The Business-Technology Weave

March 8, 2010  7:12 AM

BiT: The Business Implementation Team

David Scott David Scott Profile: David Scott

Getting to where you’re going involves a sale. It’s true: If you can’t sell your creation to the organization – your idea, your vision, your direction for the organization – then you’ve labored in vain. There must be a belief in a business idea, or a technical solution, or any combination – and that belief is “sold” to other believers. In a larger sense, the organization must sell itself and its own objectives to its staff. Selling, whether believing in a proposal, product, solution, service, new method, etc., means effectively communicating to those who can help you and who can partner with you to achieve the aims. In doing this, we can ask: “How do we qualify to sell?” and “Where do we sell?”

For an effective partnership, we need to create a sales ready environment into which appropriate people can direct those energies, and vet these ideas. When we talk about identifying, planning, and selling change here, we’re really talking about achieving a shared vision and consensus – a belief – between Business and Technology for achievement of best change. Best change means that we deliver something suitably sized, based on proper expectations, in the most effective manner possible. We need an effective teaming: one that minimizes the opportunity for mistakes; wrong impressions; erroneous expectations; wasted time, money, and energy; and delivery of wrong, or diminished, things. An enterprise that structures itself for efficiency and delivery of success through effective communication, mutual understanding, and collaboration. The kind of collaboration that is positive so as to move business forward. Let’s repeat that: to move business forward.

Moving Business Forward

Whatever your organization’s mission, product, service, desired accomplishments (its business), all effort should be directed to that regard. Any suspect activity can be illuminated by the simple question: “Does this move business forward?” (Or, thought of another way, “Does this have business value?” There can be many versions to this question, but they all essentially expose an answer that must meet the qualifier of advancing business’ interests). Any answer short of ‘yes’ is unacceptable. This qualified engagement helps to eliminate wasteful politics, dismantle the “silos” of departments, and diminish posturing on the part of individuals.  Just to be clear, we’re talking here about exposing inhibitors to good faith partnering in conducting sound business. Anything that moves business forward is not necessarily appropriate – your organization’s ethics and good legal standing are assumed to be in place.

(Not Just) Another Team

So, to help us remain within a proactive, forward thinking, and positive posture, we’re going to lay the groundwork for a qualified partnership between IT and Business. In short, we’re going to create a team.

We’re not just creating another team – we’re going to create a special team in crafting and maintaining the Weave: the team. This team will have as its prime goal the “perfect storm” weave of People, Policy and Process when crafting, steering, and delivering success for your business-technology investment. We’re going to need some rules for the team. We’re going to define the structure and means for interaction by members within the team. And, we’ll show how best to communicate the team’s concerns, conclusions, and recommendations to other management – for sanction, sponsorship, and delegated action in achieving results.

It’s amazing how many organizations make ill-informed decisions. Whether they leave out major business players that have a stake in the decision, or build a business solution independent of the most reliable and effective “technical mesh” to business, this poor decision making process is costly: in terms of budget, morale, productivity and, increasingly, security. Exacerbating the problem is a common reliance on poor, even ad hoc, communications to the organization itself regarding important central, core, business changes.

It’s also confounding that IT frequently finds itself on the coattails of the decision-making process, often being the recipient of an approved “solution” with orders to “make it happen.” Once IT is in the game, IT is frequently the unhappy participant who discovers all the other unsurveyed entities that have a shared interest in the change, and who now have major, legitimate, and sometimes competing concerns. None of this is good. All of this is avoidable.

In order to collaborate effectively, IT and Business must first communicate. In order to communicate effectively, there needs to be an identified group of qualified “communicators” – people who will help to identify, plan, and support change in a knowledgeable fashion. Do not waste time by putting unqualified persons on this team, such as those who do not appreciate policy and business objectives; who may not understand process; or those who do not utilize technology well (or who even may have an adversarial relationship with technology). Do not waste time replicating some other dysfunctional team, or teams, in your organization.

The participants must come from those parts of the organization that effectively manage business and manage IT. Individuals from both areas must understand the means by which business is conducted – these are the middle and upper middle managers, and as necessary those visionaries and planners who are identifying emerging business and practices. That is, those privy to the organization’s direction: they who can bring timely notification to the group of new business directions, emerging requirements, and technical developments – with the sanction of the necessary governance and senior executive management. This group will become that special team, and we’ll call this team the Business Implementation Team (BiT). You can call it what you wish, of course, but here we’ll refer to it as BiT.

The Business Implementation Team (BIT)

The creation and successful launch of the BiT team will require your ability to sell the concept to your supervision: your boss, his or her boss, and any other necessary approval authorities, and subsequently, you must sell the concept to the other managers  and directors in the organization. If your organization already has some sort of regularized or formal meeting between IT and Business that is successful, you are largely set, and can glean from this discussion those things that will enhance your team. If, however, you don’t have something like BiT, or if you have a somewhat dysfunctional or poorly defined version of BiT, then you’ll want to launch a newly defined team and meeting to fill the void in the case of the former, or to emplace an effective table in the case of the latter.

The BiT team provides a forum for interaction by IT and Business. The participants, schedule, and agenda flexes according to many things: business cycles, budget cycles, periods and locations of heavy implementation, periods of relative inactivity. Ideas can be debuted and discussed in the BiT forum: new, upcoming business postures can be exposed for discussion and planning; a business-delegate can impart desires from a governance committee; IT’s supervision can sit in when desired or necessary, exposing the organization’s leaders to new technology planning and impact, or announcing major, upcoming changes that require Business’ involvement. This is where business leaders can effectively expose department needs and solicit ideas. As necessary, other staff members with specific job functions and specialized job knowledge can participate when necessary. Solutions partners, in the form of vendors or contractors, should be invited to participate.

For example, during major software implementations, the BiT team would comprise those department heads affected by the new software. During budget planning, the BiT team would want to pull in all major department heads to discuss common needs. Changes to the web or e-Commerce would involve the relevant people. In these examples, all proposed needs should be identified – vetting them can ordinarily transpire in BiT. However, there will be times where sensitive vetting takes place later between the IT leader and her supervision, and in-turn the necessary senior-most Business individuals.

Depending on the organization, the BiT team may meet quarterly, it could be monthly, sometimes weekly, and it will meet off-schedule sometimes. The schedule and participants will be determined by the needs. Generally, it should be IT’s lead to make these determinations, as the BiT team should be seen as an IT-hosted and lead endeavor in service to business. The agenda should be assembled by IT, with input from Business. However, at times and as necessary, anyone on the team can suggest a meeting and agenda.

Selling BIT

Hopefully IT can see the need and utility for the BiT team – but if one doesn’t exist in your organization, it’s likely because Business has not understood the need for one. How to sell it to Business? A sponsor – a believer – needs to debut the idea with its direct reporting authority first. A Business and an IT person can pair and best sell BiT to an immediate authority, who will in-turn sell it to the highest possible authority for sanction at the very top. You can print this blog item and hand it to someone with a request to read.

Perhaps the biggest selling point to BiT is that it is, in addition to other things, a mindset. The BiT team will be about moving business forward. BiT will be proactive, prudent, positive and empowered. A successful sell, launch and exercise of a BiT team in your organization will not only make the managing of business better, it will change your organization’s culture. We can predict this because we are going to do something with the BIT team that is unusual for many organizations. We are going to make it effective, efficient, and accountable – collectively, the team will account, and the individuals on the team will account.

We are going to ask for and engage everyone’s best game. We’re going to create a point of pride – and we’re going to stamp this team with excellence. People are going to be proud of what this team produces, and people are going to hold their membership on this team in high regard. This is largely why, if you have a similar but less effective team in place now, you must sweep it away with BiT. BiT will have a discipline in attitude, subtle yet strong, that will sway the most negative players into a zone of increased positivity. Why? Because they will be required to engage that way when they participate on this team. That requirement will be delivered and backed by a power greater than the IT leader or any laterally situated Business leaders – that’s for certain:

As we stated, the sale of the BiT concept must be made at the highest possible level, and you must receive sanction there. Once you make that sale, you will leverage your sale and explanation of the BiT team to the other players by having it’s debut and related importance communicated by that power. We are going to have the team’s culture defined and sanctioned by the level of power in your organization that can require adherence to a set of principles, and dedication to good faith efforts. Thus, we create a zone within your organization’s culture. It may be an island at first, or it may fit your organization’s current culture reasonable well, but regardless its influence will be felt – and in more ways than one.

Change: An Easy “Sell” – a Difficult Buy?

We can smooth the sale for BiT by defining and selling the benefits of effective change management – just as importantly, we expose the rising risk and rising cost of ineffective change management – in an overall world environment of accelerating change.

We can call change an easy “sell” because, if you think about it, you’re going to “buy” some kind of change whether you plan to or not. Change is a default” setting – you can’t uncheck that box and remain static – in any endeavor. You’re going to acquire change no matter what position you’re in, and you’ll either change as a reaction to other changes, or you’ll lead your necessary changes. Since the world at large is going to “force” you to “buy” changes, you want to buy (to identify, lead, and emplace) the best changes – you don’t want any difficult buys. You must get into a position to leverage that default change dynamic to your advantage.

It is important to understand the environment that carries change to its successful destination. We can have the best BiT team in the world, identifying all necessary and correct change – but what happens if even prudent, appropriately sized, change is improperly managed? What if we attempt to change too fast? What if some elements of the organization aren’t ready?

We need a close interaction of Technology and Business within our Weave to ensure a basic understanding from both directions in defining, tracking and managing change. Ultimately, BiT involves the whole of the organization through its influence.

March 4, 2010  7:11 AM

Data Breaches and the Business-Technology Weave (BTW)

David Scott David Scott Profile: David Scott

Everyone in the organization needs to be a mini-Security Officer these days. What does that mean? It’s time for each person to recognize that every action must be viewed through the prism of security, and activity must be conducted in accordance with defined, attendant, values and standards. It’s part of today’s BTW.

Consider: It has just now come to light that approximately 39,000 physicians and other health care providers in Massachusetts are being warned that personal information, to include Social Security numbers, might be compromised. This past August, a laptop containing data was stolen from an employee at the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association’s national headquarters in Chicago. Thanks for the timely notification!

It’s easy enough to gauge the general extent of the problem: Just Google “data breach,” “data theft,” etc. In the face of these data thefts (and the vast numbers are hushed), the organization must value security: it must train to, and perform to, specific security standards as determined by the organization’s business, environment, risk, and related needs. Rather than representing an expensive burden, security becomes a weighted concern for new employee orientation, updated refresher trainings, internal organizational newsletters, and so forth. Security consciousness and performance becomes a rated area for every supervisor’s evaluation of every employee during the appraisal process – governance to intern. It’s the business of security as pertains to the organization’s technical assets and data: The Business-Technology Weave.

In the BTW, data security is not the province of IT. It is the province of the organization. Who owns the data? The organization does. IT most definitely can select, size, and maintain security systems – in the technical sense. IT can also train people for security awareness and best practices. But it really needs to be business, as the ultimate stakeholder, that secures business – and business must be intelligent enough to oversee IT and the related security measures there – as well as in the simple human realm. After all, most breaches are due to human error. Who at Blue Cross and Blue Shield allowed the laptop to be stolen? Were there standards for securing laptops? Cables and keys for cubicles? Secure docking stations? Locked doors for offices and protocols for stepping out? Was there security guidance for using, handling and storing laptops? There was? Then, what happened to the employee who “lost” the laptop? Sometimes, examples need to be made…

Any business will get it soon enough: preparedness and prevention guards against damage to the organization’s number one asset: its reputation.

As we’re fond of saying here at the BTW: In the realm of risk, unmanaged possibilities become probabilities. Start thinking about risk and liabilities now, and get security on the table before something like this happens in your organization. Research and educate yourself for all manner of data breaches and how they occurred – then survey your job, your activities, and your place of work for risk. Make suggestions and inspire or take appropriate action depending on your place in the organization.

Get started today.

Coming up: What the heck is a BiT?

March 1, 2010  2:43 PM

Welcome to “The Business-Technology Weave”

David Scott David Scott Profile: David Scott

Greetings fellow business and IT travelers, and welcome to “The Business-Technology Weave” (BTW). The BTW is essentially a brand of electronic culture – an eCulture if you will – that recognizes the interwoven reliance of business and technology, while crafting and sustaining that culture for best returns on present and future business. More about eCulture in the coming days.

By way of introduction, I’ll bring some observations on my part regarding things I’ve seen over the course of 20+ years – both in the trenches (HelpDesk, network engineering/management, direct project management…) and from “on high” in senior executive management, and how I turned those observations toward better business and IT practices. Further, the observations are common to all sorts of environments: public and private, Fortune 500, government, non/not-for-profit, sole-proprietorships and even personal computing. These observations concern the divide between the necessary business of getting things done and the technical supports that enable and sustain that business.

In the middle is the usual politics: user fears; board, management and budget influences; time constraints; costly mistakes; the struggle with vendors and solutions providers; and anything else that whisks us away from our initial expectations, and our carefully crafted projects, timelines and deliveries.

In other words, situations are often inefficient at best, broken at worst. It is a challenge, and ever more so in today’s quickening environment. Even in the best of these, there is always room for improvement – with attendant rewards. Our goal is to make careers and business more secure, more efficient, and more satisfying – while delivering ever greater returns to business, clients, and customers. Whether you’re “Business” or “IT”, you want optimal returns on your investments: Dollars, efforts, and teamwork.

Business and technology are interwoven today. Remove technical supports, and business may sustain 5% productivity. Therefore, here in The Business-Technology Weave, we’ll do three critical things: We will close divides, we will direct purpose, and we will achieve results.

In following the “rule of threes,” we’ll also consider three essential organizations out there:

1) The organization that “doesn’t get it” and likely won’t in terms of creating and sustaining a valid eCulture. They’ll be history.

2) Organizations that do get it, and are “there.” These organizations need to remember (particularly during change of key personnel, and during the stress of large-scale IT and business change) that there’s always room for improvement. Best practices must be maintained and maneuvered into the future. New practices will emerge.

And 3) Organizations that aren’t yet there, but are open to and even questing for a modern eCulture. This may well be the bulk of organizations out there, and you just might reap some nice bonuses for ideas and deliveries of new and better ways of looking at things. Who among us cannot use some accolades for achieving things, sustaining best practices, best progressions, and better business?

A final thought: This is the IT Knowledge Exchange, and the majority of readers are likely “IT.” However, in helping “business” (non-IT) people to help you (IT), it is our goal to craft this forum such that your business people can come here, learn, and better interface with you. Please point them here when relevant topics are discussed. This just might be the forum they’ve needed for a long time, even as they didn’t realize that need.

Welcome aboard! And in the next days, we’ll get down to the business of better business.

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