Posts

Thoughts of last weeks lecture

,

Times fly when you’re having fun. I completely missed that a lecture was posted last week so I have a lot of catching up to do. I can’t believe this course is almost over and unless I’ve been misinformed, this was the last “lecture” of the course even there is another QA planed.

The title of last weeks lecture was “Capacity, Capability, Stakeholders and Risk management” and was held by Gunnar Wettergren. Once again Gunnar delivered and interesting and entertaining lecture, I appreciate the informal style and tone of his lectures.

I’ve written a previous post on utilization of capability in large, hieratical organizations and how it would be interesting to study this in a later assignment or thesis. In this lecture Gunnar, and the students, talked about this in the context of portfolio managers not owning resources.
In the written assignment I looked at an organization that used an agile framework to handle this in one of their departments. There were limitations but the framework seemed to be working really well for smaller projects and initiatives. I’ll write a blog post about it later this week.

I agree with Gunnar that stakeholder is a tricky bit. Identifying stakeholders are perceived as easy but my experience tells me it’s harder then most people think. Getting stakeholders involved and getting them to realize they are important for the success of a project or that they will be affected by the deliverables of the project can be a time consuming task. Assessing the engagement level to identify possible activities seems appropriate. I found the visual representation to be really useful.

What’s your thoughts on the lecture? Did you take anything with you? Please, leave a comment!

The written assignement is complete

,

Finally, the written assignment is complete. This assignment took much longer time then I expected it to but it have been highly rewarding. I’ve might have taken Gunnars word a bit to literal but I embraced the role of a consultant and evaluated the organization and came up with a lot off suggestions to improve their current situation. Yesterday I presented my conclusions to managers of the organization and even though they already identified much of their problems, they were happy with my conclusion and recommendations.

Abstract

This report aims to assist a Swedish government agency in their ongoing improvement initiative to increase the return of investment and strategic alignment of their IT division. The objective of this report is to investigate how the strategic objectives and identified benefits of the agency are tracked, prioritized and realized by the IT division and to present suitable suggestions on how improve the current situation.

The ability to continually prioritize, track and align the provided services, executed projects and day-to-day operations to the strategic objectives of the agency is vital to ensure that the invested resources deliver the expected outcomes and that the balance between organizational capabilities are maintained.

The conclusions of this report are primarily based on the review of formal documentation and the internal processes of the IT division. To complement this review, three interviews with managers within the IT division were conducted.

The findings of this report indicate a disconnect between the strategic management of the agency and the management of the IT division. This disconnect had already been identified within the agency and actions to mitigate the situation was already initialized. To improve the current situation the author of this report suggests that initiatives should be commenced to promote a holistic approach and governing body to ensure that:

  • strategic objectives are echoed throughout the organizational body;
  • commenced work contribute to the strategic objectives; and
  • activities are registered, prioritized, evaluated and tracked throughout their lifecycle.

If anyone would be interested in peer reviewing the report before hand in I would highly appreciate it.

Quote of the week

,

In order to apply Benefits realisation Management in support to a successful implementation of business strategies, organisations need to redesign their success criteria to increase the relevance of dimensions related to the creation of value to business.

This is a quote from Benefit Realisation Management and its influence on project success and on the execution of business strategies written by C.E.M Serra and M. Kunc and published in the International journal of Project Management.
I’ve touched upon this subject in a previous post earlier during this course. The fulfilment of specifications and deliverables does not guarantee value being generated and benefits realized.

An intressting article on sucessfull ITIL implementations

,

Another Monday – another week of studies. The focus of this week is to get the written assignment as close to finished as possible. I’ve gattered all my data, had a few formal and informal interviews with managers at the organization I’m investing but I’m still waiting for the longer, structured, interview with the head of the IT division.

I’ve already analysed most of the data and come to most of the conclusions but I would like to get my views confirmed before I hand in the report.
Since the organization I research have an outspoken ambition to implement ITIL and I’ve already started to look at articles about successfully implementing ITIL in general and Service Strategy in particular. I found a somewhat interesting article written by Malcolm Blumberg, Aileen Cater-Steel, Mohammad Mehdi Rajaeian and Jeffrey Soar called Effective organisational change to achieve successful ITIL implementation. Though their research focuses on the socio-technical systems (STS), something I haven’t quite grasped yet, it’s interesting to study their lessons learned. In their study they conclude that “the ITIL implementation was found to require greater effort to be applied to the people component of the STS, followed by process, technology and structure components”. In my experience any successful and effective change – organizational and technical – requires the support and authorization of the people effected by the change; changes are not implemented by formal documents but by discussions and interactions between people.

