Organization Structure and Digital Business

In the equation of people, process, and technology, getting the “people” part right has been a tough challenge for many companies.  As technology evolves, the roles and talents needed to drive that technology and utilize it to help keep the business competitive requires constant evolution; getting the organization structure right in support of this evolving landscape has been an area we value advising in at StrataFusion.

In an earlier blog we looked at organization structure and critical success factors; now it would be useful to give further detailed thought to organization structure guidelines that are important to both traditional and digital business. Because digital business is different from your traditional data center kicking off this discussion would be some of the most important structural guidelines to consider in assessing your organization:

  • Align business facing technology functions to match the business organization, this expedites specification, understanding, and support of business requirements
  • Align technical development organizations along development lines and logical technical groupings to maximize development activity efficiency
  • Constantly reinforce the importance of key organizational and business dependencies. The goal is to create an environment where cooperation and team focused response become the normal team response
  • Create a system of organizational checks and balances. This allows your organization to be self governing, and can highlight important issues
  • Be consistent in your approach, limit exceptions
  • Separate your delivery function from your development function. A key check and balance that can avoid a lot of pain

Each of these guidelines could support a blog of their own, but the incorporation of these thoughts into decisions concerning how your team is organized and structured can create interactions and behaviors that can be important long term in a digital business environment.

Once you’ve assessed your answers to these questions we also believe that creating an organizational focus around rallying cries or mantra is extremely important. The idea of a mantra gives great organizational concentration, and provides a consistent focal point for how your team should be thinking.

Mantras can be a tool to guide proper organizational response

In creative organizational focus, here are some possible mantras:

  • User Ownership of Systems
  • Empowerment of the Community
  • Standards & Integration
  • Make Use of Forward Looking Development Technologies
  • Business Intelligence and Knowledge Management Systems
  • Right Tool/Right Place
  • Flexible Systems
  • Global/Shared/Local

Creating a mantra allows your team to default back to a common base – set of values, practices, and knowledge that will help them respond to questions or situations arising that are new or undefined – this is especially so in today’s digital era.  For instance, a mantra of “empowerment of the community” can help instill in your team the concept of insuring their actions result in recognition of the fact they serve a community or business and that it is in their self-interest to empower and equip that community to solve their own problems.  You can have the concept of “travel in packs” – if for those of your teams that exist in a highly competitive situation where stress is high and demands are intense and daily, a mantra of “travel in packs”  reminds them that they can count of your team for backup – you’re more than one person, they’re not alone, so that when if (for example) a website that is up 99.9999 of the time but crashes for a few minutes – upsetting c level executives – you have emotional, structural, and organizational back up.

In thinking about “Global/Shared/Local”, the mantra leads with the idea that things that data can have different types of ownership, some are universal and shared by all but require consistent management; while some can have more than one owner.

That a mantra can create organizational focus also works with another interesting potential which I call the ‘Manufacturing Metaphor’.  In the transformation to digital business this can remind you of how your digital delivery of an information product is not unlike some traditional manufacturing concepts, and incorporating some of those proven concepts into your business could be useful.

New digital business environments can be optimized by incorporating the similar concepts, processes, and flows as exists within manufacturing – digital business hold the same counterparts. For example, concepts of development engineering product engineering in manufacturing can be re-formed into as software development and operations delivery concepts in digital business; the shipping function in manufacturing is the data center in digital business. The terminology changes but the functions are similar, and taking a similar approach could favorably impact your “product delivery” process. Understanding these parallels again provides a framework within which it become easier to understand how to optimally structure your organization – with people being your most essential asset towards success.

In our third and final on blog on this topic we will be discussing the importance of infrastructure readiness on digital business delivery.

John Dick

 

Secure Innovation

I recently hosted a panel on the topic of Information Security and framed our discussion around the concept of Secure Innovation. Information Security is often viewed as a roadblock to innovation and an obstruction to moving quickly in a highly competitive environment. The panel focused on how to foster innovation and leverage security as a competitive advantage, and provided strategies that can be quickly implemented to achieve the overall goal of secure innovation.

Each panelist provided openings statements on their experience with innovation that required a high level of security and privacy, and led to pragmatic solutions to challenges in this area. One of our goals from the panel was that CIOs would have 2-3 things they could immediately implement when they got back to their desk.

We covered a number of compelling questions across People, Process, Technology, with some of the key remarks conveyed in the following:

CISO at an early stage security startup

What are your recommendations on sourcing, as you can’t do all of this in-house today?

