Lately, I’ve been a number of conversations with people about the strategic use of technologies. I mentioned the criteria I use to evaluate trends and technologies. We then typically get into a discussion about the difference in impact between some of the technologies that are much discussed today and how the tactical use differs from the strategic use.
- Analytics – Although you may need to gather more data and keep it longer, there is not enough attention space to sustain the effort unless you simplify, automate and focus attention only on what needs human involvement. Time to action/decisions has to be the measure of impact.
- Cloud – Although it may reduce costs in certain circumstances, the strategic impact of cloud techniques (whether it is infrastructure, processes or people) is to increase flexibility. If through the use of cloud techniques you end up increasing the flexibility, it cannot be sustained.
- Mobility – The mobility strategy for a business has to focus on improving the access to corporate information and reducing the latency in the decision-making process. If the focus remains on the devices, it will also fail.
These current technology directions (and others) have a strategic side and a tactical manifestation – make sure you know what is important to your business over the long haul when creating your plan of attack. If you want to reach the top you still go up one step at a time, but it is easy to lose sight of the goal along the way. Identify the metrics to measure progress and then measure the impact along the way and make adjustments.
When I was writing this post I felt it was a bit risky, since these technologies are viewed as so important today. The real point of the post is to view them strategically and not just a buzzword or fad. This tactical approach may be the reason that for some organizations, innovation is not working out.
Yesterday, the New York Times had an article titled: Pills Tracked From Doctor to Patient to Aid Drug Marketing. The articles discussed how the new analytics capabilities are allowing drug marketers to locate influential doctors by their social behavior as well as patient behavior. This article was a good example of where additional insight can be used to define action.
I normally view much of the “Big Data” trend to be focused too much on insight and not enough on action, but this article did talk through some of the interesting issues at least as it relates to the healthcare provider market.
After I got my Slate7 last week (which I have been very happy with by the way), I now see a whole new set of tablet-based platforms being discussed in the press. The Split x2 (for Windows 8) and the SlateBook x2 a serious tablet/laptop for Android.
It is clear there is a great deal of innovation and anticipation taking place in this space. When I think about how you use a tablet (e.g., less than an arm’s length away but a relatively fixed distance) it seems to by crying out for glasses free 3D – if you could only spare the power.
I was part of a discussion yesterday with a number of leaders talking about technical personnel retention. One of the points brought up (which is actually common sense but I hadn’t thought of quite the way they expressed it) is the role of “belonging” in retention.
How do the technologists in a team or corporation belong or support each other? There are a number of support networks for their industry, location or technical expertise either inside their corporation or externally on sites like LinkedIn. Do they know about these groups and is there involvement encouraged or viewed as a distraction from their role.
Often as individuals advance through a technical career, their community role may be as important personally as their local role on the team. If an organization comes along that values these efforts more, the individuals are likely to switch. If they feel like an outsider in their current org. – they may as well be one.
This can be a tough concept for the individual’s local team leader, since the formal leader may not even be aware of, let alone involved in that community. They have their own set of issues and groups to worry about.
Ensuring contributions are understood at all levels is why technologists may need to go out of their way to both generate and explain the value of communities for their local teams.
This morning (my morning, their evening) I was in a discussion with a number of technologists in the Philippines as part of a career week discussion. This community approach to developing a support network was one of the areas I stressed to help them in their advancement.
After a week of Tech Con, I need to get back in the saddle and start blogging so I thought I'd start with one issue I’ve given some thought to recently. It is tackling reviews of projects that are currently underway and in trouble. Governance may help you determine where to focus but once you find those projects in need, the real work begins.
Sometimes good technologists are brought into existing projects that are in trouble -- it is just a fact of life. A good technologist has experience that should be applicable to almost any technical situation and should have the skills to advise others on solving problems.
Unfortunately, when you are overcome by events, it can be difficult to follow your own advice. Over the years, I’ve pulled together a few generic questions and activities that can be pulled out and used to validate that you have not overlooked the obvious.
Like all consultants, when you are trying to orient yourself to the situation, you ask a number of questions. Asking the team rather than just diving in and looking at the situation from their view always provides some good perpectives. A few of the questions I use with project leaders and architects are:
- Describe any resource constraints that remain for the project.
- Share any contractual issues or pending changes for this project.
- Describe any significant differences between the “as designed” model and the project as it is being implemented.
- What are the greatest business risks to this project be completed as planned? Do you feel the impact is adequately documented and approved?
- Describe any client relationship issues outstanding with this project.
- When was the last joint user/project team meeting discussing the status of this project? What was the user’s level of satisfaction expressed in the meeting?
- Who is the design authority or architect of the solution that is ensuring the project is technically being built as designed?
- What is the most significant technical risk remaining on the project?
- What is the project’s turnaround plan and what is your confidence level that the dates will be met?
- Is there anything you know that could help ensure success?
Some of these should be documented in the project work products, but many times it is the discrepancies that are the most interesting.
There are also common areas of investigation such as:
- Vulnerabilities to events outside the organization’s control such as denial-of-service attacks – a safety check to see how proactive the team is at identifying vulnerabilities. Business continuity comes into play here as well.
- Troubled, dependent projects, unsupported vendor software, and key people inclined to leave the organization
What areas have I left out?