perspectives: reenvisioning the customer experience, reenvisioning operational processes, or combining the previous two approaches to reenvision business models. The approach you take should reflect your organization’s capabilities, your customer’s needs, and the nature of competition in your industry.”
One of the best places to start is with your customer experience. After all, a business exists to create a customer. And the success of the business is how well it creates value and serves the needs of the customer.
“Many organizations start by reenvisioning the way they interact with customers. They want to make themselves easier to work with, and they want to be smarter in how they sell to (and serve) customers. Companies start from different places when reenvisioning the customer experience.”
You can use the waves of technologies (Cloud, Mobile, Social, Data Insights, and Internet of Things), to transform how you interact with your customers and how they experience your people, your products, and your services.
“Some companies aim to transform their relationships with their customers. Adam Bortman, chief digital officer of Starbucks, shared this vision: 'Digital has to help more partners and help the company be the way we can ... tell our story, build our brand, and have a relationship with our customers.' Burberry's CEO Angela Ahredts focused on multichannel coherence. 'We had a vision, and the vision was to be the first company who was fully digital end-to-end ... A customer will have total access to Burberry across any device, anywhere.' Mare Menesquen, managing director of strategic marketing at cosmetics gitan L'Oreal, said, 'The digital world multiples the way our brands can create an emotion-filled relationship with their customers.’”
You can use technology to personalize the experience for your customers, and create better interactions along the customer experience journey.
“Other companies envision how they can be smarter in serving (and selling to) their customers through analytics. Caesars started with a vision of using real-time customer information to deliver a personalized experience to each customer. The company was able to increase customer satisfaction and profits per customer using traditional technologies. Then, as new technologies arose, it extended the vision to include a mobile, location-based concierge in the palm of every customer's hand.”
One of the most powerful things you can now do with the combination of Cloud, Mobile, Social, Big Data and Internet of Things is gain better customer insights. For example, you can learn from the wealth of social media insights, or you can learn through better integration and analytics of your existing customer data.
“Another approach is to envision how digital tools might help the company to learn from customer behavior. Commonwealth Bank of Australia sees new technologies as a key way of integrating customer inputs in its co-creation efforts. According to CIO Ian Narev, 'We are progressively applying new technology to enable customers to play a greater part in product design. That helps us create more intuitive products and services, readily understandable to our customers and more tailored to their individual needs.”
If you focus on high-value activities, you can create breakthroughs in the daily lives of your customers.
“Finally, some companies are extending their visions beyond influencing customer experience to actually changing customers' lives. For instance, Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez wrote of this potential: ‘The technologies we use in our daily lives, such as smart phones and tablet devices, could make a real difference in helping patients to manage their own health. We are exploring ways to use these tools to improve compliance rates and enable health-care professionals to monitor patient progress remotely.’”
If you want to change the world, one of the best places to start is right from wherever you are.
With a Cloud and a dream, what can you do to change the world?
McKinsey on Unleashing the Value of Big Data
Luis Goncalves has put together a list called the 100 Top Agile Blogs:
If you don't know Luis, he lives and breathes driving adoption of Agile practices.
Luis is also an Agile Coach, Co-Author, Speaker, and Blogger. He is also the co-founder of a MeetUp group called High Performing Teams, and he is a certified Scrum Master and Product Owner.
Here is a preview of the list of top 100 Agile Blogs:
For the rest of the list, check out 100 Top Agile Blogs.
Lists like these are a great way to discover blogs you may not be aware of.
While there will be a bunch of blogs you already know, chances are, with that many at a glance, there will be at least a few new ones you can add to your reading list.
I’ll need to elaborate on this at some point, to share what I’ve experienced across lots of businesses large and small, as well as some of the biggest businesses on the planet, as they transform themselves for the digital economy.
Meanwhile, here is an interesting read on CIO Straight Talk magazine.
