IT Strategy Made Easy: a framework is urgently needed!!

Book-Settings-256

What are the key challenges that nowadays every CIO or IT leadership team face for succeeding in their own organization into their organization in order to bring value and effectively support the corporate strategy and needs?

Challenge #1: Business Strategy is fast changing and IT must understand what the Business Strategy is and how to support it in timely fashion.

A number of key business drivers have shifted the emphasis in business terms and therefore in the way that IT must respond, such as:

  • mergers and acquisitions which require a growing challenge of integrating disparate businesses
  • e-business which has introduce new ways of working
  • outsourcing and the new complexities and issues that this brings forward
  • users that are becoming increasingly informed, demanding and selective
  • parties involved which have been extended from internal users to external partners and suppliers
  • deregulation of the new economies

However, even if business is the key driver for IT; it is astonishing to notice how many IT department employees do not know what their company business strategy is, beyond few high level statements. They have no idea of context they move in and no sense of how the strategy has been shaped by the competitive landscape.

This is very similar to what Richard Feynman faces when took over leadership of a team of mathematicians working on critical research for “the bomb”. He founds that the team, due strict to confidentiality policies, had no knowledge of what it was working on as a whole; each member of the team was given a problem, and each took some three months to solve it. Feynman insisted he get permission to tell his team what it was working on and after the team members were aware of this, their productivity increased to three problems a month!

Knowing the context provides motivation as well as a mechanism to make more informed choices. This business context and directions must be understood quickly, indeed the great challenge for IT managers today is to move around in the globalized world of the economy in which the rules and dynamics are in perpetual and quick evolution.

Challenge #2: Information technology is becoming more and more a source of competitive advantage and an enabler for innovation and new business models.

As Nicholas Carr states in his famous article “IT Doesn’t Matter”, what makes a resource truly strategic (meaning to be the basis for a sustained competitive advantage) is not ubiquity but scarcity; you only gain an edge over rivals by doing something that they can’t do. The core functions of IT (data storage, data processing, and data transport) have become available and affordable to all; they have begun to transform them from potentially strategic resources into commodities; they are becoming costs of doing business that must be paid by all but provide distinction to none. This means that while the world becomes more digitally transformed and connected, companies need to reduce the percentage of budget spent on keeping the lights-on and shift spending to the top business priorities; it’s no longer sufficient to simply keep the company up and running.

In order to remain relevant in this new environment, organizations must be able to implement the latest technologies quickly, and ensure that what they implement is engineered to work with the entire technology stack.

Consequently IT Departments need to evolve from an organization structure which supports the business units in automating their processes and channels into an innovation task force which can propose systems and technologies which should enable new business models or products/services. Although CIOs were traditionally hired to focus on operations and cost reduction, the need for an organization to drive innovation has created a critical new role for CIOs which is more focused on innovation and growth. CIOs are uniquely positioned to develop and drive innovation, influence cultural change, and deliver the innovation strategy.

In a nutshell the role of the CIO must evolve from being the Chief Information Officer to being the Chief Innovation Officer. In doing this IT Strategy play a key role in properly planning the systems evolution in order to keep into consideration emerging trends and technologies and also manage strategic principles (like flexibility, manageability….) which ensure for unplanned model to be accommodated in the future.

Reducing IT complexity to free-up time and budget for proposing innovation is only part of the solution; indeed many IT organizations have been culturally attuned to resist to new ideas rather than to embrace innovation. True innovation requires the opposite mind-set and a cultural step-change which is able to shape a new organizational and operation model.

Challenge #3: Compared to other company organization departments, IT department has more challenges because it have to interface with each of those different business functions providing solution which harmonize different, and sometimes competing objectives and needs

Let us consider a business comprising of a number of distinct organization units: Product Development, Manufacturing & Logistics, Sales & Marketing, Customer Services, Finance, Human Resources, and Information Technology. Of these, the first four have business-specific goals as their objectives and so different needs which usually require different or contradicting solutions. The remaining three departments offer services to the business as a whole, however although every other function is dependent on them, the Finance and HR services are consistent across the organization and they can therefore organize themselves to best suit delivery of that services.

IT department faces the most difficult challenge because it have to manage heterogeneous needs and expectations, but also harmonize them in a common and effective picture (which is the IT architecture) guaranteeing synergies, reuse and cost optimization while satisfying different business unit objectives. While it might be relatively straightforward to articulate elements of vision in each of these business units the issue of cross-alignment complicates the picture for IT. In fact each of these departments not only works in their own particular way (process and governance) but also has some systems requirements which should uniquely organized to best meet their local challenges.

