StratraFusion – Values

Values balls

 

The pace and evolution of enterprise technology more than ever calls for strategic advice on how best to use this technology to optimize your business.

We formed The StrataFusion Group as a unique technology and business consulting practice based on knowledge gleaned from practitioners and their years of in-house “hands on” leadership and experience. Our Partners have driven technology and business strategies in disruptive Fortune 500 companies and fast-growing enterprises and firms, and they bring years of practical knowledge into solving each opportunity in its complexities and challenges.

We advise and assist our clients on how to leverage their technology investments to increase revenue, and improve customer satisfaction while reducing risk and cost.

We originally conceptualized and founded The StrataFusion Group to provide expertise ”for CIO and CTOs, by CIOs and CTOs.” The practice has, unlike many other technology consultancies, continued to emphasize the personal operational experience of our Partners. This expertise is then applied directly to your problems and issues by our Partners — not inexperienced stand-ins. You receive our personal attention and commitment to efficient and effective engagement management.

Our passion is to empower companies to be business innovators by combining leading-edge insights with significant experience-based knowledge of markets, technologies and industries. We focus on adding client value, delivering ultimate professionalism, applying team cohesion to expand experience and focus success, with respect for individual values and goals. We truly seek to earn the “Trusted Advisor” status. When you have a serious technology problem we want you to think of StrataFusion, not Ghostbusters!

We offer proven solutions for the most difficult business challenges, focusing on these practice areas:

StrataFusion Practice Areas

  • CIO / CTO Advisory
  • Information Security
  • Digital Transformation
  • Big Data / Cloud Analytics

As we go forward and continue to build on our consulting practice areas, how we were formed, our foundation and core values continue to drive how we approach each company with their unique set of of challenges. Underlying all of our work is our set of guiding principles:

StrataFusion Guiding Principles

  • We challenge and reinvent the vision
  • We create through teamwork
  • We nurture the independent, entrepreneurial spirit
  • Our personal and operational competence and professionalism is clear and at our clients’ disposal

We look forward to working with you.

John Dick, Partner and Co-Founder, StrataFusion

Measuring What Matters

Measuring stick

By Maureen Vavra

Our clients often call on us at StrataFusion Group to help with Business Intelligence projects to validate and monitor major corporate initiatives. BI and Big Data have become fundamental in managing profitability and improving efficiency for business today. Managing with data can also make a big difference in smaller internal change management or projects, too.

It doesn’t need to be too complex, and the payback is clearer understanding up front and a better grasp of what an initiative needs to accomplish to be successful. I find that working with clients to identify a few key measures is a good way to quantify the level of change they want and can realistically achieve.

For projects or initiatives, define success before you start – which needle do you want to move?

  • Any big effort has to boil down to a few quantifiable outcomes, usually along the lines of the project management mantras of cost/schedule/performance. Define your outcomes and your tolerance for variance. Make it all explicitly clear.
  • For any change, the Performance area is the most important. Before you start to plan a project or a major change, define the outcome, and what success looks like. Make sure you can measure impact.
  • Keep a close eye on the business imperatives you don’t want to adversely impact – and reward people for maintaining their high standards. It’s called “managing multiple priorities.”

Measure what matters – don’t spend a fortune on reporting in the early stages

  • Ask the people doing the job or receiving the service what really matters.
  • If any effort is monitoring more than 4-5 key measures, you have overthought it.
  • On a “replace functionality” project, cut the number of reports you generate in half (even if you just did that.)
  • Think about metrics as if you’re driving a car – how many dials can you watch and still get somewhere?

Got a problem or roadblock? Value the naysayer

  • Vocal employees are saying what others are thinking. Examine the barrier: real? big? how can it be tackled? Make it a measure you knock down.
  • Accept it: good employees who are negative about a new project or change usually have a point – get them to quantify why they think something won’t succeed and help turn it around.
  • Challenge critical thinkers deliberately: to suss out what could go wrong, develop risk mitigation tactics, and help quantify and test the system for failure points.

Take a victory lap that boosts morale

  • Set solid milestones for internal initiatives, monitor and acknowledge when they are met. Recognizing specifically what worked, why something is more efficient, provides better job clarity.
  • If something fails and you catch it early, credit your measures for giving you an early warning – that’s a major value add.
  • Tie your measures to the bottom line, saving or making $, improving quality, increasing Customer Sat – it keeps the CFO happy.
  • People like to be rewarded for specifics, to know what to do to succeed – show them that something they did made a difference.

