Avoid these Top Ten Mistakes when Transitioning to the Cloud

Time and again, organizations erode potential benefits of a cloud transition. More thought on the front end can help you achieve a shorter time to value.

  1. Not thinking through your SLA requirements.  Your SLA needs should be part of your RFP or RFI, based on your internal business priorities. Many companies, when taking their first steps into the cloud, accept the SLA’s offered by the vendor in the first contract draft.
  2. Failing to model total cost of cloud and on-premise options:  Apples to apples comparisons are hard to find in the cloud world.
  3. Failing to ask potential vendors (and the references you will be checking) how long it takes to:
    • Get contract redlines turned around
    • Get from a handshake to implementation-boots-on-the-ground
  4. Not thinking through support processes, roles and responsibilities. As more assets are moved into the hands of multiple cloud vendors, it’s important to document crystal clarity of responsibilities, accountabilities, and notification/approval policies. The best way to do this is to construct a RACI matrix.
  5. Under preparation for testing:  Do you have a formal QA methodology? Do you have a body of test scripts prepared for the deployment?  What about performance testing and integration testing?  Don’t let test planning and preparation impose a drag on the implementation timeline. Look before you leap, or you may be disappointed by poor performance or failing interfaces down the road.
  6. Under thinking security: What are the liabilities? Did you stipulate access for annual security testing in the contract?
  7. Rushing forward without an enterprise cloud strategy: Proliferation of departmental cloud applications has taken much of the decision-making out of IT’s hands. A cloud approach that grows up organically can result in compromised information security and lack of critical integration between applications.
  8. Failing to manage end user expectations: Have you documented and communicated the changes adequately?
  9. Overestimating your in-house IT skills:
    • Does your team really have the systems integration knowledge and experience with the cloud to take your critical business apps through the transition?
    • Overestimating your in-house skillset
  10. Underestimating bandwidth requirements: Your “big pipe” locations are one issue, but do you understand how much work really gets done by remote workers? Will they see adequate performance from the cloud? How will additional bandwidth affect your cost model?

Just Pick 3

Fast away the old year passes, as the song goes.

It’s that introspective time when we all review the victories and defeats of the last twelve months and come up with a list of resolutions.

How long was your list last year?
How many of those goals did you attain?
Did you come out of the gate in January with a bang, and light a fire under 10 or more action plans, or did you attack your list in a prioritized sequence?
How did that work out for you?

In any year where I made a lengthy list, I ended up frustrated before February rolled around, and never looked at my list again. I just couldn’t achieve the progress I envisioned.

This year, I am going to do something different, and I think you should too.

By January 1, I will pick 3 areas to focus on in my work and personal resolutions. When I have achieved the desired results there I will pick 3 more.

The best way to do this is to pick 3 goals phrased as metrics you can measure.

Start your list. What do you want to change? How will you measure it?

Decide what is  most important.

Then, just pick 3.

5 Warning signs that your methodology needs a reset

Project methodologies tend to grow dysfunctional as time goes on.  The breadth of their standardization increases until the only person who really knows how to use it is the methodology owner.

Too many templates, too many standards, too many hours required for initial training and training on new templates and standards, and perhaps too many good resources moving on to other employers with a less rigid approach.

To find out if your project management methodology is heading down the wrong path, look for these warning signs:

  1. You have a full time position dedicated to policing methodology compliance
  2. Your methodology manages by standard and template instead of by desired outcome and requirements
  3. Your methodology continues to get bigger over time, and details with little or minor influence on success have never been pared away
  4. Your projects are taking longer to implement
  5. Your project sponsors are growing more frustrated with each project you attempt to implement

resetThe methodology should be a guideline, not a noose, for organizational projects  – supporting the strategic goals of the organizational ecosystem instead of drowning in a pool of standardization. If you see any of these warning signs, maybe it’s time to hit the reset button.

 

Avoiding Agile Anarchy

Agile project management

Conventional Agile Methodology Wisdom lists three factors that define an Agile-ready project:

  1. High Uniqueness
  2. High Complexity
  3. Aggressive Deadlines

After using these three parameters to select your first agile project, there is still legwork to be done before sprints are humming along.

