As companies continue to scrutinize their budget, funding for IT talent
programs such as training is usually the first thing to go and the last
thing to come back. The paradox is that training is a top priority for
many of your staff members, or at least one of the top priorities. So, how can you build a training program for your staff that is both
economical and appreciated? First, you have to standardize your job
descriptions so that you have a foundation to build the training
program. This is the first in the series of blogs that can help get you
there. Send me your comments.
STANDARDIZE JOB DESCRIPTIONS Before you can even think about building a training program, you need to
consider standardizing job descriptions within technology functions,
such as infrastructure, development, and business analysis. For the
purposes of this blog, let’s distinguish a “job” description as
being generic in a sense that many employees can hold the same type of
job. However, the term “position” is considered to be unique and
only one person can hold a specific position in the company. Soft Skills
You will find that many soft skills are shared across the functions
(e.g., drive for results, dealing with conflict), so add these
requirements across each job description. The more senior the role, the
more progressive the language around the requirements: participate,
actively participate, lead, etc.
After you have standardized the soft skills, determine which functional
skills are required for each job role with each function. These
functional skills are typically specific to each area, but there is
usually some overlap. What is important is that everyone in a function
(e.g., business analysis) shares the same basic job requirements. For
instance, a business systems analyst in the IT sales area should have
the basic requirements as a similar role in IT purchasing area (e.g.,
relationship management, requirement gathering, testing, project
Don’t Get Geeky A best practice when developing standardized job descriptions is that
they should be technically agnostic. Meaning, the descriptions should
be free of any reference to a specific technology, such as SAP, Citrix,
Java, etc. Remember, these are “job” descriptions, not
“position” descriptions. I suggest you have a separate document, or
appendix, that clearly describes each “position” in your department.
Position descriptions as more specific and are often used in the
postings for the positions when recruiting for a position.
Qualifications and Other Elements
Of course, you will need to consider the obligatory references to
experience and education. Job descriptions also contain information on
working conditions, travel requirements, and other elements that are
important to your organization.
Side by Side Comparisons
Employees like to understand not only what is required of them in their
current role, but what is expected of them in the next rung on the
proverbial ladder. For that reason, a good practice is to build a job
matrix that clearly lays out each job across the page and the
requirements (e.g., soft skills, functional skills, etc.) down the page.
Once you spell out the requirements for each job in the matrix,
employees will clearly understand the career path and what it takes to
maximize their contributions in their current role, and the skills they
need to develop to get promoted.
BUILD A TRAINING CURRICULUM Once you have standardized your job descriptions across the department,
it’s time to develop a comprehensive training curriculum. Stay tuned
for my next blog where I will describe the best practices for developing
and implementing an inexpensive, but comprehensive training program for
As companies continue to scrutinize their budget, funding for IT talent
What Does It Mean to Be a Strategic CIO?
Research shows that senior executives are strategic. And increasingly,
CIOs are called upon to be strategic. The CIO Executive Council future
state model emphasizes the importance of this trait for success.
But what does it really mean to be strategic? Is being strategic
different from planning strategically? And how does it differ from
thinking strategically? As a strategy consultant for the past 25 years,
with over 100 strategy engagements conducted with major corporations, I
will take a stab at these questions.
First of all, being strategic is not primarily about the IT strategy;
it’s about the business strategy and how IT contributes value to it.
But for this to happen, the CIO must understand the business strategy,
and understanding it, know how and where to position IT for maximum
We could elaborate further and say that being strategic is a mindset;
it’s a way of thinking about future events and being able to see how
the many pieces form a pattern. In the military, it’s the “win the
war” thinking of generals at the top of the organization.
In order for the CIO to be truly strategic, she must have in-depth
knowledge in the following areas:
1. The Strategy Creation Process – is there a best way to create
strategy? Who should be involved and what elements must the process
include? How do we use strategy process to determine the next big trend?
2. Alternative Strategy Models – the changing emphasis on the role of
strategy; a reversal of the thinking – planning – acting paradigm.