Finally, once a change management initiative or project completes, having quantifiable data can be invaluable in assessing key learnings and planning for follow-on activities as well.  If there is a larger BI or reporting effort required, the foundation has been set.

Silicon Valley: Where Are the ERP Cloud Solutions?

By Reed Kingston

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At StrataFusion, we are big proponents of cloud infrastructure and applications for all of the obvious reasons: cost, flexibility, security, focus on the business vs. the technology, etc.

We’ve helped many clients deploy application architectures that rely extensively on cloud technology, and users can choose from a range of solutions for everything from infrastructure to applications. Everything except enterprise resource planning (ERP), that is.

In our experience, NetSuite is by far the leading cloud solution for ERP, with a broad offering of modules that can support many different types of businesses. But things get pretty thin after that. We are excited about some new offerings coming to market from Kenandy (running on the Force.com platform) and a few others, but most of these are relatively new entrants, with functionality that will be evolving. For clients seeking a true cloud ERP solution, this begs the question: “Where are all of the other big names?” And equally important: “What exactly is a ‘true’ cloud solution, and what parts of it being cloud-based create the value users are looking for?”

The pure-play cloud players differentiate themselves with multi-tenant platforms, capable of supporting multiple clients with a common code base and a shared database. And they do a great job of communicating the benefits of that approach compared to the alternative of licensing and running similar systems in-house.

Some of the big names in traditional, on-premise ERP— companies like Oracle and SAP — have had false starts at launching multi-tenant offerings. But it is possible to run those solutions through managed services providers, and by so doing tap many of same benefits that the pure play providers tout: no on-site hardware, fewer in-house technical support specialists required, access to expertise that would be hard to maintain in-house, etc. The costs may be higher than running a pure-play multi-tenant solution, but the benefits make it worthwhile for some companies.

We have done hands-on comparisons of the capabilities of the current crop of cloud solution vs. the big-name traditional ERP solutions. There is still large functionality gap between what some global companies need versus what these “pure play” cloud companies are able to provide today. The lack of options makes for a challenging decision by companies as far as which ERP to adopt that will fit their needs now, and as they grow.

It’s always good to have clear choices. The problem is, right now the choice in ERP isn’t “cloud vs. on-premise” or “subscription vs. license” or “lots of functions/features vs. not so much.” It’s all of the above.

Reed Kingston is a managing director at StrataFusion. Contact him at rkingston@stratafusion.com; follow Reed at twitter.com/reedkingston.

 

Big Data that Support Key Business Results

By Doug Harr

Word Cloud "Big Data"

CIOs have a tremendous opportunity to harness Big Data. But CIOs are also wary of buzz words and heavily marketed trends which often lead to pursuits that are secondary rather than those aligned to key results. And while it may not be clear to everyone in the executive ranks, CIOs are keenly aware that all systems (not just business systems) in an organization spew out data, much of which can be mined for useful information. When I was CIO at Splunk, we called this systems-generated data “machine data” and I had the chance to witness just how many brilliant things can be done by harnessing it. So when and where does it make sense for CIOs to embark on data driven projects? How can a CIO choose where to focus efforts?

In a typical corporation, CIOs look after everything from business applications, operations and infrastructure, security, and the infrastructure that supports their web presence. Looking across the vast portfolio of services they support, a CIO’s primary concern will be to properly implement capabilities, and then manage them in such a way that the business is effectively and efficiently supported. Taking on analytics becomes the next layer to tackle once each fundamental service is in place. Where the rubber meets the road is when you can use machine/big data to determine more than just the status of your infrastructure. That is, when you can see the opportunity to mine data for services that support the portfolio and ultimately the corporation’s key results.

Getting Started

Select a Use Case: Focus on high-value use cases first. External-customer facing use cases are particularly well suited as first forays into data mining programs. Making the customer experience as compelling as possible is key for all organizations. Developing deeper insights into this experience has enormous potential and will garner support from your marketing team and other internal customers.

Work with Your Internal Business Partners: Meet with your internal team, and departments such as marketing and engineering, to select a use case they care about. Choose a project that will impact their external customers—typically the customers of your company. While internally focused use cases for Finance, HR, Sales or other teams can be instructive, prioritize programs that address the company’s core product or service and customer experience.

