May 31, 2009

From Pigging Out to Piggybanking

Recently there was some media interest in the government system of funding allocation, which essentially rests on one principle: “Use it or lose it.” Unlike in the private sector, where unused funds may be reserved for future use, money that is not spent in a given appropriation year is simply returned, for the most part.

In our own personal financial worlds, in fact, it is a primary lesson that we should not spend every dollar we earn. Rather, any financial adviser will tell you that money must be managed over many years, including saving money for the proverbial “rainy day” (the recent financial meltdown and recovery act not withstanding).

In business as well as in our personal lives, we are taught to do three things with our money:

·      Spend some—for business operating expenses or living expenses in our personal lives.

·      Save some—for unexpected needs like when a economic recession negatively impacts business cash flow or in our personal lives when a job is lost and we need savings to tide us over; or the saving could be for opportunities like to accumulate funds to get into a new business or to save up for a deposit on a home.

·      Invest some—for longer-term needs like research and development, potential business acquisitions, and so forth or in our personal lives for college education, weddings, retirement and more.

My question is why in government is there not an option #2 or #3—to save or invest funds for the future, like we have in our personal lives and in business?  Why can’t agencies and lawmakers plan longer-term and manage funds strategically instead of tactically—beyond the current year here and now?

The Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 called for the development and maintenance of an IT architecture, since interpreted more broadly as the mandate for enterprise architecture, where we plan and govern investments strategically (i.e. no longer based on short-term gut, intuition, politics, or subjective management whim).

Managing for enterprise architecture necessitates that we manage business and IT investments with the ability to spend, save, or invest as necessitated by agency mission and vision, customer requirements, and the overall investment climate (i.e. the return on spending versus the return on saving or longer-term investment).

Managing money by driving an end of year spend-down seems to negate the basic principles of finance and investing that we are taught from grade school and that we use in business and our personal lives.

By changing the government budget process to allow for spending, saving, and investing, we will open up more choices to our leaders and hold them responsible and accountable for the strategic long-term success of our vital mission.


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May 30, 2009

Homeless Yet Technology Bound

I could not help being amazed with the article in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal called “On the Street and On Facebook: The Homeless Stay Wired.”

I was very struck by the seeming contradiction between near total poverty and yet being linked to one of the richest sources of information and human connection on earth.

The article is about people who are so poor and wanting that they are literally homeless—living in shelters, cars, under bridges—and yet with virtually no money for anything, they find that having a computer and an Internet connection is a necessity!

What a comment on the impact that information technology has on our lives and how it affects us every moment of every day. Three key points about the Internet and social media that stand out:

  1. They are no longer an option, but an answer to basic human needs.
  2. They provide a sense of basic equality and human dignity, as well as empowerment, even where those are otherwise lacking.
  3. Because they are so vital to people, they are serving to unlock great creativity and innovation by people to get connected.

Computers and the Internet connectivity we get with them is so important to us ALL that even homeless shelters are now rolling out computer stations—almost like an internet cafĂ© or library. For example, NYC “has 42 computers in five of the nine shelters it operates and plans to wire the other four this year” and this is happening despite the devastating financial environment out there.

So do the homeless really use the computers? You better believe it—computer demand is so great in the shelters that users are limited to 30-minute intervals.

The homeless are finding the computers important for completing everything from housing and job applications to getting loads of inexpensive entertainment whether watching videos, listening to music or just getting the daily news.

The homeless are finding innovative ways to power their computers…some are using generators outside the tent homes, others are hooking up to their car batteries or finding a deserted area with a connection to steal away from for a brief hookup.

But the computer and the connectivity are critical for everyone whether you live in a mansion or in a shelter. Information technology provides for all our basic needs in terms unlimited information and opinion, a broad range of social entertainment, and all sorts of application services, but more importantly it confers basic humanity to all that use it. As one homeless man stated: “It’s frightening to be homeless. When I’m on here [the Internet], I’m equal to everyone else.”

And this is really a global idea, because people across the world—whether in countries that are free and those that are unfortunately still not—are finding that a simple computer and Internet connection can break down the barriers of political, social, or economic repression.

