Better Performing IT Results in Better Business Value


IT performance and well-know DevOps practices, such as those that enable continuous delivery, are predictive of organisational and business performance.

DevOps

How IT performance is measured? the most used criteria is measured in terms of throughput and stability. The individual measures that make up IT performance are:

  1. Deployment frequency
  2. Lead time for changes
  3. Mean time to recover from failure

Bear in mind DevOps has always been about culture, not just about tools and processes. Healthy cultural practices and norms that characterise high-trust organisations are required for the successful implementation of agile methodologies, these are: good information flow, cross-functional collaboration, shared responsibilities, learning from failures and encouragement of new ideas.

Practices Leading to Increased Deployment Frequency

  1. Continuous delivery ensures that your software is always in a releasable state that can be performed on demand.
  2. Capability for easily recreate environments for testing and troubleshooting.

Practices Leading to Reduced Lead Time for Changes

  1. Version control as the ability to get changes into production repeatedly in a reliable, low risk way.
  2. Reliable and comprehensive set of automated tests, so code is releasable without lengthy integration and manual regression testing cycles.

Practices Better Mean Time to Recover

  1. Version control, when an error is identified in production, devs can quickly either redeploy the last good state or fix the problem and roll forward.
  2. Monitoring system and application health so is easy to detect failures and identify the events that contributed to them.

Implementing continuous delivery means creating multiple feedback loops to ensure that high-quality software gets delivered to users more quickly. Continuous delivery requires that developers, testers, designers and UX, product and operations people collaborate effectively throughout the delivery process.

Continuous integration is a development practice whereby developers routinely merge their code into build servers with version control systems. Each change triggers a set of quick tests to discover serious regression, which developers must fix immediately.

Six Recommendations to Apply:

  1. work with other teams and build empathy, build bridges, understand challenges and put yourself in the shoes of the others
  2. build trust between teams, trust is built on kept promises, open communication, and behaving predictably even in stressful situations
  3. actively seek, encourage and reward work that facilitates collaboration, make sure success is reproducible
  4. learn by sharing knowledge & create opportunities and spaces to share information
  5. create a training budget, and advocate for it internally
  6. make it safe to fail

Read more: Puppet Labs. “2014 State of DevOps Report“. PDF report.

What is Digital Disruption and How Companies can Embrace it?


Today the only source of competitive advantage and value delivering comes from seeing what customers need and delivering it.

Digital disruptors are changing complete industries, delivering value at a lower costs, with faster development times and with greater impact on customer experience.

Digital disruption

Digital disruption is simply a mindset that leads to a way of behaving; a mindset that bypasses traditional off-line obstacles, eliminating the gaps and boundaries that prevent people and companies from giving customers what they need in the moment that they want it.

Digital disruptors are obsessed with measuring results and rapid innovation cycles in which failure and mistakes are viewed as feedback.

Always evaluate your customer, benefits, business and product

  1. Customer: isolate the core target customers and make some smart guesses about what makes them tick. Ask yourself what your target customer really needs
  2. Benefits: what is the next thing that customer needs?, express the need in terms of what the customer will get out of the deal if you succeed.
  3. Business: what will we get out of it if we innovate?
  4. Product: the art of harmonising Customer, Benefits, Business and Product into a single approach

In other words, you need to focus on creating innovations that are most likely to give the consumers you want to reach the benefits they really desire while achieving strategic outcomes that are meaningful to the organisation.

How to deal with digital disruption inside a large company?

  • Create small innovation teams
  • Identify silos and break down the boundaries between them
  • Get senior executives to commit their support
  • Insist on short development time frames

Digital disruptors constantly seek for the “adjacent possible” by:

  • Asking a simple question “what is the next thing my customer needs?
  • Iterating so quickly from one adjacent to the next
  • Giving the customer the next logical thing, or things

Digital disruptors keep the scope of their innovations small. Rather than creating a five-year innovation plan, digital disruptors proceed from adjacent possibility to adjacent possibility, occasionally failing, but failing so quickly and so cheaply that recovery can be nearly immediate.

Read more: James McQuivey. “Digital Disruption: Unleashing the Next Wave of Innovation“. Amazon Publishing.

Customer Experience Having the Customer at the Center of Your Business


Customer experience (also known as CX) is the single greatest predictor of whether customers will return or defect to a competitor to do business.

