Showing posts with label Modernization. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Modernization. Show all posts

June 24, 2019

The Goal is Automagically

Wow, I couldn't believe that this is a real word.

Automagically.

I thought my colleague was using it as a gag. 

But when I asked Dr. Google, there it was. 

Automagically - Automatically + Magical

It refers to the use of computer automation and how when well-implemented it seems almost like the process is magical, ingenious, and oh, so easy. 

So this is the goal for us that all our processes and efforts should be poof--automagically done and  there it is! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 18, 2017

Paper Navy Tiger

We spend $600 billion on defense and this is what we get?

In the middle of the night our U.S. Navy DESTROYER crashes with a ginormous container ship.

The commercial vessel (yes it's bigger, but it's a civilian ship) is lightly damaged, but the U.S. Navy BATTLESHIP (after having undergone a recent $21 million upgrade) has 7 dead, the captain injured, and it can barely make it back to its port except with tugboats for extensive repairs. 

WTF!

How does an battleship with the latest sensors and technology collide with a civilian ship--how did such a foreign vessel even get close to our navy ship let alone collide with it--was someone completely "asleep at the wheel?"

This is no joke!--this is our first line of defense in our ability to project force globally. 

What if this had been a terrorist ship laden to the hilt with high explosives or an Axis of Evil Iranian or North Korean fast attack craft or even a Russian or Chinese attack submarine--surprise!

Doesn't a battleship need to be ever-vigilant and -ready for battle? 

How can we fight sophisticated 21st century militaries with advanced ship-killer cruise missiles, torpedos, and mines, if we can't even avoid the essential sinking of one our own fighting ships in peacetime. 

Our brave men and women who take up the uniform to serve this great nation--and this country--DESERVE BETTER!

Does this paper navy ship with a punched hole in it represent a larger forgotten or war-weary military in dire need of modernization and genuine readiness to defend the beautiful and free America? 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal via The Guardian)
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January 28, 2013

Safeguarding Our Electrical Grid

Popular Science (28 January 2013) has an interesting article on "How To Save The Electrical Grid."

Power use has skyrocketed with home appliances, TVs, and computers, causing a significant increase in demand and "pushing electricity through lines that were never intended to handle such high loads."


Our electrical infrastructure is aging with transformers "now more than 40 years old on average and 70% of transmission lines are at least 25 years old" while at the same time over the last three decades average U.S. household power consumption has tripled!


The result is that the U.S. experiences over 100 mass outages a year to our electrical systems from storms, tornados, wildfires and other disasters.


According to the Congressional Research Service, "cost estimates from storm-related outages to the U.S. economy at between $20 billion and $55 billion annually."


For example, in Hurricane Sandy 8 millions homes in 21 states lost power, and in Hurricane Irene, a year earlier, 5.5 million homes lost electricity. 


The solution is to modernize our electrical grid:


- Replace a linear electrical design with a loop design, so a failure can be rerouted. (Isn't this basic network architecture where a line network is doomed by a single point of failure, while a ring or mesh topology can handle interruptions at any given point?)


- Install "fault-current limiters" as shock absorbers so when there is a surge in the grid, we can "absorb excess current and send a regulated amount down the line" rather than causing circuit breakers to open and stop the flow of electrical power altogether. 


- Create backup power generation for critical infrastructure such as hospitals, fire stations, police, and so on, so that critical services are not interrupted by problems on the larger grid. This can be expanded to installing solar and other renewable energy resources on homes, buildings, etc. 


- Replace outdated electrical grid components and install a smart grid and smart meters to "digitally monitor and communicate home power" and automatically adjust power consumption at the location and device level. Smart technology can help manage the load on the grid and shift non-essential use to off-hour use. The estimated cost for modernizing the U.S. grid is $673 billion--but the cost of a single major outages can run into the ten of billions alone. What will it take for this investment to become a national priority? 


I would add an additional solution for safeguarding our electrical grid by beefing up all elements of cyber security from intrusion detection and prevention to grid protection, response, and recovery capabilities. Our electrical system is a tempting target for cyber criminal, terrorists or hostile nation states that would seek to deprive us of our ability to power our economy, defense, and political establishments. 