Information technology once feared as the great digital divide is becoming the great human equalizer indeed.


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May 25, 2009

When Shall We Call For Change?

We see change coming. We hear change coming. We feel change coming. But what happens? It does not come. Why?

1.     Fear—people are afraid of changing or of not being able to adapt (for example, some may be afraid of changing jobs for fear of failing or of not being able to make the transition well to a different organization).

2.     Money—someone(s) is invested in the status quo (for example, could it be that oil companies stand to lose if we go with hybrid engines or alternative energy sources like solar, wind.).

3.     Politics—perhaps, those in power have constituents that will “yell and scream” or lobby if others seek a change that they are for one reason or another are opposed to (for example, those who are pro-choice will lobby vehemently when pro-lifers attempt to limit or regulate abortion).

Note: I am NOT advocating for or against any of these positions, just providing a contextual explanation.

However, as a CIO or other leader (and this can be an official leadership position or one that is taken on by strategic thinkers, enthusiasts, and so on), I am convinced that we must call for change and help change along when “its time has come”—that is when the following conditions exist:

1)    Time is ripe

2)    Support to the people affected can be adequately provided for

3)     It is unequivocal that society will universally benefit and the change is fair and ethical. (Yes, the last one is hard to demonstrate and may be considered somewhat objective, but the concept of having “justifiable” change is important.)

Here is an example of an interesting change being called for by David Wolman in Wired Magazine, June 2009 that clearly demonstrates how these three criteria for leaders to evoke change works:

Wolman address the cost and by inference the benefits of change (#3 above): We “create hundreds of billions of dollars worth of new bills and coins every year…the cost to the taxpayers in 2008 alone was $848 million, more than two-thirds of which was spent minting coins that many people regards as a nuisance. (The process alone used u more than 14,823 tons of zinc, 23,879 tons of copper, and 2,514 tons of nickel.) In an era when books, movies, music, and newsprint are transmuting from atoms to bits, money remains irritatingly analog, carbon-intensive, expensive medium of exchange. Let’s dump it.”

Then Wolman demonstrates that  time for change is ripe   (#1 above): We have all sorts of digital money these days, such as credit cards, debit cards, e-checks, automatic bank deposits/payments, electronic transfers, and online payments. “Markets are already moving that way. Between 2003 and 2006, noncash payment in the US increased 4.6 percent annually, while the percentage of payment made using checks dropped 13.2 percent. Two years ago, card based payment exceeded paper-based ones—case checks, food stamps—for the first time. Nearly 15 percent of all US online commerce goes through PayPal. Smartcard technologies like EagleCash and FreedomPay allow military personnel and college students to ignore paper money….the infrastructure didn’t exist back then. But today that network is in place. In fact, it’s already in your pocket. ‘The cell phone is the best point of sale terminal ever’ Says Mark Pickens.”

Finally, Wolman shows that we can support people through this change (#2 above): “Opponents used to argue that killing cash would hurt low-income workers—for instance, by eliminating cash tips. But a modest increase in the minimum wage would offset that loss; government savings from not printing money could go toward lower taxes for employers. And let’s not forget the transaction costs of paper currency, especially for the poor. If you’re less well off, check cashing fees and 10-mile bus rides to make payments or purchases are not trivial…”

Whether or not it is “Time to Cash Out” of paper money as Wolman calls for (i.e. this is just an example to show how the criteria for change can be used), the need for leaders to move us towards and guide us through change is at the essence of leadership itself. Change should not be taken lightly, but should be evaluated for timeliness, supportability, and justifiability.


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May 22, 2009

Enterprise Architecture 3.0

In enterprise architecture, we routinely plan for new information technologies and not enterprise anything. In fact, what we now interpret as the federal mandate for “enterprise architecture”, the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 really mandated not enterprise, but “IT architecture”. Here, architects didn’t typically develop enterprise (or common) solutions, but rather stovepipe solutions per customer demand. I would call this Enterprise Architecture 1.0.

