Transformation in Our Communities

Community TransformationWe are living in an era of transformation where technology is changing not only how we do business and go about our daily lives, but also how we connect to each other.

It’s an exciting time to be part of driving this evolution. But there is another area of transformation that inspires: the transformation that takes place in our communities any time we get directly involved to help others.

At the heart of any transformation is the ability to make change happen. Here at StrataFusion, our partners have built successful careers across industry helping business grow, primarily in technology-related areas. Now, having established a partnership of trusted advisors to serve a spectrum of clients, it’s especially gratifying to contribute our expertise to the organizations doing great things in our communities. This is where our collective experience and know-how is put to use to help create change in the lives of others.

The organizations our partnership works with are diverse, from youth-focused STEM programs and university level education to mentoring, assisting with domestic violence intervention and raising funds and awareness for animal welfare. A snapshot of organizations and institutions includes: Year Up, Fresh Lifelines for Youth(Youth Intervention), Wonderfest(Youth STEM), Merritt College Security Program(Education), Women Unlimited, Inc.(Mentoring), Maddie’s Fund(Animal Welfare)and First Robotics(STEM).

On a personal note, it is gratifying to work with colleagues who are so passionately dedicated to helping others succeed by sharing time and professional expertise to serve on boards, mentor, support, educate and support in many other ways.

From our clients to our communities, I think this dedication captures the core of StrataFusion’s purpose: a passion to help others succeed.

Ken Crafford, Founding Partner

A Tale of Two Transformations

StrataFusion partners frequently meet and speak with business leaders across industries. This network of clients, colleagues and peers provides valuable insights into how companies view digital transformation, culture, operational and organizational challenges in the digital age.

Digital signals flying over highway. Digital transformation. Internet of Things.

“It was the best of times it was the worst of times …” Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Digital Transformation has been a revolutionizing force for business for more than a decade. It’s an exciting time for companies, but also brings many challenges that can test leaders and cultures.

While there are things common to business that every CIO should consider, the journey is different for everyone.  We recently spoke to two heads of technology at mid-size companies to understand their views on Digital Transformation and how it fits with their strategy. Both are fairly young companies in similar industries with less than 20 years in operation.  Given the age of these companies, you might assume they would not face much need for digital transformation, that they already have the underlying technology, skills and processes ready to evolve in step with the market demands and new entrants.  Here is what they had to say.

Company A:  Focusing on Big Themes

The first company in our comparison is all about solving for complexity:   complexity of systems, technologies, decision-making, methodologies and all the interrelatedness that needs to be addressed. The questions they ask center around the following:

  • Value Model: what is the value proposition to launch a large system replacement? What is the value proposition to simplify and eliminate so many in-place vendors and products – and add new different ones?
  • Change Management: why do all business units need to standardize IT? Won’t it delay a lot of more important things and take money away from their initiatives? With global business diversity (when operating in many regions and countries), is it best to standardize or differentiate?
  • Scalability: it’s easy to go overboard with digital. How much is enough and how is cost structure impacted?

Company B:  Drilling Down on Tactical Planning:

The other company in our comparison is focused more on starting with results and less on starting with strategy.  It is about looking at some of the “quick wins” to move the case for transformation forward.  The questions they ask center around:

  • Metrics: how exactly will they measure success?
  • The Test Drive: can they try before they buy? While they believe an overall approach is needed, they want the experience as a proof-point.
  • Customer: when operating in a commercial space, how do you execute transformation activity to align with customers and their business outcomes in every step of planning?

It’s clear that even younger companies and start-ups have digital transformation challenges.  The size of the problem may be different, but the legacy (and the potential for legacy) issues can be very similar to larger, more mature organizations.

Is there a right answer to what approach is best for transformation success?  Even if in the same industry, every company is different:  from the communications of their leadership teams to their workforce and their culture; what works for one may not work for the other.  This is the value a trusted advisor delivers: experience that understands the unique facets every company brings to the equation of any digital change in the business model.  That’s our approach.

Now it’s your turn to weigh in! We love feedback, so share your thoughts in the comments.

Future installments on this topic will dive into StrataFusions’s point of view on various approaches to transformation.  We will provide deeper consideration around the successful starting points, the questions and data needed for successful digital transformation.

 

A Decade of Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation (DX) has been underway for more than a decade now. With a significant amount of time under our collective belt, it feels like a good time to evaluate a couple things.

Maybe not so surprisingly, many companies are stuck in their DX or struggling to make sense of the opportunity it presents.  I’ve spoken to plenty of CIOs and business leaders in this situation and offer a few observations:

  1. Many companies remain skeptical of DX and will miss out on the rewards.
  2. Other companies are either taking a short-sighted approach or they are trapped by the digital hype cycle. Neither are winning.
  3. Some business leaders see DX as a technical problem leaving CIOs without a method to strategically partner with the business, where DX can make the most impact.

dx measureStill Skeptical of DX?