Handling capabilities in a hierarchical organization

,

As I previously stated, I’m employed by the Swedish Armed Forces; an extremely hierarchical organization. You would assume that decisive leadership for the optimization of utilization would be common in such an organization – believe me, it is! However, in such a hieratical structure, I imagine it’s hard for management to get an overview of the organizational capabilities. I know for a fact that key competence that could be utilized disappear when they are organized in inappropriate organizational structures; making them “invisible” in the organization as a whole.

A few years ago, the Swedish Armed Forces implemented a new IT system. In the “internal commercial campaign” a mission commander could find specialized skills anywhere in the organization using this tool. He then deployed combat ready specialist, with full gear, with just the click of a mouse. To be fair I’ve never seen these functions be used and we still use excel sheets to report which courses, competences and certificates our civilian staff hold.

This would be a really interesting masters thesis to look into. How are organizational capabilities balanced and optimized in such a hierarchical organization.

What do you think? Do you work in a larger organization with good control, balance and optimization of capabilities? Please leave a comment.

Weekly summery

,

Another week of masters studies is finally over! This week have been hectic as I’ve facilitated a three day workshop at work. The good part is I spent the week at a hotel so I’ve been able to read a lot of articles this week. “Benefits Realisation Management and its influence on project success and the execution of business strategies” was an extremely interesting read and “Project Categorization Systems and Their Role for Project Portfolio Management” which was recommended by Gunnar Wettergren held some intriguing conclusions.

The written assignment is slowly progressing; I’ve spend a ridicules amount of time trying to get my citations and references correct. The assignment is really challenging but fruitful as I get to reflect upon and apply the knowledge I gained throughout the course on a real organization.

References

  1. Serra, C.E.M., Kunc, M., (2015). Benefits Realisation Management and its influence on project success and the execution of business strategies. International Journal of Project Management, 2015 33(1), 53-66. doi: 10.1016/j.ijproman.2014.03.011
  2. Bich Nga Dao. (2011). Project Categorization Systems and Their Role for Project Portfolio Management (Unpublished master’s thesis). Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden.

Benefits Realization Management vs. Service Strategy

,

This week is almost over and the introduction to the written assignment is now complete. I’ve looked at a lot of articles on benefit realization management (BRM) for my literature review and it’s interesting to see how BRM and Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) Service Strategy are aligned.

In the book Benefits realization management: a practice guide (Project Management Institute [PMI], 2019), BRM is said to encompass “standard methods and processes that an organization uses for identifying benefits, executing it’s benefits realization plans, and sustaining the realized benefits facilitated by portfolio, program or project initiatives”. Business strategy is central in BRM since benefits are derived, planed, managed and tracked holistically, beyond the scope of a particular portfolio, program or project.

In ITIL, the practices related to strategy management for IT services, suggests similar activities as BRM. In Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and the book ITIL® Service Strategy (The Cabinet Office [TCO], 2011) the purpose of service strategy is described as a way to “articulate how a service provider will enable an organization to achieve its business outcomes”. Service strategy “establishes the criteria and mechanisms to decide which services will be best suited to meet the business outcomes and the most effective and efficient way to manage these services”. This involves activities such as analysing the internal and external environment to identify risks, constraints or opportunities; engage and to keep relevant stakeholders informed; and to ensure that “strategic plans are translated into tactical and operational plans for each organizational unit that is expected to deliver on the strategy”.

References

  1. Project Management Institute. (2019). Benefits realization management: a practice guide. Newtown Square, US-PA: Project Management Institute, Inc.
  2. The Cabinett Office. (2011). ITIL® Service Strategy. London: The Stationery Office.

The cost of operations

,

I found an interesting article called “Delivering value to today’s digital enterprise – the state of IT service management” this week. Working within operations myself, it was interesting to see some statistics on the budget spent on IT maintenance in different companies.

56 percent of the companies surveyed spent less then 50% on their IT budget on maintaining uptime and availability; applying upgrades, fixes and patches; ensuring security compared to budget spent on project development or new initiatives. 36 percent spent more then 50 percent of their budget and 1 percent spent their entire budget on maintenance. Only 12 percent of the surveyed companies was able to decrease the amount of money spent on maintenance.

