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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cloud ReMix - How Personal Use Can Influence Business Decisions

Most of us spend a lot of time reading and thinking about cloud services for business use, and learning ways to ensure we make the best use of these types of services to benefit our business. Gaining the most efficiency, lowest cost, and least risk.

These are all valuable considerations, and important to be focussing on when making any cloud-based investment in IT services.  But what framework do we use use to make these evaluations?

I was recently contacted by a cloud services company called SingleHop and they wanted to share an infographic they had designed. 

The correspondence I had with Dave from SingleHop prompted me to think about leveraging ways I use the cloud in my day to day life to form the criteria used to evaluate cloud services for business use.

...leveraging every-day cloud experiences (makes the) world of business IT services in the cloud ... much less "mystical."

Further to that thought, is the consideration of how we IT professionals can communicate more effectively with other business professionals when we want them to understand how business services are enabled by cloud-based IT services.  

By leveraging their every-day cloud experiences all of a sudden the mysterious world of business IT services in the cloud become much less "mystical."  

What do you personally use the cloud for every day, or each week? I use it for storage of photos and video, collaboration & productivity with partners on various projects, and email. The fact is, Google holds the lion's share of my personal cloud-based activity and why? Because it's convenient, reliable, and inexpensive.

If you think about it, that reflects back on key cloud-service metrics such as agility, quality of service, and economics. And in thinking about how we value these metrics in our personal use of cloud-based services, we can frame ways to better communicate those metrics with others who don't live in the IT world.

So take a quick look at the graphic from SingleHop, and think about how you can influence business decisions about cloud-based business services based on more familiar personal interactions with the cloud.

And thanks Dave for sharing the graphic. Nice work.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Three Quick Tips That Will Save an IT Project Manager's Reputation

You're a great IT project manager. You know it, and more others should. But for some reason, you struggle with the hand-over part at the tail end of the project. The infamous "Transition to Operations."

You have all the deliverables completed & signed off, but the new service just seems to struggle and flail like a fish that just hopped out of the bowl and onto your desk. And while you may have moved on to the next project, the business service owners fighting with the last implementation are now muttering under their breath. 

How can this be avoided?

One sure fire way is to be thinking of the "transition to operations" from the outset of the project planning & chartering. And think about how this service will be supported and operated daily by the people who will be responsible for it, and the people who will be using it. Likely, you've already got those considerations on your check-list, and that's great.

But are you making sure that the operational & support documentation delivered through the project reflects this? 

Here are, for your consideration and feedback,  three simple ideas to ensure that the documentation to support the hand-over of the completed project are both useful, and used!

Build in time for the experts to document their work.

One of the most common concerns a PM will hear from the IT subject matter experts - the technicians, analysts, or engineers on their project team - is that they only have enough time to do the work, not write a story about what they've done.  

It is your responsibility as the PM that your project plan and task lists (work breakdown structure. etc) include ample time and clear expectations that any system configurations, support procedures, or operational maintenance tasks are documented clearly. 

Communicate this expectation clearly, early, and often. But it won't be enough to tell the team what to do; you need to empower them to do it.

Provide the experts with simple tools to document their work. 

It's often not going to be enough to tell people what to do. A true leader will lead them; show them what is expected and support them in getting it done.  

Have some simple templates available at the outset of the project to share with the technical experts supporting the project delivery. Don't accept "it is self-documenting" as an answer. Ever. It really isn't. 

You should review all the support and operational documentation output of the project. You don't necessarily need to understand every nuance, but you DO need to be able to read it and get the gist. 

Technical experts are rarely writers by trade or skill. It's just not what they do. They will take short-cuts in their documentation, and rightly so, as they understand it - they built it! 

But what happens in four or five years when the service needs an overhaul and that particular person isn't with the organization any longer?

What happens when the project rolls out and a more junior resource is tasked with operating or supporting the technology aspects of the new service? 

Consider these scenarios when reviewing the documentation with the technical authors.

And those tips help get the documentation needed by the technical folks completed - but what about the support model for the service?

Have the end-users of the service contribute to the support model.

The documentation to ensure that the service has a clear model of support, escalation paths, and service expectations should always have input from a small, careful selection of those who will be active end-users of the service once it goes live.

Be selective in who you involve, and bring them "nearly completed" drafts of the support model to review and contribute to in order to respect their time and keep potential re-writing to a minimum. 

Following these simple tips should help others see what a great IT PM you really are.

If you have other tips and tricks for IT Project Management, or feedback on these ideas, please share them with me in the blog comments or via my Twitter account - @itManageCast

Thanks for reading, and have an awesome day!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Procurify - What is Cloud-Based Spend-Management Software?

Last night I had the pleasure of being invited to attend the Procurify event hosted at KPMG Canada's offices in downtown Vancouver. The event offered some exceptional networking opportunities but also gave some insight into the Procurify solution of a "cloud-based, online and mobile spend-management software."

As the solution is targeted at the finance folks there was an interesting mix of people and I must say that KPMG & Procurify were excellent hosts. The mix in the audience was an exceptional bonus to the event and provided the opportunities for many to have conversations that ranged beyond the traditional IT/cloud services discussions and talk about diverse business challenges and opportunities.