Challenge #4: As the internal and external business environment evolves a certain amount of shift is experienced in the system landscape that must be managed by IT department in order to avoid building an unmanageable architecture and wasting of resources.

Obviously continuous and fast pacing support to business evolution, research for innovation and business units contradictions and competition imply building an IT architecture where the intentional or unintentional duplication of functions and information across multiple systems occurs. Apart functional overlapping and waste of resources this situation can lead also to a lack of information timeliness, data inconsistencies, and possible data corruptions.

There are a number of reasons why this shift can occur:

  • legacy applications are replaced by package solutions whose function overlaps existing systems
  • niches of the whole organization (for instance international offices) may have alternate methods of operation (due to internal or external political forces or judicial or geographic reasons)
  • determining and strictly apply how function and information should be split between systems can be difficult in the real world
  • the greater the degree of technological difference the more likely that duplication will occur

The shift not only reflects in the technical architecture landscape but also in the correct usage of IT resources to follow these changes. As multiple IT projects compete for limited resources, whether financial, human, or physical, a lack of visibility into the status of both projects and resources can result in delays and poor overall utilization. This situation is frequently exacerbated when resource conflicts involve multiple departments, or when there are cross-project dependencies in complex business programs.

Challenge #5: The role of IT Organization is changing from being a Provider of ICT solutions to be a Broker and Orchestrator between the customer and Cloud services.

On top of the previous “traditional” challenge, an additional one is emerging in the latest years which is changing the way how IT departments works and this reflect not only on IT architecture but also on the delivery paradigms and operating model. Outsourcing, SOA and Cloud Computing together are enabling the proliferation of services which can be produced and consumed everywhere. Successfully using such services created by others and ensuring that they work in real life (meaning that they work not only separately, but also integrated together) are complicated tasks which require IT departments to manage data integration issues, integrity problems and the need for strong relationship management external parties. Service Oriented Architecture has modified IT architecture and governance approaches and now Cloud Computing is changing consolidated patterns of sourcing and in general the role of IT in the organization. This trend will continue also in the future when IT organizations will transform their role from being a “Service Provider” to be a “Broker and Orchestrator” between the service consumers (internal end-users or customers) and service providers (outsourcers, cloud-based vendors,….), adding value to services and delivering new services built and delivered on top of other ones.

Even if the previous list of IT challenges is not exhaustive; they highlight some basic points that has driven me in structuring a consistent methodology with the aim of transforming the perception of IT strategy from a luxury (or worst a waste of time and resources) to a common practice useful to face these challenges either in big but even in small and medium enterprises.

Indeed today defining an IT strategy seems to be a complicated and unrepeatable effort, leaving the final result of this “strategic thinking” to the expertise of the professionals without a straightforward and structured approach, tools and techniques that can be easily and recurrently applied to the changing context.

On the other side many frameworks, approaches and models have been proposed so far by many companies, organizations and associations, in many cases they resemble each other and in many cases they are too generic, they do not provide enough operational details on how to proceed and they lack tangible tools and techniques.

For this purpose we need to address some key principles:

  • to make IT strategy concrete, taking the best from existing frameworks (like TOGAF, Zachman,..) and translate them in terms of actionable tools, techniques, templates approach and methodologies
  • to make IT strategy agile, in order to consider this as a really useful effort for iterative planning and fine tuning, avoiding wasting of plenty of initial assessment and analysis without any later follow-up
  • to make IT strategy comprehensive defining an overall framework which include not just only IT architecture but also IT spending and sourcing as an integral part of plans and investment that a CIO has to look at, in particular in these days were external providers (such outsourcers and cloud service providers) are becoming more and more important
  • to make IT strategy affordable also for small and midsize IT organizations, providing a lightweight and incremental framework and approach
  • to transform IT strategy as an engine of proactive proposal of innovation from IT department to the business departments

In a nutshell we want to make IT Strategy an easy practice.

This methodology is composed by four main components:

  • a Framework which define how the different concepts correlate each other
  • a Data Model which identify key information to collect and their relationships
  • an Approach which will guide through all steps and tips required to perform analysis and support decisions
  • an optional Companion Software Tool (that you can download from our website https://frankitecture.wordpress.com) that factorize all this best practices and can be used as a supportive tool for building your own IT strategy

Using these four components you will be able to autonomously develop an executable IT strategy which allows to articulate business strategy defining context specific and measurable objectives, define a clear target IT architecture and IT Operating model, plan actions and initiatives with clear due dates and adjust them continuously to environmental changes.

Read more on this topic from my eBook…or stay tuned for new posts.

