Tag: Business Strategy

Blessings from Cheetahs for a long journey

A new revolutionary or evolutionary ideas are not agreed in one step nor in first step. It is a process to build consensus even to explore a new idea. An IT strategy may be an evolutionary or revolutionary idea based on the current state of an organization.  In the IT strategy definition process, the idea of change must be agreed by  senior and executive management of an organization before even a new IT strategy definition process is kicked off.  A need and purpose for a change in an IT organization becomes imperative when there is a business strategy clearly defined.  How do you define IT strategy when there is no clearly defined business strategy. In the previous post, I recommended that, in those scenario, create an IT strategy to improve the value of IT organization.  Since the IT valuation process and methods are so vague, I suggest, it is not wise  to start the discussion with senior executives as to increase the value of an IT organization as IT strategy.  The moment an IT strategy person starts the discussion of improving  value of the company, the speculation starts with wild imagination which are destructive.  

First step in introducing a change is to have courage to talk to executives of the organization and get their blessings for your ideas. The philosophy is, people will listen to your idea when you tell them nicely and you will have their blessings if it is a good one. The rank you hold in the organization does not matter and you will be able to connect with them, make them listen and get their blessings.  Result of the attempt to make the connection with your idea with your ideas  may be career threatening but,  as a strategy person, you need that courage to take the risk to make that change in the organization.

Reduction in operating cost of an IT organization is an easy sell. If someone has an idea to reduce the operating cost by 20-25% with out the reduction of services nor resources, then you will get everyone’s attention in the board room. Open source platform would be a good starting point if it is not fully maximized in the organization. Receive conceptually concurrence on embracing and encouraging open source platform in the organization. If that   is accomplished, that is a great starting point for a long road to reach the end goal – increase the value of an IT organization.

It goes back to the abstract strategy approach  “think big, start small and run fast”.

Once open source platform adoption is agreed than the next step is to show results. Look for a commercial software product that has significant on-going maintenance cost. It could be due to license, complexity, resource availability, hardware  or others. Identify an area carefully and diligently analyze the cause for higher cost. Study the availability of open source equivalent and its capabilities, capacity, supportability and maturity. Compare and contrast it with commercial product. If it is feasible to show cost saving with the open source replacement, identify technical resources and perform end-to-end proof of concept and show the results to the senior management. 

When people run fast, it is assumed that you reach the destination sooner. Generally, the audience does not have the curiosity to inquire the distance you run.  When you do a first proof of concept to prove your first idea of a long road, the time taken to accomplish it is very important. Don’t take more than 5 weeks to complete the proof of concept to show the results. Draft an implementation plan with risk.

Details on how to receive concurrence on open source adoption from senior and executive management will be in my next post..

IT Strategy: In the absence of a Business strategy

Business strategy drives IT strategy. But, what drives IT strategy in the absence of clearly defined business strategy?

Identification of successful business strategy in a dynamically evolving consumer and financial markets is extremely challenging and sometimes, it is impossible. Look back in few years, take business strategies of top companies and their result today, and hence the evidence of extreme complexity and challenge exist in defining successful business strategy for an organization in a dynamic market.

IT strategy supports business strategy in spite of the out come of the business strategy. True. However, the point is, some times business strategy can not be defined clearly or it does not exist and in that case, how the IT strategy should be defined.

In the absence of business strategy, IT strategy is to increase the value of IT organization.  Now the questions are, what is IT valuation and how to measure it, and finally how to increase it?

I had the opportunity to work with a purchase accounting project for a well known demerger in the auto industry.  I noticed, there is a significant market opportunity for a IT valuation model in spite of 3 of  big 4 consulting and accounting companies were heavily involved in that project. So I developed a simple IT valuation model to determine the fair market value of an IT organization to readjust the book value of IT assets.

To simplify it, let me put a different spin to IT valuation. Purchase accounting occurs after a merger or demerger occurs. But, before a merger or acquisitions occurs, an organization is evaluated for its market value. That includes tangible and intangible assets. The tangible assets are mostly fixed assets and over the years, valuation process for the tangible assets is more matured. Most of the IT valuation comes from intangible assets.  For a pure technology companies like Microsoft, Intel, the intangible assets of the organization can be quantified by patents, copy rights, trade mark and etc. For an IT organization supports a business function in banking and finance, oil and gas and etc, the intangible asset valuation is challenging.

In those scenarios, the intangible assets are:

  • An organization ability to adapt to market change in terms of capacity & capabilities. ie scale up or down infrastructure based on future requirements
  • An organization ability to develop a rapid applications for future requirement – skill set, processes, knowledge
  • An organization’s efficient operating cost mode –  in terms of license, hardware depreciation
  • An organization’s IT general controls and management – IT risk management, Security Management, compliance management

The above intangible assets of an organization improves the value of IT organization. It will be reflected  in case of merger or an acquisition.  In the absence of clearly defined business strategy, take the above strategic objectives of  IT strategy and plan.