As enterprise architecture evolved, we saw it mature in its implementation and expand beyond pure technology into the realm of business process reengineering and improvement. This manifested itself in the Federal Segment Architecture Framework of 2008, where we now looked to solve business, not IT, problems for logical business segments of the organizations. This is Enterprise Architecture 2.0.

However, even at this level of maturity, it continued to be somewhat rare to find enterprise architecture that looked at how we are transforming people, organizations, culture, and society itself. This is now beginning to be demonstrated in the architecture using social media and the larger implications of widespread information sharing, collaboration, and broader citizen participation. I would propose that this larger view of, and larger participation in, enterprise architecture is the next evolution and represents Enterprise Architecture 3.0.

Interestingly enough, I read in ComputerWorld, 18 May 2009, an article that took just such a enterprise architecture 3.0 view, called “Are Computers Transforming Humanity” by Mary K. Pratt.

Note, it’s not that these types of articles have not appeared in the past, but rather that they were not as frequent and this thinking not as endemic to the everyday IT planning discussion as it is becoming today.

The article states: “We’ve always had the introduction of new technologies that transform and move society in new ways. It changes our interactions, our sense f the world and each other…what individual and cultural transformations do, new computer technologies portend.”

Here are some of the EA 3.0 trends I gleaned from the article that are starting to manifest in people, organizations and society:

Convenience weighing on privacy—We can plan for new technologies (for example, mobility solutions that yield “quick answers and fast transactions”) to continue that advance of convenience and challenging traditional privacy concerns. As the article states: “what we let hang out there has changed.”

Reaching across all boundaries—new technologies will continue the miraculous feat of breaking down organizational and societal stovepipes. “One of the things that is different today isn’t that we can just act collectively very quickly, but we act across heterogeneous groups.” Plan for IT to reach across boundaries globally (and even inter-galatically, in the not too distant future).

Digital narcissism—technologies are enabling people’s self-indulgent practices where they often use social media tools to “reinforce and further rationalize overblown esteem for their mundane opinions, tastes and lifestyle choices.” We web 2.0 tools like blogs and twitters and social media everyone can have their own soapbox to evangelize from.

Multi-tasking galore—with the constant barrage of new technologies and communications from them, we are forced to multi-task like never before. “Studies have found that the amount of attention many of us can devote to a single specific task is about three minutes—15 minutes at most.”

Learning by doing—“Why should we memorize facts and figures when search engines, databases, and increasingly powerful handheld computing devices make them instantly available?” What we used to have to memorize, we can now just do the look-up for.

The implications of moving and maturing to Enterprise Architecture 3.0 are exciting and will have us thinking long and hard about the implications of what we do in and with information technology well beyond anything we have done before with IT for individuals, units, or line of businesses.

The changes from IT are broader-based than before and we need IT leaders who can plan and govern these larger scopes. Recently, This was evident with the appointment by President Obama of a federal CIO and CTO to oversee the extraordinary shifts in how we can and will use technology going forward in our nation and with our partners globally.


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May 16, 2009

Building and Rebuilding the World



(Tikkun Olam)

We are placed here on this earth, figuratively in G-d's "hand," and our job is to build (and rebuild) until it's perfect.

This image struck me as a wonderful metaphor for what the essence of enterprise architecture is really all about.

What are your thoughts?


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Executives, One Foot In and One Foot Out

The last thing any executive should be doing is getting caught up in the weeds of management. The executive needs to lead and define the organizational strategy and the management team needs to execute. The executive is the link between what needs to get done (stakeholders’ needs) for the stakeholders and getting it done (management execution) through the organization’s people, process, and technology.

How does the executive perform this linking role?

Not by looking myopically inside the organization, and not by jetting around the globe shaking hands and kissing babies. Peter Drucker said “ The chief executive officer (CEO) is the link between the Inside that is ‘the organization,’ and the Outside of society, economy, technology, markets, and customers. “

In Harvard Business Review, May 2009, A. G. Lafley the CEO of Proctor & Gamble see’s that the CEO’s job is to “link the external world with the internal organization.”

