Entrepeneurship, Innovation, IT is business

Have you already tried to buy software per sprint?

June 28, 2019

Lack of understanding of business by IT and of IT by businesses may still be one of the main issues when building software. 

Main issues on buying fixed scope/price software

The main common thoughts when somebody starts to think about creating some software is that it will be something similar to any other stuff we buy. How much will it cost? And how many time will it take to be done?

I’m trying to demystify the bad comparison between building a house and building software that commonly takes places during these conversations.

Software is a baby

We tend to think that building software is similar to building a house or a tower. But this parallel/analogy is impossible nowadays. For centuries, houses have been built and the process has reached a maturity that it’s possible to put all the information in 2 or 10 blueprints, and everything the buyer said he wants will be there well described.

Softwares have been created for less than 100 years (since the 1950s) and until today there is no way to put all the information on a document that can be followed from the very beginning to the end. Invariably, the documents have a macro vision of what is wanted with the pages described. But, as an example, what should happen when I hit the button “notify user”? Does it send an email to one user? Or does it triggers a background processing involving AI looking for all the users that match the current data and send them a push notification on their phones?

PMI addresses this scenario writing huge documentations with plenty of details following the PMBOK. But only some software have this level of detail. For the entire rest (the biggest majority I’ve seen during 10 years on IT) companies can’t afford the investment for having this level of detail.

Different complexities

Back to the analogy of houses. When you are building a house, the level you reach when designing the architecture (similar to the requirements document in software) will be the walls, plumbing, electricity, network and etc. But at that level, you don’t describe how the house will be decorated (the UI on software). How many paintings will be there? Which will be your sofa? How many inches will have your TV? Your kid’s room will be Superman or Batman’s?

Obviously, this is not described because people will have different opinions on how to decorate the house. And these opinions change from time to time. When talking about software, sometimes these UI behaviors are just not described at the level they should be.

The migration to agile

Given the scenario above and after severe issues developing software, eventually, companies start the migration to agile. Currently agile is the fastest approach to address the issues that come when a scope is not clear/detailed enough. Gartner (ID #G00325642) says that the main barriers for the change from fixed scope / fixed price to agile are:

  1. Sourcing and finance:
    • Sourcing: It’s hard to tell how much the software will cost. In organizations structured like having a hard sourcing process, this will be one of the main challenges.
    • Finance: the organizations have their financial operations structured as price per project. Budgeting for treating the software as a product instead of a project can be complex in some organizations;
  2. People’s routine adaptability / culture / mindset:
    • Be prepared to face challenges on people behavior when migrating to agile. It’s a new way to work, and everything new creates resistance.
    • As one of the key features of agile development, the ability to adapt your software alongside its development is essential. When applied to organizations changing, some issues will arise:
      • Since the scope can be changed at any time, people may fall on the trap of keep trying to reach perfection on some requirement and spend too much time on it, instead of moving to next requirements, making the entire cycle slower.
      • In some times, it’s easy to lose the UX pattern, as the features that have already been delivered may have functional or design differences from the next ones;
      • Managing people will have different KPIs to measure performance and quality. Finding the right ones to your project won’t be quick;A

A hybrid approach

The more flexible the scope is, the bigger the risk is for the client. The more fixed the scope is, the bigger is the risk for the vendor.

A good hybrid model between fixed scope and 100% agile can be the purchase per sprint/phase (Gartner, 2017 – ID #G00325642). You will need a big picture of the project to use this model. Starting from an initial internal estimate of price and time, the client will be able to go for the market and call vendors to produce the software. The software production will be done sprint per sprint. Every new sprint beginning has a new deal. What will be inside this deal is:

Anatomy of a per sprint deal:

  • Start and end dates (2, 3 or 4 weeks are good to start);
  • Price for the sprint;
  • The stories to be delivered;
    • Every story must have a clear DoD (Definition of Done);
    • Every story must be detailed enough for the team to work on without blocks.

For this model to work, the product owner has to have the autonomy to sign. This cannot involve an entire cycle of procurement.

The benefits

Developing projects per sprint puts the risk balance somewhere closer to the center. And here I list some key important outcomes of the change: 

  • For the client:
    • They can stop the work whenever they want without long term contractual strings;
    • The client will be able to apply new business decisions whenever he wants;
    • The client will be able to respond quickly to market and competitors changes, without having to wait for the current project to finish and then start an entire negotiation once again;
    • If something is delayed from one sprint, it will be the vendor’s responsibility to solve without generating new costs;
  • For the product (software):
    • One of the key benefits of flexibility is the possibility to involve more people that are experts in some specific process. Then the product will fit better what the users want, and not what a group of people (like the old project manager and system analysts) think they want;
    • The product will be flexible to respond fast to business decisions and users feedbacks;
    • Practices focused on finding innovation can be turned into a routine. Running design sprints, inceptions, usability testing, and user interviews are some key practices that would be done without affecting the project continuation;
  • For the vendor:
    • The vendor will have clearer information to work with. Less double understanding of requirements will happen;
    • The vendor will have more flexibility to turn into more like a consultant, bringing knowledge from many different projects. Both technical practices and business decisions will benefit;
Avoiding problems, Practical examples

4 Minimum artifacts for an IT cascade-agile project conduction

June 2, 2019

Whenever we are running an IT project, if we already have a deadline set before the start, no matter what, this project will turn into more a cascade than an agile conduction. Besides this status report, I’m listing the minimum artifacts to have a successful project being delivered.