The above IT strategy will reduce the cost, improve the over all reliability, flexibility, security and adaptability  of an IT organization. It requires investment and the question is how a CIO can justify the ROI for the above initiative.Biggest advantage of the above approach is, the initiative does not require any additional incremental cost. Since it has very high ROI, it will sponsor the project from its saving and improves the value of IT organization. When there is no clearly defined business strategy then the IT strategy is to improve the value of IT organization.

If any one interested to understand the granular details of the above IT strategy, practical difficulties of framing the strategy, actual results and etc. More blog postings will follow to provide the details of the above steps. Mean time, if you’re impatience and you need immediate information,  please do not hesitate to contact me.

IT Strategist Job

Predicting monotonic events are trivial, whereas,  preciously predicting the continuous non-monotonic events are impossible. For instance, , it is possible to predict that the Sun is to arise on east the next day. Well, assuming that our star, the Sun, is not sucked by an external moving black hole (Yes, black holes can move!! and it was recently proved). The probability for a black hole to swallow the Sun on next day is almost zero.  Like wise, preciously predicting continuous non-monotonic events like weather,stock market for next ‘n’ days are impossible.

Any profit organization events are non-monotonic and preciously predicting the organization future is impossible. but, strategist can define it or approximate it.

A strategist or chief architect can shape up a small state and make it as an empire. Strategist lays a strong foundation for growth and road map to flourish. He (or she) uses abstract and vertical thinking skills to study the past, analyse the current, and approximate the future.  Chanakya, was an strategist, who lived 2500 years ago,provided thought provoking ideas to Maurya Emperor Chandragupta and defined strategy to transform the entire kingdom.

Strategy in an organization starts with people. A strategy can be made successful only if the strategy has an exemplary communication management plan.  In communication plan the following questions must be answered..

  • Why do we have the new strategy?
  • What are the expected results of the new strategy?
  • Will we be successful?

Google’s Nexus One

The next generation computation devices are lurking around in TED as sixth sense devices and labs are experimenting contact lens devices to present the most relevant information in real-time with out manually seeking. The devices will search for relevancy and the present the information to the user. It is very similar to Terminator movie (please watch video carefully at 2.13)  where the aliens receive the most relevant information for the given circumstance. The future devices will make the information readily available based on our circumstance, situation, and mood.  Well, it is not science fiction any more and it will soon become a  reality.

For those future devices, which are currently in experimental labs, the key component is an information gateway. Information gateway will seek  relevant information for each user based on location, mood, and circumstance.  The information gateway are nothing but the next generation smart phones. These information gateway will replace personal usage of PCs and laptops.

Google strategy team stuck a good balance to compete in the current market with Apple iPhone, RIM’s blackberry and laid basic foundation for information gateway market.  Google launched Nexus one as their phone product today to consumer using Android operating system. Nexus one provides easy integration for all social networking tools and techniques. There are more detail comparison done between Nexus one and iPhone and this article focus is to study Google’s strategy and it’s alignment for future technology evolution.

Google’s strategy to provide options to consumer to select the service providers  invites more customer base. However, I’m not excited about its  pricing strategy. The device cost around $520 per unit. The pricing strategy will not let current iPhone users to migrate to Nexus one and also blackberry users will not quickly migrate to Nexus one since it does not focus more on running business application (like VIN locator, inventory management and etc).

Nexus one is an another great thing for Google but the unit price needs to come down..

Captive Finance Stability Analysis – A simple model

 

As an IT strategist/Enterprise architect in a corporate America, understanding the cash position and cash flow prediction enables to align the IT strategy to support the over all business strategy. Generally, the business strategy, cash position and cash flow position are provided to IT from controlling or corporate finance or business strategy team.

I wondered, how difficult to study survivability, sustainability, stability of a captive finance and came up with a simple model. The model is broken into sub model and the attachment provides the details on the first sub model. The sub model provides the projection of available fund, accounts payable and accounts receivables.

Please click the excel to view the raw data of the model. Please go to “Results” tab to see the projection of the account’s portfolio.  The excel can also be downloaded from google doc. (Few columns were hidden just to ensure the better reporting)

In  scenario #1, the cash and fund flow of the captive company is shown.  If the general administration cost of the company is 1% of its accounts receivable, then company is not going to sustain in next 36 months for the given initial condition (accounts payable and recivable).  The payables are increasing, receivables are decreasing and fund reaches near equilibrium (steady state). This company will not survive in long run unless the G&A is reduced significantly.