Many agile initiatives are announced by fiat with the team structure, sprint length and other basic rules of the road mandated by the Agile Initiative Sponsor. They dive right into development sprints, gathering user stories along the way to build a backlog. Here are some ways this approach could backfire:

  • In a rigid, hierarchical organization, the ability of teams to self-organize is often historically non-existent, and the change management hurdle might be a gap too big to jump. There are many ways that interoffice personalities and politics can sink an agile initiative in its early stages, or at any point along the way.
  • Complex, unique projects require some upfront work on architecture before the development sprints can begin. Agile teams can best manage this by making the first few sprints architecture sprints. Time and again, we have seen horror stories when the overall design or architecture is glossed over:
    • Parallel agile teams within a business design disparate UI’s to enable functionality that is essentially the same, but serves the needs of one particular product group. Before long, it’s obvious that external stakeholders are confused and put off by having to remember two different ways of interacting with the same company
    • User stories are taken down as the basis for development sprints, but they fail to consider the secondary stakeholders. BI reporting needs are often missed.
    • Prioritization of the backlog is driven by business need, without any attention to building foundational pieces first, then layering on transactions.

In short, Agile without Architecture leads to Anarchy, and a lasting bad impression that will taint future Agile efforts. It’s best to look before you leap and take time to address any Agile readiness gaps.

 

Wise up! Grow up!

OK. I am more than a little weird. I find valuable change management lessons from varied sources like the animal kingdom, daredevil cyclists, the great American roadtrip, and I hang out with people who think in similar bizarre ways.

Because my household now includes a boomerang young adult in residence while in grad school after years of independence, the lesson du jour is this:

Sometimes it’s not just tasks or individual behaviors that need to change (because you can’t even list them all).

You need to change the fundamental relationship, and everything else flows from there.

It’s the same for IT, the enterprise apps, and the end user community:

Behaviorwise, it’s:

Out with the OLD!

old IT

  • Ask IT to run a query
  • Wait for an overnight report to print
  • Ask sales to ask their key customers for feedback
  • Monthly buyers’ meeting to review supplier performance
  • I’ll review it Monday when I am back in the office

 

In with the NEW!

new IT

  • Do it yourself drilldown
  • View it graphically onscreen NOW
  • Analyze social media sentiment directly
  • Real time supplier scorecards
  • I can check the stats while I wait for lunch

 

 

The IT/End User Relationship needs to GROW UP from this:

spoon feeder

 

 

 

 

 

To this:

adults

 

 

 

 

 

IT should only provide the essential services (keep  the servers up and running, maintain  the database, keep  the application patched, and administer  security). The End User should engage directly with the application to interact with business information without begging IT for every query or report or view.

These basic skills around information self-service are an important part of getting through the change management curve , and you should begin stressing them even before training users on core transaction processing.

Be a good IT parent: give your end users the life skills they need to grow up.

Does your training plan devote enough time, the right exercises, and tips to help users master  basic skills?

Are you letting people know how the new software will empower them to get the answers they need without begging time from IT?

Are you testing end users for mastery?

If you don’t….don’t say I didn’t warn you….

he will be in your basement FOREVER

basement boy

Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

The Invincible Adolescent Corporation

In my last post, I talked about the importance of being prepared for potential product recall disasters. With recalls so much in the news, I can’t stop thinking about it. Today’s question is:

Who is most at risk for failing to prepare a rapid recall response plan?

Young-entrepreneurIt’s the adolescent companies! They are like teenagers who think an auto accident can never happen to them. You can neither sell them prudence and preparation, nor can you convince them that they are at risk–Because their brand has become the brand of the cool kids (social media savvy hipsters) they believe nothing bad can happen to their company, their product or their relationship with their consumer fanbase.

Take a look at two popular brands that have suffered recalls , and how vastly different the responses have been:

  • Lululemon is now reselling refurbished not so sheer yoga pants at a generous 6% off their original price! Seriously?
  • Earthbound Farms never thought their healthy spinach would actually sicken people, yet it was linked to an E. coli outbreak that sickened 200 people and three people died. Unlike Lululemon’s attempt to minimize their losses by re-imaging their refurbished see through pants, Earthbound made a significant effort to reduce risk.