The scope

The scope is basic. It is the base for everything to come. You will extract everything from the scope: the schedule itself, the pace you have to go to keep the schedule, and the team to reach everything. The key information that must be in scope are:

  • The requirement list;
  • The details of each requirement;
  • For who is that requirement applicable?
  • Who has validated the details?

Optional:

  • The time estimates to reach that deliverable;
  • Who is needed to perform the technical part (strong dependencies only);

You don’t have to hold the fanciest document. You just have to hold a document that everybody involved can understand. I’m suggesting this document model.

The schedule

As soon as you have the scope, you will be able to start taking operational decisions. What are the restrictions you have for your schedule? What team is enough for you to reach the given deadline? Can you beat it earlier than planned? Always plan to finish the project before your schedule says, and keep some margin for the problems to come.

The key information that must be in your schedule is:

  • When will you deliver each requirement;

That’s enough. I strongly disagree with going anywhere beyond this point. Otherwise, the project manager will dive to an endless cycle of micro controlling everything. Issues will come with simple or complex documents. Go ahead and create your own model. List the requirement and the date to be delivered;

The status reports

The status report is a weapon and should be used wisely. It can be used to mark milestones for the project and also to create a sense of urgency for some scenarios. It is a powerful weapon. Do not avoid using it. Here you can find the model I’ve been evolving for years. Some of the key inputs:

  • What changed from last status report to this new one?
  • Who are the responsible people for taking decisions on this project? At least one on the delivery team and other on the client (internal or external) team;
  • Where are we in the schedule? Do use percentage here.
  • Major executive items (green/yellow/red) like scope, people and schedule;

Still in the status report. Always remember: if people are asking you for a status report, it means a huge problem. Not sending or wanting it, but the act of asking for it. If they ask for an email to get to know how the project is going on, it automatically means they are not involved as should be on the project. If the status report is green, everybody knows it. Or if the status report will have bad news, everybody must already be feeling the bad news.

The scope changes

Since you are running a cascade project, be prepared for scope changes. I haven’t seen a single project where they didn’t happen. When I hear a scope change, I know I’m walking the wrong way. But it makes me happy because I’ll have the opportunity to put things back on track before the end of the project. Keep track of all scope change requests coming from all the team involved. Make it very clear those already approved and those which won’t be pursued for any given reason. A scope change track document will have the following information:

  • The new requirement OR requirement changed;
  • The description of what’s changed;
  • What’s its impact over the schedule;
  • Is it included in the project or not?

You can use this model to track the changes. Once they are approved, they must be listed as a new requirement in your original scope document.

Others

Few other activities will require you to have a kind of formalization. Using email for that is enough. Some of them will be:

  • Deliveries approval;
  • Changes approval on scope and schedule;
Digital transformation, IT is business

Cultural change in IT 1/X

May 3, 2019

Recently I had once again the privilege to join an international. It gathered decision makers of global IT leaders from companies like Caterpillar, Wells Fargo, Delta, CVS Health and many others.

People like them are always in a rush. When they decide to invest their time spending days out of the office, these moments must be very productive. These leaders always look to enhance their knowledge, and did so in two different ways:

  • Experiences exchange with their industry peers;
  • Watch really relevant content brought by authorities on some subjects;

I’ve been in touch with this audience for few years, and no matter what is the season or the new IT acronym brought to call attention, the biggest difficulty for all the leaders, to make their businesses thrive, always is culture. It’s getting more and more evident.

(With culture I refer to the need companies have to change the way their employees operate, how they think, manage their resistances and expectations. The companies have to develop them. Not only through practical and technical courses that can be done in a week or two, but also through more abstract scenarios like their behavior).

A way to make progress

An excellent panel from a former Gartner Vice President approached the subject. He gave his suggestion on how to lead this cultural change in an organization the right way.

