Steps to Boosting Business Agility | CXO Podcast - CIO Talk Network
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Steps to Boosting Business Agility

CXO - Steps to Boosting Business Agility

Business agility is about adapting services, people, processes and finances to the changes in business environment. But, in many cases, it is attempted in a fragmented and opportunistic way thus undermining its full potential. How can we define and adopt ONE approach to managing data, architecture, security, and customer community across the enterprise towards best outcome?

 

Top 5 Learning Points

  1. You not only have excellence within each of the process dreams but when they all come together at the end, the overall result is a well synchronized and agile result now.
  2. You have to turn data into information, and the information that you create should be directly related to how the business is actually going to make decisions.
  3. The fundamental question I think is how that information is going to be used to either measure the effectiveness of the processes that you have put in place or enable a business professional to make decisions about the direction of his or her particular business area.
  4. It’s the essence of that central governance process that ensures that they all stay in sync with each other and then a series of process review and governance boards that we have in place against which these different teams check in regularly to make sure that they are staying synchronized.
  5. From a systems perspective, when you talk about technical architecture, one of the things I think all organizations are facing now is the fact that our technical backbone is going to be hybrid. It’s going to be a combination of cloud-based software as a service, applications and it’s going to be internally hosted.

 

Show Notes

  • From a systems perspective, when you talk about technical architecture, one of the things I think all organizations are facing now is the fact that our technical backbone is going to be hybrid. It’s going to be a combination of cloud-based software as a service, applications and it’s going to be internally hosted.
  • Take that with just about any data element that in itself is by simplifying the definitions of what the data means in the systems down to that level of clarity it makes the language with which different departments can talk about data with each other much simpler.
  • The fundamental question I think is how that information is going to be used to either measure the effectiveness of the processes that you have put in place or enable a business professional to make decisions about the direction of his or her particular business area.
  • But in absence of just a general governance process that interlinks them, you could have well-intentioned major processes that would go off and re-engineer themselves to be completely incompatible with each other.
  • It’s the essence of that central governance process that ensures that they all stay in sync with each other and then a series of process review and governance boards that we have in place against which these different teams check in regularly to make sure that they are staying synchronized.

 

Transcript Summary

If an organization is growing up at a fast pace, then keeping up the agility intact becomes key. In such scenarios how do people and processes cope up? Also, how does technological sustenance be possible? This discussion sheds light on these concerns and how.

 

Transcript:

Sanjog: The topic for conversation is Steps to Boosting Business Agility. I have with me John Lambeth, Chief Information Officer with PAE. Every organization wants to be agile such that it’s able to adapt services, processes, people, and finances to changes in business environment. However, this effort does not deliver desired results since we are attempting or we have seen many cases where it has been attempted in a fragmented and opportunistic way. So, how can organizations take the necessary steps to define and adopt a more holistic approach to boosting business agility and that’s what we wanted to discuss today.

Business agility is relative and it is objective while it is still about responsiveness and adaptability. You go to different people in an organization, you’ll get different answers. With that lack of clarity or lack of benchmarks, how can we ever be on the same path as an organization to become agiler?

John: Well one of the ways that PAE has done that and certainly if you look at PAE over the last several years, we are a government services contractor, we do a variety of things. Everything from range support services to aircraft maintenance. Over the years, our business has grown but it’s also diversified in the number of things that we do. As we’ve grown like any business as it grows through time, you realize that the adage of the book “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” in terms of you have your small business. You have small business processes and as you grow, and you need to become in some cases more complex in your business processes to match the complexity of the business itself. You have to fundamentally step back and look at the ways that you actually run your business. PAE has very much been doing that over the last year undergoing what we call our transformation initiative.

It’s really all about stepping back and looking at those key processes that we actually used to run the company. Looking at how we have traditionally done those processes if our goal is to become a bigger company which it is, are those same ways of doing things. If these are appropriate for a company perhaps twice our size and if not, what are the things that we need to do to adapt those processes to be reflective of a much larger company? Your assessment is absolutely spot on that in absence of a central approach to this, those kinds of efforts can very quickly become fragmented. At PAE, what we’ve done is we’ve actually created a single governance function that has ownership at the executive team level. So it’s very much a tone from the top approach. It has the organization stepping back and looking at its business processes holistically and says for us to become agiler as a large company, we need to not only look within each department. But also at how those departments need to adapt their processes. More importantly, focus on the interdependencies between departments because when you talk about especially back office functions, like HR and payroll and finance, they’re all intertwined and they all have interrelationships with each other.