While energy independence has become feasible by 2020, we need to make sure that we not only have enough energy resources available, but also the means for reliable and secure energy generation and distribution to every American family and business. ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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April 16, 2011

Wake Up To Advanced Technology


Yet another air traffic controller asleep on the job today--OMG.
Everyone is upset--as they should be--safety and lives are at stake.

Hello.

Come in...

Is anyone down there?

We need to land.

We have an emergency on board (someone is sick or perhaps the plane is in imminent danger or maybe it's been hijacked).

I guess we need to call back later.

That's CRAZY!

Silence is not golden, in these cases.

In the government (as in private sector control rooms), there are a lot of round the clock duty stations--watching our airports, our borders, and critical infrastructure.

We rely on people to be alert for any problems and be prepared to step up to the plate to take necessary action to safeguard our nation.

When people are "asleep at the switch," they are not only abrogating their basic duty (for which they are getting paid), but they are endangering others and this is obviously unacceptable.

We know this intuitively.

Why has this gotten so out of control lately--Is this a new phenomenon or just one that is coming to light now? Are people taking advantage of the system, genuinely exhausted, or disillusioned with their jobs and giving up--so to say?

There are a lot of questions that need to be explored and answered here and I would expect that these answers will be forthcoming.

Because it is not just a matter of reacting with a doubling of the shift or clamping down on the people involved--although that maybe a good first step to stop the proverbial bleeding; but obviously more needs to be done.

For decades, air traffic control (ATC) has relied on controllers on the ground to guide planes on the ground and in the air, despite new technologies from autopilot to Global Positioning System (GPS) and from on-board transponders to advanced cockpit displays.

Many hardworking government and commercial sector employees have been working to change this through modernization of the processes and systems over the years.

By increasingly leveraging advances in technology, we can do more of what people--like the ATCs and many other of our hardworking watchstanders--are currently being asked to do manually.

This doesn't mean that there is no human (AWAKE! is the expectation) watching to make sure that everything is working properly, but it does mean that the people may be in some instances an augmentation, rather than the primary doers.

In the end, people have got be in control, but technology should be doing as much of the heavy lifting as it can for us and perhaps, as we are a failsafe for technology, technology can in some instances be a backstop for human error and frailty.

It doesn't make us weak to admit our limitations and look not only for people and process changes, but also for technology solutions to help augment our personal capabilities.

(Credit Picture: PN.PsychiatryOnline.org)

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December 12, 2009

EA Can Do It

A number of weeks ago, I was at a CTO Event in DC and got to hear from colleagues about their thoughts on various technologies and IT trends. Overall the exchange was great, and as always, I was deeply impressed with the wisdom and experience of these IT leaders.

However, one particular set of comments set me back in my chair a little. And that was on the topic of Enterprise Architecture. Apparently, a number of CTOs (from a relatively small number of agencies) had not had great success in their organizations with EA and were practically questioning it’s very existence in our IT universe. Yikes!

I believe some of the comments were to the effect (and this is not verbatim—I will put it euphemistically) that these individuals had never seen anything valuable from enterprise architecture—EVER—and that as far as they were concerned, it should be discontinued in their organizations, altogether.

In thinking about the stinging comments from some of the IT leaders, I actually felt bad for them that they had had negative experiences with a discipline like EA, which is such a powerful and transformative planning and governance framework when implemented correctly—with the value proposition of improving IT decision making and the end-user as the focal point for delivering valuable and actionable EA information and governance services—generally what I call User-centric Enterprise Architecture.

Right away after the negative comments, there were a number of CTOs that jumped up to defend EA, including me. My response was partially that just because some EA programs had not been successful (i.e. they were poorly implemented), did not mean that EA was not valuable when it was done right—and that there was indeed a way to build an organizations enterprise architecture as a true beacon for the organization to modernize, transform, and show continuous improvement. So please hold off from dismembering EA from our organizations.

Recently, I was further reassured that some organizations were getting EA, and getting it right, when I read a blog by Linda Cureton, the new CIO of NASA who wrote: NASA CIO: How to Rule the World of IT through Enterprise Architecture.

In the blog, Ms. Cureton first offers up a very nice, straightforward definition of EA:

“Let me step back a bit and offer a simple definition for Enterprise Architecture that is not spoken in the dribble of IT jargon. In simplest terms, it is a planning framework that describes how the technology assets of an organization connect and operate. It also describes what the organization needs from the technology. And finally, it describes the set of activities required to meet the organizational needs. Oh, and I should also say it operates in a context of a process for setting priorities, making decisions, informing those decisions, and delivering results called - IT Governance.”

Further, Ms. Cureton draws some parallels from a book titled How to Rule the World: Handbook for an Aspiring Dictator, by Andre de Gaillaume, as follows:

It is possible to manage IT as an Enterprise.

· You can use the Enterprise Architecture to plan and manage the kinder, safer, more cost effective IT world.

· Transformational projects will successful and deliver desired results.

· IT can be a key strategic enabler of NASA's [and other organizations] goals.”

Wow, this was great--an IT leader who really understands EA and sees it as the tool that it genuinely is for--to more effectively plan and govern IT and to move from day-to-day organizational firefighting to instead more strategic formulation and execution for tangible mission and end-user results.

While, I haven’t read the dictators handbook and do not aspire to draw any conclusions from it in terms of ruling the world, I do earnestly believe that no organization will be successful with their IT without EA. You cannot have an effective IT organization without a clear vision and plan as well as the mechanism to drive informed decision making from the plan and then being able to execute on it.

Success doesn't just happen, it is the result of brilliant planning and nurtured execution from dedicated and hardworking people.

Reading about NASA’s direction now, they may indeed be looking to the stars, but now, they also have their eyes focused on their EA.


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September 18, 2009

What Stops Us From Going Cashless

How many of you ever wondered why we continue to use dollar bills and coins when we have credit and debit cards that make cash virtually obsolete?

I for one have long abandoned cash in lieu of the ease of use, convenience, orderliness of receiving monthly statements and paying electronically, and the cleanliness of not having to carry and handle the cold hard stuff.

Not that I am complaining about money at a time of recession, but seriously why do we not go dollar-digital in the “digital age”?

Before debit cards, I understood that some people unfortunately have difficulty getting the plastic because of credit issues. But now with debit cards, everyone can shop and pay digitally.

Even government run programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP aka food stamps) now uses an electronic card for purchasing no money paper stamps.

It seems that credit/debit card readers are pretty much ubiquitous—stores of course, online—it’s the way to go, even on the trains/buses and candy machines.

From the taxman perspective, I would imagine it is also better and more equitable to track genuine sales transactions in a documented digital fashion than enabling funny “cash business.”

So why don’t we go paperless and coinless and fully adopt e-Commerce?

An interesting article in the Wall Street Journal, 11 Sept. 2009, described a trendy NYC restaurant that was doing just that.

“The high-end New York City restaurant said goodbye to dollars: Tip in cash if you like but otherwise, your money is no good here.”

Others have been going cashless for some time now.

“In the world of online and catalog retailing, credit and debit cards have long been king. And in recent years, a handful of airlines have adopted ‘cashless cabins.’”

As the NYC restaurant owner said, “Suddenly, it struck me how unnecessary cash was…[moreover,] the convenience and security of going cashless are well worth the added cost.”

Further, from the customer perspective, using a debit or credit card lets users optimize their cash flow and earn reward points.

I believe that the day is coming when bites and bytes are going to win over paper and coins.

This is going to happen, when the IRS requires it, the government stops printing it because it always has (i.e. inertia), when retailers recognize that the benefits of digital money outweigh the fees, and when resistance to change is defeated by common sense of modernization.


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August 2, 2009

Health Care Reform is Technologically Deficient

The debate on the news, in the streets, and on the Hill these days is health care reform—getting insurance coverage for those who lack it. And while this is an important and noble pursuit, there is something extraordinary absent from the health care reform discussion—and that is technology—in terms of how we get better care to everyone, the uninsured and insured alike?

We are living with a health care system that is functioning devoid of the most basic technology aids—such as electronic medical records, electronic scheduling, e-appointments with doctors using IM or video, electronic prescription handling, and much more.

If the finance industry is at the advanced end of the technology spectrum, the medical industry is at the extreme low end—and how sad a commentary is that: is our money more important to us than our health?

An article in Fast Company in May 2009 called “The Doctor of the Future” states: “This is a $2.4 trillion industry run on handwritten notes. We’re using 3,000 year-old tools to deliver health care in the richest country on the planet.”

The health care system is broken for sure, but it goes way beyond the 45 million American’s that lack insurance.

  • “Health care accounts for $1 in every $6 spent in the United States.”
  • “Costs are climbing at twice the rate of inflation.”
  • “Every year, an estimated 1.5 million families lose their homes because of medical bills.”
  • “Although we have the word’s most expensive health-care system, 24 counties have a longer life expectancy and 34 have a lower infant-mortality rate.”

Based on these numbers, the medical industry in this country is overcharging and under-delivering, and part of the reason for this–as Fast Company states is the lack of technological innovation: one of the paradoxes of modern medicine is that it demands continual innovation yet often resists change.”

New medical technology programs are available that provide for a vastly improved patient experience.

For example, using the Myca platform the user-experience is simpler, faster, and cheaper. Here’s a view of how it would work: “your profile shows your medical team…to make an appointment, you look at the doctors schedule, select a time slot or at least half an hour and the type of appointment (in-person, video, IM), and fill out a text box describing your ailment so the doctor can start thinking about treatment. Typically follow ups are e-visits. A timeline doted with icons representing appointments lets you review the doctors comments, read the IM thread, watch the video of an earlier electronic house call or link t test results.”

Using other technological advances, we could also benefit the patient by being able to:

  • Send electronic prescriptions to the pharmacy and automatically check for drug interaction.
  • Enter a patient’s symptoms and test results and get a comprehensive software generated diagnosis along with the probability of each result as well as other pertinent tests for the doctor to consider.
  • Provide electronic medical records that can be shared securely with medical providers including medical history, exam notes, tests ordered and results, and drugs prescribed.
  • Utilize telemedicine for consultation with medical providers anywhere and anytime.
  • And even apply robots to surgical procedures that result in less invasive, more effective, quicker recovery rates, and with less chance of infection.

None of this is science fiction…and this is all possible today.

Therefore, if we are going to call for a revamp to our health care system, let’s go beyond the coverage issue and address the logjam on quality of care for all Americans.

Absolutely we need to address the 18% uninsured in this country, but while we do that and figure out how to pay for it, let’s also deal with providing 21st century care to all our citizens through the modernization of our medical industry benefitting both the patients and medical providers through more efficient and effective care-giving.


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February 27, 2009

Lessons from Space for CIOs



There are no CIOs in space. At least not yet. Someday, as we colonize space, there will be. And information technology will be more important then ever as communications, information sharing, collaboration, and new ways of doing things enable people to live and work in distances that are now just the realm of science fiction.


As I read about space tourism in MIT Technology Review, January/February 2009, I realized there are already lessons for CIOs from space travel even in its nascent stages.

  • Modernize, as needed—as technologists, some erroneously think that everything has to be swapped out and modernized every few years (for example, many organizations are on na 3 year refresh cycle—whether they need it or not!), but the Russian space program teaches us differently. They modernize, not on a fixed time, but rather as needed. They work by the principle “if it’s not broken don’t fix it.” Here’s an excerpt: “You can look at the original Soyuz, and the same physical design—same molds, even—appear to have been used throughout its history…But anything that has ever gone wrong or failed, they fix. Or if there is some new technology that comes along that would be of significant benefit, they change it also. Isn’t this a novel principle that we can adapt for sound IT investment management?

  • Functional minimalism--for many organizations and individuals, there is a great desire to have the latest and greatest technology gadgets and tools. Some call these folks technology enthusiasts or cutting-edge. And while, IT is incredibly exciting and some missions really need to be cutting-edge to safeguard lives for example. Many others don’t need to have a closet with one of every software package, hardware gadget, or new tool out there. I’ve seen mid-size organizations that literally have thousands of software products—almost as many as people in the entire company! However, on the Russian Soyuz space vehicle, we see a different way. One space tourist noted: “It’s sort of a functional minimalism.” You don’t need tons of gadgets, just what is operationally necessary. CIO’s, as IT strategists and gatekeepers for sound IT investing, should keep this principle in mind and spend corporate investment dollars wisely, strategically, and with careful selection criteria. We don’t need one of everything, especially when half of the investments are sitting in a closet somewhere collecting organizational dust!

  • Technology is 3-D—Our IT environment is still mostly stuck in a two-dimensional paradigm. Our user-interfaces, controls, and displays are still primarily flat. Of course, many have conceived of IT in a more real three-dimensional portrayal for example using 3-D graphics, modeling and simulation, holograms, virtual controls, and even virtual world’s in gaming and online. As CIO’s, we need to encourage the IT industry to continue rapid transformation from a 2-D to 3-D technology paradigm. As a corollary, in space where there is little to no gravity such as on the International Space Station, “It is cluttered, but then after a while you realize, well that’s true if you’re thinking in 2-D, but once your brain shift to 3-D, you realize that it isn’t.”

  • Think strategic and global—The CIO and his/her staff gets lot of calls everyday based on operational issues. From simple password resets to the dreaded “the network is down.” When firefighting, it is easy to fall into a purely operational way of thinking. How am I going to get this or that user back up. But getting all consumed by operational issues is counterproductive to long-term planning, strategy, and monumental shifts and leaps in technology and productivity. One space tourist looking out the window in space summed it up nicely for CIOs (and others) to get perspective: “You’re out there in space looking back at Earth, and in a way, you’re also looking back at your life, yourself, your accomplishments. Thinking about everything you own, love, or care for, and everything else that happens in the world. Thinking bigger picture. Thinking in a more global fashion.” Maybe every CIO need a picture window view from the Internation Space Station to keep perspective?

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January 24, 2009

Vision and The Total CIO

Vision is often the telltale demarcation between a leader and a manager. A manager knows how to climb a ladder, but a leader knows where the ladder needs to go—leaders have the vision to point the organization in the right direction!
Harvard Business Review, January 2009, asks “what does it mean to have vision?”
First of all, HBR states that vision is the “central component in charismatic leadership.” They offer three components of vision, and here are my thoughts on these:
  1. Sensing opportunities and threats in the environment”—(recognizing future impacts) this entails “foreseeing events” and technologies that will affect the organization and one’s stakeholders. This means not only constantly scanning the environment for potential impacts, but also making the mental connections between, internal and external factors, the risks and opportunities they pose, and the probabilities that they will occur.
  2. Setting strategic direction”—(determining plans to respond) this means identifying the best strategies to get out ahead of emerging threats and opportunities and determining how to mitigate risks or leverage opportunities (for example, to increase mission effectiveness, revenue, profitability, market share, and customer satisfaction).
  3. Inspiring constituents”—(executing on a way ahead) this involves assessing change readiness, “challenging the status quo” (being a change agent), articulating the need and “new ways of doing things”, and motivating constituent to take necessary actions.
The CIO/CTO is in a unique position to provide the vision and lead in the organization, since they can bring alignment between the business needs and the technologies that can transform it.
The IT leader cannot afford to get bogged down in firefighting the day-to-day operations to the exclusion of planning for the future of the enterprise. Firefighting is mandatory when there is a fire, but he fire must eventually be extinguished and the true IT leader must provide a vision that goes beyond tomorrow’s network availability and application up-time. Sure the computers and phones need to keep working, but the real value of the IT leader is in providing a vision of the future and not just more status quo.
The challenge for the CIO/CTO is to master the business and the technical, the present and the future—to truly understand the mission and the stakeholders as they are today as well as the various technologies and management best practices available and emerging to modernize and reengineer. Armed with business and technical intelligence and a talent to convert the as-is to the to-be, the IT leader can increase organizational efficiency and effectiveness, help the enterprise better compete in the marketplace and more fully satisfy customers now and in the future.

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October 24, 2008

The ABC Strategy and The Total CIO

CIOs have a number of options with respect to upgrading their enterprise’s information technology.

Military Technology Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 8 has an interview with David Mihelcic, the CTO and Principal Director, Global Information Grid, Enterprise Services Engineering, at the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA).

In the interview, Mr. Mihelcic describes the Adopt, Buy, and Create (ABC) strategy of General Croom:

Adopt—“we want to focus on using technologies that are mature to meet our needs. Our first is to adopt something that’s already in existence” in the enterprise.

Buy—the second choice is to “buy services and products that are readily available in the commercial space.”

Create—“only as a last resort do we create capabilities from scratch.”

The ABC strategy is valuable to CIOs in that is provides a continuum of options for obtaining technologies to meet requirements that starts with adopting existing platforms, which is the most conservative, trusted, and often economical. If we can’t adopt what we already have, then we proceed to buy the technologies we need—this is potentially more risky and expensive in the short term. And finally, if we can’t readily buy what we need, then we create or develop them (usually starting with research and development)—this is the most risky and immediately expensive option.

However, I would suggest that we need not follow this continuum in sequence (A, B, then C) in all cases.

While creating new capabilities is generally expensive in the short term, it can lead to innovation and breakthroughs that are potentially extremely cost effective and strategically important in the longer term. The development of new capabilities often yields competitive advantages through performance improvements. Also, innovations can provide for new revenue sources, market growth, and cost savings. Often the enterprises that are the strongest in their industries or segments are those with a capability that others just can’t match. In fact, I would argue that our nation’s own technological advances are a critical component to maintaining our military’s worldwide superiority.

Therefore, while the ABC Strategy is a good continuum for understanding our technology refresh options, I would advocate that we use the A, B, C’s with agility to meet our needs for innovation and global competitiveness.


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October 21, 2008

Lessons from High School Dropouts for The Total CIO

The Wall Street Journal, 21 October 2008, reports some shocking statistics on high school dropouts.
  • “In the nation’s 50 largest cities, the graduation rate [in four years] was 52%.”
  • The graduation rate was as low as 25% in Detroit.
  • “Only about seven in 10 students are actually finishing high school.”
  • “Dropouts are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, including about 75% of state prison inmates.”
  • “The difference in lifetime salary for a dropout and a high school graduate is about $300,000.”
  • Cutting the number of dropouts in half would generate $45 billion annually in new tax revenue.”

So obviously there is a very compelling case for reducing the high school dropout rate and having students graduate!

What is being done to address this issue?

One new program was started in the city of Houston called “Reach Out to Dropouts.” In Reach Out, “volunteers, including Mayor White and school superintendent Abelardo Saavedra, visit the homes of students who haven’t returned to school.”

How did this start?

The mayor “was troubled by the fact that while the private industry could track inventory world-wide, school systems could not track students.” But then he took this further, by reaching out to students in person, and finding out why they quit, and how the city could help them return (for example, money, childcare, tutoring and so on).

What are the results?

“Reach Out has recaptured more than 5,500 dropouts in the city since it started in 2004.”

One student summarized it this way: “They were saying I was so smart and they didn’t know why I wasn’t in school, that I was too smart to just drop out. It got to me, kind of.”

This is powerful stuff!

To me there are some profound lessons here for the Total CIO:

First is the personal touch. The CIO’s job is providing information technology solutions for the business and this is great. However, IT is not a replacement for having a personal touch with people. Technology solutions need to complement people solutions.

In the case of the Reach Out program, it’s not enough for our schools to track students like inventory or assets using attendance systems, but we need then take the tracking information and apply it with people and process to get in there and actually help the students come back and graduate. The technology along can’t do this; only people can!

In general, IT solutions must follow people’s requirements and process improvements. You cannot build IT solutions for yesterday’s process (sending letters home or calling the truancy officer); you must build it for today and tomorrow’s way of doing business (personally finding out what the problem is and then remediating it). The bottom line is that the CIO has to be forward-thinking rather than reactive: Implementing technology solutions and then modifying or customizing it to mimic existing processes is not the answer. Rather, the CIO needs to work with the business to modernizing the process and then apply the appropriate technology as an enabler for enhanced results.

With the Reach Out program to help students graduate, the City of Houston didn’t just track the dropouts, but they looked at what was being done to solve the problem and bring kids back into the education system. If sending letters home to parents wasn’t working, for example, then perhaps getting out from behind the desk and going to the student’s homes would. Through this new way of “doing business,” the educators and politicians are showing genuine care and concern, and tailoring solutions to the needs of individual students—and it is working!

The personal touch with people, and reengineering process to match what they need, is crucial for solving problems and implementing technology solutions.


