In lean times, companies should consider lean methodologies and tools to cut costs and improve processes. Lean BPM and Lean Sigma are two lean methodologies that allow companies to identify discrepancies and quickly improve business processes.
Lean BPM, according to Clay Richardson, senior analyst for Forrester Research, is the practice of “trimming the fat off of bloated BPM initiatives.” In a recent survey of 95 IT decision makers, Richardson found that companies are being asked to implement more BPM initiatives, while having their project budgets and resources cut at the same time. More than 50% of the 95 IT decision makers said that their BPM budgets were being reduced, while the demand was going up.
For Lean BPM to work, you have to think lean. Richardson suggests that companies get the most out of their Lean BPM plans by making sure to add nothing but value to projects, center or focus only on the people who are adding value, and audit your staff to make sure you have the right skill sets in place for your process analysts. All of these steps, and possibly adding a formal BPM Center of Excellence, will help ensure Lean BPM success in the enterprise.
Another way companies can improve processes in these lean times is through Lean Sigma. Different than Six Sigma, which is a customer-focused methodology applied to longer term projects, Lean Sigma focuses on short-term gains by identifying defects and eliminating waste from processes. Today’s business leaders are looking for these short-term gains and often don’t have the time, money or resources to invest in longer-term projects like Six Sigma.
In an economy where companies are constantly struggling to do more with less, lean methodologies like Lean BPM and Lean Sigma are just two examples of how some companies are successfully leveraging limited money and resources for quick gains. How many other ways can companies trim the fat, be lean and remain in competitive in today’s economy? What other “lean processes” or “lean tools” have you found effective?
CIOs looking for info on the how-tos of business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) have a wealth of literature at their Googling fingertips. On a mission yesterday to learn more about industry benchmarks for a recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO), the metrics that in principle help determine a company’s recovery strategy, I found business continuity guidebooks galore. The U.K.-based Business Continuity Institute and the U.S.-based DRI International peddle tomes on BC. The industry bible, Business Continuity Planning Methodology by brothers Akhtar and Afsar Syed, can be had for $145 with 1-Click ordering.
Benchmarks for state-of-the-art RTO and RPO are one thing if your enterprise is already up to date with business continuity and disaster recovery. But these metrics — and affordable DR — can seem awfully abstract in the real world, I am discovering from CIOs, especially if the real world is the globe.
I recently got an email from Jiten Patel, CIO of the Foundation for International Community Assistance (FINCA International), an amazing not-for-profit that provides microfinance services to the world’s lowest-income entrepreneurs. You’d think with its 25-year successful history of village banking, not to mention high-profile support from uber-connected celebrities like actress Natalie Portman, FINCA would not be at a loss for good DR. And, indeed, setting an RPO and RTO benchmark for FINCA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., “is an easy conversation.”
But there was Patel, on business in Baku, Azerbaijan, explaining the difficulty of providing affordable DR at its microfinance operations in 21 countries around the globe:
“DR options in the developing countries are fairly limited and expensive propositions, and not something we can afford to have in place in every country. And unlike in the US where we have the likes of Sungard and IBM who offer such services at a reasonable cost, this is not the case in countries where we operate — one has to buy a box, which may sit there ‘cobwebbed’ — which is not a viable option and it adds to the financial burden.
“In light of this my strategy has been to centralize our infrastructure on a region-by-region basis, to use 3rd-party hosting providers who can provide more robust redundancy options, and to try and negotiate more affordable DR pricing, which where we can makes it much more palatable for the likes of us.
“It would be a boon for all of us NGOs who operate globally, if someone like Sungard or IBM offered such services at very affordable rates around the globe: Offering it just in the US for far -lung global operations is not viable.”
The world may be getting flatter, but the playing field is far from level when it comes to DR. And it is just a hunch, but disasters that shred data must be common in countries where electricity on any given day is not a given.
This past week, SearchCIO.com looked at developing a business intelligence (BI) strategy, implementing project and portfolio management software, practicing innovation in a time of economic crisis, and addressing compliance requirements in cloud computing contracts. We also rolled out a brand new guide on BI and corporate performance management (CPM). Check out the stories below and let us know what you think!
Integrated business intelligence strategy spans app, BI developers – CIOs need to marry business application and BI development efforts to create a cohesive BI strategy, especially when adding analytical capabilities to enterprise applications.
PPM software helps university prioritize wide-ranging portfolios – Project and portfolio management (PPM) software helped the University of Utah centralize its IT initiatives, prioritize projects and establish useful portfolios. Learn how here.
James Champy: IT innovation in a time of economic crisis – IT innovation is critical in a time of economic crisis, says management guru James Champy. Find out how IT can enable the business to be successful and remain competitive in this video.
Addressing compliance requirements in cloud computing contracts – As CIOs look to cloud computing for data backup and storage, compliance requirements must be spelled out and met — or the data brought back down to earth.
BI services and solutions for enterprise CIOs – BI services and solutions and CPM software are growing quickly as effective means to gather and analyze data. Find out how to implement effective BI and CPM programs.
It would be suicide for a CIO to go to the CFO or CEO and say there’s no real return on our technology investments. But according to one industry expert, it’s the truth.
“If you just make a technology investment and don’t change the way you’re doing work, there’s no return on it,” said James Champy, author and chairman of consulting for Perot Systems Corp. during a recent interview at the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium. “The ROI doesn’t come from the investment in pure technology, but from the change in the nature of the work.”
According to Champy, the only way to measure the success of a technology investment is not through ROI, but through the realized improvements in business performance. And in the end if you have a dramatic improvement in business performance, you usually have a significant ROI from your technology investments.
So what’s the best way for measuring business performance and communicating the role technology plays in its success?
Many companies use BI scorecards and dashboards as a formal means for measuring business performance in the enterprise. These types of tools allow companies to use data in a more productive way and better align technology goals with the needs of the business.
As far as communication goes, you should “go to your company executives and tell them ‘here’s a way we’ve used IT to get a product to market, or respond to a customer call the day it comes in, or reduce the cost of a process by 50%,'” advised Champy. These types of “wins” are great examples to show the business executives how work has been significantly improved by technology investments.
And that’s where the real ROI really comes in – in the improvement technology investments make to business performance.
My story this week on the University of Utah’s project and portfolio management (PPM) program stood out from other PPM pieces I’ve reported because, in this case, the portfolio piece of the program got top billing.
The University of Utah categorized its IT initiatives across the university into 11 portfolios, in areas ranging from “architecture and security” to “instructional” and “user experience.” The entire program (which followed a campus-wide IT centralization effort) was completed in 10 months. Now, projects must go through the strategic portfolio process to be approved; it’s not longer a case of “whoever yells the loudest gets their money first.”
As we noted in the story, new SearchCIO.com reader research on PPM found that only 37% of 304 enterprise organizations define PPM as an enterprise-wide discipline used to select and prioritize investments in different parts of the company, including IT. The others use PPM only in IT (31%); don’t have a PPM practice at all (28%); or have one only outside of IT (5%).
It was also striking how that second “P” in PPM played such a huge role for the Salt Lake City-based university. A lot of organizations use PPM software mainly for project management and prioritization; the “portfolio” aspect doesn’t tend to play a big role. In our survey, 42% used PPM software, and of those, only 30% deemed portfolio management as a “very important” feature in PPM software system selection.
It sounds like this “portfolio first” approach at the University of Utah was a huge success. I’m told that an educational facility doesn’t necessarily view ROI in the kind of dollar terms other organizations do, but that they’re seeing results nonetheless. Resources (i.e. people) are being better utilized and the right projects – benefitting the university as a whole – are being completed in a timelier manner.
So why don’t more organizations focus on portfolio creation and management in PPM software purchases and planning? I’d be interested in hearing your organization’s rationale in the comments section below, or e-mail me.
“There’s no reason for us to be intimidated at all by what is happening in California,” Patrick said in a speech to business and technology leaders gathered at the Microsoft offices in Cambridge, Mass.
Patrick said that up to $1 million could be made available to a startup that agrees to base operations in the Commonwealth, create a minimum of five jobs in the first year — and that had appropriate work permits in the U.S. Each startup must also gain matching funds from an outside investor.
The MassChallenge Venture Funds Competition (MVFC) is modeled upon the annual business plan competition held Cambridge’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and offers a similar amount of seed capital: $50,000 in cash for the launch of the business. The competition will be financed through a combination of public and private funds. Microsoft, Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande (co-founder and chairman of Sycamore Networks, Inc.), the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and The John Adams Institute serve as initial founding sponsors of new $1 million startup competion.
Should a funded company become successful, fund officials hope a portion of the profits could be used to make the competition self-sustaining. Initially, the competition wants to fund between 25 and 30 companies each year, using a collaborative, innovative website built in consultation with the founders of Monster.com, LinkedIn and Facebook.
According to the initiative website, there will be six different tracks that can receive funding:
- Health care, and life sciences
- IT, software, and gaming
- Clean technology and energy
- Social development and nonprofit
- Open category, seed stage
- Open category, expansion stage
This initiative is a marked departure from the creation of direct employment opportunities created by the federal stimulus act. Offering seed funding from a public-private partnership of venture capitalists, foundation and the state itself for startups that are founded, built and headquartered here is innovative. The number one concern, however, expressed by Massachusetts IT executives in a study presented by researchers from the Massachusetts Donahue Institute, was the cost of doing business in the Commonwealth, with respect to taxes, unemployment insurance and compensation. Public and private partnerships came in far below improvements to IT infrastructure or the science and technology pipelines.
Even so, the hundreds of technologists and business leaders were left buzzing following the announcement here in Cambridge; clearly, there are high hopes for the innovation that may be sparked by MassChallenge Venture Funds Competition. That said, Boston Globe reporter Scott Kirsner tweeted the following: “Key detail about $25 million MassChallenge “fund”: it hasn’t been raised yet, and winners will need matching $ from VCs.”
An archive of the livestreamed video of the announcement is embedded below. The Governor’s speech begins 20 minutes in.
(We apologize for the relatively low quality of the audio and video.)
We went on a roll with business intelligence on SearchCIO.com last week, delving into BI interfaces and steps to unfreeze a BI strategy in an organization. We also kept things lively on the blog, with posts on the Cognos bribery scandal in Massachusetts, Verizon’s cloud pricing and how the economic recession is driving desktop replacements. Check it all out below and let us know what you think!
Next-generation BI software: It’s all in the interface – Business intelligence tools developers hope to increase BI usage among employees — especially younger ones — by adopting the look and feel of popular consumer applications like Google.
Five steps to unfreeze a business intelligence strategy – Experts share a roadmap for getting a stalled BI strategy back on track.
It appears that the economic recession is driving some companies to look for desktop replacements. Sure, desktop prices have come down significantly, and plenty of people argue it would take years for a large enterprise to phase out desktops, if it chooses to at all, but the cost of desktop management is just not worth it to some folks.
I’m seeing large companies giving out stipends to employees, telling them to buy whatever endpoint they want. Some of these companies also want to use virtualization technology on the endpoint to isolate corporate software from personal software. If the client device breaks down due to personal software, the user is responsible for getting it fixed, not IT.
A move to desktop replacements like iPhones and lightweight laptops is already driving down the need for traditional desktops. How often do you hear people saying they’ll get to something when they get back in the office these days? Most already carry around their device of choice in this world of road warriors.
Chris Brady, CIO of Dealer Services out of Carmel, Ind., thinks traditional networks and PCs will be undergoing a transformation largely due to virtualization. “The cost of keeping all the desktops and laptops connected and running and virus-free requires a substantial amount of resources. … Do you really need to spend that much money to provide access to an application?”
There has to be a better way to efficiently address desktop management, and she sees that in client-side hypervisor technology, a desktop replacement approach in which the applications that users need reside on the end device of choice and do not have to continuously hit a network server. Such technology is being developed by VMware and Citrix, but it is still first gen.
“I think it’s still too bleeding edge, but we are definitely looking at such technology to replace our current PC model,” Brady said.
She also couldn’t justify the cost of a new PBX switch and moved the company’s 450 employees to VoIP.
Desktops? PBXs? Or are there applications that are just not worth keeping in-house any longer? What do you think is on the hit list as people try to gain efficiencies and cut costs during this economic recession? Will cost-cutting measures lead to the demise of certain technologies?
Let us know what might be on the way out at your organization, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Verizon unveiled their cloud computing offering this week and introduced a new question into the debate over cloud: Which is more important, price or reliability? Carl Brooks runs down Verizon’s cloud pricing scheme in detail, and it’s a very different flavor than Amazon Web Services. Verizon: pay $750 just to get started, and then by the day. Amazon: nothing to start, pay by the hour.
Translate that into use cases and you get Verizon=deliberate act by someone with a budget, Amazon=casual act by someone with an expense account. Of course, Amazon already has customers with budgets, but they may well have started as casual users kicking the tires at virtually no risk. Verizon’s early adopters will have likely gotten a nod from someone in authority and have a budget — no mention was made of self-service and credit cards.
At first glance, Verizon’s entry seems a bit like Dad showing up at the high school dance dressed like all the cool kids. But in some ways, Verizon’s offering marks a turning point in the emerging cloud market because Verizon (as with most major telcos) is all about uptime and process. Brooks’ story quotes a Verizon exec suggesting, for example, that users will likely be able to bring auditors in to meet their compliance and security audit needs. Verizon is talking about “100% uptime.” Amazon is a bit elusive on their exact uptime and to my knowledge has no kind of customer audit capability.
Verizon is only committing “a few hundred” servers to the project as yet, but they are the first major player to emphasize those kind of enterprise requirements. The question to readers is, are you looking for that kind of enterprise reliability in cloud now, or are you currently more into cheap trials? And if it all works out, do you see a Verizon as a long-term partner?
Talk about a lack of business intelligence: A former Cognos BI sales rep has been indicted, along with some former top Massachusetts officials, in a bribery scandal surrounding a now-voided $13 million deal for performance management software for state government.
Though nearly all the players have since moved on to other things, this episode takes us back to a time that wasn’t good for this state’s IT. Indeed, the IT organization was apparently nothing but a pawn in this transaction, as the House speaker and his associates took seeming advantage of a CIO office in transition.
The time of the alleged activity found the IT organization in the hands of an acting CIO, the previous two CIOs having left after short tenures in apparent turmoil over an open document standard. CIO Peter Quinn resigned in late 2005, and his successor, Louis Gutierrez, lasted just 10 months. Gutierrez resigned in October 2006, citing a lack of funding for the commonwealth’s technology initiatives. Interesting how the House speaker pushed through legislation for $15 million for a BI project just a short time later. (He resigned earlier this year and is a key figure in the indictment.)
The acting CIO then signed off on the Cognos BI deal; in one account, this interim leader said the influence of top politicians didn’t affect her technology choice. However, the project didn’t get far. The commonwealth finally hired a permanent CIO in July 2007, Anne Margulies, who soon “raised concerns about ‘discrepancies’ in the bids,” and ordered the review that eventually uncovered the alleged activity, according to one report.
Now, anyone who pays attention to the news knows that there’s plenty of influence peddling out there, and much of what we find out about is in the public sphere, where everything from construction contracts to political office seems to be available for a price. CIOs are hardly immune to similar temptations. Whether it’s Lakers tickets or a pool in your backyard, CIOs do encounter vendor bribes, and it’s my guess that not all of them are as honest as the CIOs we interviewed for a story on steering clear of vendor bribes a couple years back.
Still, in Massachusetts, it’s notable that only elected officials and their lobbyist face charges as a result of the investigation into the bribery scandal. But the fact that no one from IT was fingered isn’t exactly good news, either. If elected officials (or executives) are steering the IT ship, choosing the technology path or big package that will perform key functions for years to come, something is wrong. Of course, with a revolving CIO door, Massachusetts already knew that.