In simple words, the company is spending too much of cash in administrating the loan portfolio. Company must quickly react and for a captial investment company, the company is not attractive unless investment company is an expert in reducing and managing G&A and use this projection as a good negogiation tactics for best bargain. 

In scenario #2, the operating loss of the company is 1% of accounts receivable. There is no HOPE for the captive finance company in scenario #2. The net loss of the company is increasing expoentially. Atleast in scenario #1, there was a hope. The company will incur losses only after 12 months and it can be turned around if the company quickly react to it.

Capital Investment company should not consider the company in scenario #2. The company already bought too many bad papers and it can not be reversed.  It is unmanagable risk unless the external factors like economical growth minimizes the credit losses and residual risk. A miracle need to happen for this company in scenario #2 to survive.

In scenario #3,  the company is paying the debts  aggressively. Company is not circulating the money to offer new loans. The company has a very strong balance sheet. If the company is planning to put themself for a sale, this approach given in the scenario #3 will attract more captial investment companies. For the captial investment companies, the company sits on high equity and steady fund flow. This is a good scenario if the company decideds to shut down (or run down) the business in next 36 months and make huge profit. If you are an employee and if you work for the company in scenario #3, better you float your resume since the company will close the doors after 36 months after making huge profit. There is no investment made in this scenario #3 for growth.

In scenario #4,  the company has very low operating losses, manageble operating expenses (G&A) and has a right mix of investment and payback strategy for both future and debt holders.  The company will be making profit for next 36 months and if the trend continues, the company will be in business for long time.  If you are employee working for this company, make more retirement investment with company’s option/plan. If you are captial investment company, buy this company to thrive. This scenario is a win-win scenario for all stakeholders, investors, management, employees, debt holders.

Auto finance is almost a trilion dollar industry. I believe the companies will be interested to buy a software to study the company status in long run given current situation and various scenarios.

Please post your suggestion on developing a software for this purpose will have scope in auto finance industry market..

Business Rule Engine (BRE) – Is it part of your technology roadmap?

Business Rule Engine: Do you really need business rule engine? What is the purpose of the business rule engine?
Almost all the business applications have set of rules. To develop a business system to fulfill the business requirements, all the business rules are implemented in the systems. In a traditional model, all the rules are converted into programming language and in specific, turns into if then else constructs in the application. If the rule changes then the business systems are changed. Then,if then else constructs within the systems are changed. Some times the rules changes frequently and end up changing the applications frequently to meet the new rule requirements. The applications/systems directly implements the business rule engine becomes big monolithic applications. Over the time, it will become very complicated to maintain it.
Why monolithic applications are difficult to maintain?
Let me explain why monolithic applications will become difficult and complicated over the time. Let us take a financial institution like bank who is in the business of providing loans and leases to consumers to buy recreational vehicles in United States. Loan (retail) and lease has different set of business rules. For lease, the vehicles are returned to the financial institution (lessor) and it is up to the lessor to re-market (resale) the RV. The lessor need to estimate the residual value of the vehicle at the beginning of the lease and based on it, the monthly payment and taxes are calculated. Money factor determines the interest rate banks charge on the lease account. Each state has a tax, legal, regulatory requirements and it changes.
Retail loan (in India, the retail loan product is called hire purchase, and I had developed a financial accounting package for hire purchase companies using FoxPro in 1993. The concept is same in United States) are relatively straight forward comparing to the lease. Loan amount, interest rate, initial payment, duration of the loan, sales tax, surcharges (as per the federal & state laws), and base on those parameters, it is a simple interest calculation.
In the above scenario, the state law, taxes, surcharges, residual value, money factor, credit quality, product type, loan type, loan duration, lease type, lease duration, and etc are the factors plays a role in customer inquiry, contract origination, contract validation, contract management, and asset disposal steps of retail loan or lease business processes. There are numerous combination of business rules based on these factors are formed to implement the major steps of the business processes.
Implementing these steps in the application directly will become difficult to manage and each time there is a change in those factors, the applications in the bank landscape need to change and under go the software development life cycle. It is costly, time consuming and limits agility, flexibility, adaptability
Business Rule Engine
Business Rule Engine

It is ideal to implement the business rules of the business application in a business rule engine and manage it independently of the application. It provides a platform to the business customer to change the business rules directly with out involving the information technology department. Also the tax, state regulation, internal business rules (like if the credit quality is medium .and. if the financial product is lease .and. if the state is new york then the money factor = 0.00000012) will be reused across application in the landscape.

The another major technical advantage of using the business rules is optimizing the business rules. It is very similar to Karnaugh map in boolean algebra. The rules will optimized by the business rule engine.

Are you already using business rule engine in your IT shop or is the business rule engine is part of your technology road map?