This type of risk reduction is of course the first and best line of defense.  But  recalls still abound. Of course, there are now recall watching apps available, such as:

but the producers should be responsible from preventing dangerous products from reaching the marketplace.

I don’t know about you, but I am hesitant to resume purchasing after a recall, because so many companies seem to handle them so badly.  It doesn’t have to be this way.

So kids, listen up.  Yes, I mean you, the well loved brands of the cool crowd.

Planning is mandatory. A comprehensive approach needs to include well planned recall incident response, and this plan must be exercised with mock drills periodically.

Are you ready? Take the first step and find out. Take a short self-assessment, and see how you score across the key readiness categories.

Without a trace…..

NYresolutionsIn earlier posts  here  and here, we talked about how social media is changing the game when it comes to consumer recalls.  I just took a peek at the FDA enforcement report in my inbox, and all I can say is that it will help motivate my January diet resolutions…

Today, let’s take a look at another key part of the recall readiness toolkit: traceability. Over on FoodDive, the Traceability playbook describes six key advantages of implementing a comprehensive, modern traceability system:

  • Operational visibility that extends into your supply chain so that you can verify quality of raw materials
  • Rapid training of a multi-lingual workforce, because modern systems eliminate the need for language skills by relying on barcode scanning
  • Providing a foundation for improving operational efficiency by making it easier to find bottlenecks and address sourced of confusion
  • Through integration with CRM and social media, a modern traceability system enables tailored responses to inbound social media complaints and concerns, so that you can get a head start on recalls and find the source of the quality issue more quickly
  • Enables you to meet growing consumer desire for non-ingredient attributes of your products, for things like non-GMO, free-range, fair trade, etc.
  • You can issue targeted (as opposed to blanket recalls) to address quality issues, because you can trace your raw materials and packaging as well as the employees and production equipment who touched a particular lot

Diligent, cross-functional process modeling, coupled with modern traceability systems, can make or break you, if you are suddenly in a recall situation. Are you ready?

 

Project Management Resolutions for 2014

resolutions-catIt’s that time again folks.  New Year’s Resolutions. Been a few years since we did project management new year’s resolutions, so here’s what I am offering up based on this year’s project experiences.

1Make change management integral to your project management methodology. If it’s considered a separate discipline, it can often get left by the wayside with disastrous results. It’s the project manager’s responsibility to make sure that there are tasks in the plan that pertain to the people-readiness for the go-live of any project.

2. Document meetings in project artifacts, then link or copy into minimalist meeting notes. Back in 2010, we talked about limiting meeting attendance, let’s talk today about eliminating or minimizing meeting minutes. The way to do this is to parse the meeting content directly into project artifacts. Actions go in an action log and issues go in an issues log or register or whatever your flavor of project management calls it.

3. Simplify. Simplify ruthlessly.  Instead of adding to your methodology, look for ways to streamline it and cut it back. You may find that you get better adoption of your pm methodology when less is more. The trick is in knowing where and when less is appropriate.

4. Broaden your knowledge base. Read new and different blogs and books, delve into business journals, neoroscience, leadership, psychology, sociology and other seemingly peripheral topics. You would be surprised at the creativity it sparks in your thinking and approach to your projects.  My favorite ways to do this include:

5. Embrace new tools.  The rumble from the trenches is starting to include disatisfaction with MS Project as the be-all and end-all of project management tools. Have you looked into alternatives yet? Sometimes it’s actually simpler to manage projects with Excel.   Are you using social media effectively to manage, motivate and communicate with your project teams? Be especially alert for tools that can help you simplify to achieve resolution #3.

Let’s grow this list:

  • How are you looking to change the way you manage projects in 2014?
  • What new tools are you going to explore?
  • What’s on your reading list?

Social Media: Not Just for Sales and Marketing Anymore

chirrupIn the beginning there was social media. And companies scrambled to create  their presence on twitter, facebook, and in the blogosphere, not wanting to be left behind.  Now what? “We need to engage our customers!”   Corporate twitter accounts chirped cheery tweets by the hour, and then Spambots battled spambots.  The corporate social media team thought it was all about push and brand awareness and building loyalty.

Then twitter became the complaint line of  choice. Having a complaint go viral became a great way to feel empowered, boost self esteem and bully the big corporate types. Trolls lurk on corporate facebook pages, co-opting every cheerful post by the corporate social media team with endless repetition of their gripes and calls for boycotts.

NEWSFLASH: Your consumers are not as interested in interacting with your brand via social media as they are gaining more transparency into your business and the products you provide. When they don’t like what they see, taste, hear, smell  or find out about you, they will react brutally and swiftly, enlisting their evil tweeting minions to pile on to their cause–and overnight you will have a viral PR mess to deal with.

Here’s an example of the type of social media threats to your reputation that lie outside your control.  Are you tapped in to monitor this site and any others that might be popping up to negatively influence consumer decision-making?

  • Sourcemap makes supply chains transparent to customers and consumers.  This is good news if you want to differentiate your product because you are committed to ethical sourcing. It will become a headache if you are involved with things like sweatshop labor in the third world. You will need to respond quickly across ALL channels if the word gets out on twitter that your products have negative health or political considerations.

If you don’t believe me,  hop over to twitter and see what brands are under threat of boycott right now. While writing this I see AHAVA, Starbucks, Monsanto, Koch Brothers and of course, BP, and I haven’t even started scrolling yet.

OK, its important to stay on top of this, but not just to address complaints, promote new products, and defend your brand.  The difficulties highlighted above should not deter you from leveraging social media to the fullest.  The really exciting new applications of social media are happening elsewhere in the business:

  • Smart companies are leveraging social media to build more intimate supplier relationships, creating a more level playing field between large and small suppliers.
  • Demand planning teams can and should leverage social media to gain advance insight into changes in consumer demand.  This can radically transform the way clothing manufacturers do their seasonal line planning, for example. Imagine the culture change in an industry that historically hasn’t even been able to track against key KPIs.
  • Social media now drives innovation. The smartest companies are extending internal R&D by crowdsourcing new product ideas and product tweaks.
  • Internal continuous improvement teams are leveraging tools like Yammer to move improvement teams out of the creativity-sapping white board walled meeting rooms and into virtual asynchronous interactions that capture good ideas whenever they occur.

Parting thought:  act quickly but look before you leap!

The very fact that social media has so much to offer to so many functions within the business means that there is danger of creating social media in smokestacks within your business, with each department quickly implementing its own tools to gain insight within a comparatively narrow lens.  Social media tools need to fit within an overall application roadmap that takes into consideration where your ERP and CRM partners are heading, how existing tools integrate with your current applications, and how you can slide and dice the data appropriately to get the insights you need to respond rapidly.

Top 5 Warning Signs you are on the ERP Desert Highway

desert carThere are many wrong turns on the road to the Desert of ERP Disillusionment.  Some teams go wrong right out of the gate. Here are the top five warning signs that your real destination is not the pinnacle of ERP success, but the dry parched sands of the desert.

1. Your steering committee is texting while driving. If your key decision makers are multi-tasking through every steering committee session, its easy for them to miss critical information they need to actually steer.

2. The distraction of backseat squabbling causes the PM to miss a turn.  Political infighting and lack of alignment among key stakeholders can be as difficult to manage as any carful of kids on a family roadtrip AFTER you have taken away their favorite electronic toys.

3. The driver is looking in the rearview mirror instead of the road ahead.  While there are some lessons to be learned from your last ERP implementation (how long ago was that?) , modern state of the art systems require significant behavior changes in the way users interact with information in the system.   If they are used to greenbar reports laid on their desks every morning, the gap may be too big to jump. 

4. You read a guidebook about the wilderness once….  You can’t learn all your survival skills from a book.  In life threatening terrain, there is no substitute for having an experienced guide on the team.  If you haven’t put experienced change leadership into place before you bid your consultants goodbye, you will have neither the insight to recognize the warning signs, nor the skill to lead your people out of the desert.

5. You ran out of gas!  You didn’t fill up at the last station because the ATM was out of cash, your credit card is maxxed out,  and you used your last dollars on Slurpees and Twizzlers for the kids.  If you fritter away your project budget on non-value added-customizations like moving fields on forms and cosmetic report changes, you won’t have money left to address any business critical requirements that come up late in the game.

(Hat tip to Mark Farrell for #5!)