Advertisements
Posted in IT Strategy | Leave a comment

TUTORIAL: How to use the other tools in MappIT

There are some other tools available in MappIT.

The first tool is the “Export Dataset” on the “Tools” tab:


In this case MappIT will ask for the specific Data Set you want to export and then generate a grid view containing the extracted data.


You can the copy and paste this data in Excel

The second tool is the “Display Model” on the “Tools” tab:


This will generate a report of all entities contained in your MappIT model.


From here you can then export it in PDF format.

The third tool is the “Delete Data Set” on the “Tools” tab:


From here you can select which Data Set you want to delete and then MappIT will clean up all the data contained in this dataset.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

TUTORIAL: How to export a skill map survey template and import skill survey results in MappIT

In this section I would like to explain how to effectively run a skill survey in order to quickly collect skill level of all people in your IT organization. This information are quite interesting for many purposes:

  • You can perform a skill assessment and analyse your current skill health
  • You can later perform a skill gap analysis (meaning that you can verify what is the skill discrepancies between your IT Organization current skill sets and the required one in order to run the proper Operating Model

     

  1. First of all you have to check the default MappIT definition of skill map (the list of skill categories and items) and in case adapt to you specific needs and context. For doing this you have to select the Skill item under the Governance section of the menu tree:

  1. A grid view Tab named “Skills” will appear, from here you can add or delete skill from the skill map or update some existing skill.

     

 

  1. For each skill you can define different attributes:
    1. Name
    2. Description
    3. Type of skill (the category to which the skill belong, for grouping reasons)
    4. Relative weight (it is used to weight in different way the skills when you evaluate the skill gap index during gap analysis)
    5. Notes

    You can also specialized some generic skills (like for example Functional Analysis) for specific Business Process Areas of for Specific Application Domains

  2. When you have finished you can start the Skill survey. The first step is to export a skill survey template. Got to Tools and clock on “Export Template”

  1. Then you have to select a folder where the Excel template will be created:

  1. Clicking OK on the form MappIT will generate a single XLS template file; you can customize this template based on your needs (for example changing colors, formatting the header, locking some cells…). When your template has been revised and you are ready to continue you can click ” ” on the following Msgbox.

     

 

  1. At this point, based on your template MappIT will generate in your folder a set of Excel file containing the skill map for each member of you organization.

     

 

NOTE: The name of the file contains the ID and the Name/Surname of your employee. The name of the file, the name of the contained sheet and the columns/row structure and names of the sheet should be kept unchanged otherwise during next Skill import MappIT will not be able to import the skill map.

 

 

  1. Now you can distribute the excel template to each person and ask for a self assessment. For this purpose each person must score their skill using the columns “Person_Score”.

 

  1. When all self assessment (or some of them, it is not required to do all at the same time) are completed you can start the import, going to the “Import Results” of the “Tools” tab:

     

 

  1. Then you have to select the folder where your excel results are stored:

 

  1. Clicking “OK” the import will be performed and the skill will be updated accordingly.

     

  2. Now you can go to see the skills set of your IT Organization selecting the “IT Organization” area in the Home:

     

 

  1. From here you can see the association of skills to the different persones and their related score clickin on the “Skills to Persons coverage map” tab:

     

 

  1. A matrix will be displayed containing the persons score for each skill of the different persons in your organization:

 

You can perform again the Import operation when new excel file will be ready.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

TUTORIAL: How to analyze MappIT information using EXTERNAL tools

Now that the data are available in MappIT you can start analyze it. The first way, and the very simple one is to use the internal tool offered by MappIT, the second way is to link the Bigtables from more powerful tools like Microsoft PowerPivot or TableaSoftware Public. Let’s see now the second approach, the other one has been described in a past tutorial.

  1. First of all go you have to download TableaSoftware and install it. There is a version named Public that you can use for free (http://www.tableausoftware.com/public/download)
  2. Now launch Tableau, you will see the homepage of the reporting software
  3. Click the Button “Open Data”

  4. Now you should select the type of data source, obviously you have to select MS Access

 

  1. Now select the MappIT Mde file (pay attention, you DO NOT have to select the backend MDB database file but the MDE frontend one).

  2. The Tableua allow you to select which table you want to analyze. You can decide to analyze a single table or multiple tables joining them. For our purpose we will select a single table. The only thing to be aware of is to select one table starting with prefix “BT_”. This are the Big Tables (basically views on many tables) in MappIT which contain a lot of information aggregated from different source tables. In this example we will select BT_Module table.

