Category: Communication

Are you asking the right question?

My boy asked me, who is the parent of the big bang? I replied to my son that, nobody knows.  After few hours, I realized, is it true that no body knows? or is it true that somebody knows, but we don’t know who that is?

After few more hours, I realized, I almost encountered this kind of question at work every day in last few months. I’m responsible to implement few enterprise projects at work and due to laser focus to implement those projects, for the first time,  I found no time to blog in last few months since I started blogging. For some of those  enterprise projects, I have been having status  call every day for last few months. In those calls, I had various stakeholders including my team, existing hosting provider, new hosting provider, technology provider, solution provider and etc. In those conference calls, we discussed about  few technical problems, issues, challenges and at few instance, we discussed few items which were show stopper to the project.

The same questions occurred to me in those calls, is it true that no body in the call does not know the solution? Or is it true that some body knows the solution but I don’t know who that is? When there were twenty technical experts on the conference call, and there was no solution for a technical problem then I started asking the following question:

  • Are we asking the right questions?
  • Do we have the right person?
  • Are we asking the right question to the right person?

I asked these questions to myself and changed the direction of conversation in the conference call and there was an instance where I was told that there was zero probability to solve a technical problem in next 10-15 business days which was a show stopper of the project but the problem was fully solved, validated and verified before end of the one hour conference call.

Bottom line is,  are we asking the right questions?

How to hire the best enterprise architect & IT strategiest?

The best managers always take their time to hire the best candidate for a job. There are opinions about the traits of good hiring manager. Finding a best fit allows to have a win-win scenario for both employees and employers. It is relatively straight forward to find a best fit for a technology role or in general, when the roles and responsibilities are clear and globally understood in the organization.

The role of an enterprise architect should be crystal clear to the enterprise architecture teams (if not, it is bigger problem and hiring the best enterprise architect is not relevant). In larger organizations, the over all understanding of an enterprise architect role is not clear. When I asked few managers, senior managers, directors, vice presidents in different areas(IT application, Business infrastructure, shared service area) about their understanding of enterprise architect role, most of them had different understanding and way off from the reality. That is one of the challenge for an enterprise architect to navigate the organization to ensure their value proposition and demonstrate it to the key stakeholders.

I look for these top 10 skills from an enterprise architect:

  1. Abstract thinking
  2. Leadership skills
  3. Executive level communication (ability to communicate to the senior executives effectively)
  4. Analytical (structure a given problem, garner factual data, perform quantitative analysis and present a solution for a given problem)
  5. Vertical thinking
  6. Diplomatic (humbly assertive)
  7. EA & Strategy concepts
  8. Turning vision/strategic objectives into working plans
  9. Attitude (team player, more I’s used the less qualified EA)
  10. Correlation skills (connecting the dots of multiple disjoint events)

To me, mastered EA frameworks, using the right buzz words (like SOA, BPM, web 2.0 etc), worked in big 4 in the enterprise architecture area does not necessarily qualify to become a successful EA in a team which believes EA has a ROI. I believe my vision of EA team will work on requests like provide various scenarios to reduce the over all IT G&A budget by 10% without affecting the quality, quantity of services and head count. EA will present the various existing scenarios (scenario planning) in the organization to achieve this goal withing the given parameters and over coming the constrains. Knowledge can be always be learned and acquired.

For the above EA/IT Strategist role and to generate this level of value to an organization, how to hire the best candidate?

Hiring process consists of structure, clarity on the requirement, assessment of candidate skills and intuition. I had great success, ok success with fine tuning after the hire and utterly wrong in the judgment.

How to hire the best EA/IT Strategist?

  1. Filter the resumes
  2. Screen the filtered resumes over phone (look for communication, passion, knowledge, thrive, drive, openness, listening)
  3. Bring the screened candidate for a group interview
  4. Start with personal stuff like hobbies, drive time, why they want to join, their current understanding of the requirement, articulation of the employers requirements etc
  5. During the interview, look for the following
  • Smarter than me (EA Manager). Drive the right conclusion faster.
  • Ask them to analyze an incremental problem and focus on the approach and not on the solution. Incremental problem: provide a simple problem and keep increasing the constraints
  • Seek for the correlation skills (how they are connecting the dots)
  • How much patience they show in understanding the grass root of the problem

The above procedure helped to get great EA/IT Strategiest candidates and worked 83.33% of time.

Enterprise Collaborative Quotient

Better collaboration within IT will

  • fetch more innovation
  • improve team building
  • improve effectiveness & efficiency
  • reduce the over all IT residual risk
  • improve organization attitude

The above are top 5 value added imperatives a better collaboration will bring to an IT organization. Each one of the above adds value to the core business, saves IT G&A and minimizes the IT risk exposure.

How the CIOs and other senior executives will manage and measure the collaboration within their organization. We all familiar with Intelligent Quotient (IQ) and it is a measure how smart a person is? Likewise, an organization must have a metric to measure the collaboration  within their organization.

I was searching to find out what kind of metric is available to measure it in the industry. Based on my research, I could not find any metric to measure it. So I innovated a metric called enterprise collaborative quotient (ECQ)

What is collaboration?