In their words, "CIO Straight Talk is a series of "straight talking" articles from senior IT executives and leading companies and government and nonprofit organizations."
This first edition is focused on learning, failing and learning in the Second Machine Age, and features two non-practitioner experts on current topics:
“Andrew McAfee, co-author of the New York Times bestseller The Second Machine Age, cofounder of MIT’s Initiative on the Digital Economy and Principal Research Scientist at MIT Sloan School of Management, talks about ‘The CIO’s role in the enterprise of the future.’ Says McAfee: ‘The overall trend is that companies of all stripes will need, proportionately, many fewer people in IT. Those who remain will be very highly valued, very highly skilled, very important… Enterprises are going to need someone to help them navigate the second machine age… I think that if the CIO plays her cards right, this can absolutely be her role in the enterprise.’”
Michelle Gallen, the CEO of Shhmooze, a social networking start-up, talks about failure, not to be confused Failure Lite – ‘I failed. How nice. I learned so much’ – often hailed breezily by management experts as something everyone should experience and every company should encourage. Real failure, according to this serial entrepreneur, isn’t pretty. Says Gallen: ‘I don’t think you learn without failing… In the start-up world, innovation is the ability to take an idea and turn it into an invoice. Lots of larger business organizations also rely on cash flow to keep them alive, and therefore innovation has to be monetized. If you’re Apple or Microsoft, you’ve got a war chest, and you can actually allow failure. A lot of companies can’t actually afford it. It’s quite an expensive hobby, failing.’”
So there you have it -- failure is an expensive hobby and the few IT leaders left in organizations will be very highly valued, very highly skilled, and very important.
There’s more to the story and I’ll share what I’ve learned over the past few years helping companies cross the Cloud chasm and accelerating their digital transformation.
When you drive business change and digital initiatives with Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data (and Internet of Things), successful businesses think a series of sprints, not marathons.
Successful businesses go digital by transforming their customer experiences, their employee experiences, and their back-office experiences through rapid prototyping, building proofs-of-concept, testing pilots, and going to production. It’s a fast cycle of prototype –> pilot –> POC –> production.
These short cycles create rapid learning loops, build momentum, and help adapt for change.
In the book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, share some of their lessons learned in driving digital initiatives and agile transformation.
Avoid Big Up Front Design. Whenever there is a big lag time between designing it, developing it, and using it, you’re introducing more risk. You’re breaking feedback loops. You’re falling into the pit of analysis paralysis. Focus on “just enough design” so that you can test what works and what doesn’t, and respond accordingly.
“The digital world moves quickly. The rapid pace of technology innovation today does not lend itself to multiyear planning and waterfall development methods common in the ERP era. Markets change, new technologies become mainstream, an disruptive entrants begin courting your customers. Your roadmap will need to be nimble enough to recognize these changes, adapt for them, and course-correct.”
Hold on to the vision and use that to guide you as you test your ideas and implement them, without getting bogged down.
“To design an agile transformation, borrow an approach that has become common among today's leading software companies. Keep people committed to the end goal, but pace your initiatives as short sprints of effort. Create prototype solutions, and experiment with new technologies or approaches. Evaluate the results, and incorporate the results into your evolving roadmap. Adam Brotman, Starbucks CDO, explained the iterative process: 'We didn't have all the answers, but we started thinking about other things we could do ... I think it worked not to go too far, too fast, but to keep a vision in mind and keep building on success along the way.”
Short cycle times help you respond to market change and adapt as you learn what works and what doesn’t.
“The test-and-learn approach will require some new ways of working in its own right, but it enjoys some distinct advantages. By marketing ideas quickly before they go to scale, this approach saves time and money. It's short cycle times also make it more adaptive to external changes. Finally, it enables your transformation to sustain momentum through small, incremental successes, rather than the big-bang approach of long-term programs.”
When it comes to your digital strategy and driving business transformation, drive your business change the agile way.