What can be learned from this? In my experience key factors to decrease the budget and time spent in operations is to involve operations in the development early in the process to ensure that you build systems and services that they can manage – that fit their environment. Make sure to standardize your platforms and applications as much as possible to decrease the amount skills and training required to manage the systems. This might seem obvious but I see project after project that fail to achieve this, pushing the costs of operations to absurdities.

Lack of a Service Management approach is hurting competitiveness as a business. Three out of four executives agree that the amount of time, money and resources spent on ongoing maintenance and management—versus new project development or new initiatives—is affecting the overall competitiveness of their organizations.

Strategic use of technologies

,

Good evening, everyone! Today is Tuesday which means that another lecture has been held for the “Strategies, benefits and alignment” course. I’m currently waiting for the recorded version to be uploaded and published on the student platform. While waiting, I read an article on digital transformation recommended by Gunnar Wettergren. The article, titled “Digital Transformation Strategies”, was published in 2015 and describes some common elements identified in digital transformation strategies.

The use of technologies addresses a company’s attitude towards new technologies as well as its ability to exploit these technologies. It therefore contains the strategic role of IT for a company and its future technological ambition. A firm needs to decide whether it wants to become a market leader in terms of technology usage with the ability to create own technological standards, or whether it prefers to resort to already established standards and sees technologies as means to fulfill business operations.

In the article the authors outline the four dimensions of digital transformation strategies: use of technologies; changes in value creation; structural changes; and financial aspects. I was very pleased with the way they defined the use of technologies. In the article the authors specified this as “a company’s attitude towards new technologies as well as its ability to exploit these technologies.” This sets the ambition of the entire enterprise when it comes to digital transformation and the level of acceptance towards the associated risks. It’s my experience that strategic documents related to IT usually focus on the IT department: what services are to be provided; how it should be organized; related frameworks to be used; and sometimes even specific versions of software and hardware choices. Hopefully it states something about information security and availability but, in my experience, that’s usually it. This is something the authors, or actually Teubner, also have identified:

While there are various concepts of IT strategies (Teubner 2013), these mostly define the current and the future operational activities, the necessary application systems and infrastructures, and the adequate organizational and financial framework for providing IT to carry out business operations within a company. Hence, IT strategies usually focus on the management of the IT infrastructure within a firm, with rather limited impact on driving innovations in business development.

What do you think? Do you agree with the four dimensions? Have you seen a good example of an IT strategy? Please leave a comment.

Reference
C. Matt et al.: Digital Transformation Strategies, Bus Inf Syst Eng 57(5):339–343 (2015)

Weekly summery

,

Another week of studies completed! This week turned out to be quite productive compared to the last one. I spend the week with my wife in Greve in Chianti, a beautiful Italian village in the Tuscany region. Though we spend most of the time tasting different Italian specialities and drinking magnificent Chianti Classico wines I spend every morning down by the pool with my laptop and the course literature.

I finished reading “Benefits Realization Management – A Practice Guide” which have brought a lot of insights on strategic management. Most of what’s written in the textbook is common sense but it’s always good to have a framework to build upon. I don’t believe I’ve ever worked within an organization that focused on benefits in the way the BRM framework defines it and especially not within an organization where benefit realization have been holistically planned and managed. At least not to the extent that allows lower level management and specialists to clearly see how organizational benefits relate to the activities they undertake – this gap needs to be filled.

Benefit tracking and the related examples and templates in the textbook have provided some inspiration for visualisation and to how to emphasize benefits. For me, this primarily relates to the sustain stage of the life cycle where I, in the role of a operations manager, is given tools to visualise and emphasize when realized benefits risk being forfeit and the invested resources lost. With disruptive technology – sophisticated requirements on security, integrity, continuity and assurance – combined with budgets as my primarily antagonist I need effective weapons to influence senior management.

One of the most intriguing enlightens of this week was listening to Anand Swaminathan on the PMI podcast Projectified™. How do we build an organizational culture that embrace change after change after change. With disruptive technology and rapid changes in customer and employee expectations, how do we reinvent our self as an organization without getting completely lost.

What did you learn this week? Got any feedback? Please leave a comment!