  3. Click “Ok” and that’s all. Now you can start analyze very deeply the data. On the left side of the screen you can see all your dimensions and measures coming from the data you have just inserted in MappIT.

  4. You can drag and drop them into the sheet and see the result. Now it is only a matter of knowing how to do it with TableaSoftware (I suggest to download the PDF manual or to see some online trainin material from this link: http://www.tableausoftware.com/public/training).
  5. You can obtain with a little effort results like these on your IT Modules:

  6. Or like this on your IT Infrastructure:

  7. Or like this on your IT Skills:

  8. Or like this on your IT Organization:

  9. Or like this on your Business Objectives:

  10. Or many others using the other big tables.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

TUTORIAL: How to analyze MappIT information using INTERNAL tools

Now that the data are available in MappIT you can start analyze it. The first way, and the very simple one is to use the internal tool offered by MappIT, the second way is to link the Bigtables from more powerful tools like Microsoft PowerPivot or TableaSoftware Public. Let’s start with the first approach, the other one will be described in a future tutorial.

  1. First of all go to the Analyze section clicking on the “Analyze” Tab.

  2. From here you can see all major entity and relationships that are defined in the MappIT model. If you want to analyze on of them just click on the related “Analyze” button near to them. In this case another tab will open containing the Pivot form related to this item (in the picture we click on the “IT Module”-related “Analyze” button.

  3. From this form you can build your graph, dropping dimensions and measures in the pivot chart areas (the one named as “Axis Title”, “Categories”, …).
  4. In order to display the fields you can use to toolbar available on the top of the form. From this toolbar you can do many task like:
  • Changing the type of graph
  • Display the field list
  • Filter the data
  • Display the legend
  • Order the data
  • ….

The final result could be something similar to this:

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

TUTORIAL: How to import and export data from/to Excel in MappIT

You can easily move data back and forth from MappIT to Excel, this can be useful to export data in excel, manipulate and the import again in MappIT.

 

For doing this you must follow some simple steps.

  1. Goto Mappit and display the data in grid format. This can be done selecting a table from the tree view

Or clicking the button “Show Data in Grid” in one of the master forms

  1. The data are then displayed in a new Tab. From this tab you can select all the row (selecting the upper-left rectangle) or some of them. Then using CtrlC (Copy) you Copy the data.

 

  1. Then goto Excel and using CtrlV (Paste) you can paste data.

    

  1. Now you can add new rows or modifying the existing ones. When you are ready, you can Copy all your columns, except the first one (ID). Remember also to NOT copy the header rows.
  2. Then go back to MappIT, delete all previous rows (using Canc) and then select all the columns except the first one (ID). In case of Past error, close excel saving the clipboard before exit; t hen past on MappIT again.
  3. You can also paste a single or a set of selected tables; in this case select column values (without header) in excel:

  4. Then select the whole column in MappIT and paste.

Now all the data are there. Please note that in case of lookup field the data that you manipulate are the text values and not the related ID, this means that if one field describe, for example, the Type of Requirement with a list of Values (“Functional”, “Non Functional”) in the excel you should put one of the two strings “Functional” or “Non Functional”. If you make some errors in this lookup values during the import in MappIT this rows will be discarded.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

TUTORIAL: How to use the Process Map visualization tools in MappIT

This tutorial will explain very quickly how to use the visualization tools in MappIT.

  1. You need to select the “Tool” tab in MappIT

  1. From this screen you can select a wide set of tools. Now we will concentrate on the fourth tool named Process Map. This is a tool which organize the business processes in a set of Cards (one card will be a slide). In each card the attribute of a processes and the activities composing the process will be arranged in a graphical layout based on a template that should be prepared in power point before start generating the Process Map. The output is a set of slides in PowerPoint one for each process which looks like the following:

  2. Before starting we need to create a layout template in PowerPoint. For doing this open Microsoft PowerPoint and create a presentation made by 1 slide; then add shape, table and textbox as you want.

       

  3. Now you need to link some (is not required to link all of them) of this items to the Process and Activity attributes that you need to display. In order to do this you need to add text in the shape that you want to link using the following naming convention:
    1. Header_[Process attribute name]
    2. Detail_[Activity attribute name]

     

  4. Finally arrange the graphical style and layout of the template and save it.

     

  5. To start generating the Processes click on the button “Generate Process Map” and then select the PPT template that you have just created:

     

         
     

  6. Now if you click Next the PPT will be generated (the output will be generated in the same folder of the template with the same name followed by a “_Filled” suffix). This is the final result could be for example a Process Map like this:

  7. You can now open the PPT file and change the cards as you want for your presentation purposes.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment