It’s all just Business

For those who don’t know me – I work as an Enterprise Architect in Corporate ICT for Devon County Council – The challenge for an Enterprise Architect is to focus on the whole Business and not just the IT function or service – we are employed to facilitate Transformational Change across the whole Business. Not an easy job as such but a very interesting and challenging one.

So for me what I do is ALL about the Business of the County Council.

I have recently posted (a collaborative effort with Martin Howitt) on our team blog about the wider implications of the changing landscape of corporate ICT and how that effected our ability to realise cost savings to the scale we hear about and need to deliver.

But we must first address some key issues and get organisational acceptance to some basic building blocks of Effective and Efficient organisations.

IT offers no value on its own. It really is ALL about the Business. The people outside of IT (Business People) are the people in control of the organisation and they specify the priorities and direction through strategy. So why don’t they control IT more effectively? Why isn’t there one Governance stream in an organisation – Business Governance?

IT governance is really business governance. In many organizations, IT has led the way in implementing governance over critical decisions related to strategy, business architecture, investments, change, programs, risk and sourcing. Over time, organizations have realized that decisions in these areas need to be coordinated across the enterprise and have elevated and consolidated these activities outside and above IT.

Via – HBR – What does the future hold for IT?

In the team post we talk about how core IT competencies need to be mainstreamed into the Business. What we really mean by this is that Business Leaders should have the skills and competencies to procure IT solutions, manage IT contracts and drive value from the investments they make – not just in IT.

Another issue which is critical is how will the current Heads of IT or CIO’s deal with the current financial situation.

I see two options in local government:

  1. Drive cost savings, innovation and transformation in the organisation through radical approaches to ICT delivery and infrastructure.
  2. Play safe and wait for someone in the Business to make the decision for them

If I were a CIO or head of IT, i know which one i would rather opt for as Option 2 pretty much spells “outsourcing” to me.

The following presentation covers the CIO dilemma well and is worth checking out.


How to tell if your organisation is ready for change!

The following is speculation and i can not at this stage back any of this up. However i do fundamentally believe in what i am about to post.

In the current economic climate there are huge pressures to reduce costs and to increase value and this often leads organisations to either announce “radical” changes or even large scale “transformation” programmes. You can see it in all aspects of society and government and it features quite heavily in all political manifestos to some degree.

However how can you really tell if an organisation is really up for “radical” change or “transformation”? There a few ways in which you can do this but i want to suggest a simple measure.

If an organisation is seriously considering the use of Social Software to improve ALL aspects of their business then i believe that they are serious about “radical transformation”

Now i don’t mean organisations who on face value seem like they are doing stuff but when you scratch the surface all you see is one person working very hard to make it work (Long live these people by the way). But i suspect that if they left then the desire to continue would also leave with them.

The reason i say this is because to fully embrace the adoption of social software means that you are prepared to fundamentally review your business strategy, business structure, engagement strategy, communications strategy, knowledge management strategy, workforce development strategy and your ICT strategy. It will mean a fundamental review of your organisations current thinking. This is the radical transformation that will be required to fully embrace and adopt social software platforms.

The organisations who are prepared to do this, in my opinion will be the ones who succeed and not just succeed but build sustainable relationships with staff and customers.

Ok so a simple test maybe but one i believe will give a measure at least as to how ambitious and transformational a particular organisation wants to be.

Measuring the Value on Investment

More thoughts in the aftermath of the Gartner Symposium in Cannes and the Exeter Likeminds Event.

I had heard the term Value on Investment (VOI) sometime ago, but it never really held much ground in my thinking, Although i’m surprised as it is something that is complimentary to Social Software projects and Knowledge Management Projects.

For those of you who haven’t come across VOI before i’ll try and explain the difference between VOI and ROI (return on investment). Return on Investment is based on return, which is generated by tangible outcomes, such as increases in productivity, increased revenues, cost reductions or entering new markets. VOI however focused on intangible benefits, in particular those related to technology based initiatives and for the purpose of this post consider Social Media/Social Software as key areas to focus on.

Gartner describe VOI using 5 measurable elements or outcomes. Value building initiatives change organisation dynamics by encouraging: (Hint: spot how many can be facilitated by social media and social software)

  • business process reinvention and innovation
  • cultivation, management and leveraging of knowledge assets
  • collaboration and increased capabilities to learn and develop communities
  • individual and organisational competencies
  • new kinds and levels of leadership

Don’t know about you but i’d tick all for social media and social software.

There is something you need to accept, however when measuring VOI. The more strategic the project the more value you will see in return.

When considering the current economic climate and situation, we should and must consider the VOI aspect as well as the ROI to achieve the level of organisational change that will future proof organisations for when we return to a growth scenario.