10 Ways to Make Agile Design More Effective
McKinsey on Unleashing the Value of Big Data Analytics
It’s hard to drive digital initiatives and business transformation if you can’t create the business case. Stakeholder want to know what their investment is supposed to get them
One of the simplest ways to think about business cases is to think in terms of stakeholders, benefits, KPIs, costs, and risks over time frames.
While that’s the basic frame, there’s a bit of art and science when it comes to building effective business cases, especially when it involves transformational change.
Lucky for us, in the book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, share some of their lessons learned in building better business cases for digital initiatives.
What I like about their guidance is that it matches my experience
The more you can link your roadmap to benefits that people care about and can measure, the better off you are.
“You need initiative-based business cases that establish a clear link from the operational changes in your roadmap to tangible business benefits. You will need to involve employees on the front lines to help validate how operational changes will contribute to strategic goals.”
On a good note, the same building blocks that apply to any business case, apply to digital initiatives.
“The basic building blocks of a business case for digital initiatives are the same as for any business case. Your team needs to work out the costs, the benefits, and the timing of the return. But digital transformation is still uncharted territory. The cost side of the equation is easier, but benefits can be difficult to quantify, even when, intuitively, they seem crystal clear.”
Building a business case is an art and a science. To avoid getting lost in analysis paralysis, start with what you know.
“Building a business case for digital initiatives is both an art an a science. With so many unknowns, you'll need to take a pragmatic approach to investments in light of what you know and what you don't know.
Start with what you know, where you have most of the information you need to support a robust cost-benefit analysis. A few lessons learned from our Digital Masters can be useful.”
If you only consider the technology part of the story, you’ll miss the bigger picture. Digital initiatives involves organizational change management as well as process change. A digital initiative is really a change in terms of people, process, and technology, and adoption is a big deal.
“Don't build your business case as a series of technology investments. You will miss a big part of the costs. Cost the adoption efforts--digital skill building, organizational change, communication, and training--as well as the deployment of the technology. You won't realize the full benefits--or possibly any benefits--without them.”
If you don’t work backwards from the end-in-mind, you might not get there. You need clarity on the business outcomes so that you can chunk up the right path to get there, while flowing continuous value along the way.
“Frame the benefits in terms of the business outcomes you want to reach. These outcomes can be the achievement of goals or the fixing of problems--that is, outcomes that drive more customer value, higher revenue, or a better cost position. Then define the tangible business impact and work backward into the levers and metrics that will indicate what 'good' looks like. For instance, if one of your investments is supposed to increase digital customer engagement, your outcome might be increasing engagement-to-sales conversation. Then work back into the main metrics that drive this outcome, for example, visits, like inquiries, ratings, reorders, and the like.
When the business impact5 of an initiative is not totally clear, look at companies that have already made similar investments. Your technology vendors can also be a rich, if somewhat biased, source of business cases for some digital investments.”
To reduce risk, start with pilots to live and learn. This will help you make informed decisions as part of your business case development.
“But, whatever you do, some digital investment cases will be trickier to justify, be they investments in emerging technologies or cutting-edge practices. For example, what is the value of gamifying your brand's social communities? For these types of investment opportunities, experiment with a test-and-learn approach. State your measures of success, run small pilots, evaluate results, and refine your approach. Several useful tools and methods exist, such as hypothesis-driven experiments with control groups, or A/B testing. The successes (and failures) of small experiments can then become the benefits rationale to invest at greater scale. Whatever the method, use an analytical approach; the quality of your estimated return depends on it.
Translating your vision into strategic goals and building an actionable roadmap is the firs step in focusing your investment. It will galvanize the organization into action. But if you needed to be an architect to develop your vision, you need to be a plumber to develop your roadmap. Be prepared to get your hands dirty.”
While practice makes perfect, business cases aren’t about perfect. Their job is to help you get the right investment from stakeholders so you can work on the right things, at the right time, to make the right impact.