The executive is the bridge between inside and outside the organization. And by having one foot in each, he/she is able to cross the artificial boundaries and bring vital stakeholder requirements in and carry organizational value back out.

Lafley breaks down the CEO’s role into four key areas, which I would summarize as follows:

  • BUSINESS SCOPE: Determining “the business we are in” and not in.  No organization can be everything to everybody. We need to determine where we will compete and where we will withdraw. GE’s Jack Welsh used to insist on working only in those markets where GE could be either #1 or #2. Drucker’s view is that “performing people are allocated to opportunities rather than only to problems.”
  • STAKEHOLDER PRIORITIZATION: “Defining and interpreting the meaningful outside”–this is really about identifying who are our stakeholders and how do we prioritize them?
  • SETTING THE STRATEGY: Balancing “yield in the present with necessary investment in the future.” Genuine leaders don’t just milk the organization in the short term, but seek to deliver reasonable results immediately while investing for future performance. Lafley states “We deliver in the short term, we invest in and plan for the midterm, and we place experimental bets for the long term.”
  • ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE: “Shaping values and standards.” Lafley argues that “the CEO is uniquely positioned to ensure that a company’s purpose, values, and standards are relevant for the present and the future.” Of course, the culture and values need to guide the organization towards what matters most to it, to meeting its purpose, and satisfying its stakeholders.

To me, the Drucker-Lafley view on the CEO as a bridge between boundaries inside and outside the organization, can be extended a step down in the organization to other “chief” roles. The CEO’s vision and strategy to deliver value to the stakeholder to the role is fulfilled in part by the chief information officer (CIO) and chief technology officer (CTO). Together, the CIO and CTO marry needs of the business with the technology to bring them to fruition. Within the organization, the CIO is “outward” facing toward the needs of the business and the CTO is “inward” facing to technology enablement. Together, like two sides of the same coin, they execute from the IT perspective for the CEO.

Similarly, the chief enterprise architect (CEA), at the next rung—supporting the CIO/CTO, is also working to span boundaries—in this case, it is to technically interoperate the organization internally and with external partners The chief enterprise architect works to realize the vision of the CEO and the execution strategy of the CIO/CTO.

The bridge the CEO builds links the internal and external boundaries of the organization by defining stakeholders, scope, business strategy, and organizational culture. The CIO/CTO build on this and create the strategy to align business and technology The CEA takes that decomposes it into business, information, and technological components, defining and linking business functions, information flows, and system enablers to architect technology to the business imperative.

Three levels of executives—CIO, CIO/CTO, and CEA, three bridges—inside/outside the organization, business/technology sides of the organization, and business process/information flows/technologies within. Three delivery mechanisms to stakeholders—one vision and organizational strategy, one technical strategy and execution, one architecture plan to deliver through technology.


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May 11, 2009

Innovation Goes Both Ways


A soldier with an iPod mounted on his wrist takes aim with his assault rifle

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/iphones-in-iraq-ndash-the-us-armys-new-weapon-1682655.html


It used to be the military technology often found application in the consumer world (like the development of the Internet from DARPA). Now, consumer technology is being used in battlefield theatre (for example, iPods and iPhones).

Enterprise architecture is being turned upside down in terms of the traditional migration path of technological innovation.

Perhaps, the practice of applying technological innovation to other areas regardless of from where they originate is the best model of them all!

In this way, we share and match the best and brightest ideas and product designs to new areas of applicability, opening up more uses and markets for successful product launches.

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May 10, 2009

Are We Getting Any Closer To Unified Messaging

The Holy Grail in communications has always been the drive to unify our messaging (data, voice, video) into a single device.

To this day, we continue to see vendors developing consumer products that combine as many of these functions as will possibly fit on a device.

For example, with the traditional copy machine, we have migrated to “all in one” devices that have copy, fax, scan, and print features. At the same time, cell phones have morphed into Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), and have brought together traditional voice telephony with email, chat, web access, GPS, photos, videos, and an almost endless array of applets.  Similarly, computers are converging communications functions for email, voice over IP, photos, videos, social networking, and much more. While televisions are merging in features for web access, movies on demand, and so forth. 