At that moment he suggested people will have more adherence and will give credit to the change once they are exposed to and actually find themselves in three clear aspects:

  • Purpose
  • Autonomy
  • Ambition

People must have a clear purpose in front of them. This purpose must make sense. It can’t be evil. Nor be only make money. It must do good to something: maybe the environment, maybe someone else, etc. After that, they must have their ambition clearly known by their leader. It’s something very personal and some people might not enjoy talking about it. Everybody has it in some way. But purpose and ambition, without autonomy, is useless . If people see something that is not right, they must be able to fix it by themselves. Period.

A beautiful example of how it’s given to people on production lines using an Andon cord (from SixSigma) was shown. But how to achieve it on IT? (On the original speech, the author suggested the IT managers to give it to their technical teams by implementing DevOps).

This moment was very meaningful, and the connection between theory and reality was immediate. The only way to develop people having the three items above in mind is through individual development. Be close, instruct, direct, suggest. Persuade people in their personal development, through weekly or biweekly evolutions. This is the only way to keep expectations of the company’s goals and the three described items. It will ensure no misunderstanding is created and no interferences between those who think on strategy and those being developed will occur.

Entrepeneurship, Practical examples

Successful negotiations

February 20, 2019

When we talk about services industry, unless you are in a niche not explored or own an entire market, it’s hard to show trustworthy credentials and proofs that you should be the one chosen (showing you are better, you deliver in time, your quality is world class, etc). Almost everybody can say they are good at doing what you do, even if they have never done anything like that before. This affects sales directly in a market where the competition is huge like the US. Getting into scenarios where we have at least 3 competitors, and some times more than 10, is pretty common.

In 2018/2019 I’ve been successful in the biggest part of sales negotiations I got in. For those which we didn’t win, at least we figured in the final shortlist. They all have different stories like where we met people involved, the percentage of how much the negotiation was done physically or not, how many steps each one of them had, the client’s size, and many other things that influenced on the results.

The common thing for winning all of them, from what I’ve seen this far, for sure passes by how much you can show of your technical quality not using technical stuff. The one who signs the check usually is not someone technical, but wants to feel comfortable on choosing us. Making them comfortable someone appropriated is going to handle the situation is the key.

But after winning, a feeling, or even a testimonial, comes about why did we win each one of them in specific, I mean the strongest reason in particular for each of them. Below I listed some of those main reasons for some companies, described a bit the scenario involved and shown how we prepared for some of them.

Speed and coherency in communications

Being fast and coherent on your communications is something decisive. If you go too slow, your client will end up thinking they are just one more in your list. Some studies say that your first answer must be within the first hour the client contacted you. For the next steps it may vary a lot. Being fast brings the feeling that you are dedicating energy to them. Beyond that, the speed with coherency creates trust between the parties. By coherency here I mean saying NO when you have to do. When you say no for something requested you are creating anchors of truth (that you will have to proof they are true in the future), and also is decreasing the strength of vendor-client aggressive relationship that some partners try to proceed.

Dedication on understanding the scenario

Do dedicate yourself on understanding the scenario. For sure this is the step that will give you inputs for everything mentioned here. If you don’t know the partner’s scenario, you simply are not up to help them. Dedicate on understand what is the business scenario, what you really have to deliver, but also spend at least 30% of your time understanding the consequences of each scenario. Why is that company buying from you? Do they have a strategic move related? You will know that and get more information to look even more trustworthy just knowing your client’ situation.

Be flexible. Give alternatives

For many of the negotiations I got involved in, there was a mental clock running out of time for something to be solved on the partner’s organization. If your client is under pressure, he needs alternatives. Period. He needs something he can realize is better for him so he will sleep comfortably at night. If you go for a negotiation with one scenario of purchase, you are losing the opportunity of being 2, 3 or even more alternatives inside one partner at a time. If you go for the scenario with more than one alternative, you will show empathy with the situation and also will show flexibility. You solution and your knowledge may always be the best in world, but sometimes it’s more than what the partner needs. He just needs to solve a problem, not a rocket.

The setup for the moment

Unquestionably, my favorite part for every single negotiation. The moment at the round table. The table must be round. For all of those I got involved and I remember while writing this article, we wanted the long term approach. We didn’t want just to have a deal and never show ourselves again. We want that deal to be successful, because we want more deals and also referrals for more deals. A lot of techniques can be applied for this moment, but it is a matter for a single article and I will resume here in three steps:

  • Preparation – know everything. The scenario, the people involved, the implications involved, etc;
  • At the table – prepare for that. Plan ahead each move and each question that might arise at the table. Be prepared for a money negotiation;
  • After the table – you went so far, let’s now miss the deal with small mistakes;

Use credentials

For every moment of contact you are allowed to use credentials. Credentials can be a lot of things like telling a story about a project your company delivered, for how long the company exists and handle challenging projects like the one you want to talk, even cheap chat can show credentials for some unformal scenario. The goal for a credential is to increase trust in something that will help the negotiation move ahead. But the one who got my attention and was not in my speech at the beginning of my journey was telling how many years I’ve been working in my company. The perfect scenario happens if the customer ask you that, because will show he’s interested. But you always can mention that to leave one more strong anchor.