Here at StrataFusion, we’re more than a little allergic to consulting hype. But the “big hairy beast” that DX represents is clearly making history and is much more than simply moving your data centers to the cloud. It’s also about embracing technology to:

  • Create new business models and growth trajectories
  • Shape customer-obsessed companies
  • Build products that have a relationship with their users
  • Move at faster and more agile speeds
  • Win the talent war

It’s been said that every company is now a technology company – like it or not. While IDC reports that 75 percent of companies are in a DX deadlock (2), it’s crucial to operate as if your competitive threats are not deadlocked. Consider Kroger CEO McMullen who recently justified a $2.5B acquisition to accelerate the company’s digital technology position saying, “We assumed that, at some point, Amazon was going to do something in the physical world.”

If Amazon isn’t on your radar, then start-ups likely are. Are you ready?  Here are two questions you should be asking:

Do you have a clear understanding of your strategic digital opportunities and threats?

We’ve seen an industry leader wish to become the “Amazon of Information” when it was struggling to deliver basic services. We’ve seen another leader squeeze technology spend to less than a percent of revenue while largely missing out on the biggest product leap in a century. Another leader has been in the process of transformation for an entire decade but created more re-orgs than business results.

In many ways, industry-leading CIOs have a greater challenge to face:  the business. Your executive partners often lack a way to focus and almost never a mechanism to measure progress and work together.  And DX is more than a series of initiatives. You can’t simply keep up, playing like a football team moving the chains when the game is becoming more like soccer. Your strategy may rely on leadership off-sites and benefit from strategic roadmaps, but alignment and executive teaming must be supported continually along the way.

Is your DX strategy both focused and truly transformational?

You’ve got to measure to see the progress. Companies are awash in data but still not yet measuring their Digital Transformation. Most are managing operational KPIs and some are measuring their DX strategy or strategic initiatives. Who is measuring the company’s transformation? Yes, there is a difference.

Consider fitness goals. Let’s say you’ve signed up for a race to serve as a motivation for getting in better shape. You’re going to measure your practice split and completion times, but those are like operational KPIs – lagging indicators. You hit a plateau, so you get a trainer. They’ll probably ask how much sleep you get, grill you about your diet and want details on past injuries. Those are the leading indicators that measure your fitness transformation and eventual success.

Business results are the outcome of your transformation, but that’s not how companies are measuring. According to IDG, only 15 percent of companies are measuring DX success, and virtually none are measuring the transformation of the company (1). To address this problem, StrataFusion developed a simple DX measurement system that elevates the leadership conversation, focuses on partner alignment and helps regain forward momentum.

Do you have an easy way to talk with your executive business partners and CEO about Digital Transformation? StrataFusion partners have led companies through Digital Transformation and the technology waves that came before; in other words, sat in your seat and walked many a mile in your shoes. I invite you to learn how you can use DX measures to build momentum, alignment and stronger relationships with your senior executive partners.

Byron Kaufman

Sources:

(1) 2018 IDG State of Digital Business Transformation
(2) IDC Using IT Metrics and KPIs to Fast Forward Digital Transformation, 2018

 

Benchmarking that Propels Transformation Forward

Benchmarking that drives transformationDigital transformations are even more impactful, and often more disruptive, to corporations and their cultures than traditional IT transformations, which focus primarily on systems. The business value impact can be substantial, as is the risk of failure.

Benchmarking can help crystalize targeted outcomes by identifying what measurements are most important and showing progress against both internal and external guideposts. Whether they are used to compare to a competitor, track current performance, or understand the impacts of an industry trend, benchmarking can serve as a catalyst for achieving transformation goals.

How can IT leaders can drive successful digital transformation through benchmarking?

  • Engage Your People
    Ensure that your transformation benchmarking is heavily informed by the people who will actually lead and work on transformation initiatives. While external benchmarks are valuable guideposts, your people and teams know best what your organization can handle.
  • Be Clear on Timing
    Benchmark early in transformation scope planning. Delaying benchmarking until you are at the doorstep of implementation risks missing key signals that can come from benchmarking at the outset of business process redesign and the insight that comes from systematically testing and monitoring early stage transformation efforts.
  • Support the Leadership Conversation
    Use measures to facilitate a regular executive conversation on your company’s strategic digital health. The right high-level measures give feedback on the pace of transformation that elevates the dialog above the quarterly tug of war. The ability to continue collaborative conversations beyond your last strategic off-site can improve your partnering dynamic and keep the focus where it belongs – digital competition.

When these benchmarking steps are addressed appropriately, several enablers of transformation success are bolstered:

  • Clear, shared and measurable expectations and progress milestones are set
  • Feedback loops focused on tangible, actionable points are established
  • Course correction earlier in the process appropriately adjusts future targets
  • Effective communication that demonstrates progress and motivates people and teams

We have more to cover in our ongoing benchmarking series. For now, we would love to hear from you about what role benchmarking plays in your organizations, where you run into challenges and how you are solving for success.