Convergence is the name of the game--the consumer wants more functionality, more communications capability, more raw computing power, in single, smaller, and sleeker devices.

Ultimately, the vision for mobile communications was first epitomized by the Star Trek’s Communicator with universal language translation and later by the communications badge that with one tap put you in touch with Scotty who could beam you up to the Enterprise in a flash.

So with all the convergence in our communications gear, are we getting any closer to bona fide unified messaging systems?

I don’t know about you, but rather than less communications devices, it seems like I have more and more to fiddle and diddle with. At least two cell phones that balance on opposite sides of my belt (one is my personal phone and the other my work device) and I still have regular landlines at both home and work. Then there is my work computer and my home computer and remote access devices like air cards, tokens, and so forth. Of course, I have Skype, numerous email accounts, FaceBook, Twitter, Blogs, digital cameras, and various printing/copy/faxing/scanning devices to choose from. With various devices in just about every nook and cranny of my work and personal space, I’d say that my ability to community is certainly extensive, but unified, simple, user-centric—I don’t think so!

Government Computer News, 4 May 2009, reports: “Like the paperless office, unified messaging—storing and accessing various types of communications, from e-mail to voice mails, faxes and videos, in a single place—has been something of a chimera.”

With unified messaging, like the Holy Grail, it seems like the more we chase it, the more elusive it becomes.

Why?

Perhaps, we have a little bit of Moore’s Law running up against Murphy’s Law here. While the capability for us to do more computationally and functionally with ever smaller devices become greater and greater, the possibility of getting it all to work “right” becomes a greater and greater challenge. Maybe there are limits to how many functions a person can easily understand, access and conveniently control from a single device.

Think for a second about the infamous universal TV remote that has become the scorn of late night comedy. How many people get frustrated with these devices—all the buttons, functions, alt-functions, and so on that no reasonable person seems to care to learn. Or think about the 2 inch think operating instruction booklet that comes with the DVD player or other electronic devices that people are scared to even break the binding on. Then there are the PDA’s with touch screen keypads that you see people fat-fingering and getting the words all wrong. The list goes on and on.

Obviously, this is not user-centric architecture and it doesn’t work, period.

The consumer product company that gets “it”—that can design communications devices for the end-user that are functional and powerful with lots of capability and as close to unified as possible, but at the same time simple, compact, convenient, and easy to use (i.e. intuitive) will crack this unified messaging nut.

We cannot sacrifice ease of use for convergence!

Apple and RIM, in my experience, have probably come closest to this than any other consumer electronic companies, but even here it is a magnificent work-in-progress unfolding before our eyes.

I, for one, can’t wait for the Star Trek communications badge to become commercially available at the local Apple store. 


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May 9, 2009

“Soft Hands” Leadership

Conventional wisdom has it that there are two primary types of leaders: one is focused on the work (task-oriented) and the other is focused on the relationships (people-oriented). Of course, the exceptional leader can find the right balance between the two. Usually though it is the people skills that are short-changed in lieu of getting the job done.

Personally, I am a firm believer in the military doctrine of “Mission first, people always!”—Although, I am certain that some leaders even in the military are better at exemplifying this than others.

With the global financial downturn, there is an interesting article in Harvard Business Review titled “The Right Way to Close an Operation,” May 2009 that sheds some light on this leadership topic.

In this article, Kenneth Freeman advocates for a “soft hands” approach when closing or shrinking an operation. This approach calls for leadership to “treat employees with dignity, fairness, and respect—the way you would want to be treated.”

Wow!!! This is great--A human-centric approach to leadership.

Unfortunately some unconsciously believe that being tough on mission means being tough on people too. However, there is no need to "flick the whip." There is another way. We can embrace people as human beings, work with them, have compassion on them, treat them well, and lead them towards mission delivery.

It doesn’t have to be supervisors versus employees--different sides of the bargaining table. It can be in most instances people striving together for organizational success.