Decisive factors exposition

In long-cycle sales like my reality (having more than 6 months between knowing a company and signing a contract), it’s close to arrogance to think that what you heard for the first time when you met your client as his business goals will remain exactly the same 6 months later, when you are at the round table negotiating. Whenever you have a chance, ask key questions to check if you are delivering what the customer expects. Be straight on that. That’s simply the reason you are being hired. Ask that and double check whenever you can to check if nothing has changed. At the right time make it visual to create a mind-contract between you and who are signing for your services. This is the only way for you and the partner have the same feeling that you are going to deliver what they need and want.

I hope these thoughts I gathered during 2018 and 2019 (this far) help you to be successful in your upcoming negotiations. Use the space in comments to ask questions if you want. Let’s talk!

Customers, Digital transformation

If you are not investing on design, you’re being left behind

January 9, 2019

In 2015, the DMI released research saying that companies having a design-centric mindset on their strategies grew 211% more than the average of the rest of S&P 500 during the past 10 years (find details here).

In 2018 Gartner, the biggest consultancy company in the world for IT decision makers added Customer Experience as one of the main subjects for its main world-class event (find details here).

Recently, a McKinsey research revealed that companies which invest in design grow, on average, 2 times more than the leading companies of its respective industry (find details here).

 

Design is already proved

Design, UX, CX, etc already proven itself as something highly valuable. Few years past, it was hard to find examples, but nowadays it’s getting easier and easier to find uncountable examples:

  • Netflix didn’t break Blockbuster. It was the need to return the tapes;
  • It was not Uber who broke taxis. It was the bad service and high prices;
  • Digital banks are not “stealing” large slices of the market share of the big banks. It’s big banks’ lack of transparency and bureaucracy loosing market space for competitors;

People want to interact and will pay more for that, with transparent services. Companies who used to make things confusing so their clients don’t understand are being pushed to change. The UX is the professional who points these issues and transforms the transparency and no-bureaucracy mindset into visible things. Companies are realizing that, and UX is the fifth most demanded profession of 2019 according to LinkedIn.

 
Why is it still hard for decision-makers to find value on design and afford it?

The same McKinsey report stated that 40% of companies still don’t listen the user’s opinions on their products. It’s like selling a cookie and not asking who’s eating if it tastes good. Isn’t the 211% (by DMI) or 2x (by McKinsey) convincing?

From what I heard this far, I mention these 3 points below as the main for companies to still decide to keep design outside their projects.

 

Lack of knowledge

Lack of vision of what design can aggregate and lack of eager to know is the main reason. There are plenty of people on IT and business departments still thinking that the old meaning for “web-designer” is the CX professional. Their skills are very different.

DeveloperOld “web designer”CX professional
Does codeDevelops code. Backend and frontend and layoutsDoes not code
Turns layouts into softwareCreates better screens than developersExecutes a long process of research before deciding something will be solved with layouts. Creates layouts that make sense
Commonly thinks about one single application at a timeThinks about one single application at a timeIs always aware of all the interactions the user will have with the product’s brand
Turns layouts into softwareCreates beautiful applicationsCreates applications that make sense to their users and are beautiful if needed
 
Costs

Closely attached to the previous item, if people don’t understand what the UX professional will do, they won’t give value to its deliveries. Then they tend to consider the UX are just more cost on the project to develop and activity that someone else could do.

Fear of innovation

Every leader likes to say they are innovating. But it may occur they start to fear when someone else close to them is innovating more. Since the design mindset naturally brings parts of innovation just because of its existence, I’ve already seen people sabotaging user-centric initiatives.

Digital transformation, Innovation, IT is business, Practical examples

5 reasons to start and speed up digital product management

November 4, 2018
Digital Products

One of the main objectives of a well-planned Digital Transformation journey is the creation of Digital Products. Having Digital Products means that some of the core systems of the company can be turned into a product or service. Other partners can benefit from! Or even your data will allow you to create new products that didn’t exist yet. That means new revenue streams, not necessarily aligned with the current business.