You need to be creative in your staffing solutions; it is very hard to hire experienced staff. We recommend getting less experienced staff and training them. The Merritt College Cybersecurity program is a great source and example of this model.

What do you recommend on security reporting relationships (CIO, CEO, COO)?

I report to the CEO directly as it is essential to our company being a small, early stage startup.

CMO at an early stage security startup

Who are the bad guys and what do they want?

There are three main actors: One who wants to steal our money; the second, our IP; the third seeks notoriety (think Anonymous.)

CEO at early stage security company

How do organizations find and attract good security talent?

You bring in less experienced staff and train them.

Mark Egan

@markeegan

Owning All Clouds

cloud-computing-multiple-clouds

By Doug Harr

As part of my career as an IT executive for the last dozen plus years, I’ve led several companies through a process of migrating their business application portfolio to the cloud.  At Portal Software, that meant deploying SuccessFactors for HR performance reviews, and OpenAir for Professional Services Automation.  At Ingres that meant deploying Intacct for Financials, Salesforce for CRM, and lots of other cloud solutions. The approach for me reached its zenith at Splunk, where we had a 100% cloud business application portfolio, and where 50% of our compute and store capacity was at Amazon. With so much functionality in the cloud the question of roles and responsibilities became a focus for the company. In this very cloud-friendly shop, what should IT’s focus be? What level of administration of these solutions could actually be owned and delivered by departmental owners, such as Sales Operations, Customer Support Operations or HR administration?

As one example, both at VMware, where I was program manager for their Salesforce implementation, and at Splunk, where I was the CIO, we had very strong sales operations teams, and fairly complex Salesforce environments. In those environments Sales Op’s began to take ownership of more functionality in the Salesforce suite. This included user administration, assignment of roles to users, territories to reps, and just about all reporting. This grew to include modifying page layouts, and other configuration capabilities normally owned and controlled by IT. In my view the idea of enabling the Sales Op’s team was attractive for several reasons: (1) they wanted the power to do these things (2) they were not waiting for IT on the things they felt were high priority (3) they were closer to the sales teams who actually worked inside the tool, and so they were good at interpreting issues and acting – as good certainly as an IT Business Analyst, or even someone with fairly good technical skills. In these scenarios it freed IT to work on deeper technical issues, level 3 incidents, environment management, integration, reliability, etc.

In another example, at Splunk we made wide use of Amazon EC2 for compute and storage capacity. In these cases, IT System Admins were not needed – environments were spun up and used directly by personnel in Engineering and Customer Support. This was an amazing success, and it freed IT to work on monitoring usage, working deals on cost, and managing the overall vendor relationship.

Not every department has a team or individual ready to own or take a major role in the management of a SaaS or IaaS platform. For every HR department that manages Workday, there’s a finance department that does not manage Netsuite. It depends on the tool, and the personnel. What I’ve found is it can also depend on the CFO and management of a business function – some execs are happy to have these resources placed in the business, some are more afraid of  “shadow IT spend” or they’re caught up suggesting that IT can’t deliver and granting this power is a cop-out. Actually, I had a moment like this at Splunk, where I had not adequately updated two peer execs on our intent to get more deep IT skills hired into Sales Op’s, and had to sort that one out, to make sure everyone understood this was not a shadow operation! So there can be bumps in the road, but in my view adopting this approach is inevitable really, as software platforms and micro apps are becoming widespread, and so is the ability and desire by departmental teams to be more involved in the direction of how those tools, platforms, and apps are rolled out and used.

All this speaks to the future role of IT, and I for one have lived that future, as least in part. It’s one where IT is more strategic, focused on vendor/portfolio management, integration and security. To be sure some functions that are broadly used across all departments, and some that are task specific, still accrue to IT in most cases, or to partners that offer elements of typical IT as a service (think Help Desk). But done well, each department owns more of its technology, feels more in charge of its future, its technology adoption, its responsible use, along with other benefits. And, IT focuses less on being everything to everybody, maintaining disparate queues of backlogged work, and more focused on higher level matters, transforming the business for the digital age, and accompanying delivery of more complex technical solutions.

Right where we should want to be.

@douglasharr

Organization Structure to Support Digital Business – What to Consider

digital-business-image-1

By John Dick

Central to the changing landscape of IT and business is the proliferation of devices and Internet of Things; by 2020, more than seven billion people and businesses, and at least 30 billion devices, will be connected to the Internet. This interaction leads to the evolution of digital business, and with that evolution is the need for companies to think about how to organize their most important asset – people – in a way that best supports the delivery of their products and services in this new digital business structure.