Customer Experience

What is customer experience? it is how your customers perceive their interactions with your organisation and how well the interaction:

  • helped them achieve their goals
  • how much effort they had to invest in the interaction
  • how much they enjoyed the interaction

Benefits of customer experience:

  • It is source of both decreased costs and increased revenue, for instance by having leaner and more efficient processes that affect customers (both external and internal) and by increasing recurring revenue
  • It correlates to loyalty

Customer experience and the business ecosystem:

Customer experience is not a program or a way to increase revenues, it is a lot more than that and it clearly reflects in every single functional department. Organisations need to create a customer experience that best aligns with the corporate vision the executive team has put envisage, the company’s target market, value proposition, unique strengths, financial objectives, and core values.

Customer Experience is “journey, not a project. It has a beginning but it doesn’t have an end

The company’s corporate objectives and brand attributes are the foundation of any customer experience strategy.

If you want to embark in this journey, you need to start with a complete picture of your clients, who they are and what they want from you.

6 Steps to Implement a Customer Experience Program:

  1. internalise the fact that you need your customers more than they need you
  2. examine the reason why your company exists in the first place
  3. spend time learning what it feels like to be your customer
  4. talk to your customers
  5. talk to your frontline employees
  6. try mapping a customer experience ecosystem for one of your company’s most important customer journeys

5 Steps to do a Customer Experience Mapping:

  1. pick an important target customer and think of a problematic journey for that customer
  2. write down the series of actions that the customer takes as part of that problematic journey
  3. write down all the people and groups that your customer interacts with at each step
  4. draw a horizontal line across the middle, below the notes you’ve placed on it so far. This is the “line of visibility.” Everything you’re about to put below the line is completely invisible to your customer
  5. put green dots on each part of your ecosystem that is working well from the perspective of the person who was touching it. Tag and define parts of the ecosystem that are making people unhappy with yellow dots, and parts of the ecosystem that are making people very unhappy with red dots

Rolling out the Program

Systematically:

  • Measure customer experience
  • Identify the drivers of customer experience quality
  • Correlates customer experience quality with business results
  • Shares findings across the enterprise

You cannot afford to ignore the measurement discipline unless you want your efforts to run out of gas and die.

It drives interest in your programs by demonstrating results, and keeps people on track by connecting them to hard data about the effectiveness of what they’re doing.

Read more: Harley Manning, Kerry Bodine. Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business“. Amazon Publishing.

What is Business Portfolio Management?


Portfolio refers to the total set of programs, stand-alone projects and other change initiatives undertaken by an organisation.

Portfolio Management

The reason for creating a portfolio is to provide an overall business view and control over all these programs and projects at a high level in the organisation.

Portfolio management is aligned to the organisation’s budgetary and decision-making processes and is the link between the corporate and business strategy and the programs and projects that will deliver it. Portfolios have strategic corporate deliverables and are ongoing.

  • The overall corporate strategy is implemented through the business strategy, the portfolio is aligned with the business strategy.
  • The business strategy is then implemented through the programs and projects that make up the portfolio.

Portfolio management ensures that all projects and programs stay aligned with the business strategy and deliver business benefits.

By treating the totality of the organisation’s programs and projects as a single portfolio, they can be ranked on their alignment with corporate strategy and their potential business benefits.

The goal is to ensure that the portfolio delivers in line with the business strategy of the enterprise.

Portfolio Management key objectives:

  1. To maximise the value of the portfolio by achieving the best possible return on investment
  1. To align the portfolio with the organisational strategy
  1. To balance the portfolio by making the best possible use of the organization’s human and financial resources

Program Management Governance in Few Words


The first thing the program must do is establish program governance by planning how it will monitor and control the constituent projects. Program Governance Effective governance ensures strategic alignment, the realisation of promised service and benefits, stakeholders are communicated with and kept aware of progress and issues; appropriate tools and processes are used in the program; decisions are made rationally and with justification; and the responsibilities and accountabilities are clearly defined and applied. All of this is done within the policies and standards of the partner organisations and is measured to ensure compliance. Program Governance is intended to provide:

  1. A framework for efficient and effective decision-making
  2. Consistent delivery management with a focus on achieving program goals
  3. An appropriate mechanism to address risks and stakeholder requirements

Governance is about structured decision-making on investments in projects as has been summarised as the four areas:

  1. Are we doing the right projects?
  2. Are we doing them the right way?
  3. Are we getting them done well?
  4. Are we getting the benefits?

