The 3×3 Framework for Digital Transformation Alignment

To write a post on a trending topic, one would typically start with a definition, but in this case, “Digital Transformation” means different things to different people. From the Bennet Frank survey, CIOs’ Perspectives on Digital Transformations, industry analysts, and our own client engagements, we have heard the term used to describe anything from consolidating ERP systems to accepting bitcoin payments. You could attend an IT conference and listen to three Digital Transformation sessions that give contradictory advice. Practitioners in the trenches can easily get confused and overwhelmed.

So let’s break down the key components of a Digital Transformation into a systematic approach to help you focus your efforts and align expectations with top management.

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An IT Leader’s Empathy Exercise Bootcamp

Co-authored by Chris Kondracki and ChiChi Lu.

Understanding and empathizing with others helps IT leaders navigate complex business environments. Empathy enables us to better understand a situation, relate to other people, and view issues from different angles.

Here’s why it works, and how to put it in practice.

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How to Craft Business Intelligence That Drives Decisions

What makes BI meaningful?

Business Intelligence (BI) is a broad domain and is used to accomplish a variety of goals. Whether we’re talking about predictive analytics or lagging KPIs, the common thread is data visualization that drives effective decision making.

The trick is recognizing the difference between a report that has a large quantity of data versus one that has the right information.

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It Starts with Intent: Do you want a “throat to choke”—or do you want the project to succeed?

Whenever I hear the expression “one throat to choke,” it makes me cringe. The phrase, in most cases, refers to contracting with a single vendor to help with every aspect of a technology project. Another variation is, “a single wringable neck.” Either way, it sounds like an explicit threat to the vendor: If this project fails, the blame will be placed squarely on your shoulders.

In reality, if a project does fail, it is very difficult to go after a vendor. Most organizations don’t. Lawsuits are risky, costly, and time-consuming. The only practical concession you can expect from a vendor is free labor, hardware, or software. But it’s from the same vendor that botched things in the first place.

Let’s face it—setting up a one-throat engagement is not really a threat. It’s a bluff. And it stems from an attempt to outsource accountability.

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The Magic of Tiramisu: How Vertical Slicing Helps Agile Teams Deliver More Value

The success of an Agile transformation stems from three key areas: behaviors driven by an Agile mindset at all levels of an organization, adherence to frameworks, and a relentless pursuit to deliver value to the customer.

One of the more nuanced tactics I use to drive rapid, incremental delivery of value to customers is called vertical slicing.

Think of a development project like a tiramisu. Each vertical slice of tiramisu contains many decadent layers of flavors and varying textures. Each portion is delicious because the combination of layers is better than eating one layer at a time. To do so would reduce the value of the culinary experience.

Similarly, a large item on your product backlog can be sliced up into smaller pieces either horizontally (that is, so the work only relates to a single architectural layer) or vertically (so the work spans multiple architectural components).

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What Are Your CFO Counterparts Learning? A Recap of the 2019 CFO Leadership Conference

The CFO Leadership Council recently hosted its 9th annual national conference in Boston. Andrey Alekseyev and I were fortunate enough to be in attendance for the first time. Over 400 senior financial executives gathered in Boston, MA for two days to discuss and dig deep into the complexities of being a modern CFO. In case you missed it, we took notes. Below are our key takeaways and summaries of a few memorable sessions.

As you would expect, CFOs are focused on the staples of financial success—namely, ROI and outcomes. But the modern CFO is also concerned with far more than just the finance function of their organization. Today’s CFOs are invested in digital transformation and what technology can do for their business across the entire organization. In a way, this strategic shift has revolutionized the role of forward-looking CFO.

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Want to Accelerate Change? Slow Down and Observe Team Dynamics

Originally presented at SIM Connect Live 2019 (“Make Winning Normal: Maximizing Agility with High-Performing Teams”), the following concepts offer a new way for IT organizations to implement disruptive technologies and innovations at scale:

The Pace of Change and the Adoption Curve

The pace and complexity of new technologies and innovations have only been increasing over the past years and show no sign of letting up. We consistently hear the following questions from IT leaders:

  • How do I maintain a competitive advantage while keeping up with the pace of change?
  • How do I ensure my organization can effectively adopt new technologies?

One way to address these questions is by examining the Adoption Curve as described by Geoffrey Moore. The Adoption Curve details the distributions and tendencies of a population as it adopts an innovation.

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Data Consistency Is the Key to a Standardized Reporting Process

Standardized reporting is an intricate type of reporting process that aims to produce consistent, reliable, actionable information from disparate systems or sources. A reporting process is standardized if it can be applied across different business units or sub-units in an organization. The processes that generate and collect the data to be reported on must remain the same across all the business units.

For an organization to understand the status of conditions in real time, and make decisions quickly, standardized reporting is required. A universal understanding of information enables clarity and transparency. Clarity supports effective communication based on trust. And studies show that effective communication leads to enhanced productivity and deeper customer relationships (Source).

It’s not a stretch to say that data consistency creates a competitive advantage over other organizations that do not have standardized reporting processes.

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Stuck with a Bad PM Tool? Here’s What to Do

Let’s say you’re planning to repaint your living room this weekend. You shop for supplies online: drop cloths, painter’s tape, and brushes. Alexa, innocently, puts scrub brushes in your cart instead of paint brushes. The delivery arrives the next day. Do you have the tools you need to get the job done? The scrub brush has a handle and bristles! The bristles can be dipped into the paint! Will it require more work to create the desired outcome with a scrub brush rather than a paint brush? My guess is, no matter what, it’s not going to be pretty.

It’s not that the scrub brush is a bad product. On the contrary, it’s probably the highest rated scrub brush on the web. The issue is that you need a paint brush specifically designed to apply paint evenly and precisely. You need the right tool for the job.

Flash forward to the work week: How often are we using the wrong tool for a job?

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Superstition Ain’t the Way: Prevent Bad Habits from Running Rampant Among Users

Even if you’re not a superstitious person, it’s likely at one point in your lifetime you knocked on wood in an attempt to appease the gods of fate. Or maybe you made sure to close up that umbrella before stepping into your house. A couple seconds to rap on wood here, a few seconds of standing in the rain there—minor inconveniences to soothe away the universe’s impending spells of bad juju.

The reality is that no, wood is not magical. And opening an umbrella indoors doesn’t shepherd evil ghouls into your home. These quirky habits don’t add tangible value to our lives.

However, superstitions like these aren’t made up out of nowhere. They often arise from practical behaviors which may have made sense at one point, but lost their fundamental meaning after passing through generations. (Are umbrellas indoors really bad luck? Or did someone long ago get a bad poke in the eye?)

These learned behaviors take root over time, through generations of practice and habitual routine. They reassure people that no unintended consequences will come their way if they unquestioningly perform things a certain way—the way they’ve always been done.

Similarly, superstitious behaviors are alive and well in your organization. IT superstitions aren’t supernatural but rather the culmination of each user’s quirks, a natural evolution of processes, systems left unchecked, and a game-of-telephone effect.

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