We have been giving advice to companies on how to thoroughly think about the role of people and organization structure within this evolving and complex equation of people, process, and technology. I have captured some of our leading points around structural questions to consider and critical success factors related to the organization of a company’s technology engineering and delivery groups below. In turn, this blog will lead to a future post outlining digital business organization structure, and guidelines around your company’s infrastructure readiness.

First, there are some questions to consider in thinking about digital business, technical engineering and delivery organization structure.

The first deals with how your company is organized, because it is probably organized the way it is for a reason, such as to most optimally support effective product sales and delivery.  Also, that structure is the eco-system in which you will need to co-exist.

Important Company Structural Questions and Considerations

  • What is your company’s approach to centralization vs. decentralization of responsibilities and structure?
  • Does your company impose structure through traditional functions, product, process functions, or technical expertise?
  • How does your company think about direct line vs. dotted line reporting and to whom?
  • Do you fit the technology organization to the business requirements or to the people?
  • How do you handle regional | international units?

Understanding the relationship of your organization within its larger context is critical to how you organize your group. For example, if your company is decentralized, it will probably be important to understand why your organization is also decentralized. What are the key reasons your business is decentralized? How will you provide digital support to the decentralized units in a meaningful, personal manner? How will you understand unique customer regional requirements? What if it has aspects of both? A carefully crafted hybrid solution may then become necessary.

From here, we offer key initial points to consider toward optimizing your organization structure for success.

Once you’ve thought through and understand how your company is organized for success around its products and services, you’ll want to transition to what are the critical success factors for your technology associated group. That, once aligned with the rest of the company structure, will assist in developing success criteria.

Critical Success Factors

  • Aligning organization with business strategy and function
  • Allowing organization to keep pace with company growth and changing business dynamics
  • Providing effective decision support and related performance | scorecard tracking
  • Integrate organization approaches within company culture

While the first three points are a common theme and well accepted, I believe the last point is often overlooked. All companies have some aspect of company culture in their environments. If your organization is not organized or motivated within that context, success could be difficult. A good way to support this is to subtly develop success criteria that is natural to your environment.

With new roles other supporting or catalyst roles will emerge, and CXOs will need to develop digital leadership capabilities in order to execute an effective digital strategy.

In the next post I will delve further into what this means and how to think about your company’s infrastructure readiness to complete the picture.

ERP – To the Cloud

Enterprise Resource Planning System CRM in word tag cloud

By Ken Crafford

Part I

ERPs are strategically important as a “must-have” capability for most companies. They are a major investments, and a large component of total IT spend. CIOs know that getting the ERP aligned with business drivers, while remaining efficient and cost effective, is imperative to a company’s long term strategy and financial success. And they understand the importance of being nimble and keeping up with the constantly evolving needs of their business customers.

Historically, ERPs have been large and complex and expensive to implement and maintain – think Oracle and SAP legacy ERP systems. While they may be hosted or running in the cloud, you still have to maintain and upgrade them, and with that comes significant risk and cost. Keeping ERP’s current and adapting to new business requirements also consumes significant portions of IT spend.  And, if your business is changing quickly, it is very difficult to be keep up with those changes when you are running these very sophisticated, and accordingly, very complex software products.

This leads to the question of what are the alternatives?  Many of our clients are looking to the cloud for solutions that can meet their requirements for functionality, cost, and flexibility.

Solutions are indeed emerging, but with some caveats.  As we have seen in other areas – CRM being a primary one – there are great platforms for delivering top tier solutions.

However, before ERP in the cloud would be ready for prime time, both the applications and underlying platform technology must be rock solid.

The platform architecture and capabilities are critical to how the product will scale to meet your demand, how the vendor can add functions and features over time, how you can add enhancements that don’t break when the vendor updates the core product, and the extent of the ecosystem of supporting solutions that run on the same platform.

And so the crux is not just whether cloud ERP products have the functions and features that you need – you must also look at the underlying technology platform and the ecosystem of products and services that are part of the complete solution.

Fortunately, the market is evolving very quickly and we are seeing some solid cloud ERP products emerging that are based on great technology platforms, and provide a solid foundation for a product that you will probably be using for the next 10 years.

In future posts I will be calling up some examples of these solutions and how they can be leveraged.

Stay tuned.

 

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.