Maureen Vavra

This is the second installment in StrataFusion’s benchmarking series.

Career Day Outcomes:  Trends in IT, IoT and Privacy Mean More Complexity, Opportunity for IT Professionals

With increasing prognostication around the looming IT talent shortage, it’s refreshing to engage with the students at Merritt College. As this next generation prepares to enter the IT workforce, Cybersecurity Career Day events not only help connect them to industry and business leaders but also create engagement opportunities for learning and collaboration.

MerrittCISEAt the event Nov. 2, about 100 attendees had the pleasure of hearing from three panels that included Instructors, leading CISOs from a number of industries, and students. During the day’s interactions, we clearly saw that the proverbial pendulum is swinging back toward privacy. In fact, discussion about GDPR and California’s Consumer Privacy Act explored what it will mean to students – from IoT expansion and an exploding attack surface to the increasing friction between IT and OT (Operating Technology).

As privacy discussions elevated, it was particularly rewarding to have Michelle Dennedy, Cisco’s Chief Privacy Officer, as the keynote speaker. She provided students and peers alike with a unique perspective of current trends, insight into the evolving landscape of privacy and IT, and shared the personal journey of her own career path.

An important outcome of the day is the awareness that cybersecurity and IT professions are not only needed but increasingly require more complex and greater ‘political’ skillsets inside organizations. Technical acuity and collaborative agility are professional strengths that are not only highly valued today but will be an absolute necessity in the future.

Thank you to all who participated!

Mark Egan

Building a World-Class IT Organization: Teams and Careers  

This is the second installment of a two-part series. Read Part 1 here.

The IT landscape is evolving fast and one of the best strategies for organizations to keep culture on track is to continuously reinforce the IT/business connection by encouraging teams to partner and focus on business goals. In part one of this series, we shared three keys to unlock world-class culture: articulating your message, encouraging participation, and investing in your people.

These focus areas set the stage to build effective teams and provide challenging career opportunities. How can you ensure your culture is working for you and getting the right results?  

Emphasize team building. Acquire and grow talent through interdepartmental teams.

  • Commit to professional development so you have time to recruit from within and train employees from other areas when an initiative provides opportunity.
  • Leverage internships to tap into bright game-changers with new perspectives around usability, innovation for applications and technology – disruption is good!
  • Bump up the bonus structure for employees who successfully recruit new talent.
  • Capitalize on Agile techniques to broaden job responsibilities. Dev Ops can be an open recruiting and training area for employees who want to broaden their base even if they stay in their existing department.

Support career growth:  Retain high-potential talent by providing maximum growth opportunities.

  • Ensure that new employees are on-boarded, have clear role definition, are trained and have a mentor. Identify and manage poor fits quickly and fairly.
  • Allow rotations into and out of IT to reinforce the value of business experience.
  • Give feedback and career coaching regularly to ensure employees are developing, have a plan and know their value.
  • Insist on regular training, development and new experiences, and provide the time and space for it. Set up a training sabbatical structure every few years if budget allows.

A world-class culture is one of the most effective recruiting tools you can have because the best ambassadors are your employees. Be sure to reward behavior that aligns with company values and recognize results that support the business strategies and culture. Gartner reports that as digitalization expands beyond IT into more areas of business, demand for people with specialized technology skills will continue to increase. Competing for talent is expected to get more intense. As the battle for talent escalates, companies must focus on culture and opportunities to recruit great candidates and retain top performers.

To assist with your talent quest, be sure to check out Merritt College Cybersecurity Career Day on Nov. 2.  The event will offer CISOand Instructor panels, as well as a keynote address from Cisco’s Chief Privacy Officer Michelle Dennedy.

Maureen Vavra

Cisco CPO Michelle Dennedy to Keynote Merritt College Cybersecurity Career Day

MerrittKeynoteCybersecurity Career Day at Merritt College in Oakland is gearing up for an exciting event on Nov. 2.  Keynote for the day is Michelle Dennedy, Cisco’s Chief Privacy Officer. Michelle’s career path as a privacy leader at top technology companies will inspire students.

In her current role at Cisco, Michelle is responsible for the ongoing development and implementation of the company’s data privacy policies and practices, She is a strong voice in the security world addressing the opportunities and challenges in cybersecurity staffing, while helping ensure diversity and inclusion will pave the way forward.  Michelle’s career is impressive, and her leadership is inspiring.  She is a leading expert not only in AI and digital privacy and privacy engineering, but also works across industry, business groups and teams to drive privacy excellence along the security continuum.

The Career Day event underscores the important role IT and cybersecurity experts will play in the global economy moving forward with panelists sharing unique insights based on years of real-world experience. While there is no cost to attend, space is limited. If you’d like to reserve a spot, please email your name, company name and contact information to info@ciseeducationfund.com.

Mark Egan