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Review of the Gartner Symposium European IT Expo 2013

Gartner 2013 SymposiumI attended the Gartner Symposium IT Expo 2013 in Barcelona last week along with 5000 others.
It was an intriguing event with lots of excellent speakers, sessions and content.

Some of the main themes being pushed out by Gartner were:

  • The Nexus of Forces: Social, Mobile, Cloud and Information – A nexus of converging forces is building upon and transforming user behaviour while creating new business opportunities
  • Master the six essential elements of a digital strategy – 60% of organisations report they have no effective digital strategy. As uncertainty recedes, the digital future emerges
  • The function of IT in business is changing and Gartner believes the best way to cope is to establish two-speed IT, where innovation can be separated from operational IT
  • Gartner describes three types of IT function: systems of record, systems of differentiation and systems of innovations
  • Innovation will require IT to become more agile and work differently, changing your primary suppliers and lots more partnering with smaller, leaner IT companies
  • The Internet of Everything – How the Internet of Things is reinventing industries and driving new usage and business models
  • CIO’s have to master power, manipulation and warfare – they must become comfortable with the idea of power, gathering it, and using it as an essential leadership tool
  • By 2017 smartphones will be smarter than people – not because of intrinsic value but because the cloud and the data stored in the cloud will provide them with the computational ability to make sense of the information they have so they appear smart

There were a couple of things, which caught my eye that I wanted to lift out:

IT Leadership Roles in 2020: The keynote at the Gartner Symposium IT Expo raised a number of interesting points but something that leapt out at me were the references to what IT leadership roles they see will be in play in 2020.
Interestingly and in a different twist to what others are saying, they see the CIO role continuing and the CDO role coming to an end having played its significant part.
They see the CDO role as a transformation and change agent who will lead the digital transformation and implementation of a digital leadership culture within the organisation between now and 2020 before bowing out gracefully with a job well done.
You can view a more in depth piece about this on my blog here.

Who Will Be Your Primary Suppliers in 2017? In confirmation of what I have noticed in recent months is a distinctive trend emerging whereby CIO’s are switching from larger, well-known suppliers to smaller vendors who are leaner and more agile.
This was backed up by the feedback in the sessions and the CIO’s who I spoke with at the Gartner Symposium IT Expo.
This is an interesting and positive trend as it allows the market to thrive with more up and coming vendors allowed to pitch for and win contracts by showing real innovation and enthusiasm to get the job done where they may have previously been frozen out at the RFP stages through staid supply chain processes.
To further highlight this shift, Gartner stated in their keynote session that their recent CIO survey showed that the majority of CIO’s would change their primary suppliers by 2017.
You can view a more in depth piece about this on my blog here.

The Gartner Symposium European IT Expo is a very worthwhile event for CIO’s and IT leaders to attend with excellent networking potential.
Couple this with a great location, excellent local restaurants and warm sun in November and you can see why it’s such a popular event.

This piece has also been posted on:
The Business Value Exchange in my position as CIO ‘Thought Leader’ and Featured Contributor

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Is outsourcing the question or the answer?

outsourcequesanswerOnce upon a time, the answer to the question of what are the main benefits of outsourcing was cost savings based on labour arbitrage, but today that response would be superficial and incomplete.

I believe the main benefits of outsourcing are access to scarce skills, expertise and the latest technology, cost reduction, turning capital expenditure into operating expenditure, and the opportunity to concentrate resources on core business objectives.
If you think about outsourcing in this manner, you will not only start to realise areas within your IT organisation that would benefit from adopting it but also ways as a strategic leader you can add further value to your entire organisation by doing so.

The first big error people make when considering outsourcing is looking to resolve a problem without first looking to do so in-house – a problem remains a problem no matter where it sits.
Sensible outsourcing providers will often sniff this out during the RFP or other stages of the bidding process but others may look to take it on, hoping they can fix the issue(s) as a calculated risk whilst trying to win the business (the fact a vendor accepts this huge risk should really start ringing alarm bells for you as you both know there’s an elephant in the room).
Those that don’t take the business (and hopefully this is the majority) will likely make you consider going back and fixing the problem before re-tendering. Those who take it on will only delay the inevitable, leaving you not only with a larger problem downstream but also with the added bonus of a whole heap of complex contractual issues to sort out (which I imagine you will now discover were also not properly agreed or worded up front).
Many take this approach and get their fingers burnt with outsourcing, vowing never to return.
It’s a real shame, as outsourcing done in the right way is an extremely beneficial way to add to the value you provide to your organisation.

The second biggest error people make when considering outsourcing is to engage with and select a vendor by having only had a few live sales meetings/conference calls with a cursory glance over provided case studies. Coupled without ever having visited their operating/service centres to see them in action in a live environment or meet their staff that will be working with your team in person.
You wouldn’t do this if you were hiring permanent staff or running the project in-house, so why do this when exploring outsourcing? It makes no sense.
This often occurs when a company decides to outsource a small project or a portion of it to see if outsourcing works for them in an operational sense.
The vendor is often chosen just on labour arbitrage and due to this the work is often performed in Asia or Eastern Europe.
The ‘project’ is often then left with the vendor with scant and seemingly erratic communication and only poured over in detail once the deliverable is returned with obvious errors.
The end result is the project often has to be redone in-house, blowing the project budget, causing delays and delivering red faces all round.
Outsourcing is again blamed as the enemy with the lack of communication and poor vendor selection/interaction issues being swept conveniently under the carpet.

So, in reflection it may be outsourcing is not for you but you owe it to yourself and your organisation to try everything that can add value to what you deliver.
Outsourcing executed properly can provide real value when opportunities are identified, structured, communicated and managed correctly, so what are you waiting for?

This piece has also been posted on:
The Intel IT Peer Network in my position as IT Industry ‘Thought Leader’ and Featured Blogger
The Business Value Exchange in my position as CIO ‘Thought Leader’ and Featured Contributor
Outsource Magazine in my position as IT Industry ‘Thought Leader’ and Featured Columnist

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Roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders

Key stakeholders for any project typically come from inside your organisation and are normally those who have endorsed or identified the need for project activity. However they could also be external clients or suppliers, as they might be directly stakeholdersaffected by the resulting changes of the project.

They need to be identified prior to the project proposal being discussed and be the driving force and sponsor for the project through all stages from development to training, implementation and support.

The key stakeholder is a pivotal role in the success of any project and they have a number of core responsibilities that they must adhere to.

Understanding the business drivers and ensuring that the project fits with the strategy for their area of the business: a fundamental responsibility – the stakeholder must be able to clearly explain the necessity for their project to be taken on before others and prove its strategic merit.

Providing detailed requirements and a financial plan: every project must have these and is doomed to fail if they’re not completed up front.

Committing the necessary resources: Its key to have individuals from the affected areas involved on any project. They can provide you with instant answers and feedback as to how things do or should work. They are the daily operational link to the eventual user base of the project deliverables and I cannot stress enough the importance and usefulness of having them involved. Agile PM methodologies allow you to have quicker bursts of development and a higher pace of deliverable but if you are using traditional project management techniques and don’t have target resources available, you could be wasting a whole heap of time and reputation if your deliverables don’t match what the client wants.

Taking ownership of appropriate deliverables: the stakeholder needs to take ownership of the appropriate deliverables and make sure that they work against a number of key elements such as mirroring the requirements, process compatibility, usability and performance. They must sign off and take ownership of each deliverable, thus allowing the project to proceed on the right track.

Keeping abreast of project progress and cascading information to others who need to know: the stakeholder must not skip project meetings and rely upon others to keep them up to speed. Similarly, they must also keep affected others or teams up to date with frequent progress reports. This is probably the most often reported symptom of failed projects where key stakeholders become disassociated with a project and it starts to drift, stray from the requirements and fall apart. Stakeholders must stay focused and attend all key project meetings.

Establish the training and support requirements: the stakeholder must identify any effected individuals of their projects and establish the necessary training and support requirements. This will be done in harness with the relevant departments but the stakeholder is responsible for it. A project should not end when the development is finished but when it is fully implemented with full training and relevant support models.

Identifying and resolving any project issues and risks, especially those associated with managing change during the transition phase: it’s up to the stakeholder to identify and acknowledge any potential risk and change associated with their project during the proposal stages. This will obviously be discussed with the project team, PMO or legal representatives prior to the project getting a green light.

Communicating throughout the life of the project: I cannot stress enough the need for strong communication. The least successful projects are the ones that are done in isolation, that people forget about until an email gets sent around heralding its imminent implementation. Requirements or processes sometimes change during project development and without having relevant resource or communication with the targeted business areas, a project will quickly lose resonance and relevance. Managing associated change during the transition phase must be done up front or during the life of the project and not when its ready to be implemented as those reticent to change can quickly sour any implementation.

Project closure: in accordance with good project governance, the stakeholder must perform an analysis of the projects delivery against plan, budget and strategic objectives and sign off and accept the project.

This piece has also been posted on my Outsource Magazine column here and on The Business Value Exchange in my position as CIO ‘Thought Leader’.

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Operating Multi-Cultural, Geographically Dispersed Teams

Long before the days of Skype, intranets, and email – teams generally needed to be in the same location in order to work effectively.globe
Those days are long gone and many of us now work regularly with colleagues based in different cities, countries, and continents with team members in different time zones, speaking different languages, and from different cultures.
Teams can now include many varieties or flavours of working practices. Some members may work in groups of three or more in the same office, while others may work individually in separate offices or at home. You may see some team members regularly, but you may rarely see others or even have not met at all.

