simple processes

Simplify. But Never Oversimplify.

It Is All About Culture Change

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Social media adoption in the workplace is harder than your traditional ERP implementation, here is why

Just about everyone is very familiar with social media nowadays. People using it are increasing by the millions. It was the same with books and television decades ago. Today, in a very short time, social media has become an intrinsic part of our daily life.

With that thought, will adopting social tools (that we are familiar with) in the workplace— be easier considering the people’s familiarity with social media?

The answer is no. Enterprise application of social media has been a serious challenge for those who have tried. Many companies have tried and failed. It is nothing like implementing (for example) an ERP system where you define the roles, processes, guidelines and then ask employees to follow. In this ERP system scenario, your focus is actions, compliance and results. If you have strong executive support, you will make it happen.

Adoption of social tools in the workplace setting requires more than compliance and a management mandate. It is about culture transformation from within and for everyone– nothing less. For example, today if an employee has an idea, he goes to his boss to discuss an idea or goes to the board to present it as a proposal, or send an idea narrative by email. Now, consider the alternative of posting ideas as wiki and letting everyone else read, comment and even change them.

The point is, social media adoption or enterprise 2.0 implementation is not easy because it is about changing how people interact, collaborate and work. It is about changing the organizational culture. It is nothing that can be mandated (otherwise, all you get is shallow compliance). For you to have a meaningful transformation that is sustainable you have to work at the level of people’s experiences to influence their beliefs and behaviors. Only then can you have them change how they act and work. Experiences foster beliefs, and if you have enough of those to change the mindset of your employees you will slowly see adoption happen.

My advice is grassroots adoption through structured learning experiences. The communication and implementation of the grassroots approach must be focused on the benefits to the users first and then promotion of the value creation for the company next. It is easier to convince employees to change the way they work if they understand that this will make their job easier.  This approach is important. It will fuel slow but self-reinforcing transformation.

Photo courtesy of Ponsuwan

Work-life Lessons 6: Paralysis of Analysis

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in collaboration with Ira Fialkow and Ivy Remoreras

It is better to do something and learn from mistakes than live the inertia of paralysis of analysis. – Ira Fialkow

It is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking you need to do a series of extensive analyses before making a decision. You forget to directionally see the action that you want to take because you are too focused on the analysis. Others are just afraid of making mistakes and face the embarrassment that may come with it. Some simply over-analyze because they aspire things to be perfect and expect to do everything right.

Let’s start this lesson with a very simple premise— Mistakes are not only the result of simply not thinking before doing or doing things by impulse, but are also often the byproduct of serious analytic thinking about the right course of action.  Yes, logically you would reduce the likelihood of mistakes or failure if you subject your idea to a series of analyses. That is perfectly fine and most of the time—if you want to make not only the right decision but also better decisions, you have to use analytics; it is what is expected and proper in the business environment to mitigate risk. However, you have to also caution yourself from going into “paralysis of analysis.” You could end up doing nothing. We live in a fast-paced and ultra competitive world. Sometimes, when you are a step slower in making things happen, opportunity passes you by. Over-analysis is a common cause that slows people down when it comes to making things happen or taking actions. In some extreme cases, it confines them to a cycle of continuous analysis and internal debates about the assumptions used in the analysis. This results in the actual output of the analysis being the focus rather than the action to be taken certainly, doing the right amount of analysis is important, but balancing it with action guarantees results.

Enjoy the Fun of Failure

Most people have used those little self-stick notepapers more commonly known as Post-it notes. But few know that this very successful 3M product was not a planned innovation. It did not come from a group who researched, got the idea, and followed an organized process of product development. Spencer Silver from 3M was trying to develop a strong adhesive in the 3M research laboratories in the 1970s. Silver successfully developed a new adhesive but it was weaker than what 3M already had in the market. The adhesive was weak; it stuck to objects, but could easily be lifted off. From the point of view of product development given the original specifications, the exercise was a failure; but Silver did not discard it. Four years later, Arthur Fry (another 3M employee) was using paper as a bookmarker, but it kept falling out. Fry remembered Silver’s adhesive and he used it to coat the markers. With the weak adhesive, the markers stayed in place, yet lifted off without damaging the pages. Today, these sticky notes are one of the most popular office products available.

The Post-it case exemplifies a culture in 3M that encourages employees to create new products and take action without fear of failure. Spencer Silver failed to develop the product he originally intended. This failure or unexpected outcome created a better opportunity for the right kind of invention that happened years later. You want people to be willing to take action. It’s better to “do something” and learn from mistakes than live in the inertia of paralysis of analysis. “Doing something” means start making something happen. “Just Do It”, as the famous Nike brand tagline advocates. Failure doesn’t always lead to success, like in the case of the invention of Post-it — but you can’t succeed if you are not willing to fail.

Increasing Innovation Speed

Speed is an attribute that companies need in today’s competitive business environment. A company’s ability to innovate is a direct driver of its capability to increase revenue and economic value. Leaders can increase innovation speed by changing the culture associated with making mistakes. Companies have to create an organizational culture whereby mistakes are seen as an inevitable part of innovation and learning. Increasing innovation speed means faster product development — to be in the marketplace first with the goods and services customers want as well as to constantly innovate with new services and features that give the customers what they desire. Another kind of speed is the speed of processing everything through the organization. This means having end-to-end processes superior than those of competitors that translate to excellent customer services. Google exemplifies this today by allowing employees to spend up to 20% of their work time in personal projects related to the company’s business. Several of Google’s successful services were created by employees in their personal project work time—Gmail and Adsense for example. If you are going to innovate, you have to be willing to listen, make mistakes, and try new things. Innovation speed is the kind of speed that can only be achieved by making things happen with a bias to action, not by being afraid of failure.

Work-life Lesson 6 Takeaways:

  • Mistakes are not only the result of simply not thinking before doing, but are also often the byproduct of serious analytic thinking about the right course of action.
  • Failure doesn’t always lead to success, such as the invention of Post-it — but you can’t succeed if you are not willing to fail.
  • Companies have to create an organizational culture where making mistakes is seen as an inevitable part of innovation and learning.
  • Innovation speed is the kind of speed which can only be achieved by making things happen with a bias to action, not by being afraid of failure.

Link to Previous Lesson:  Understand the Skills and Abilities that Differentiate You From everyone Else. Whenever You Have an Opportunity, Use Them.

Photo by Maple

 

 

 

Internal Customer Concept for IT Organizations

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Silo Mentality

One of the most difficult problems organizations face today is silo mentality. This is when an organization’s culture dictates non-sharing of knowledge and information between departments or groups. Imaginary walls hinder departments from working together for a shared purpose. There is a certain level of distrust that exists between departments that hamper cooperation. Silo mentality reduces efficiency and can be a contributing factor to a failing corporate culture.

Internal Customer Service Breaks Silos

Silo mentality is a big NO for IT organizations. In fact, IT needs to be the exact opposite – ingrain a culture centered on the internal customer concept. What everyone in a company does can be reduced to one of two functions:  “to serve the customer or someone who does” (W. Edwards Deming). IT organizations in firms rarely serve external customers directly; it means that most IT people only work to serve internal customers. If IT is unwilling or unable to satisfy their internal customers, the organization has very little chance to achieve value creating activities. Take pride in helping your internal customers; enjoy your role in sharing information, enabling processes and providing services that help others get their jobs done.

Photo courtesy of Rawich

Leveraging the Cloud – What is driving businesses to the cloud | Part 2/3

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This is the second of a three-part post on how cloud computing can be leveraged by businesses. In the first post, we defined cloud computing and discussed the ongoing shift to the cloud by many sectors and industries, including the US Federal Government. I think cloud computing is in its early stages but there are strong signs that the tipping point might be just around the corner.

IT organizations are increasingly seen as service providers rather than developers of business solutions and keepers of infrastructure. The relationship between the CIO and business leaders is becoming more collaborative and there is more natural focus on improving the “business of IT”.  This relationship, coupled with capital-constrained times, is fueling changes to IT funding models. One of the reasons firms turn towards using cloud computing is that it gives them a simpler and more straightforward way of funding IT. If you have been involved in pushing for the IT projects budget or are familiar with how your company is controlling IT costs, you know what I am talking about.

Simple Pay-As-You-Go Approach

Is cloud computing cheaper than what traditional IT provides? Some would argue that over the long haul, software-as-a-service or platform-as-a-service will cost you more than running the applications in-house. I think it will be a long time before really reliable measures of the costs and benefits of cloud computing for corporations are available. What is driving business to the cloud is not about overall total cost comparison. Businesses want a cash flow friendly approach to IT funding. Cloud computing solutions offer that with its simple pay-as-you-go approach. You pay only for what you use; costs are directly proportional to your requirements. The ability to perform charge-backs to business owners based on their utilization of IT services is greatly simplified with the cloud model. This is difficult to imagine in enterprise software models where multimillion dollar, up-front capital expenditures for IT infrastructure is required.

Consumer IT and Business IT Convergence

Another major reason for the business move to the cloud has something to do with consumer IT. Information technology for the consumer world means eBay, Facebook, iPad, etc. IT was once the exclusive realm of the IT professional, but today, consumers have taken on many of the same roles. Vaughan Merlyn calls this “The Convergence of Consumer IT and Business IT” and he discussed this extensively in his blog. True, there is a big difference between consumers and IT organizations on the use of technology and the challenges that brings. However, technology today has brought IT literacy to many people and changed the way consumers communicate and work. Consumer familiarity with new technology that comes out everyday makes them more knowledgeable with technical tasks. This is the new reality for IT managers — having to pay attention to what users (IT consumers) want. This is where cloud computing becomes a tempting choice for IT. At this time of capital constraints, cloud computing provides an on-demand solution with more options and less implementation time. Perhaps, like me you are also wondering: when is the best time to venture to cloud computing and where do you start? I think the answer to the first question is NOW. As to the second question, let me quote Vaughan’s suggestion on this that came as a comment on my previous post:

“Don’t look to the cloud to do things you are already doing, but do them cheaper. Rather, look to do the things your business wants, but you haven’t had the time to do! That’s where the big wins are to be found!”

Has you IT organization or company ventured to using cloud computing for some of your IT and business needs? What has driven your business’ turn to the cloud? Share us your comments, questions and experiences here. 

Photo by Hinnamsaisuy

Leveraging the Cloud | Part 1/3

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“You know a major shift is coming when even software giant Microsoft is putting its old, reliable and profitable Microsoft Office in the cloud with the Microsoft Office 365.”

Let’s say you are in-charge of your IT business office. Your main responsibilities include making sure that all employees have the right hardware and software needed for their job. Before even talking about enterprise applications that enable business processes, you start with the basics— computers and office tools. You need to buy computers and software licenses to give employees the tools they need to do their job. Whenever your company brings new employees on board, you have to buy more software or make sure your existing software license agreements allow another user. Not only is it difficult to get the budget to pay for software but it is also difficult to administer, install and support it. If you have more than 5,000 users in your area of responsibility, imagine the amount of investment, money and time you need just to give employees their computers and basic software. What if someone told you that you could provide your users with the software they need without the usual hassle? What if someone told you that on top of having to do less work, you will require less capital expenditures from the business? If you figured out where I am heading, then you will understand why there is so much buzz about cloud computing. “It’s become the phrase du jour,” says Gartner senior analyst Ben Pring.

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud denotes the “Internet” and when combined with “computing”, the definition becomes even more complicated. There are a lot of definitions out there, but I like this one because it attempts to cover the 3 forms of cloud computing.

“Cloud computing is a general term for anything that involves delivering hosted services over the Internet. These services are broadly divided into three categories: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). The name cloud computing was inspired by the cloud symbol that’s often used to represent the Internet in flowcharts and diagrams.” [Definition from techtarget.com]

The areas where organizations are increasing focus on virtualization are in applications that include web, database, email, calendar and office tools. Critics of cloud computing are concerned about security, disaster recovery, and encryption. The loss of physical control of data and fear of hijacked accounts are giving IT executives some reasons not to move enterprise solutions to the cloud.

I think cloud computing is in its early stages but the tipping point might be just around the corner. There are obvious signs that the shift that is underway. Former United States CIO Vivek Kundra set a target of 25% of the federal government’s $80 billion dollar yearly budget to the cloud. This data is from the “2011 Federal Cloud Computing Strategy Report”. The cloud may represent a bigger transformation for IT organizations—even larger than “e-business” in the 90s and “social media” today. Is your business ready for this transformation?

The next questions are: What is driving the turn toward the cloud? What are the underlying business issues? Find out the answers on my next post.

Photo courtesy of Idea Go.

Does your IT Value Proposition Resonate?

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Satisfying internal customers means every employee must be constantly aware that customer service is everyone’s business in IT. That constant awareness generates genuine teamwork among all departments in the IT organization: Operations, Projects Department, Support Groups, IT Infrastructure, Business Applications, Process Management, etc. This challenge emphasizes the importance of internal customer service as an IT organizational accountability. Excellent customer service doesn’t just happen because IT teams and individuals want it to, it has to mandated by IT leaders into a service model that includes specific responsibilities to perform and a standard service level to achieve.  

Revisiting your IT value proposition periodically is an important exercise for IT managers. This will help you understand the tangible and intangible elements that define and differentiate your services portfolio. For internal customers, the IT Value Proposition is the collection of services they receive upon investing in IT capabilities and services. We have to understand that it includes more than just the core IT services (like equipments, applications, and infrastructure), and even more than just good quality— it also involves the softer elements that differentiate the total service offering such as: responsiveness, innovation, collaboration and commitment. 

These are two perspectives representing the two words of the terminology “Value Proposition” — “Value” and “Proposition” – broken down into: 

  • Value (Internal Customer’s Perspective) = The benefits received by the business upon investment on IT capabilities and services.  
  • Proposition (IT’s Perspective as Service Provider) = The total offering to the business in exchange for their investment.  

Defining your IT value proposition is the first step to clearly identify how your IT services portfolio are different and better than your competitors. If you run an IT organization that is purely composed of internal employees and do not think you don’t have competitors, you are wrong. There are many 3rd party IT services providers out there who can offer the same type of service that you have. Some, I could tell you, may even offer the same level of service at a better cost than you. Outsourcing companies that provide IT services have increased and matured over the years. Advancements in technology and development of new operating paradigms have made them more accessible and acceptable. They are your competitors and they are out to get your job. If you can’t define some unique feature or benefit that makes you stand out, your internal customers may default to the other option – lower cost. And believe me, you don’t want to be forced to play the low cost game — even when you win, you lose. 

Photo courtesy of Pakorn.

Follow Glenn Remoreras on Twitter.

Work-life Lesson 5: Understand the Skills and Abilities that Differentiate You From everyone Else. Whenever You Have an Opportunity, Use Them.

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by Glenn Remoreras, in collaboration with Ira Fialkow and Ivy Remoreras

It is common in business that companies conduct SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis to assess themselves in the current environment. However, it’s rarely that you see individuals regularly pursue similar SWOT analysis to assess their own skills, talents and opportunities. Uncertainties created by ever changing economic conditions and shifting technology  means companies must continually adjust to meet the needs of their markets and insure they have the skilled resources to innovate and deliver more value than their competitors or risk extinction..  It thus becomes imperative for you to know the skills and abilities that set you above the rest.  Not only does it help place you above your competition but it also enables you to know what other skill sets you can fall back on if and when necessary.

When creating your personal SWOT analysis, be sure to include all your skills and talents. This means even those that may not be directly related to your current job description. This lesson is actually the flip side of Lesson 3 – “Be your own toughest critic”.  You can’t forget the areas where you already excel.  You need to use those skills often, develop them and create an outlet for them.  At the same time, you need to be able to develop new skills.  This is especially true for dynamic fields that are impacted daily by changing technology.  The technology (and the skills related to it) available when you were in university could be years away from today’s technology.  If you didn’t keep abreast of current trends and skills, you would be obsolete.

It is especially critical for yourself and your organization to avoid a scarcity mentality, where you tend to protect the skills and talents you have in an effort to “stay employed”.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of rationalizing “I have been doing it this way for twenty years, we’ve been successful and it works; so why change?”  They will soon have a rude awakening when they find themselves and their skills obsolete, and possibly their entire organization.

