Move Forward; Carving out the Future

I ran into two articles this week on which I would like to comment. Why do things not move faster in Enterprise IT is the common denominator in the two articles.

Sorry for my non-Dutch readers, the first article was posted in “IT-Executive” with the title “Automating IT is better than Outsourcing”. The second article is from “Business Insider” and carries the title “Our Obsession with Efficiency is Killing Innovation”. Let me put down a quote from each of them:

  • Companies spend millions trying to integrate legacy systems and they keep running slow and unimaginable inefficient systems. On top of that, those systems do not reflect business processes and put a big strain on IT putting out fires.
  • We are focused on the wrong metrics. Our universities are training entrepreneurs—and investors — to focus on fast and efficient return on capital investment. Efficiency innovations provide return on investment in 12-18 months. Empowering innovations take 5-10 years to yield a return.

That looks an awful lot like an ever spinning wheel with only two ways to stop it:

  1. Break out of it
  2. Don’t break out of it and die

Simple but true, in my opinion. I’m stuck in there as well, being both economist and IT Professional. But the second quote gives me a direction in which I was already heading. Establish long term relationships with customers, doing roadmap sessions and stop thinking in “quick wins” only. How I hate Quick Wins! But it’s a magic word…… and, it’s only a conversation. And conversations can be created.

Can we have both Quick Wins AND long term Wins! Of course we can! But in order for that happen we should start focusing on the latter and make sure we come up with significant spin-offs regarding the former. I call it future-driven projects and that is quite the opposite of how we normally run IT Projects, those are mostly passed based; we have an issue and it needs to be resolved, we have to get rid of that legacy system. Passed Based.

A major value of future-driven projects is that the likelihood of success is bigger. Let me explain that. Passed Based projects need agreement of all stakeholders and technical possibilities, and if there is one thing hard to get among IT people and decision makers it is agreement.

Projects then follow a very thin line to keep agreement (lengthy, inflexible Project Plans) in place, the agreement gets more important than the results, meaning al lot of paperwork full of agreement, meetings to re agree on the agreement, planning and re-planning. Actually, agreement is scope, and we tend to not manage scope (agreement) but only time and money. The only agreement left is time and money. And then that thin line breaks. IT projects do not have high success rates.

Future driven projects, however, only need alignment on a vision (or whatever word you would like to use here), of no more than two pages. The important word here is “Alignment” which is very distinct from “Agreement”. The next step is to plan backwards from that future to the present, getting things in place to fulfill that future. And the funny thing is, we all know how to do that, we all do it when we plan and book our holiday. We make sure everything is in place to be able to leave on the date set. Holiday planning has a very high success rate.

So, in the drawing we have a time line and the thinner blue lines indicate the uncertainty of the conditions but we are still heading in the right direction. We might end up somewhere between the two blue arrows. In the course of time we can adjust to the conditions whereas in passed based projects the conditions are always just constraints. If we know what has to be in place in 2016, we also know what has to be in place in 2015 to fulfill that. If we know what has to be in place in 2015 we also know what has to be in place in 2014, and so on. Planning back from the future to now, we know exactly what to do and what to start with. There is plenty of space to squeeze in some quick wins as well! No deadlines but milestones, which sounds much better from a motivational point of view.

Looking back at the first quote, the spending of millions, in this model we completely abandon the path of legacy compatibility because we only look at the future. Also, looking at the second quote, we create a future in which there is room for the so called empowering innovations. Sounds like a win-win situation to me!




Taking (Microsoft) Exams: Pitfalls

It’s exam time with all the new Microsoft releases and new Certification Tracks. In my previous post I gave some reasons to get certified. In this post I will look at some pitfalls I see happening while people take their exams. Apart from a good preparation of course….. that’s obvious enough.

In 1998 I brought my first class to a Testing Center and I guess that I took about a thousand people to their exams since. A lot of things happen while making an exam which could lead to unnecessary failing. Here are a couple of points I use for coaching my students to become successful exam passers.

Take your time. I have never heard candidates complaining about too little time. And yet, when I look at scores in test exams, about 60% of the result is reached in the first 40% of the exam. On average, candidates are focused for about 20 minutes. So, take a break every 20 minutes. In the old days, I sometimes even took a smoke. Anyway, take the breaks every 20 minutes or so, it will enable you to also score well on the last items.

Don’t look at the answers. I do a lot of exam training and I catch people starting eliminating answers right away, that’s really a waste of energy. You’ll end up doing each and every question 4 times; check answer “A”, read the question again…. No, check answer “B”, read the question again…. No, and so on. An exam of 60 questions will end up in an exam of 240 questions. Try to formulate the best answer and then look if it’s there. The elimination process is only your last resort.

Every question is the first question. I really know a lot of people who get mad or angry about certain, in their opinion stupid or wrong questions. That is setting yourself up for failure for the next questions. Don’t be righteous! Your final score is NOT about your opinion on the topics and questions covered. Get over it BEFORE you click “Next”!

Get yourself Clear(ed). On entering the exam room leave all that’s in the back of your mind at the door, especially your opinions of yourself and the exam you’re about to take. I always call my wife, and if she’s not picking up the phone, I’ll just speak into her voicemail for a minute or two. While you’re making an exam there’s nothing you can do about a situation at work, at home, or whatever. You came to pass for an exam, don’t let anything stand between you and a passing score while making the exam.

Know your personal pitfall. My personal pitfall is “Arrogance”. Man, I’m doing good! I can afford to just gamble this (stupid) question and still be on track for a passing score. Bummer! Failed with 690 point out of 700. So I write down in big capitals on the scrap sheet “ARROGANT???”. And I manage myself. When I catch myself on being just that I click “Previous” and do the question. You have to be honest with yourself, or a better way to say that, honor yourself and distinguish your personal pitfall. You know what it is, you only need to acknowledge that it’s there. That gives you a choice instead of being the victim.

Time and location. Get agreement for picking time and place, when and where will you be taking your exam? Where I work we also have a Testing facility, I do not take my exams there. I want to be anonymous, especially during all the breaks I take. I do not want to walk to the toilets and have to have a chat with one of my co-workers. As for the time slot, some prefer taking exams early in the morning and some prefer late afternoon. Choose whatever works best for YOU. That’s what I mean with “get agreement”. Reschedule is a better option than setting yourself up for failure.

Be proud. It takes courage to take it on, acknowledge yourself for that and get acknowledgement from the people around you. Celebrate whatever the outcome may be. You really learn a lot form failing.

Finally, all begins with a real good preparation. As far as Microsoft Exams are concerned, they raised the bars. Certainly in the MCSE Tracks.

Happy studying and ENJOY taking exams!