It’s the essence of that central governance process that ensures that they all stay in sync with each other and then a series of process review and governance boards that we have in place against which these different teams check in regularly to make sure that they are staying synchronized.

You have small business processes and as you grow, and you need to become in some cases more complex in your business processes to match the complexity of the business itself. You have to fundamentally step back and look at the ways that you actually run your business.

Sanjog: Now with what you just mentioned that you have a tone being set from the top. There are organizations who are still facing this problem where things are fragmented or there’s an opportunistic approach taken to improve the business agility. Are we in a way directly saying that maybe the tone is not right or is a chaos at the top or there could be somewhere in between whether the tone was set right but something did not happen in terms of going in the right direction to take it holistically. There could be other issues as well which could be causing this issue besides voice at the top?

John: Absolutely. In some cases, it’s just a synchronization question. For example, in our organization, some of the key processes that we’re looking at or things like our process for hiring to retiring. A process from the time that we take in order to the time that we collect cash. Each one of those processes, there may be the tone from the top and it clearly understood the message from that department owner that we need to adopt that process. But in absence of just a general governance process that interlinks them, you could have well-intentioned major processes that would go off and re-engineer themselves to be completely incompatible with each other. Tone at the top is certainly an important part of it, but having a structure in place that ensures that azure doing it. You have these teams checking in with each other and that you have a central function that is heightening the interdependencies and is managing the many micro-projects that are ongoing as a portfolio ensures that everything stays synchronized with each other. You not only have excellence within each of the process dreams but when they all come together at the end, the overall result is a well synchronized and agile result now.

But in absence of just a general governance process that interlinks them, you could have well-intentioned major processes that would go off and re-engineer themselves to be completely incompatible with each other.

Sanjog: Let’s bring up this topic of data. As more and more of organizations are becoming more data-driven and they essentially should be given the way they are transforming our respective organizations. We also see that the volume, the variety, and the velocity of data is increasing at a maddening pace. Do you think we can realistically manage all of this data which is coming in which we don’t know what’s going to come next, proactively and holistically? If you were to tackle this problem, what do you think would be the related costs and challenges and would you see, say silver lining of the cloud if you will, in terms of ROI?

John: One of the key things, when you talk about the role of data and how could both hamper and contribute to the success of an agile organization. It all gets down to two fundamental precepts. One is that you have to turn data into information, and the information that you create should be directly related to how the business is actually going to make decisions. A classic challenge I think all IT professionals have when we go to create tools that turn data into information. To your point, we have volumes of data and we have data of different type. You start collecting customer requirements and you’re going to have a very wide distribution of needs and you start to try to figure out what you’re going to deliver.

The fundamental question I think is how that information is going to be used to either measure the effectiveness of the processes that you have put in place or enable a business professional to make decisions about the direction of his or her particular business area. Again, as a CIO, one of the things that I have experienced over time is, I’d really like a whole series of reports on every aspect of my particular domain. What I try to do is, I try to go back to that function and as you’re measuring the effectiveness of your business is the particular slice of information that you’re asking for, going to directly play a role in your business’s vision or is it nice to know. Actually, prioritize that information and get at the heart of what is a useful business information first and then go from there. It’s the adequate source of information that will help you to make a business decision with say 80% accuracy or an 85% accuracy, is it worth the opportunity cost to the organization to improve the fidelity of that decision by 5% or 10%, it may be, it may not be depending on the particular organization.

Agility can be directly impacted by whether or not the organization as it’s attempting to turn data into information is really trying to target. The key decisions with the appropriate and succinct set of data that will allow an organization to make an effective and quick decision.

The fundamental question I think is how that information is going to be used to either measure the effectiveness of the processes that you have put in place or enable a business professional to make decisions about the direction of his or her particular business area.

Sanjog: Let’s talk about the architecture. We seek over complication or over complicating architecture, over-engineering of p... Read Full Transcript v  

Contributors

John Lambeth, Chief Information Officer, PAE

John Lambeth serves as the Chief Information Officer for PAE, leading the company’s information technology strategy and managing all technical aspects of PAE’s service delivery including IT planning, deployment and support. Prior to joi... More   View all posts
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