For me, this ties right in to my vision for enterprise architecture to have a human capital perspective. Human capital is critical to mission delivery. We must not focus exclusively on process and technology and forget the critical people aspect of organizational performance. A stool with only two legs (process and technology) without the third (people) will assuredly fall.

Freeman states that even when doing difficult things like downsizing we can still treat people humanly, the way we would want to be treated. He says: “reducing a workforce is painful, but you can do it in such a way that people will someday say, ‘you know I once worked for Company X. I didn’t like the fact that they shut my plant down, but I still think it’s a good company.’”

Here’s some tips from Freeman as I understand them:

- Address the personal issues for the employees—why they are losing their jobs, how the closure will affect them, what you will do to help them land on their feet…

- Communicate early and often—“People need to hear a message at least six times to internalize it.”

- Get out there—“Be visible and personal. A closure or a downsizing is not an excuse for leaders to go into hiding.”

-Take responsibility—“The leader should take personal responsibility for the organization’s behavior.”

- Be honest, but kind—“Explain that the decision is being made for the sake of the overall business not because the people who are leaving have done a bad job.”

- Treat everyone fairly—“who stays and who goes should be decided on an objective basis.”

- Help people go on—“help people find jobs.”

- Maintain a quality focus—“leaders should regularly remind everyone of the importance of quality and keep measuring and celebrating it.”

Freeman goes on with other sensible advice on how to not only treat employees well, but also customers and suppliers “like valued partners.” He has a refreshing perspective on delivering results, while maintaining human dignity.

Here's the critical point:

Having a “soft hands” approach to people doesn’t mean that you are soft on mission. That can never happen. But it does mean, we remember that delivery of mission is through our professional relationships with people—employees, customers, suppliers, partners, shareholders and more.

Treating people with dignity, respect, and fairness will positively generate mission delivery for the organization.


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May 7, 2009

Rolling Out New Technology: Lessons Learned


Lessons learned:
  1. The more things change, the more they stay the same; even though the technologies may change, the people and process issues still need to be dealt with.
  2. You can't just role out new technology and expect that people will just "catch on"; what's intuitive to one person is not necessarily intuitive to another.
  3. Different people learn in different ways; some can read a manual, others need more human interaction or hands-on training.
  4. Communication is critical to progress; we need to listen to others before we can effectively solve their problems.
  5. Learning needs to be repetitive; once is often not enough.
  6. Training needs to be part of every technology rollout.
  7. People, process, and technology need to be unified to bring results; otherwise the "new" technology may just end up sitting there.
  8. Many people are afraid of and/or resistant to change, and we need to be compassionate, empathetic, and help bring people along, always!

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May 2, 2009

Oracle - An Architecture Treasure-trove

Anyone following the strategic acquisitions by Oracle the last few years can see a very clear trend: Oracle is amassing a treasure-trove of business applications that are powerful, interoperable, and valuable to mission delivery.
Most recently, Oracle snapped up Sun for $7.38 billion, right from under the clutches of IBM!
Oracle with $22.4 billion in revenue in 2008 and 55% of license revenue generated overseas “is the world’s largest business software company, with more than 320,000 customers—including 100 of the Fortune 100—representing a variety of sizes and industries in more than 145 countries around the globe.”(www.oracle.com)
Oracle’s roots are as a premiere database company. However, since 2004, they made more than 50 acquisitions in calculated business areas.
The Wall Street Journal, 21 April 2009, identifies some of these notable buys:
2004—PeopleSoft for human resources and financial management.
2005—Siebel for customer relationship management.
2007—Hyperion Solutions for business intelligence.
2008—BEA Systems for infrastructure management.
2009—Sun Microsystems for software, servers, and storage devices.
Oracle has been able to acquire companies with operating-profit margins of 10% and within six months expand those margins to 40%.”
With the recent purchase of Sun, Oracle is gaining control of critical open-source software such as Java programming technology, Solaris operating system, and MySQL database.
According to Forrester Research, “Forty-six percent of businesses plan to deploy open-source software in 2009.” Oracle can now provide an important service in product support and updates for this. (Wall Street Journal, 22 April 2009)
In addition, Oracle also provides various middleware to integrate business applications and automate processes.
From databases to end-user applications, from service-oriented architecture to infrastructure management, from content management to business intelligence, Oracle has put together a broad impressive lineup. Of course, this is NOT an endorsement for Oracle (as other companies may have as good or even better solutions), but rather an acknowledgement of Mr. Ellison’s keen architecture strategy that is building his company competitively and his product offering compellingly. Ellison is transforming the company from a successful single brand that was at risk of becoming commoditized to a multi-faceted brand with synergies among its various lines of business and products.
Some lessons for enterprise architects and CIOs: Build your product lineup, create synergies, uniformly brand it, and be number one or number two in every product category that you’re in (as Jack Welch famously advised) and grow, grow, grow!