Some examples are famous and some of them are pretty new, showing that to create useful Digital Products all you have to have is the will to make a difference:

  • Retail started what we can see now. Then banks came with their apps, home banking, credit cards, insurance simulators and etc. All this Digital Transformation reality got strengthen with them;
  • BTG started in 2014 what nowadays is the SnakeBite911 app. With that people can collaborate and mark where they’ve been attacked the most by snakes. For BTG, they are offering clinical trials and have many other offers to come.
  • Vivino is a social network for wine lovers. A score for each wine and many other details can be added by the user. Vivino has been using the app to offer wine to the huge number of users they got.
  • Companies that sell farming fertilizers are mapping region’s soil, the weather forecast for the year and the next, and many other data. This way they can suggest their clients which fertilizers they should buy and when to buy it;
  • Health: apps who help runners to monitor their evolution, tracking how people feel while they train and suggest shoes, nutrition hints (and products), next events, etc. Also, smart things (like shoes and swimsuits) are already available, tracking a lot of data, and suggesting a lot of products and services to be acquired.
Be the one pushing the change

Some changes happen on how you and your team behave when you change from project to product-centric approach:

Project-centric Product-centric
Delivery – that’s the mission! Owning – change everything. The culture will change, the will to be part, motivation, etc etc etc
Stay on backstage – yeah, IT usually is just the way to reach something, not the something that must be reached Stay in the front stage – IT leaders start being at the front stage alongside with business leaders
Sensation of completion – leading to… nothing. Just more tasks; Continuous – apply the mindset of improvement, avoiding the team’s sensation that a project who completely satisfies the final client is never delivered

The 5 reasons

1st – “By 2020, 75% of digital business leaders will have abandoned Project model and adopted product management model”opening keynote from worldwide flagship IT event in Orlando 2018. Project model is not fast enough. Every time a project ends, the team is disbanded. Then new negotiations for the new cycle of improvements start. But until its end and the new team come, is waste of time and waste of the team’s knowledge.

2nd – “By 2020, organizations that have embraced the product model will outperform the competition that has not, in both customer satisfaction and business results (Gartner)”. Since product-centric is faster, we must adopt it in order to stay ahead of the competition.

3rd – “78% of companies growing the most on American market are using a product-centric delivery (Gartner)”. Nothing to add here.

4th – “A product-oriented company’s IT department depends less on HR interventions, and takes by itself the leadership of culture and self-development initiatives with internal teams (Gartner)”. The first change is more power and influence to IT. But that doesn’t mean the other areas will be weak. It means they will put strength together to make things happen to have both visions: business-led and IT-led. None of them can exist without each other.

5thEvolve the IT to turn into a hub to attract internal and external ideas, business partners and talent attraction (Gartner).

Having Digital Products in mind, the benefits above are natural, and the reasons to do it are compelling. It’s the fastest way to approach traditional companies to how the unicorns that are changing our economy are.

 

Recently I attended the Gartner Symposium ITxpo in Orlando. Gartner shared some of the insights here (properly mentioned on the links). The rest of them I had while listening to the keynotes.

Digital transformation, IT is business, Practical examples

Why do digital transformation initiatives fail?

September 21, 2018

I’ve been looking more and more for reasons why Digital Transformations fail. Here I’m talking specifically about the steps regarding launching products straight related to experience. Many of the articles are too abstract saying that it’s lack of culture. The culture is hard to change, etc. Some of them are about lack of empowerment, but again it turns to culture.

After reading many of them (some of the most important listed below), I came to this conclusion: it’s lack of will. I’ll explain. Before everything, the articles:

 

They say it’s culture

The most present thing is always related to people. Culture, engagement, communication, expectations clarity, etc. I couldn’t find a single mention saying that the project wouldn’t reach the expected ROI.

Beyond the results that consumers can see, some of big companies’ moves went through internal automation and changes. The great challenge in these scenarios have been to IT and business areas capacities together. If one of the areas had the knowledge of both, they would be only one. This is Digital Transformation.

Clearly the suggestion here is to put them to work together. One cannot live without the other. But the main thing is to remove the competition between them. Now that IT saw that it can add value to business just like the product areas, a competition started. The shortest way to put an end to that: have a single manager. A CPO and a CTO working together, with different responsibilities but with the same results expectations, is a good match.

It’s an internal change

Ford is having issues to real engage with Digital platforms. Tesla is not. What’s the difference?

The will is one step before putting hands to work. When we are talking about the involved teams, the will is the output of contextualization and engagement processes. Leaders that didn’t buy the sponsors idea, won’t be able to pass it on. They won’t engage their teams properly.

Then many things may come to leaders and employees minds when acting in a new initiative. It’s all new for them. They don’t know what will come. Maybe nobody is sure about that yet:

  • Leaders and employees: afraid of what’s new. I know some companies that chill when they hear about agile development. They are afraid of that since the 90’s. Even after watching more and more successful benchmarks, it’s never enough for a real change;
  • Product areas: and that goes all around the company. The product areas don’t know the IT and fear their guys;
  • Operational areas: the operational areas, if aren’t properly engaged, will sabotage everything they see. Sometimes it isn’t even rational;
  • The board: the directors are afraid of doing a new investment that won’t bring the expected ROI, and for many times will decide to keep the organic growth instead of doing something that can be exponential;
So why it is lack of will and not lack of culture?