A healthy innovative perspective is that of an abundance mentality, where the thinking is – “We need to share our skills; there’s more for everybody because when we collaborate we are creating something new and different, something better.”  Think of shareware and how people not only learn from one another but also build on each other’s work, knowledge, and experience.  The end product is as Ira used to say “ideas that build on each other” which is always better and more useful than the original product ever can be…and the collaboration brought a sense of ownership and pride to all involved. Which then leads to another benefit; the pride of ownership and the culture of caring that comes along with it. 

Take advantage of skills you are good at but not necessarily expected of you

For example, while you may think organizing community events has nothing to do with your job as an administrative assistant, you are wrong. Skills do not always have to be work-related. As long as your skills are beneficial to the company and to your group in some way, it becomes advantageous to you.  However, it is not enough that you know what you’re capable of. You need to let other people, most especially upper management, know about your other skills and how they can add value. What’s the best way to do this? Just like extracurricular activities in school were important, so it is at work.  If there are opportunities for you to use or exhibit your talents, then volunteer. For example, if you are naturally community minded, offer to be part of the committee for the company’s annual food bank drive for the local church or volunteer to organize a fun and healthy community benefiting activity like the March of Dimes Walk-a-thon.

Some people consider joining committees or groups outside of their job description as a waste of time.  Instead, think of it as an opportunity to showcase and develop your other skills.  This helps management get a broader sense of who you are and what you are capable of.  In addition, these committees or groups help you connect and work with other people in the company you would otherwise not be able to. This is especially true of large projects where you tend to get more exposure.

Part of accountability is continuous self-improvement.  Not only do you look at what you’re already good at but also what else you can develop. For example, if you have an affinity for languages, why not learn a new language (especially one relevant to your company).  I know of some friends whose careers opened up because they could speak a third (and even fourth) language. You should always seek to develop new skills. In this way, you and your skills will always be relevant and up-to-date.

As a manager, encourage your people to use and develop their skills

If you want your company to take advantage of your people’s talents and abilities, you need to develop a company culture allows people to leverage their skills and benefit the company.  This means getting to know the people you work with – beyond job descriptions.  It makes sense to find out what your employees enjoy doing in their spare time. Are they involved in community projects? What sort of activities or hobbies do they enjoy? You need to learn what people’s talents are and help develop them.  People need to feel comfortable in speaking up about their talents and creating opportunities to develop them.  If the boss is not open to seeing his subordinates beyond job descriptions, many talents and skills that could be beneficial to the company will go to waste.

Work-life Lesson 5 Takeaways: 

  • Do not forget things you’re already good at – use it, develop it and find an outlet for it. It is important not only to know your strengths but also to create opportunities to use and expose them.
  • Develop an abundance mentality versus scarcity mentality.  Skills can become obsolete so you need to learn how to adapt and develop new and more relevant skills.
  • Take advantage of the skills you are good at but not necessarily part of your current job description.
  • As a manager, you need to develop a holistic approach to a person. There needs to be a company culture where the people are encouraged to hone and develop their skills.

Link to Previous Lesson: Business Lesson 4: Learn how to give first-rate presentations so that the message you’re trying to deliver is the same one the audience receives


About the collaborators:

Ira Fialkow is the SVP of Member Services at Peeriosity. Peeriosity is a confidential network of leading companies from across the world committed to collaborating openly with each other in a completely secure environment with interactions free of consultants and vendors. Prior to Peeriosity, Ira was EVP of Shared Services at CEMEX and Rinker Group (acquired by CEMEX is 2007) from 1990 through joining Peeriosity in October 2010. Rinker Group was the initial recipient of the Best Mature Shared Services Award in 2003. Ira lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and has been the champion of his fantasy football league in three of the past five years.

Glenn Remoreras is an IT Manager at CEMEX. He brings over 12 years of experience as an IT director, business processes manager, project leader, and consultant. He has focused on enabling business solutions through the use of IT capabilities. Glenn has been involved with various international post merger integration projects.

Ivy Remoreras is a marketing professional with eight years of extensive experience, particularly in product management, communications and promotions as a manager, university instructor and consultant. She believes in constant learning and has a Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA). Having resided in Europe, Asia and North America, she speaks four languages.

Photos courtesy of Vlado and Master Isolated Images.

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