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May 1, 2009

This One is Just For Fun--Happy Weekend Everyone--TGIF!


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Customer Service Will Always Be Goal #1

Too many organizations espouse good service, but very few actually excel and deliver on the promise.

However, one company is so good at it that it serves as the role model for just about all others--that company is The Four Seasons.

The Wall Street Journal, 29 April 2009 reviewed the book “Four Seasons” by Isadore Sharp, the luxury hotel’s founder.

Here are some things that I learned about customer service from this:

- Customer Service means reliability—“a policy of consistently high standards.” At Four Seasons, anyone who has visited the chain around the world [83 hotels in 35 countries]…can attest to its reliability. To be reliable, customer service is not just raising and holding the bar high-- having high standards for quality service--but this must be institutionalized through policy and delivered consistently—over and over again. You can’t have a bad day when executing on customer service. Fantastic customer service has to always be there, period!

For The Total CIO, this type of reliability means that we don’t focus on technology per se, but rather on the customer’s mission requirements and how we can consistently deliver on those in a sound, secure, and cost-effective manner. CIO leaders establish high standards for customer service through regular performance plans, measures and service level agreements. Reliable customer service is more than a concept; it’s a way of relating to the customer in every interaction to consistently exceed expectations.

- Customer Service means innovation—“The things we take for granted now during our hotel stays-comfortable beds, fluffy towels, lighted make-up mirrors, fancy toiletries, and hair dryers-made their first appearances at the Four Seasons…likewise for European-style concierge and Japanese-style breakfast menus, in-hotel spas, and the possibility of residence and time-share units.”

For The Total CIO, technology changes so fast, that innovation is basically our middle name. We never rest on our laurels. We are always on the lookout for the next great thing to deliver on the mission, to achieve strategic competitive, to perform more cost effectively and efficiently.  Advantage. Moreover, we reward and recognize customer service excellence and innovation.

- Customer Service means valuing people—“Follow the golden rule. Workers are vital assets who should be treated accordingly…at the Four Seasons, those who might otherwise be considered the most expendable ‘had to come first,’ because they were the ones who could make or break a five-star service reputation.”

For The Total CIO, people are at the center of technology delivery. We plan, design, develop, and deploy technologies with people always in mind—front and center. If a technology is not “user-centric”, we can’t employ it and don’t want it—it’s a waste of time and money and generally speaking a bad IT investment. Moreover, we deliver technology through a highly trained, motivated, empowered and accountable workforce. We establish a culture of customer service and we reward and recognize people for excellence.

- Customer Service means solving problems—“Turning the top-down management philosophy on its head, Mr. Sharp authorized every Four Seasons employee to solve service problems as they arose to remedy failures on the spot.”

For The Total CIO, leadership is fundamental, management is important, and staff execution is vital. It is the frontline staff that knows the customer pain points and can often come up with the best suggestions to solve them. Even more importantly, the IT customer service representatives (help desk, desktop support, application developers, project managers, and so on) need to “own the customer” and see every customer problem through to resolution. Yes, it’s nice to empathize with the customer, but the customers need to have their problems fixed, their issues resolved and their requirements met.

The Total CIO will make these customer service definitions his and his organization’s modus operandi.


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