Category: Leadership

Your Nobel Price

Every year, when Nobel price winners are announced, I spend time to understand the contribution made in physics and chemistry (some time in economics area ) I  explore the area, winner and number of years they worked in that area, major contribution, winner’s  age, degrees they received, their thesis work, their thesis advisor, and finally, application of their contribution in real life. When I immerse into this fascination and one consoling message to me was,  all the recipients I studied were at least 10-15-20 years elder than me.  There are young scientist in the age group of 25-30 like Prof. Lawerence (for study of  x-ray crystallography) got the noble price before their 30’s but it was when my grand father was studying in middle school.

Lately, the Nobel award selection process was challenged in the area of peace and economics.  I leave the \ debate  to politicians.   But in the field of physics and chemistry, the selection process and people who receive the awards are impeccable

This year noble price was given to Prof. Andre Geim and Prof. Konstantin Novoselov for their the study of 2D graphene. Graphene may change the silicon based integrated circuits to a carbon based chips in the future. The next generation iPad  will be  as thick as a credit card and  graphene will play a signficiant role in it.

I sent my congratulation note to both professors.

Prof. Novoselov is of my age . It made me to think a lot during last few days.

Obviously not every one can win a Nobel price. To make a significant contribution, the first step is, we need to find the area we are good at.  It sounds easy to find the area we are good at, but, it is not. In most cases, we consider ourself that we are good in lots of area. For significant contribution,  should we focus on one thing that we are best at? How a person will decide what they are best at when they are good at lot of areas?

The question is, can we be best at multiple areas to make significant contribution in all those areas? Can a person win a nobel prize in physics and own a company like google and be a sport star ?

All the above questions are about on the results. In my honest opinion, when we focus more on the results of a job/project/program, we will lose focus on current task in hand. The path for your Nobel price is: Follow excellence in the area you are best at, success will chase you. Don’t chase success, you will never fully annex it!!

Key deliverables of IT Strategy – High level overview

In an executive summary, the top 5 key deliverable of IT Strategy team:

  1. Formation of IT Strategy – In collaboration with senior executive management team, create the IT organization vision, mission,strategy map (representation of strategy),alignment with corporate strategy and other functional strategy like sales & marketing, accounting and etc
  2. In collaboration with the senior executive management team, create the organization goal (or strategic theme/focus for the given year), theme owners (senior leadership), set of performance measures for each theme, targets for each measures,
  3. Balanced Scorecard – Set of initiatives, initiative managers, their plan towards the initiative. (Balanced scorecard can be managed using software as a service solution from vendors like Palladium. It is very cost effective approach instead of having few resources in the PMO team tracking the status of the initiatives for the entire organization )
  4. Strategy focused organization – Aligning the IT organization to the IT strategy. Ensure the employee goals are aligned to the IT Strategy. Ensure the structure of the organization supports the IT strategy. It is also called sourcing strategy.
  5. Strategy communication – Continuous communication of the IT strategy and progress being made by the organization towards the IT strategy to business teams & IT teams. Via bulletin boards, brown bag session, departmental town halls, organization town halls

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.

How much functional knowledge required for a CIO ?

Slowly IT (Information Technology) is becoming BT (Business technology). Traditionally the CIO of an organization (the core business is not IT) is a leader with strong technical background who understands the technology, systems, IT processes and have a less functional knowledge comparing to the IT knowledge.

Due to the role and function of IT changing rapidly, I predict that trend is going to change so quickly. In the near future, the companies are going to look for an extensive functional knowledge as a requirement for CIO. With increasing success of SaaS, ASP models, the hard core IT function (SAN, NAS, Network architecture, load balancers, SSL accelerators and etc) are not required to be directly performed by IT organization. It will be done by service providers and it is requirements by an IT organization to better manage the SLA, vendor relationship. Since the IT function is to enable and drive business (IT is not a service provider to the matured innovation organization) the functional knowledge is extensively required for a CIO to make the right decision. It is not going to be nice to have competencies of a CIO.

For example, for an Oil & Gas company, the CIO MUST clearly understand how OIL & GAS function generally work and it will be required that CIO must have worked in that sector as a Business Director or business senior manager.

How much functional knowledge required for a CIO?
Significant business functional knowledge is REQUIRED for future CIO to run the IT shop.

To test my theory, let us take Toyota Financial. As I understand (as per their web site), they are looking to fill the CIO position. Toyota financial organization goal is to support the consumer (who buys Toyota and Lexus product) by providing financial products like loan, lease, insurance and etc and dealers by providing financial products like floor plan, whole sale and etc.

As per my theory (or speculation), the new CIO will have an extensive business knowledge in the financial lending industry (like mortgage, auto loan, banks, etc). Let us wait for press release and verify my speculation.

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.