Group of people working towards the same goal.

Why collaboration is needed?

IT has an organization goal every year (which is aligned to the IT strategy which supports the business strategy which supports the competitive strategy) and every member of the organization works towards the goal (Strategy focused organization). When a group of people working towards the same goal, to avoid duplication and ensure full coverage, collaboration is required within the organization.

What is the Enterprise Collaborative quotient?

Even though I prefer to have more mathematical way to calculate it, in reality, the formula approach will not work in management science. My famous saying is, it is not \pi r^2

However, a methodical approach is proposed to calculate the enterprise collaborative quotient. Let me make sure we understand why are we measuring this? To measure how the organization is working together towards the organization goal.

The structure to the problem is, what are the factors involved in measuring it. The factors are

1. Understanding of

  • the organization goal (theme),
  • the overall IT strategy (targets, performance measure,strategic objectives),
  • who is who (theme managers, initiative owners)
  • overall business bottom line
  • core values and company’s mission and vision

2. Frequency of

  • formal face to face meetings/discussion
  • informal face to face meetings/discussion
  • Impromptu face to face/phone/chart meetings/discussion
  • proposal of new suggestion/ideas for a target set for a different team
  • brown bag sessions
  • huddle meeting
  • skip level meetings
  • team meeting
  • town halls
  • 1:1 meeting with direct reports
  • special interest groups (boat club, motor cycle club, quantum cafe club,womens forum)
  • lunch meetings
  • dinner meetings
  • group activities (like community services)

3. Willingness to

  • Share knowledge
  • Listen
  • Challenge the obvious
  • care for others
  • be open

Based on types of the organization, the above factors can be used and information can be garnered by interview or survey. The weight factor can be applied based on the core function IT supports.

IT Risk Management – An Elevated view

Risk management is part of any management science. (period) Any good project managers do have a risk management plan of a project, team, organization and etc . Risk management plan is part of any management science (yes, I’m repeating myself to stress the point).

CIO‘s are part of the management team and any good (or even an ordinary) CIOs do have a risk management plan for the over all IT organization.

It is a basic principle of business, more risk more profit. At the same time, business is not pure gambling and some time it is calculated gambling. When it comes to gambling, it is taking the chances. When you take the chances blindly, then it is gambling and when you take chances after your due diligence then it is business. May be, I’m over simplifying it but that is the simple definition. If a bank wants to AVOID risk, the ONLY best way to avoid risk 100% is NOT to do business. That is, not performing steps towards their organization goal, mission and vision. Philosophical interpretation is, if you want no complaints then be nothing and do nothing.

Are we not take chances every day? Yes, we take chances every minute. I know some one do not agree what I’m saying. There is a risk of rejection from someone. To avoid it, the best approach is to stop expressing myself. By doing so, I can completely avoid the risk of rejection of my opinions but I can not accomplish my mission (Blog as much I can). The point I’m trying to make is, risk is part of any management science and it should be managed better.

How to manage IT risk better?

Residual risk matrix (RRM) for an IT organization risk is one of key metrics a CIO should have to have a clear picture on probability of exposure. Before I jump into the RRM, let me explain what are the key components of enterprise IT risk management?

Components of enterprise IT Risk management

  • Compliance Risk
  • Infrastructure risk (including data center and business locations)
  • Project Risk
  • Security Risk
  • Financial Risk
  • Technology Risk
  • Process Risk
  • Competency Risk
  • Vendor Risk (service providers like infra service, right sourcing, etc)
  • License Risk
  • Open source Risk
  • Business Risk

Steps to create an enterprise IT residual risk matrix (IT RRM)

  • Identify the known & known unknown risk for each components of the IT risk management
  • Device a mitigation plan for each identified risk
  • Identify the cost of the mitigation plan
  • Identify the probability of the risk occurrence
  • Calculate the risk at exposure (risk exposed to the organization after the mitigation plan)

IT Residual Risk Matrix provides an elevated view to the executive management on the exposed IT risk.

Communication & Leadership skills

Communication and leadership go hand in hand. Better leaders are better communicators and better communicators are better leaders.

Communication and leadership skills are most essential skills for almost every job. The degree of the requirement may vary. No one ever mastered these two skills. I read in a leadership book, Franklin D Roosevelt had a book about leadership under his pillow during his last days. Even he felt that he could learn more about the leadership during his last days in the planet earth.

When it comes to public speaking, as per old statistics, almost 75% of the people are scared of public speaking. As some of you have already seen in one of the Jerry Sienfeld episode, people who were asked to give eulogy would rather prefer to be in the casket since the public speaking is more fearful than the death.

Public speaking and general communication are key skills required for any position in executive management (for eg. sales director, IT director, financial officer, etc). How to improve it to improve the self confidence? There are many solutions like training available.

I came to know that there is an non profit organization called toastmasters who wants to help professionals to improve the communication and leadership skills to foster personal growth.

I went to the first orientation class and met great people in my community who are also interested to improve their leadership and communication skills. I met members who work for company like Microsoft.

I started writing blogs to improve the writing skills and toastmaster for my communication & leadership skills. I thank my mentor to bring toastmaster to my attention.