What criteria to use to select the right programs? There are 5 selection criteria for organisations to evaluate what programs to start, being the strategic fit and benefits analysis the most important ones.

  1. Strategic fit: how well the program fits with the business strategy of the organisation
  2. Benefits analysis: what the benefits to the business are and how they will be achieved
  3. Budget: the preliminary budget estimate for the program
  4. Resources: the human and other resources required for the program and their availability
  5. Risks: analysis of the potential risks to the program

What are the Responsibilities of a Program Manager?


We know that programs are longer-term collections of related projects and other activities that will be managed in a coordinated way.

Program manegement

A Program manager goal is not about managing the details of each individual project, but rather about managing the big picture, in order to achieve the strategic objectives and realise the benefits for which the program is designed.

Program Manager tasks:

Program Manager is responsible for leading and managing the program from its initial set up, through the delivery of new capabilities and realisation of benefits to program closure. The program manager has primary responsibility for successful delivery of the new capabilities and establishing program governance.

  1. Managing the inter-dependencies between the individual projects in the program
  2. Prioritising issues that arise from different projects
  3. Making sure the strategic goals and objectives of the organisation for which the projects are being executed
  4. Realisation of benefits from the program
  5. Management of stakeholders
  6. Management of program risks
  7. Oversee the projects in the program and provide high level guidance to the project managers

Management Skills of a Program Manager:

  1. Change: not only expect change but actively encourage it in order to maximise the strategic benefits of the program
  2. Leadership Style: focus on managing relationships, conflict resolution and the political aspects of stakeholder management
  3. Management skills: need to provide overall vision and leadership
  4. People Management: manage the project managers
  5. Planning: responsible for performing high level planning and providing guidance to project managers for their detailed project planning
  6. Success: measured in terms of return on investment (ROI), benefit realisation and new operational capabilities delivered by the program

What is a Program?


A program consists of a group of related projects and activities, managed in a coordinated way, in order to deliver outcomes and benefits related to the organisation’s strategic objectives that would not be available by managing each project individually.

Programs are the link between the business strategy and the individual projects that will implement the solutions required to deliver it.

Program Management

Programs usually span several years and therefore the scope, time and cost are likely to change during the life of a program.

Program management is not about managing the details of each individual project, but rather about managing the big picture, in order to achieve the strategic objectives and realise the benefits for which the program is designed.

Benefits of Program Management:

  1. Optimisation of human and other resources over multiple projects in the overall program
  2. Coordinated management and reduction of risks
  3. Consolidation and management of the benefits

Why a Program?

  1. The program is too large to be treated as a project and the component projects are too interdependent to be treated as separate unrelated projects.
  1. To optimise the use of scarce resources by sharing them across several related projects in the program.
  1. To keep the projects aligned with strategic goals and benefits.

Phases of a Program

Program Definition: involves understanding the strategic value of the program, defining the program objectives, identifying the key stakeholders and decision makers, developing a high level business case for the program, obtaining approval for the program and appointing the program manager.

Benefits Delivery: represents the main ongoing program management activity and for each of the constituent projects this will entail planning, execution and benefits realisation. For the program as a whole it also involves managing the inter-project dependencies, risks and issues.

Program Closure: performs a controlled close down of the program, together with the shutdown of the program infrastructure and transition of benefits monitoring to an operational group.

What are the Responsibilities of a Project Manager?


As defined in What is a Project post; “the role of the project manager is to deliver the project on time, within budget and with the needs of the business fully met”.