"Procurify...takes finance and accounting processes that take hours or days and reduces it to minutes..."

The presentation itself included a panel discussion of the service offering, including some quick case studies and a walk-through of signing up & using key functions.

The panel consisted of (L to R):
  • Praven Gupta, QuickMobile CFO/COO
  • Herman Chandi, Procurify VP of Business Development
  • Norbert Huber, KPMG Partner, Management Consulting & Technology Enablement

The elevator pitch for Procurify is that this subscription service which scales to any size business takes finance and accounting processes that take hours or days and reduces it to minutes by making the interface simple to use, and accessible where-ever the people who need it are.

The business workflows targeted by this solution seem to be procurement and travel or other expenses. The workflow was remarkably simple, and watching it in action made me a little jealous of those who have adopted it. I've had to work with the manual processes that this solution targets in the past and have felt the pain. 

As paperwork and chasing people down isn't my strong-suite, the built-in receipt scanning/upload and automated expense submission/approval workflows integrated into the Procurify solution had me drooling a bit. You simply use the mobile app on your smartphone, take a photo of your receipt from the app, and upload it with a minimum of other information needed.  I can see how this could be a game changer for increasing efficiencies and transparency for corporate spending. 

"...biggest challenge with start-ups in Vancouver is getting support in your home town."

Praven Gupta provided some interesting insights on his real-life use of the service, but in the open Q&A afterwards, provided one of the most insightful quotes of the night. When the panel was asked what the biggest challenge as a start-up in Vancouver was, Praveen responded that the "biggest challenge with start-ups in Vancouver is getting support in your home town." 

The observation was that while Vancouver is becoming a hotbed for innovative start-ups and increasingly provides great resources to bring the best & brightest entrepreneurs here, local-based business seem reticent to adopt their products and services - all the big and early sales go over-seas or outside of Vancouver. Praveen challenged Vancouver based business to better understand the service offerings being developed locally and engage with them.

"...biggest challenge with cloud offerings is integration..."

Earlier in the presentations, when giving an over-view of what a cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) solution offering is, Norbert from KPMG made the observation that one of the biggest challenges with "cloud (offerings) is integration" implying that having multiple SaaS services can increase the likelihood of data integration and integrity risks. This is a valid point that I'd love to explore deeper with other cloud & SaaS experts - feel free to share your opinions on that matter please!

So in the end, a great and informative event, and I'm very thankful to Procurify and KPMG Canada for inviting me to attend, observe, and share what I've learned with you.

For more information on Procurify or KPMG Canada please check the links in this blog, or follow them on Twitter:
  • #GoProcurify
  • @Procurify
  • @KPMG_Canada

As always, I appreciate your comments and feedback on this article and any others via Twitter or email.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Two Tips to Communicate the Value of Virtualized IT Operations

If you are in the process of, or have transitioned servers or applications to a cloud-based or virtualized solution, you have increased your value to the rest of the business. But how do you communicate that effectively? 

How do you clarify the value proposition of IT operations leveraging cloud-based solutions for IT service delivery? You make sure that speed and agility are metrics that those who you support understand, by bringing the value proposition to them on their terms.

1. Choose Metrics Wisely

There are three key areas you will most easily be able to measure meaningful business value:

  • Economics - what does it cost to run IT
  • Quality of Service - in the eyes of the end users of the services
  • Agility - velocity of deployment in response to changes in business

This is likely not news to anyone in IT operations roles, but often we struggle with the practical implementation and communication of these metrics. In another article we'll talk about implementation, but here's a few tips to get you started thinking along the lines of "what can we do to help the business understand our value to them?"

At the June 2014 Gartner IT Infrastructure and Operations Management Summit this was one of the hot topics many IT operations managers struggle with. We know how to define the value and performance metrics of the infrastructure in ways that we understand, but does the CFO, CMO, or CxO get that?

2. Know LEARN Your Audience

To make sure those who hold the purse strings get the value delivered to the business by IT operations, we need to communicate with them in terms that matter to them. 

The three areas I presented above are great, but meaningless if you just use formulas you've Googled to obtain statistics that you'll put in a Power Point presentation for your upcoming budget review. You need to invest some time in understanding what your audience perceives as value, and then communicating the information to them in that context.

  • Identify people in the key business areas served by IT operations who can help you understand what they value most in the IT service you deliver to them. Perhaps they are getting IT services from others that you weren't aware of - understand why. Not so that you can provide those services instead, but so that you can better understand why they see those options as a value. Use your active listening skills, and learn about their part of the business - don't jump in immediately with offers of help for their challenges, but understand them better.

  • Leverage your PMO, or if you don't have a PMO, those responsible for business development projects to make sure they understand the services and abilities of the IT operations group, and your willingness to better understand how they seek to deliver business projects. The way forward together may not always seem clear at first, but project managers are vital allies to IT operations; they almost always have the ears of those you most wish to influence.

So if we have defined the metrics, and communicate them effectively, we can now communicate our value proposition to those who determine our financial fate. So the next question is, how can we use these metrics to improve our own ability to deliver services? Sounds like a good topic for an upcoming post...