The will is base for culture. If the leaders are not convinced of going Digital, they won’t do anything. But I’ve already seen some people well convinced that this is the future, and even after that, they won’t make a thing. But if the needed leaders are well convinced, and willing to change, they will be able to change their own culture and their team’s culture to achieve what they are looking for.

Digital transformation, Innovation, IT is business, Practical examples

Health awakes for DT

September 21, 2018

During the past week I had the opportunity to attend to an important trade fair in USA for IT decision makers in midmarket companies. It was an incredible experience to talk to many people who are in charge of the future of their companies.  I got really impressed to know what they are looking for and what are their real concerns by the end of 2018.

Special mention:

Before getting to the real point of this article, I have to mention that I got to know many important and intelligent people. They were looking for the same old solutions to solve problems that were already solved a million times. I saw people looking for solutions that were created in 2007. That’s impressive but that’s also a sign that we all are inside a cycle. And we all are evolving. That’s the coolest thing about the event.

 

To the point: Digital Transformation one more time

It’s not new for everybody that financial industry is heavily affected by Digital Transformation. I can’t find a single bank that isn’t looking for that. Some of them are looking for experience enhancements; others are all about regarding automation. And the majority of big companies already past this phase and are already looking for omnichannel. It’s not that strong when we look for insurance, mortgages and some other industries. They have a different pattern. But they are all in similar situation: evolving.

Beside financial, we’ve heard some real cool moves from Amazon (a benchmark of course) in retail, and many others. But after financial and these moves in retail, it’s being kind of difficult to find the next industry witness for DT.

The health woke up

I had an incredible opportunity to talk to three chairmen for health. They are concerned about some things but they all mean the same thing. Their concerns were:

  •         Stop developing apps without previously validating if that is the real thing their end-user is in need;
  •         Generate business value from IT because of competitor’s moves;
  •         Take care of the little monsters that shadow-IT created and now they have to support;

If we look outside the box, those gentlemen were concerned about the same thing, as their next step for Digital Transformation: engage business areas;

Their initiative is great. But it’s also late. I’ve been discussing the third symptom with financial companies for the last 6 years. That’s always the same: an isolated initiative from a business area innovating creates something new that gets strength in the organization. But they are not IT. They don’t have the needed experience to support this new product/whatever else. Then the IT is called and they say: “hey, now you have to support this”. The nightmare starts. For the first two points, it looks like the company already got some good insights and is trying to actually act seriously towards DT.

What’s their scenario

Since they are looking for generating more value from their business areas, I thought quickly about some issues when I have to do something related to health, also did a very quick research (not more than 15 minutes – Forbes source) for the most common issues on health that now can be solved with IT and will to do:

  •         Disabled assistance: If there’s a disabled patient, let’s automatically call an Uber at the end of his appointment to take him home;
  •         Market knowledge: get to know what the clients are thinking. Let’s monitore social networks with AI and check if they are complaining after an appointment;
  •         Accessibility: a lot of paper is sent to people when they have to pay for health services or when they just use it. Let’s group all of that digitally;
  •         Accessibility: there isn’t a single repository that a doctor can access all of their patient’s history in diseases, symptoms and treatments. It forces people to carry a lot of paper whenever they are going to a doctor to talk about something recurring;
  •         Omni-experience (Forbes): I guess I’ve already heard that in financial and somewhere else. There it’s called omni-channel. And it’s coming to health. Here’s what it is: everytime your customer gets in touch with our brand, either online or offline, we must assure that he’ll have the best possible experience. Every point of contact matters;
  •         Health-techs: let’s connect to them. There are many coming and many more to come. Let’s send our doctor the information of our home-based check-up system. Blood pressure, weight and some other stuff can be checked remotely. And will mean a huge difference for some patients.

The same things that are very clear in financial are starting to happen in financial. The main thing is the mindset: having the will to solve the same old problems, digitally. Forbes says: it must come from above. If the health company’s sponsors don’t buy it, nobody will.

Digital transformation, IT is business

15 steps for digital transformation: a framework proposition

July 15, 2018

Everybody have been saying a lot about digital transformation telling that X or Y is part of the journey. But what should you do to digital transform your company? It’s related to culture. But it’s also related to the way people think. It also has a lot of technology around it. Anyway, there is not a formed opinion about what will make a company digital transformed. This article suggests 15 steps, as a framework, to look inside your company when moving towards the goal of digital transformation.

They are as generic as possible and each one is separated into three sights: 1) what’s the goal in the end – in few words; 2) what is it; 3) why should I care;

 

1 – The cloud move decision

The goal: Increase speed;

What is it: Moving to the cloud brings those well-known benefits: pay only for what you use, lay the security on hands of specialists, automation, document control, etc etc etc. But think about it applying to your business. Are you still running projects to update your email software? Are you still caring on which version of your software is running? Can your employees access their files when they are in an important meeting?