Project Manager

8 Key Tasks that a Project Manager will Need to Do:

  1. Clarify the Objectives: it is very important for the project success to have clear objectives, the project will be judge on how well these objectives are delivered
  2. Develop the Plan: this is a route that will help the team to achieve the project objective
  3. Manage and Motivate the Team: making sure all team members know what needs to be done, by whom and in what order; motivation plays an important part as the team spirit must be positive and focus on the task
  4. Manage the Risks: every project has risks, the longer the project the more risks. These can be related to resources, technology, changes in scope, competitive moves, etc.
  5. Deal with Problems: the faster a problem is managed the less riskier it becomes; the majority of problems have simple solutions but if the project manager takes time to detect these or act on it then problems can become major risks
  6. Measure Progress: the only way to know if progress is going as planned, is to know the difference between forecast and actuals; this can be done by measuring scope completion vs timeline, actual cost vs budgeted
  7. Communicate: one of the most important skills for any project manager is communication. The only way to tell whether a communication has worked is by what the recipients do as a result
  8. Steer the Project to Completion: is the responsibility of the project manager to guide the team members through the project completion and deliver the objectives stablished by the organisation

Management Skills of a Project Manager:

  1. Leadership style: they tend to focus on getting team focus on completing their allocated work
  2. Management style: they are team players who need to use their skills and knowledge to motivate the team
  3. People management: they usually have no direct authority over the team and need to use influencing skills
  4. How are they measured: by whether the project is completed on time, to budget and to scope

What is a Project?


A project can be described as a temporary organisation that will focus on the:

  1. creation of a group of business deliverables as defined by the project scope
  2. within an agreed time frame (usually of a year or less)
  3. within cost budget and quality parameters

A project is the implementation of a change, with a beginning, middle and an end. It will also have a finite time frame, it will be unique (every project is different in some way), people are involved and it will usually have finite resources.

project-management

There is a direct correlation between the size of a project and its risk of failure. The duration of a project should be preferably of no more than one year.

A project its justified by its business case and will deliver some form of new product, service, system or business process.

3 Characteristics of a Project:

  1. it must have a goal
  2. it must be initiated, as projects do not usually happen spontaneously
  3. it needs someone (project manager) to run it and steer it through to achievement of the goal

Every Project Should:

  1. have documented objectives (which have been agreed by management) and adequate resources allocated to carry out the project
  2. be managed by a project manager
  3. defined project life cycle and outline project plan
  4. any changes to project objectives or requirements (scope) should have been recognised and documented
  5. be reviewed by senior management on a periodic basis
  6. submit regular progress reports, with some measure of their planned and actual performance on budget and timescale

The role of the project manager is to deliver the project on time, within budget and with the needs of the business fully met.

Top Components of an Elevator Pitch


The elevator pitch is as important as the business plan, some people call it twitter pitch (but I think 140 characters might be too short).

Bplans explain what components a perfect elevator pitch must have; every single angle of a business plan in a short visionary version is laid out.

Top components of an elevator pitch:

1) Problem:

First you need to be clear about what problem your business will solve; without this there is simple no business. People require solutions to the challenges and issues they face. The definition must be simple and straight forward, so everyone can simply see the pain point:

  • “communication with remote teams can be complex”
  • “completing paperwork for a A&E doctor is time-consuming”
  • “filling out your tax return is difficult”

2) Solution:

When you have defined the problem, the solution needs to be explained. This also needs to be simple and focused.

3) Market:

Who is experiencing the problem you described?; it’s critical that you always keep in mind the persona you are targeting, their problem points, what pressing issues keep this person up at night. If your market is too big, then follow the divide and conquer strategy, segment you target market and prioritise the same.

4) Competition:

To have competition means that there is a market for the problem you are trying to solve, you also need to think not only on direct competition but alternatives. Like a wristwatch company competing with mobile phones, also think how well they solve your target market and which opportunities you have to differentiate your value proposition and positioning yourself differently.

5) Team 

People is far more important that ideas, people is what make ideas work. You need to explain how well this team can work together, what skills are they bringing to your company. You don’t need to have all the team in place but you need to understand what gaps you have and how you plan to close those gaps and when.

6) Financial summary

In here you basically need to clarify your business model; how you create value and how you convert that value into profit. Remember numbers never lie, be hard with your numbers, you need to do sales forecast and expense budget (these are based on assumptions).

7) Milestones

In here you present a high level plan, no need to enter in details but clearly identify large milestones / phases; their ordering, dependencies and when these will happen. This is the operational plan and it will picture your business as real as possible.

This great infographic from Bplans explains each component of an elevator pitch.

7 key components of a perfect elevator pitch

Source: The 7 Key Components of a Perfect Elevator Pitch [with infographic]