Regardless of how people are organised, managing a team that’s geographically dispersed can present big challenges, even for the most experienced bosses. How do you ensure that everyone feels they’re being treated fairly, if you see some team members much more than others? How can you prevent remote team members from feeling isolated? And how do you get all members to buy into the team’s objectives and stay on track?

When selecting people to work in a geographically dispersed team, it throws up the need for individuals with strong qualities such as self-motivation and the ability to work independently rather than those that need constant encouragement. They will need to have exceptional communication skills and be comfortable communicating regularly via Skype or conference call. Finally, and as with almost every hire you make, they need to be results-driven and comfortable being assessed using KPIs.
Reward performance fairly, consistently and appropriately across the group, making sure workers in remote offices feel as valued and rewarded as those in the same location as you.

The key for me with leading a geographically dispersed team is that it’s essential for members to unite around a common purpose – everyone must agree to the team’s strategic objectives and goals.
Breaking down your strategy and showing where each individual and team contributes to delivering it is an excellent and powerful way to achieve this. This “roadmap” for your team ensures that everyone is focused on what the whole IT organisation needs to deliver and how they enact within it.
From breaking down your strategy to the team or individual level, you can clearly define everyone’s roles and responsibilities, identify key resources, and decide how the team operates. This can then be used to set the relative goals and objectives that each individual can be assessed by.

You MUST create and operate a strong communications strategy, especially if your team members are in different time zones and speak different languages.
It is easy to misunderstand a message or directive if you’re being communicated with in a language that is not your mother tongue, so it’s imperative that you follow up as often as you can across your team(s) and make sure everyone understands and is clear on what you’re trying to achieve. Good meeting practice with clear agendas and well-written minutes should help allay any miscommunication.

It’s easy when managing geographically dispersed teams to not realise the morale of individuals is being effected, as due to the lack of daily contact you won’t be able to see their body language or detect any slight deviations in attitude.
It’s easy for individuals to think that your behaviour or lack of contact is a direct slight on their performance or lack of meaning to the cause.
They know you’re busy but be careful when communicating via email that your emails aren’t too abrupt or short, especially as they may be well be picked up and read differently in a time zone where they can’t instantly communicate with you to discuss or clarify the underlying tone. Also, make a rule for yourself that you don’t miss more than one team conference or video call in a row.

Don’t lose sight of the need to be personable and approachable to anybody no matter of their location or position, as there is more to leading geographically dispersed teams than just sitting in on conference calls or throwing out the option to email you if there’s an issue.

Trust me, people will really appreciate you just picking up the phone or making regular visits and hosting a team meal or evening drink – it helps to break down barriers and shows people that they are part of the larger team despite the size or location of their team.

Finally, its important to promote team bonding and if you can (budget permitting) get the whole team together at least once a year even if only for a couple of days or at a key location per region depending on size.
Make these events informative and a forum for creativity and discussion but don’t forget to add in a bit of fun through some social activities.

As well as this, look at setting up some inexpensive webcams for team members to Skype each other and an Intranet team page or forum where individuals can input suggestions or throw ideas around.
Tools such as Yammer, Chatter and Messenger can also allow constant contact and are great as an instant communication channel as they allow you to do things such as see that somebody in a remote location is available and crossing over on your time zone be they working late or coming in early.

This piece has also been posted on my Outsource Magazine column at http://dlvr.it/3wPhcn and here on The Business Value Exchange in my position as CIO ‘Thought Leader’.

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Flexible IT Systems – Building Systems that can Overlap Across Functions

My latest ‘CIO Thought Leadership’ piece entitled, ‘Flexible IT Systems – Building Systems that can Overlap Across Functions.’FlexITSys
This piece is available in the IT-Enabled Business Innovation topic section on The Business Value Exchange.
Read it here and get involved by leaving a comment.

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Post Merger Integration – Do’s and Don’ts

My latest ‘CIO Thought Leadership’ piece entitled, ‘Post Merger Integration – Do’s and Don’ts.’PMI
This is the last piece in a series that I have written for the Mergers and Acquisition topic section on The Business Value Exchange.
Read it here and get involved by leaving a comment.

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Communication and its Importance in the M&A process

My latest ‘CIO Thought Leadership’ piece entitled, ‘Communication and its Importance in the M&A process.’Woman whispering and woman listening
This is my latest piece in a series that I am writing for the Mergers and Acquisition topic section on The Business Value Exchange.
Read it here and get involved by leaving a comment.

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Tips for Effective Due Diligence

My fourth ‘CIO Thought Leadership’ piece entitled, ‘Tips for Effective Due Diligence.’Contract-due-dilligence
This is the fourth piece in a series that I am writing for the Mergers and Acquisition topic section on The Business Value Exchange.
Read it here and get involved by leaving a comment.

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