Put the Technology in Place: Don’t place all your bets on one solution. Consider your approach and look at real-time products (such as Splunk), cloud offerings, and batch-oriented systems (such as Hadoop). Before you make any purchases, do a proof-of-concept. Ensure you have support staff from the vendor working with you and try a sample set of your data in their engine.

Review the Reports: Step back and review reports from the solutions you are considering. Analyze the insights, both qualitative and quantitative. For example, if you use a customer support system for your proof-of-concept, ask questions like these:

  • How long does it take a customer to get through the online sales cycle? How much time elapses from engagement to first customer support call?
  • How long are customers spending in our systems?
  • How many orders are placed per month? What’s the typical amount of time it takes to book an order? How long does it take to book an order at month end?
  • Does it appear anyone is trying to infiltrate our systems?

Demonstrate What You Can Produce: Share your proof-of-concept results with your internal team. There’s no greater fun than giving your sales and marketing customers something they didn’t have before, something that helps them make better decisions more quickly. Note that there are some use cases you will never be able to share widely. For example, security use cases can only be shared with security personnel and auditors.

Delivering Value

Bringing Big Data programs into your company is worth the effort. These data can tell you things about your business and systems you can’t learn any other way. Chosen and managed carefully, these programs can improve customer service (internal and external) provide a qualitative view into the customer experience, offer clearer insight into the products and services, and even enable a company to better understand its own employees.

Doug Harr is a partner at StrataFusion. He has more than 25 years of technology leadership experience both as an executive-level technology practitioner and in senior leadership roles for professional services organizations. Contact him at dharr@stratafusion.com; follow Doug at twitter.com/douglasharr.

When Using the Numbers Makes for Good IT Decisions

By Reed Kingston

ROI blog image

In his recent blog post, Mark Tonnesen explained why he didn’t rely on traditional business case analyses, such as value case and return on investment (ROI) evaluations, to justify IT investments. I agree with Mark that these methods too often fail to support the right projects, and can fail to expose the wrong ones. I’ll put my MIT quant hat on here for a minute: if you are using tools that are prone to both false positives and false negatives, you should be looking for a new tool, or at least use the ones you have differently.

The problem is not that the financial analysis of an IT investment isn’t important—in fact, it is imperative, as it is for all investments. A good financial analysis casts light on some of the assumptions and trade-offs that are implicit in a large investment decision.

Problems arise when an investment comes off as lower profile, as happens often when reviewing IT investments. Decision making will always be biased against standalone technology investments as these are often poorly understood. How will “we’ll reduce network congestion and improve security by x%” fare in budget meetings against the sales and marketing team (“we’ll open up more markets!”), engineering (“we’ll design more products customers love!”) or operations (“we’ll lower costs with a new production process!”). That could be a pretty tough sell.

Getting to Good Decisions

Trying to justify IT investments without a business case driven by an internal customer organization can be an uphill battle. So how can CIOs and CTOs drive support for sound IT investments? Make sure important IT investments are tied to business cases that support increased revenue, reduced costs, increased customer loyalty and lower churn. Then provide financial analyses demonstrating how the proposed IT investment supports those business cases. This step defines the strategic value of the planned IT investment, making it a much easier decision for everyone to get behind.

Reed Kingston is a managing director at StrataFusion. Contact him at rkingston@stratafusion.com; follow Reed at twitter.com/reedkingston.

Why I Never Look at the Value Case or ROI

By Mark Tonnesen

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When evaluating potential IT initiatives, the most common approach is to focus on the numbers and look at the return on investment (ROI) or value case. For example, say your company is considering implementing a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. Chances are the CEO and CFO will ask, “What’s the ROI?” Or, “If the new system will cost $10 million, can you show me how it will produce a much greater gain?”

As far as I’m concerned, though, if you’re asking about the value case or ROI when evaluating IT initiatives, you may be asking the wrong question and looking at the wrong things.

What You Should Be Asking when Evaluating IT Initiatives

What gets lost in the value case or ROI approach to evaluating IT initiatives are the bigger questions that are more important than the finance-driven calculations:

  • What problem(s) are we trying to solve?
  • What is the value to the business of solving this problem?
  • What objective/end state can we achieve with this initiative that we don’t have today?
  • What’s the best way to achieve our business objectives?
  • How important is solving this problem or achieving this objective for the business’ ability to reach its goals?
  • How will this help us make better decisions and run our business more efficiently?

Not Everything Can Be Measured (Using the Same Yardstick)

A problem with the ROI or value case approach is that you might be trying to quantify the unquantifiable. For example, say you are considering implementing wireless internet service throughout your office for $XX per month. How do you calculate the ROI on this? You can take a best guess at how this might improve productivity and come up with a number. But that would just be a guess. And it would ignore other factors, such as the positive impact this might have on employee satisfaction or addition benefits such as mobile applications. Once new capabilities are in place and available to the full team, they may lead to unexpected innovations and enhancements that further improve productivity. It is difficult to predict the benefits new capabilities unleash.

The Numbers Can Tell You Anything You Want to Hear

Your team’s best guess regarding the ROI of a proposed IT initiative is just that: a guess. As an example, I once worked with a large high-tech company that was big on ROI. The team worked on a series of technical support initiatives to develop self-service tools for customers. To justify these projects the team put together graphs showing a reduction in customer support cases and calls, and an increase in customer satisfaction.

Knowing what the cost of a support call, the team developed analyses that showed that the cost of each initiative was lower than the cost savings it would deliver and the projects were approved. Unfortunately, the projected savings never materialized. The team neglected to include factors such as growth, customer adoption rates, issue severity addressed by the tools, continuous improvement costs and operational support costs for the tools. An analysis that included all the right factors—beyond just cost—would have helped the company make a better business decision.

Where to Focus: Business Impact

When evaluating IT initiatives, I recommend steering clear of the value case and ROI approach. Rather than pulling numbers out of the air to justify (or kill!) a program, take a hard look at the business impact that the initiative will have. Ensure you are solving the right problem and include measurement points along the way to check whether the expected goals are being achieved.

Mark Tonnesen is a partner at StrataFusion. Contact him at mtonnesen@stratafusion.com; follow Mark at twitter.com/mtonnese.

Conquering “Big Hairy Audacious Goals”

An IT Transformation Starter Guide

By Mark Egan

Big Hairy Audacious Goals

  • Complete a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” within 90 days
  • Clearly define the goal
  • Recruit your best staff to work on the project
  • Remove all barriers and set up the team to operate like a start-up

We all face “Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG)” in our careers. However, many of them turn out to be crises we have to address rather than proactive initiatives that make significant positive impact on the organization. At StrataFusion, we believe in order to transform your IT organization successfully you need to set some BHAGs. At a former employer, we had a goal to set up the first private cloud and were asked to use company products. This was a big test of using all of the company products together for the first time and provided a showcase of this technology for our customers.

Step 1: Define the Goal (and Secure Support)

First, we started by clearly defining the goal: in 90 days, set up an operational private cloud that supports a mission-critical business application. We selected a business intelligence (BI) system supporting our marketing organization due to its critical requirement to understand our customers’ buying behaviors and design marketing programs to gain their attention. We then set up a regular cadence of meetings with our R&D organization to ensure we were using the products as designed. With R&D’s buy-in, we got support when we ran into issues, as many of these products had never been used together before.

Step 2: Recruit your Best Staff

Next we formed a BHAG team with the very best staff within our organization, recruiting them to the project full-time. Initially there was a lot of push-back as we pulled these key staff members out of their existing roles and key projects. We engaged the team and gave them a free hand in bringing in any staff from other organizations inside/outside the company.

Step 3: Remove Barriers

Finally, we removed all barriers for the team and allowed them to operate like a “start-up,” eliminating internal process constraints. The BHAG team did not have to follow change control processes, and was allowed to use non-standard hardware/software and bring in third-parties as required. We provided strategic management support for the BHAG team and held weekly meetings to remove any obstacles from completing their project.

Success

The private cloud project was completed on time, and the mission-critical applications continued to support key functions in marketing. We had developed a showcase for our customers demonstrating how to set up a private cloud in 90 days.

StrataFusion has worked with clients to develop big goals and transform their IT organizations so they can focus on key areas such as revenue growth, customer satisfaction and innovation. With the right team and the right strategy, conquering a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” is achievable in 90 days.

Conquer your IT Transformation Project. Let StrataFusion show you how.

StrataFusion IT Transformation Practice