February 29, 2016  6:11 PM

The four facets of an Agile PMO

Nicole Laskowski Nicole Laskowski Profile: Nicole Laskowski

The Agile project management office (PMO) leverages the centralized portfolio management team to deliver on projects and products faster, said Michael Nir, president and founder of Sapir Consulting US and author of the book The Agile PMO. At last week’s Society for Information Management Boston chapter meeting, Nir identified four ways PMOs can do that.

Remove waste. “If there’s one thing a PMO can contribute on a portfolio level, it’s to start looking at what stands in your way of delivering value,” Nir said.

During his presentation, he identified two types of waste: process waste and project product waste. Process waste includes cumbersome documents that take a long time to create but no one bothers reading. A 30-plus page project charter is an example. Project product waste includes the development of product features no one will use.

Prioritize projects. For many PMOs, that means reworking the intake process for projects. Nir recommended PMOs apply Kanban, a manufacturing process developed by Toyota that uses visual cues to trigger an action.

One of the characteristics of Kanban is to use a pull system, enabling teams to take on projects when they’re ready, rather than a push system, which creates a queue of work.

The same technique can be applied to portfolio management by gathering all project requests and then prioritizing them into a backlog. Nir argues PMOs are in the best place to take on the prioritization task, as they have no horse in the game.

Allocate resources. If resources aren’t allocated strategically, businesses may find themselves in a classic airlines situation: If a plane breaks down or flights are delayed because of weather or a pilot becomes too sick to fly to a point where passengers have to be rerouted, an entire segment of the day’s plan collapses, he said.

“The solution is to use capacity allocation that works,” Nir said. He recommended CIOs read Critical Chain, a “business novel” written by Eliyahu Goldratt. The book takes a close look at the critical chain of project management, an approach developed by Goldratt that prioritizes resources as a major consideration for managing projects well.

Agile leadership. In a hybrid Agile/waterfall organization, executives and Agile teams aren’t speaking the same language and aren’t looking at the same key performance indicators. PMOs can be instructive in getting the two teams to see eye to eye. “You need to talk and agree,” Nir said. From his experience, that’s easier said than done. In one example from his own consultancy practice, Nir said he had to make the waterfall practitioners sit down with the Agile practitioners so that they could walk through the Agile manifesto together and negotiate basic terms.

“If we don’t do that up front, we’re going to pay for it later on by having disagreements,” he said.

In part one of this two-part blog post, Nir explains why PMOs are best positioned to become ambassadors of Agile.

February 29, 2016  6:05 PM

PMOs could benefit from supporting, adopting Agile

Nicole Laskowski Nicole Laskowski Profile: Nicole Laskowski

Adopting Agile methodology for IT seems like a no-brainer these days. But CIOs may not anticipate the complications — such as the culture and language barrier — Agile can create. Agile methodology, a alternative to the rigid, sequential waterfall methodology, breaks projects into smaller pieces, enabling teams to work in an iterative fashion and to change directions when needed.

When adopted by software development teams, Agile shakes up the workflow and introduces new terms such as “scrum master” and “sprint” into the software development team’s everyday vocabulary. But the executive management team often continues to work — and often has to work — in a style driven by top-down control, according to Michael Nir, president and founder of Sapir Consulting US and author of the book The Agile PMO.

Instead of adopting one methodology over the other, some companies, especially large corporations and regulated industries, may benefit from a hybrid approach that marries Agile and waterfall project management together. One best practice that can make the transition a little easier? Finding an intermediary or a translator to help executives and Agile teams get on the same page.

Nir argues that no office is better positioned to do this than the project management office (PMO), a team that oversees the project portfolio across the enterprise to ensure that projects come in on time, on budget and within scope. PMOs often standardize how work gets done within an enterprise, how projects get funded and how the portfolio is managed.

“One of the problems we’re seeing when we’re rolling out program management initiatives, whether they’re PMOs or just portfolio projects: We tend not to think end-to-end agility,” Nir said during his presentation at last week’s Society for Information Management (SIM) Boston chapter meeting. Instead, agility is associated only with the software developers. “We think about the [software] teams, the scrum masters. But this is not the only agility the business needs to adopt if we want to move toward a functioning PMO and a functioning value-driven portfolio.”

Taking a more holistic approach to agility couldn’t hurt many PMOs, suggested Nir, citing Gartner and ESI International research findings that 30% to 50% of PMOs fail.

In part two of this two-part blog post, Nir lays out four tips on how to become an Agile PMO.

February 29, 2016  5:06 PM

Students’ tech smarts pose challenge for college IT teams

Jason Sparapani Jason Sparapani Profile: Jason Sparapani
CIO, College, IT

Kids today. They’re a tech-savvy bunch. At least, that’s the popular notion.

“They’re very facile with their fingertips. Whenever I watch somebody type on an iPhone or read the newspaper on the iPhone, I’m always quite amazed at it,” said Robert Juckiewicz, vice president of IT at Hofstra University. “But they don’t have a very good understanding of anything underneath.”

So IT at the Hempstead, N.Y., school has a computing support center to help students work through issues they have with software or other technology. And it holds technology fairs where they can play with circuitry, learn about coding or dive into virtual reality with Google Cardboard, the low-cost, smartphone-enabled headset.

It’s a way to show students how technology could serve them in their careers, Juckiewicz said.

To today’s college students, born in the mid- to late 1990s, the staticky racket of a dial-up Internet connection is the sound of a long-ago era. They’ve looked to technology for entertainment, in video games and the iTunes store, and interactions with peers, through social media. Tech has played a part in their educations, too, with tablets and cloud-based software helping to form the way they see and understand the world. The challenge for college IT teams today is to cater to students’ proclivity for technology and even use it as a positive force in their educational development.

Using technology for good

And a challenge it is. Not all students know how mobile devices work, but most of them have one or more — and they expect to use them everywhere. For Juckiewicz, that frames tough questions for IT: How do you support thousands of different devices on campus at any given time? And how do you use those devices, and emerging technologies and software, for learning and teaching?

The IT team works to answer the first question, on networking and mobile infrastructure. For the second, it involves faculty, helping professors and lecturers use technology like smart devices to improve how they teach and, perhaps more important, how students learn.

“So what we struggle with in faculty computing and student computing is, how do you use all of this [technology]?” Juckiewicz said. “It’s great that you’ve got it, but who cares if it’s not doing something good?”

Students as teachers

For Eric Hawley, CIO at Utah State University, students’ knowledge of and familiarity with technology is very much a boon.

“In many ways students come in and they change the way we work,” he said. “They come in with different communication practices, different preferences.”

Hawley cited the school’s learning management system, which tracks and delivers coursework online, as an example. Students can choose how faculty and staff communicate with them, with assignments showing up in Google Calendar and announcements made over Twitter or Facebook.

For Hawley, that means giving students — plus faculty and staff and even IT units outside of his central IT department, what he calls “the edge” — flexible platforms, like Google Apps and, to work with. They handle all the complexity and integration of delivery formats.

“One of the great things about the technology is you sort of get this strange new mix-up,” Hawley said. “Everything is standardized, yet the edge can consume it in 15 different ways.”

For how college IT teams are handling shadow IT, read “University IT departments struggle to stay always open, always secure.”

February 29, 2016  11:03 AM

Robots, security as a service, cloud galore, shape ITO-BPO 2016 outlook

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

Heads-up from the ITO/BPO experts at global law firm Mayer Brown — look for dozens of new developments in the IT and business process outsourcing market in 2016. Among the trends outlined in the firm’s recent webinar:

Attorneys Rebecca Eisner, Paul Roy, Brad Peterson and Dan Masur, partners in Mayer Brown’s business and technology sourcing practice, see 2016 ITO-BPO market changes as falling under four broad themes. Here’s a recap of the highlights.

1.  Emerging technologies transform ITO-BPO services

Paul Roy_mayer

Paul Roy

Cloud goes mainstream. Everyone wants a piece of the cloud services market — traditional ITO/BPO providers, which now are making cloud a standard part of their services, as well as software and products companies seeking to defend and expand their turf. As a result, cloud vendors are losing their special status (and just maybe their “my way or the highway” attitudes) as more flexible and customized ITO/BPO services come on the market. “Buyers should develop well-organized approaches to buying cloud,” Roy said.

Here come the robots. ITO and BPO companies are “close to exhausting opportunities to move work closer to lower cost people,” Roy said, and are moving the work to machines. “For example, in BPO we are seeing this with automated email and document scanning that gathers the required data for automated entry and routes that data to the various business functions,” he said. Buyers with contracts designed to purchase human labor “will need to re-evaluate their existing deals and reconcile their contracts to this new world.”

Digital services deployed for competitive advantage. Cloud and digital services, in case anyone needs reminding, should not be viewed as just cost-cutting measures but as vehicles for improving a company’s competitive position. Case in point: the equipment manufacturers using Internet of Things (IoT) to allow customers to better manage and monitor their products — and the “tremendous benefits” derived from capturing and analyzing all the data.

2.  Multi-sourcing will push demand for integration services

Dan Masur_Mayer

Dan Masur

The provider list keeps getting bigger. “In the last two years, we have worked with more than 50 providers and the trend is continuing. These range from cloud providers such as Amazon and to Rackspace to everything-as-a-service providers,” Masur said. In addition to the big name cloud providers, customers are looking at emerging digital technology providers to help them become “truly digital businesses.”

ITO integration services are in demand. The more providers companies hire, the harder it is to integrate all of these services. “Many of the most powerful cloud technologies will require integration efforts comparable to those required to install [enterprise resource planning] systems,” Eisner said.

IT organizations don’t have enough people trained in managing these multiple platforms and providers. “Companies will have to hire the expertise for service integration, incident management, change management and other important cross-functional areas” she said.

Provider partnerships are increasing: Last year saw formal teaming between Accenture and Amazon, PwC and Google and HCL and Microsoft, as vendors scrambled to meet high customer  demand for integrated services and risk mitigation. Expect more such partnerships.

3.  Cybersecurity and data dominate the risk agenda

Poor security will cost you. Cyber threats, now a board-level topic, will only increase as IoT and other telematics are used in consumer and commercial products. “Regulators have clearly taken note and will exact increasingly large fines for poor security,” Roy said

Rebecca Eisner

Rebecca Eisner

Security as a service arrives. In response to increased cyber-risks, companies will rely on third party specialists for managing information security rather than on relying just on their outsourcing partners or on trying to manage security themselves, Eisner said. These security specialists will identify weak links and security gaps between outsourcing providers.

Data protection and privacy laws on the rise. The end of Safe Harbor  for the transfer of personal data out of Europe and passage of a Russian law requiring that data remain in Russia, will challenge customers and ITO/BPO providers. The Mayer Brown experts predict more data centers will be located in Europe to address some of these concerns.

4.  Deal pace, M&A drive ITO-BPO activity

Deals are getting done at warp speed. Competitive pressures have forced deals to “run faster and faster,” according to Peterson. Under pressure to act fast, companies are “fielding substantial negotiating teams working on an agile basis to close smart deals fast,” he said. They also are using a variety of forms, tools, template and instituting policies that will help them move quickly when a market opportunity arises.

Brad Peterson_mayer

 Brad Peterson

Banner 2015 M&A activity gives rise to reconfigured IT services. Record merger-and-acquisitions in 2015 are driving ITO, BPO and cloud activity, as companies rationalize the IT and business processes they inherited.  Said Roy, “2016 will be a banner year for ripping apart shared service centers and service contracts — and replacing them for the newly configured companies created by those M&A deals.”

February 23, 2016  4:42 PM

Do the feds need Apple to bypass smartphone encryption?

Jason Sparapani Jason Sparapani Profile: Jason Sparapani
Apple, Encryption, FBI, iPhone

Last week, I wrote in SearchCIO’s Searchlight news column about Apple’s opposition to a federal court order directing the company to give the FBI the tools to get into the iPhone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the suspects in the San Bernardino, Calif., massacre in December.

A reader commented on the IT Knowledge Exchange blog that instead of forcing Apple to circumvent its smartphone encryption controls, the government should create its own lock-picking software.

The FBI wants to get at the information stored in the phone — texts, photos, maps — to see whether Farook or his wife, Tashfeen Malik — both killed by police after the shooting deaths of 14 people at the county health department where Farook worked — had connections to terrorist groups. Does it need Apple’s help, or can it use its own resources to unlock the device?

Layers of security

First, here’s the issue. The upgrades to Apple’s iOS operating system on the iPhone 5C, the model of the phone Farook used, encrypt all data on the phone, so even Apple can’t get to it — that is, without creating a special tool.

The FBI doesn’t have the password that is locking the phone, and investigators can’t just go guessing, because of a feature Farook could have enabled that would destroy all stored data once someone enters an incorrect password 10 times. Is it switched on? The FBI doesn’t know that, either.

Still, it might be possible for the FBI to access at least some of the data, said Khalid Kark, who works on Deloitte’s CIO research team.

“There’s a fairly good chance that if you put in the 10 passwords the data is going to be wiped,” he said. “But even if the data is wiped, there are actual physical-hardware ways to still capture the data or remnants of the data and piece it together.”

Tough going for the government

But accessing the data hidden behind an unknown password and Apple’s smartphone encryption would be a painstaking process, Kark said, and even “sophisticated hacking” by the government may not capture 100% of the information in the phone.

The FBI missed an opportunity to get a backup of the data. The Justice Department said the password was reset by the San Bernardino County health department, which owned the phone. If it were not reset, the information could have been backed up to Apple’s cloud. Apple said the government had the phone when the password was reset.

Avivah Litan, an analyst at market research outfit Gartner who specializes in cybersecurity, wasn’t optimistic about whether the feds could gain access to information on the phone.

“Only if they got the password from someone,” she said. That, though, is possible — if the FBI can find the right people. “Maybe they left behind friends that have their password. People tend to reuse passwords, so maybe they could.”

February 23, 2016  4:40 PM

U.S. lacks law to make Apple help bypass encryption

Jason Sparapani Jason Sparapani Profile: Jason Sparapani
Apple, Encryption, FBI, iPhone

The federal court compelling Apple to help the FBI bypass encryption controls in the iPhone used by one of the suspects in the San Bernardino, Calif., massacre is leaning on a 227-year-old law called the All Writs Act. Part of the Judiciary Act of 1789, the statute authorizes the government to “issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.”

In 2016 English, that means it lets the government issue any order it needs to make somebody do something, as long as it is for a legal reason. Jonathan Mayer, of The Center for Internet and Society at Stanford University, called the law a “Swiss Army knife for the courts” that has been used in a wide range of scenarios, including challenging criminal convictions and establishing real estate.

While the law is broad, it’s not all-powerful. In fact, the ruling that orders Apple to work with the FBI on the phone states that if the tech company finds compliance “unreasonably burdensome,” it can appeal. The company has until Feb. 26 to do so.

No law to turn to

Johna Till Johnson, president and founder of Nemertes Research, said the legal ground under the FBI’s feet is shaky.

“That’s exactly why Tim Cook made it public,” she said, referring to the Apple chief executive’s public letter to customers about the “dangerous precedent” complying with the court order would set.

Right now, Johnson said, “there is no law that says you need to re-engineer every mobile device to disable encryption.”

The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994 requires telecoms to let the government around encryption controls in their networks, but it doesn’t cover mobile devices. Congress has been reluctant to pass legislation requiring tech companies to build “backdoors,” or shortcuts around encryption, into their products. In Johnson’s view, that could be on purpose.

Legal action

“If they did that, they’d kill the mobile phone industry,” she said. Foreign cell phone equipment suppliers like Alcatel-Lucent, already spooked by the revelations of global surveillance programs by former government contractor Edward Snowden, would want nothing to do with us.

“Everybody would stand up and say, ‘No way, José. The U.S. can do without mobile phones. We’re done,” Johnson said.

There is some activity on the issue. Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) are pushing for a bill to bypass encryption on mobile devices. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) are seeking an approach that balances government access to encrypted data with privacy protection, beginning with a commission to study the privacy and security implications of new technologies.

What might the world look like under a law requiring tech companies to decrypt information? Read the post “Life under a new encryption law.”

February 23, 2016  4:37 PM

Life under a new encryption law

Jason Sparapani Jason Sparapani Profile: Jason Sparapani
Apple, Encryption, iPhone, Privacy and security

The U.S. government is tapping the broad authority of a centuries-old statute, the All Writs Act of 1789, to make Apple build new software that would make it easier to get information locked in the iPhone in the San Bernardino, Calif., murder case. According to Apple chief executive Tim Cook, if the government used the law in such a way, nothing would stop it from peeking into the iPhones of millions of users without their knowledge.

Johna Till Johnson, president and founder of Nemertes Research, suggested the government dug up the legislation because it doesn’t have an encryption law to use in its place: one that would require “backdoors,” or mechanisms that would bypass the encryption on mobile devices that turns private information into gibberish for anyone but authorized users.

Several lawmakers are looking into bills that would require tech companies to decrypt information when the government demands it. The debate will surely rage on Capitol Hill for some time. But what if such a bill passes both houses of Congress and becomes law? What then?

Ultimately, it may prove hard to enforce, at least among telecoms, Johnson said. Other countries would still be able to produce uncrackable devices, so there would be little stopping anyone from going abroad and buying one.

“You’d have to really push,” Johnson said of the government. “You’d basically have to say something like, ‘Verizon, you cannot provide service to XYZ model PDQ phone, because that’s an illegal phone.'”

For CIOs and security teams, though, things probably wouldn’t change too much, she said. Under an encryption law that would circumvent secure communications on mobile devices, CIOs could encrypt their applications instead. For everyone else, especially those without a whole lot of tech smarts, it’s a different story.

“Your average consumer isn’t going to go out and buy application-layer security and layer it on top of his iPhone,” she said. “So it really is mostly an impact on citizens-slash-consumers.”

February 23, 2016  2:04 PM

A crash course in 3D thinking for the enterprise

Nicole Laskowski Nicole Laskowski Profile: Nicole Laskowski

The 3D printing market may be nascent, but CIOs should start to prepare the enterprise for the emerging technology.

According to Shawn DuBravac, chief economist and director of research at Consumer Technology Association, a standards and trade organization for the consumer electronics industry in the United States, preparation means more than ensuring the infrastructure is up to snuff. He also encourages executives to begin helping employees transition from 2D to 3D thinking.

“This is going to be something that becomes significantly more prevalent in the future,” he said in an interview with SearchCIO.

DuBravac’s concept of 3D thinking differs from what Google search results turn up. Rather than catchy, easy-to-remember consultant shticks, DuBravac is talking about a shift in conversation from what’s technologically possible to what’s technologically meaningful (real uses cases, user benefits, etc.).

The conversational pivot reflects a maturing 3D technology, similar to the maturation of wearables. “I don’t think we’re there yet with 3D printing, but we’re getting there,” DuBravac said during a recent presentation he gave at EmTech, an emerging technology conference hosted by the MIT Technology Review.

New generation of 3D thinkers

Part of the enterprise transition into 3D thinking will happen naturally, DuBravac said. Middle and high school students are already being exposed to thinking in three dimensions through gaming. Minecraft, for example, is a popular game where players design habitats in 3D, and, virtual reality headsets, such as Oculus Rift, are becoming more commonplace. Plus, it’s not unheard of for schools to invest in the 3D printing technology so that students can experiment with it, though the numbers are still small.

“Today, there are about 100,000 schools in the US, K-12. About 1,000 of them — 1% — have a 3D printer,” DuBravac said at EmTech.

But there’s no reason CIOs have to wait five to 10 years before they begin helping the enterprise make the transition from 2D to 3D thinking. One of the ways DuBravac, a trained mathematician and economist, changed his thinking was to pull the trigger and invest in his own 3D printing technology. “At first, I didn’t know what to do with it,” he said. “Over time, and it probably took a year, I started to say to myself, ‘I need this. I can’t find it. I could just 3D print it.'” CIOs can do the same for the enterprise.

It’s true that not all businesses need to sink resources into 3D thinking right now. (DuBravac’s quick rule of thumb: “If the business is involved in design at all, that’s a business that will be influenced” by the technology.) But it’s also true that 3D printing has never been more accessible or affordable. If CIOs can make even a small investment in the technology (one expert claims they can do so for $10,000), they may be able to set the stage for a shift in the conversation, DuBravac said.

February 22, 2016  12:59 PM

3D printing prepares to grow beyond rapid prototyping

Nicole Laskowski Nicole Laskowski Profile: Nicole Laskowski

Three-dimensional printers aren’t exactly a new technology. “It’s 30 years old,” said Pete Basiliere, a Gartner analyst who’s covered the 3D printing market for years.

The most widespread and time-tested use of 3D printing technology is by manufacturers and product designers for rapid prototyping. “Any company producing a product that designs something physical will most likely have 3D printers. It cuts down the design cycles significantly,” said Shawn DuBravac, chief economist and director of research at Consumer Technology Association, a standards and trade organization for the consumer electronics industry in the US. The iterative process enables companies to tweak designs quickly — and cheaply, directly benefiting the business. “It lowers not only the cost, but the time involved in designing and bringing products to market,” he said.

But here’s where things get tricky: 3D printing technology has been around for three decades, but it’s also acting like a newborn, according to Basiliere. While rapid prototyping is a familiar and well-established use case for the technology, new 3D printing use cases are beginning to emerge. One that’s receiving its fair share of media attention is customization, which is giving rise to handful of small, niche players in certain markets.

Hearing aid manufacturers are using the technology to scan a patient’s ear, create a model and then print a hearing aid shell specifically for a patient — in no time. Invisalign, manufactured by Align Technology, uses 3D printing technology to use a similar process for non-metallic braces, constructing 150,000 dental aligners a day, according to Basiliere. Or consider Sols, a startup that’s combining mobile technology and 3D printing to produce custom shoe inserts. The Sols tagline? “Three photos, ten minutes, two happy feet.”

February 16, 2016  1:00 PM

Study: Interest in location intelligence technology nascent but rising

Nicole Laskowski Nicole Laskowski Profile: Nicole Laskowski

Interest is growing in location intelligence, but the technology isn’t a priority for most businesses, according to the third annual Location Intelligence Market Study published last month by Dresner Advisory Services LLC. Location intelligence refers to a business intelligence tool that relates geographic information from a variety of data sources, including GIS and aerial maps, to business data.

Respondents to the survey, which included 403 industry representatives from technology to health care to financial services, ranked location intelligence/analytics 12th out of 25 technologies. Respondents pointed to dashboards, data discovery, data mining and integration with operational processes as bigger priorities than location intelligence; they ranked topics such as in-memory analysis, big data, text analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) as lesser priorities than location intelligence.

The findings don’t surprise Howard Dresner, founder and chief research officer at Dresner Advisory Services. Interest in location intelligence is dependent on the industry. “If you’re doing things like sales operational planning, you have to use location intelligence to do that. Otherwise, you’re not going to understand how to allocate resources appropriately,” he said.

Indeed, when broken down by industry, the survey reveals that retail has the highest interest in location intelligence with 65% of those representing the industry indicating that location intelligence is either critically important or very important to their company. Only 40% of survey takers from health care and 35% of survey takers from education said the same.

Yet Dresner predicts location intelligence will rise in importance across all industries eventually. One driver is Internet of Things (IoT), he said, pointing to the growing network of Wi-Fi enabled physical objects such as Fitbits and connected vehicles. “IoT is about where stuff is, first and foremost,” he said. As the IoT stack continues to mature and as more businesses build IoT pilots, Dresner believes location intelligence will ratchet up the priority list.

While location intelligence might be “kind of a sleeper,” right now, Dresner advised CIOs and senior IT leaders to seize the moment and get in front of the wave of interest. In some cases, businesses will need geocoding skills, converting, say, a street address into spatial data, to attain the level of granularity they’re after — skills that will most likely be housed in a company’s analytics department. In other cases, location intelligence features are baked into the business intelligence software, making it easy for a marketing or sales department to serve themselves.

Regardless, the IT department will have a hand in installing the technology, loading in the data, providing the technology support and training users, Dresner said. “[IT] has a role, unless you buy something that’s a SaaS offering, which makes it more of a managed service,” he said.

Forgot Password

No problem! Submit your e-mail address below. We'll send you an e-mail containing your password.

Your password has been sent to: