Archive for the ‘Organisational Development’ Category

SWOT-IT   Leave a comment

SWOT – Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

We know that a SWOT analysis is often used at an organisational level as part of the strategic planning process. But can it be used for the IT department?

I say yes.

It is a way to think about the status of the department (ie. strengths and weaknesses), as well as the environment IT operates within (ie, opportunities and threats).

So, map out your strengths and weaknesses according in areas such as:

  • the structure of the IT department
  • what is being measured and monitored
  • the portfolio of services delivered
  • matters like governance, security and risk

By the end of the process, you’ll have a good understanding of what you are good at, what needs further investment, and what needs to be discarded.

Let’s shift to opportunities and threats.

And don’t forget, the suite of Information Systems that is in use by the organisation is their to assist and support the organisation in its mission. Just like the Sales Department should be aligned to the direction of the company, and HR should be ensuring that staff are contributing to efficient and effective outcomes, so too should IT.

And so we come to the external environment. What are the opportunities and threats that are being presented to other departments and to the organisation as a whole. For example:

  • is the market for the goods and services produced changing?
  • are suppliers demanding linkages with their ERP systems?
  • what smartphone applications are becoming de-riguer within your industry?
  • are there any implications from changes to applicable statutes and laws?

By the end of this second part of the process, you’ll have a better appreciation for how you can better align the IT department to the needs and direction of the business.

SWOT IT. An approach to developing a better IT Strategy.


For more of what I have to offer, visit Dellium Advisory, follow on Twitter, connect using LinkedIn, or navigate to “The Forward View”, my strategy and futures-centric blog.


Critical Thinking and IT   Leave a comment

Having been involved in IT for quite a number of years I have been personally across an extensive list of faults, projects and to-do lists. Where the faults have ranged all the way from printing problems on a PC to Active Directory synchronization errors across multiple global domains. Where the projects have included things like office relocations, SAN upgrades and WiFi rollouts. And where to-do lists (IT strategies) have revolved around understanding the needs of multiple stakeholders, the timing of investment decisions and the availability of resources.

And one of the critical abilities that is common to all of these is the ability to think critically.

Not in the sense of being critical about others, but the process of thought and reasoning.

I’ve seen fellow IT professionals simply content to hit refresh buttons and just go for the software re-install.

I’ve seen projects fall over because some first and second order impacts weren’t considered.

And I’ve seen action items added to strategies for no other reason than it just felt right to the sponsor.


So, while the following list can apply to other areas of endeavor that requires fault analysis, project management or strategic approaches, all of these aspects of critical thinking do apply to the full gamut of activities associated with information technology.

Eight principles of critical thinking:

  1. define the purpose
  2. what is the question you are wanting to answer
  3. collect information
  4. consider your inferences
  5. check your assumptions
  6. be clear about the concepts in use
  7. what exactly is your perspective
  8. what are the implications

Regarding purpose. What is the objective of that project? What is it that is really trying to be achieved?

Regarding question. How clear are you about the fault you are trying to fix? What are its symptons and underlying causes?

Regarding information. Do you have all the facts and evidence with respect to that fault? How long has it been going on, under what conditions is it triggered, and so on.

Regarding inferences. Looking at that set of strategic objectives, what interpretations and conclusions can you draw out from that body of proposed work?

Regarding assumptions. What beliefs and biases do you hold, and what beliefs and biases do you believe that others hold?

Regarding assumptions. With respect to that project, what are you taking for granted? With respect to that strategy, what are you assuming about the business?

Regarding concepts. What exactly is that idea you have about the cause of that fault? What is the theory you have about the use of that particular technology for that project?

Regarding perspective. Can you step back and see your point of view dispassionately? In the project management discussions, is your point of view valid?

Regarding implications. When you take that step to fix up the fault, what will happen? What is likely to occur as you execute that strategy?

The ability to think critically is increasingly important. Do you take the time and effort to apply any or all of these eight aspects of thought and reasoning to the tasks at hand?

For more of what I have to offer, visit Dellium Advisory, follow on Twitter, connect using LinkedIn, or review my strategy and futures-centric blog.

IT Alignment – what do the users do?   Leave a comment

Do you know what the users of IT in your organisation are doing? What type of work are they handling on a daily basis?

And importantly, is the information technology that they are provided with supporting this activity efficiently?

One way to think about this is through their types of communication. Are they coordinating, collaborating, or being an information conduit?
– Coordinating: ensuring others are getting things done, booking resources, dealing with timelines
– Collaborating: working with others toward a common goal, sharing ideas, sharing resources
– Conduit: sending and receiving information and instructions, creating work, being that knowledge resource

From here, what tool do they use to get these tasks done? Are all 3 types of users lumped with the same technology, and thus being potentially inefficient, or is the IT they use tailored for their primary type of communication.

By getting this right, measurable improvements in productivity can be realized.

For more, see Dellium Advisory

Is IT Aligned to your business?   Leave a comment

Here are some questions to ask about IT in your organization:
1. Are the enterprise, or business unit, reports you get, any reports at all, always accurate & timely?
2. How much effort does it take to produce these reports?
3. How centralized is IT? Is there much duplication of effort & systems?
4. From a customer & user perspective, how difficult is IT to use?
5. What contribution is IT making to the overall organizational strategy?

If IT is not efficient, effective & contributing positively – there’s a possibility that the IT strategy is not aligned to the overall organisational strategy.

That can, and should be, resolved.

For more, see Dellium Advisory.

Porter Had It Right   Leave a comment

The principles that Michael Porter espoused in his 1985 book “Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance” still hold up. This is true even for his approach to developing technology strategy that he detailed in that book.

This is his method for developing a technology strategy:
1. Identify all distinct technologies in the value chain
2. Identify potentially relevant technologies in other industries or under development
3. Determine the likely path of change of key technologies
4. Determine which technologies and potential technological changes are most significant for competitive advantage and industry structure
5. Assess the firms relative capabilities in important technologies and the cost of making improvements
6. Select a technology strategy, encompassing all important technologies, that reinforce the firm’s overall competitive strategy
7. Reinforce business unit technology strategies at the corporate level

Now, upon recently reading Brad Stone’s book about Amazon (“The Everything Store”) it occurred to me that even Jeff Bezos had applied this strategy to his firm. That Jeff continuously and relentlessly focused on the technologies in the value chain in order to improve his firms operational effectiveness.

And so to the questions. What technology is in use in the value chain in your organisation? How can it be improved? What is the likely roadmap for those technologies? Is there alignment between the IT strategy and the business strategy?

Posted December 11, 2013 by terop in Architecture, ICT Strategy, Organisational Development

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Books Read: “The Technology Management Handbook”, Dorf.   Leave a comment

In short, this is a major piece of work. It runs to around a thousand pages. It is quite comprehensive as it comprises essays by authors from a range of specialties.

The Sections are:
– The Technology Manager & The Modern Context
– Knowledge for The Technology Manager
– Tools for The Technology Manager
– Managing The Business Function
– Strategy of The Firm
– Core Relationships for The Technology Manager
– Global Business Management

What is of interest to me is the HR aspect of work. That is, the motivations we have and the design of our jobs.

The questions that must be asked concerning the motivation of technical professionals are:
– what energizes particular behaviours
– what directs or channels these behaviours
– how the behaviours are sustained/altered

Two things of note:
– we must create the kinds of job assignments, careers & work-related conditions that allow professionals to satisfy their individual needs
– the organization designer’s job is to select the least-managerially demanding organization that best fits the “design criteria” appropriate to the situation & strategy

Now, the theories behind all this are:
– cognitive models of motivation:
  – Maslow’s hierachy
  – Herzberg’s 2 factor
  – McClelland’s Theory of Needs
– motivation through design of work
  – equity theory
  – expectancy theory
– Hackman & Oldman suggest 3 task dimensions:
  – skill variety
  – task identity
  – task significance (important)
  – also: autonomy, feedback (weak in IT)
– socio-technical model of job design means that team covers breadth/depth/height of the work rather than individuals:
  – depth of expertise
  – breadth of functional tasks
  – height of leadership activities
– importantly in all of this, the trust & confidence in manager is crucial

This tome certainly covers the full gamut of technology management issues. Issues such as:
– economics & finance
– marketing
– decision and simulation methods
– and so on.

In all quite comprehensive. For me, its almost a must to have as a ready reference

Books Read: “The Six Dilemmas of Collaboration”, Bryant   Leave a comment

Collaboration can be quite an integral factor for some in this networked economy. And as collaboration involves people, there is sure to be conflict.

This book addresses this conflict.

Bryant covers off the five ways that collaboration challenges are faced:
– process
– analysis
– culture
– technology
– structure

Now, as a baseline, there are six dilemmas and six related stances. Bryant’s aim is that strategic intent can be achieved through confrontations that are the result of strategic interaction. Its about the management of relationships.

The dilemmas (and related stances) are:
– threat (blusterer)
– persuasion (oppressed)
– rejection (appeaser)
– positioning (realist)
– co-operation (defector)
– trust (sceptic)

The thinking here is best quoted from the book:
“once characters have adoped clear positions in a collaborative situation they will find themselves at either a Committment Point or a Crisis Point. In either case they face dilemmas. At the former they will have to deal with Trust & Co-operation dilemmas; at the latter with dilemmas of Threat, Persuasion, Rejection and Positioning. To do so convincingly, their own preferences must shift so that any associated threats and promises become willing. Such transformations are accompanied by negative or positive emotions, respectively, toward the other characters. At these dramatic moments, driven by their emotions, characters may well act irrationality and in accordance with the new preferences towards which they are inclining. To handle the transitory dissonance between desire and action, characters will tend to reframe issues in such a way that their newly adoped positions can be supported by rational argument, free of paradox. The way that any individual deals with this whole process is characteristically distinctive and can be thought of as representing their ‘personality’.”

He uses both drama theory and game theory as a basis for his approach.

For me, not being an HR specialist, these frameworks are both illuminating and instructional to how difficulties in collaboration can be managed.

What I would do – version 1.2!   Leave a comment

Now, five more posts on, here are updated action points.

1. Establish the IT Strategy, but as a “living document”
2. Expose people to ideas through networking, events, seminars, courses & the like
3. Provide ongoing professional development and mentoring opportunities to all
4. Setup a system that establishes, and rewards, an ongoing flow of innovation
5. Look for improvements in structural and social capital
6. Keep a forward looking “upgrade” agenda
7. Maintain contextual perspective (organisation, users, finance)

All in the context of servant leadership.

The quote which best summarises a valid, comtemporary & successful leadership style is this:

“Leadership is the discipline of deliberately exerting special influence within a group to move it toward goals of beneficial permanance that fulfill the group’s real needs.”

Books Read: “The Leaders Guide to Radical Management”, Denning   Leave a comment

Or as the sub-title succintly puts it: reinventing the workplace for the 21st Century.

This book is an easy read, and full of straightfoward principles.

The primary thesis here is that radical management is about generating in-demand output that involves people with a common passion and who are good at what they do.

And at the outset he quotes the American philosopher to lay a foundation for the aim of the book:
  “If a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory.

Its about continuous innovation, and whilst the principles he puts forth have been separately “discovered” before he states that its through the interlocking nature of them as a whole that will have great impact.

These principles are:
1. focus work on delighting the client
2. do work through self-organising teams
3. do work in client-driven iterations
4. deliver value to clients each iteration
5. be totally open about impediments to improvement
6. create a context for continuous self-improvement by the team itself
7. communicate through interactive conversations

For me, it is about the client. And although not every client would welcome it, incremental innovation does indeed have benefits to both the provider and the client.

Books Read: “The Frontiers of Management”, Drucker   Leave a comment

Drucker, in this series of wide ranging essays, postulates two things:
1. the future is being made by totally anonymous people
2. change is opportunity

His aim for this book is to provide knowledge, insight, foresight and competence. Plus create vision.

One of his chapters is on white-collar productivity. He posits three measurements for this class of productivity:
1. length of time taken to bring product out of development into the market
2. the number of new products and services introduced to the market in a given period
3. number of supporting staff, including levels of management, for a given output

The comparison is with blue-collar organisations. Blue-collar output is roughly proportional to the number of staff, whereas white-collar output can/should be inversely proportional.

Other thoughts sprinkled throughout the book are:
– information-based organisations rest on responsibility
– modern leadership is one that respects performance, but requires self-discipline & upward responsibility
– innovation requires backing people, rather than the projects (especially early in the life of the innovation)

For me, this collection of Drucker’s thoughts is mostly of informational value. However, the insights into white-collar productivity (ie, IT) are most relevant. The basic implication is that as time goes on, IT staff should be able to handle more systems (with the assumption that existing systems become more efficient & effective).