3. Strategy Concepts – strategic identity, business concept,
competitive differentiation, distinctive competencies, the
innovation-centered enterprise, etc.
4. The Strategy Vernacular – mission, vision, goals, strategies, core
competencies. What do these mean and why does it matter? Why does the
common practice of confusing a strategy with a goal always produce
5. Strategy Principles – what strategic principle did Digital
Equipment Corporation (DEC) violate that led eventually to its dramatic
6. The Tools of the Strategy Practitioner – value discipline, strategy
canvas, driving force, critical success factors, etc.
7. Leading Strategy Thought Leaders and What They are Saying – Adrian
Slywotzky, Gary Hamel, Michael Porter, Clay Christensen, James Moore,
Michel Robert, etc.
8. The Strategy Execution Process – why do only 10% of strategic
initiatives get executed successfully and only 5% of corporate employees
understand their company’s strategy? What is the best operational
model to turn strategic thinking into successful strategy execution?
If you’re confused about the answers to these questions, you’re not
alone. Almost no one comes up through a strategy function and Business
Schools teach strategy theory, not practice; therefore, where does one
learn strategy? This is especially critical for the future state CIO.
The good news is that if you knew the above content areas, you would
know more about strategy than all of your senior executive team.
Innovation and the Service Oriented Organization (SOO): Business Value Through IT Innovation. (Is it right under your nose?)
Innovation is still key to a company having a competitive edge. It is my observation that there are still many Information Technology (IT) organizations challenged to figure out how they can be innovative or how they can contribute to a company’s innovation. IT Service Management can and should be leveraged to help support your innovation objectives for IT. A Service Oriented Organization (SOO) is one that has embodied the concept of running IT as a business, leveraging service management
practices across the complete portfolio of a company’s IT services. You can incorporate innovation in an evolutionary way to complement your existing service management practices.
While I am a proponent of business driven and revenue generating, client driven strategy and innovation, this article will be limited to discussing what I will call an introspective view of IT embracing
innovation. The intent here is to share some thoughts on incorporating innovation program features into the constructs of your existing IT service management disciplines. The motivation to write this article came from recent observations where IT organizations have been missing innovations that their teams have already put into place, as well as missing their teams’ ideas and opportunities for innovation.
Hence, the question above, is innovation right under your nose? Looking for what may be under your nose may mean that you and your organization need to look at things differently, with a new “lens” if you will – a lens that can be applied to existing operational practices to improve how you recognize and foster innovation within your Information Technology organization.
LOOK UNDER YOUR NOSE
This is not a suggestion to play shell games with terminology or to just count the plethora of system upgrades that IT often performs as “innovations”. This IS a suggestion that you, as an IT leader, may have innovation happening that is not recognized and you most likely have a talented team who have a lot of great ideas for innovation. The question is: Are you leveraging your existing processes and personnel for innovation?
It’s fair to say that Cloud computing presents both a great
opportunity, and a significant challenge, to CIO’s looking to develop
IT and business strategies for the next two to five years. Cloud
computing will have a significant and long-term impact on the way
businesses consume IT resources, not least because it could change both
who provides those resources and how they are delivered. In fact, it
will change the way businesses use IT in much the same way that the
mobile computing is changing the way we, as individuals, communicate –
faster, more chaotic and highly distributed. These changes will happen
in unpredictable ways, rarely when we expect them, and often with
One of the great business benefits of cloud is that it accelerates the
way an organization can define, identify and consume IT resources- which
in turn accelerates the business capacity to respond to market trends
and opportunities. In short, it decentralizes and accelerates the way
that IT usage will evolve within the business. That might be good for
some aspects of the business, but it presents challenges for CIOs
wanting to define and optimize IT strategies to present that draw on
efficiencies of scale that are better business aligned. Specifically,
if every part of the business now feels empowered to go and source some
portion of their own IT resources through multiple cloud providers, CIOs
will have a hard time defining anything, least of all a plan to
eliminate inefficiencies and duplication. Simply tracking IT usage may
However, savvy CIOs are also looking at Cloud to present a better way to
deliver what the business needs, faster, and in the way the business
needs it. Cloud could redefine the delivery of IT resources in much the
same way that just-in-time redefined the way organizations thought about
supply chain management. By providing guidance, policies and expertise
down to the business units, and presenting a well-managed framework
within which to operate, successful CIOs will be able to cement the role
of IT far more firmly within the business processes they serve than
perhaps has been possible before- but in a way that is very different
from that role today.