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October 4, 2008

Political Capital and the CIO

Leaders wield power through many means: formal authority, control of scarce resources, use of structures, rules, and regulations, control of decision processes, control of knowledge and information, control of technology interpersonal alliances and networks, and so forth. (Images of Organization by Gareth Morgan).

But one often-neglected factor when it comes to power is likeability, sometimes known as political capital: the late President Ronald Reagan was the epitome of this.

“Political capital is primarily based on a public figure's favorable image among the populace and among other important personalities in or out of the government. A politician gains political capital by virtue of their position, and also by pursuing popular policies, achieving success with their initiatives, performing favors for other politicians, etc. Political capital must be spent to be useful, and will generally expire by the end of a politician's term in office. In addition, it can be wasted, typically by failed attempts to promote unpopular policies which are not central to a politician's agenda.” (Wikipedia)

Every leader (including the CIO)—whether in the public or private sector—manages to get things done in part through their political capital.

For the CIO, this means that while their job is certainly not a popularity contest, they cannot effectively get things done over the long term without rallying the troops, having a favorable image or degree of likeability, and generally being able to win people over. It’s a matter of persuasion, influence, and ability to socialize ideas and guide change.

The CIO can’t just force change, transformation, modernization. He/she must expend political capital to move the organization forward. The CIO must make the case for change, plan and resource it, train and empower people, provide the tools, and guide and govern successful execution.

The Wall Street Journal, 4-5 October 2008, has an editorial by Peggy Noonan that touches on the importance of political capital:

“Young aides to Reagan used to grouse, late in his second term, that he had high popularity levels, that popularity was capital, and that he should spend it more freely on potential breakthroughs of this kind or that. They spend when they had to and were otherwise prudent…They were not daring when they didn’t have to be. They knew presidential popularity is a jewel to be protected, and to be burnished when possible, because without it you can do nothing. Without the support and trust of the people you cannot move, cannot command.”

Certainly if the President of the United States, the most powerful position in the world, cannot execute without political capital, then every leader needs to take note of the importance of it—including the CIO.

Lesson #1 for the CIO: effective leadership requires political capital duly earned and wisely spent.


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February 2, 2008

Simplification and Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise architecture seeks to simplify organizational complexity through both business processes reengineering and technology enablement. Technology itself is simplified through standardization, consolidation, interoperability, integration, modernization, and component reuse.

Harvard Business Review, December 2007, reports on simplifying the enterprise.

Large organizations are by nature complex, but over the years circumstances have conspired to add layer upon layer of complexity to how businesses are structured and managed. Well-intentioned responses to new business challenges—globalization, emerging technologies, and regulations…--have left us with companies that are increasingly ungovernable, unwieldy, and underperforming. In many more energy is devoted to navigating the labyrinth than to achieving results.”

Having worked for a few large organizations myself, I can “feel the pain.” Getting up to 8 levels of signature approval on routine management matters is just one such pain point.

What causes complexity?

Complexity is the cumulative byproduct or organizational changes, big and small that over the years weave complications (often invisibly) into the ways that work is done.

What is sort of comical here is that the many change management and quality processes that are put in place or attempted may actually do more harm than good, by making changes at the fringes—rather than true simplification and process reengineering at the core of the enterprise.

Here is a checklist for cutting complexity out of your organization:

  • “Make simplification a goal, not a virtue—include simplicity…[in] the organization’s strategy; set targets for reducing complexity; create performance incentives that reward simplicity.
  • Simplify organizational structure—reduce levels and layers…consolidate similar functions.
  • Prune and simplify products and services—employ product portfolio strategy; eliminate, phase out, or sell low-value products; counter feature creep.
  • Discipline business and governance processes—create well-defined decision structures (councils and committees); streamline operating processes (planning, budgeting, and so on).
  • Simplify personal patterns—counter communication overload; manage meeting time; facilitate collaboration across organizational boundaries.”

Leading enterprise architecture and IT governance for a number of enterprises has shown me that these initiatives must be focused on the end-user and on simplifying process and improving results, rather than creating more unnecessary complexity. The chief architect needs to carefully balance the need for meaningful planning, helpful reviews, and solid documentation and an information repository with simplifying, streamlining, consolidating, reengineering, and facilitating an agile, nimble, and innovative culture.


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