It also encourages greater alignment of IT and the Business, As the business needs to take the strategic advantage of the technology. IT alone offer no advantage to the business. To extract the value, the business would have to transform processes and practices, enhance knowledge sharing, establish communities of practice, develop competencies and provide tools for new leadership.

The strategic impact of social software will come over time with the cumulative effect of small projects impacting on the business and initiating change along the way.

My take on this really is that to succeed in the long term and to demonstrate the real value of social media and social software, it will take time, so be patient.  It will develop as each new project delivers results and value along the way.

This exact approach is how i realised the value. I started with twitter, then a blog, then started social bookmarking, then started sharing photos and so on. The cumulative effect of all of these choices have transformed the way i work, collaborate and engage with people.

So focus more on the Value and less on the Return – But ensure you measure both along the way.

A return to the “old skool” – Social Media challenges in the Public Sector

I have started to realise much more now (better late than never i always say) is that one of the greatest challenges to the public sector engaging in social spaces is “does society as a whole really want us there?” i suspect on face value the answer is No. But if you look at this from the viewpoint of Public Sector Reform and considering the future budget position Local Government needs to consider this as a matter of priority in my eyes.

The recent post by Paul Clarke over at HonestlyReal talks about changing focus and understanding the real purpose of local government.

There is the opportunity if we allow it to happen for the public sector to consider a completely new model of business. One which enables local people to determine how best public, private, voluntary and community resources should be defined to deliver local services.

Now one of the challenges presented here is the concept of “local” (offline and online) becomes slightly more complex and requires us as service providers to think about and acknowledge the complex lives people lead and the way in which they live them.

What we are really talking about is challenging the way society itself works and how it can be supported to provide leadership to its own communities alongside Public Sector organisations. We are in effect challenging society to develop more fruitful and more meaningful relationships to enable them to support themselves. Social Media has started to enable people to reconnect in more convenient and timely ways.

An interesting article in the Guardian a couple of weeks ago Charles Leadbeater which argues that relationships and mutual self-help rather than the reforms, such as those in Government’s “Building Britain’s Future”, are the key to more effective public expenditure.

There is a project called Southwark Circle that does this kind of thing, a quote about this project on the Particle Website states

This is a social reform challenge, not just a public service reform challenge.  The question is not just “What can public services do to improve quality of life and well-being for older people?” but rather “How can a locality mobilise public, private, voluntary and community resources to help all older people define and create quality of life and well-being for themselves?”

For me this just reminds me of what my Nan and other older people i talk to used to say to me about when they were young:

“Communities helped themselves back in the day, neighbours would support each other and would help each other out, we didn’t have or need the same kind of support you lot have today”

Are we seeing social media facilitating a return to traditional and “old skool” values around community and neighbourhood support.  I see the main difference being the “community” and the “neighbourhood” that people relate to is more complex and far reaching (offline and online) than ever before.

If this is the case, then the Pubic Sector truly has a huge task ahead, not only support itself to transform the way we engage with people and our own staff, but to acknowledge those communities who are already engaged but also nurture communities (offline and online) to become part of the wider public service delivery model.

And if you really wanted to transform local government? – Honestlyreal

An excellent post via Paul Clarke at Honestlyreal about how local government could be transformed based on going back to basics. I think that Paul has made an excellent point and it it well worth reading if you are interested in local government transformation..

My assumption is that people in local government do remain very focused on services and that is partly down to targets and indicators, but there is something empowering and innovative about asking ourselves why do we exist? That is the fundamental question that the public would want to understand and i think this quote from Paul’s post really sums up where we should be…

“we’re not here just to run the services; we, with you, are here to serve this community as best we possibly can”

I wonder how we would approach strategies, business planning and performance management if we took the focus away from services and on to the community itself. Paul writes…

Imagine instead that the services are the secondary consideration. And that the primary function becomes “to serve the needs of the local community”. Suddenly we’ve opened up a wealth of new possibilities. Yes, this can mean alternative delivery models, through partnerships and so on, which is hardly radical thinking. But we’re getting away from just focusing on services here, remember?

Local Government has a duty around community leadership and this would essentially drive that from the perspective of the community. Do the public really think about local government services, my personal view is NO, but what people do focus on is place and location. If we changed our focus to the same level of understanding as the public and we worked with them and even empowered them to develop their own relationships and partnerships to solve local problems that would do more for local empowerment then a single service transforming the way it delivers.

What is most interesting about this post is that it moves toward a transformational agenda which is about “changing focus” and “understanding purpose” instead of  investing in systems and or solutions. Once we understand what our new role is and what that future looks like we can develop programmes to get us there.

For me this is such an important thing to consider as my role is about Enterprise Architecture and that is basically about understanding the future, modelling it and guiding the organisation toward that desired change. But we also have a role to challenge the future state based on what is best for the organisation and based on it’s core purpose.