It’s too early to fully appreciate how the emergence of Cloud
technologies will change the way businesses address their technology
needs, and it’s likely that predictions based on our current
understanding will miss the mark both on the scale and the way in which
changes occur. However it’s not too early for CIOs to begin to think
about how to integrate Cloud delivery methods in the way they enable
business users to meet their goals, and to start to offer guidance and
expertise in the use of Cloud resources. Cloud is already changing the
both lexicon and the expectations around business IT usage; it’s vital
that CIOs now engage in the dialogue, and set the ground rules for the
where do I believe the retail banking industry will be in 3-5 years with mobile
Let me start by stating that we’re still early enough in the mobile channel evolution that folks aren’t necessarily even clear on thevdefinition of mobile commerce.
What’s included in mobile? What’s included in commerce?
Mobile Commerce Defined:
My definition of mobile commerce includes all things mobile that allow a
consumer or business to conduct information based and transactional
activitiesin a non stationary environment.
I’m sure you can poke holes in this definition, but in the spirit of
keeping things simple let’s go with that.
Focusing specifically on retail banking let’s narrow the definition down
further to include consumers only.
So stating the obvious first, we’re
seeing an onslaught of consumer adoption of smart phones and tablets
Part of this drive is due to the perceived value of mobile applications on these
Your bank or credit union either is offering some sort of mobile channel capabilities or is feverishly working towards that end.
There will bevcontinued improvement in the mobile channel for several years
much as we saw with the online channel.
Change is Inevitable In 3-5 years we will have moved from the basic foundational mobilevfunctionality such as viewing your account balance or finding the
closest branch, to more sophisticated money movement activities such as P2P payments,
global remittance and location based services. These latter activities take a more complex ecosystem of technology and partners to enable and will require
trials to prove out the technology and security.
Security ChallengesvBanks also face the risk of nontraditional competitors competing invvarious areas, particularly mobile payments. As different business
models and financial regulations emerge nothing can be taken for granted.
Retailvbanks need to be refining their mobile strategies and ensuring that they
are securing the necessary expertise and resources to deliver the required
customer experience that’s demanded.
The mobile road map is not entirely clear as to functionality, technology or even the key players, but what is certain is that it willvmove at a pace
faster than any other banking channel we’ve. What do you in the next 3 to 5 years?
Companies sometimes fear using a cloud computing solution for security and or privacy issues. In February of 2011 the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) issued two new draft documents on cloud computing. These documents included guidelines for managing security and privacy issues involving cloud computing.
Below are the four key guidelines recommended by NIST
• Carefully plan the security and privacy aspects of cloud computing solutions before engaging them.
• Understand the public cloud computing environment offered by
the cloud provider and ensure that a cloud computing solution satisfies organizational security and privacy requirements.
• Ensure that the client-side computing environment meets organization security and privacy requirements for cloud computing.
• Maintain accountability over the privacy and security of data and applications implemented and deployed in public cloud computing environments.
Choosing a vendor that uses the best security and privacy measures to deliver your messaging can be mission critical to your business. When selecting a fax cloud provider, you will often hear about VPN, HTTPS and Secure FTP connectivity for passing your data back and forth, but there are other critical elements to examine. Make sure the data centers they utilize can pass tight scrutiny; securing data within an application is
only part of the challenge. Data within the applications must adhere to the strictest security policies.
For example, who has access to your data, under what conditions would someone need to view your data and what reporting and event logging occurs when it is accessed. In addition, make sure you examine the organizations change control and security policies. Most buyers merely accept the Service Level Agreement (SLA) as their foundation for the agreement, but the SLA is only as good as the policies the provider utilizes to secure your data.