You probably have already heard about the Lean mindset. Inside it you will have to experiment a lot. Now imagine you have an idea with the potential of changing your entire business. You won’t ever be fast (Lean) on hardware investments if you have to buy machines, wait for them to arrive, install control softwares, and then deliver to who has a brilliant idea. Ok, let’s consider you don’t have this problem today and it your employees never spend time waiting for resources. Have you ever thought about how many time your support team spend being so agile to deliver that?

Why should I care: There’s no way to ignore cloud. You can start today (already late) or start more late. The startup which bothers (or will bother) your business model was (will be) born in the cloud;

 

2 – Start using cloud collaborative tools

51 Tactics for getting things done faster and delivering more in collaborations

The goal: Allow communication and access from anywhere;

What is it: You actually start moving to the cloud. This step regards how you store information and how you access it. Allow your team to access it everywhere they are. Never miss an important information again because of a policy forbidding people to access information after work-time. They also will want or have to work on their homes very soon. Be prepared for that. Let them work everywhere. Collaboration tools like email, calendar, voice and text messages must be on the cloud. Other tools for tasks controlling/prioritization and team communication must be there as well. It allows people to be fast. Beside that your data will be safe in the cloud. Never miss important information again. If your laptop is lost, just grab a new one and move on;

Why should I care: Start removing things that block your team. Let them grab information with them. Let them collaborate, communicate and create together;

 

3 – Agile 1.0

What’s the goal: Evolve people and team maturity;

What is it: The most important among the first third. If you jump straight to this step you will end up on deciding to take the previous two as well, based on new team’s decisions. People are the most important thing inside the company, and you will depend on their performance for everything. Let’s start evolving your teams maturity. The more evolved they are, the better they will think and the faster they will move and take important decisions. The agile methodology are just the first step to have good data-driven and independent teams. At least all the core areas must be addicted to it. The support areas can be added as you go;

Why should I care: People are the most important thing in every organization;

 

why more leaders apply data driven decision making

 

4 – Analytics 1.0

What’s the goal: Enhance the power of your decisions;

What is it: Start using analytics. Everyday you make a lot of decisions based just on feeling or on previous experience. But those who are important, those which can change big things in your organization can’t be taken based on memories. Having data to analyze and decide after it, can be turned into part of your culture and must be. You must have numbers to know what’s going on inside every area of the organization. Which product is bleeding to death? Which team has the best performance? Should we invest more on marketing projects? What’s the ROI got after turning on a new internal system? What are the teams doing to make things in new ways (to innovate)?

Why should I care: It’s one step ahead to give autonomy to people, and after that, have more people actually thinking on your business;

 

5 – Start with the automation

What’s the goal: Free as much as possible time of people;

What is it: Let’s start automatizing things. Process that can be done by machines must be done by machines. Let people spend their brain on what people must be involved. I’m using a DevOps image to illustrate the example on the development/operations area, but it’s just one of them. DevOps must be done because is spares times in many situations: the development is slower, but the time spent with issues in production, deployment crisis, infrastructure planning, etc etc etc go down the hills. In this average, your development cycle gets a lot of speed. But let’s also automatize financial processes, law processes, vacations, refunds for travels, production notes, booking hotels and flights, etc. People must be thinking on how to be ahead of your competitors starting from each area, not filling those sheets with useless information, that will be stored and nobody will ever look at it;

Why should I care: Right now you are spending people’s time and intelligence with tasks that will be repeated daily exactly the same way;

 

6 – Start using Design

What’s the goal: Have the best creations;

What is it: Put a heavy hand on design thinking, researches, user journeys, open innovation techniques, user centered, UX, etc, in your projects. Here the focus is to deliver more value to your customer. Design is an excellent way to think before taking business decisions. Its outputs will allow you to quickly decide where to invest money on your digital transformation changes. That regular analogic product can be turned into something digital? Or maybe some parts of it. Will it be easier for your customers to buy from you? They will be more satisfied when using your products? Or will them tell good things about your company? The design mindset will allow you to think like and to understand your customer.

Why should I care: it’s essential for a digital transformation strategy. One of the design outputs is the experience your customer is looking for. No successful digital product is launched today without a deep look at UX;

 

7 – Agile 2.0

What’s the goal: Evolve people and team maturity (continuing step 3);

What is it: Get teams working in different ways inside agile methodologies. Let them free to discover their best agile way. Again, it focuses straight on team maturity; Sooner or later someone will copy your disruptive innovation, it’s a fact. But they can’t copy your people. Because of that, people is the most important thing in the organization. And to let people perform like the most important part, we must conduct to a new mindset. They must feel free and unjudged to give their best. Once people, with the required maturity, (1) feel awesome, they will (2) deliver value continuously, inside a constant (3) experimentation and learning behaviour, having (4) safety (and security) as a prerequisite. You will notice that not everybody will reach this position at the same time. Some teams will be faster than others, and they may even jump some steps in this framework proposition here;

Why should I care: People are the most important thing in every organization;

 

8 – Finish the cloud move. Everything important must be on the cloud

What’s the goal: Increase speed;

What is it: Have all the important data/processes/applications/intelligence/etc on the cloud. The cloud will allow you to be as fast as the guys from step 6 and 7 are demanding. Missing a data from your analytics during that brainstorm late night? Waiting for next morning to the BI guy to wake up and send the information? Forget it. Access it right now and continue the idea creation. Looking for an idea sent months ago through email? Just type and find it.

There’s also a mindset to be changed here: want to create a landing page to check if your target audience will turn into leads? Just use an online tool and solve it now, instead of calling the development team. Will your cloud be private, public, hybrid? It doesn’t matter if it’s fast.

Beside that, all the applications that matter must also be released under APIs and services. The product areas must know it. Plugging essential services (like authentication, usage of X service, and security management) to that new product that’s still being designed, must be allowed very fast.

Why should I care: your business speed is increasing. You don’t want to be held by the IT;

 

9 – Analytics 2.0 – Data driven decisions

What’s the goal: Enhance the power of your decisions.

What is it: Take all the decisions having data to prove it. You may be thinking “I already use a BI for my decisions and everything is fine”. But what about the rest of the team? Do they have as much information as they need to take a trustworthy decision? Do they have tools? Does it gives insights about how to reach new customers? Is this commercial approach the best one to reach our customers? Let’s test it. Is this the product we should invest our money? Let’s find that out. Sometimes the information doesn’t has to be so deep like a BI. Just knowing who opened an email is worth to know that someone got interested in what you are saying. We don’t have to start buying researches like crazy people to solve everything. Sometimes just giving a call and asking is enough.

Why should I care: Better decisions are taken when we have data and stop using our imagination.

 

10 – All OPS automatized

What’s the goal: Reduce applications issues and its impact on your brand;

What is it: Since the technology is crucial part of every digital transformation, the OPS automation must be inside it. It is a natural step ahead of cloud moves, and a bit harder for private clouds. When you are inside a public cloud, this level of automation gets way easier, because every provider have its own set of tools for you to monitor and manage everything remotely. Everything that is important must have the OPS automatized. Zero production errors over your apps is your target. Now it’s basic. Can you imagine Google down? Their uptime is directly related to their reputation. Now imagine your bank down at the time you want to send money to someone. Scary right? Spending time on disaster recovery plans? Now they are small plans. Clicking buttons and watching things working. Database backup or rollbacks? Just click and wait. Or schedule and wait.

Why should I care: If you are heading for digital applications, and your system is down at 3pm, it’s like closing doors of all your stores around the world when your customers most want to buy from you.

 

11 – All DEV automatized

What’s the goal: Reduce applications issues and its impact on your brand (again);

What is it: In the 10th step we discussed about OPS. But the blue sky scenario won’t ever be reached if the Development of applications isn’t part of that. Environment setup, application deployment, division on micro services and testing automation are part of the DevOps as mentioned on 5th step. Automatize as much as you can to have more speed for next improvements. The automation itself brings speed. But the time you will spare spending with applications down just because you have automatically well tested it previously is countless. It’s time to plan for chaos engineering, stress testing, metrics orientation, continuous delivery, resilience strategy, deploy automation and tons of automatized tests. You are about to take only wise decisions (as of step 9). Since then you will need speed to achieve the goals. Stop losing time with bad developed systems; A SRE team is vital here;

Why should I care: You have to be fast to change your systems with new features and be recognized for that;

 

12 – Experimentation and design mindset

What’s the goal: Keep evolving and creating/updating products;

What is it: Have all your important projects and initiatives running over constant experimentation and design mindset. Never stop updating them while they are relevant; The shortest path is asking your customers what they are missing in your products. The normal path is doing that and many things more. Do your customers love your product? Or is it being used just because they don’t have other alternatives? Is it easy to use to everybody? Have you ever even thought about splitting it in two? One simpler to non-technical people and one for those who like details? Is there a way to cover people from different ages in this same product? How to reach senior people who aren’t well familiarized with technology as youngsters are? Try upselling, A/B testing, experimentation, questionnaires, in-loco researches, etc.

Why should I care: Sooner or later someone with better experience (aka care to your customer) or features will copy your product or disrupt your market. Let’s make it harder for competition to reach us;

 

13 – Top notch experience

What’s the goal: Ensure you have actually the best product you propose to have;

What is it: Start looking for omnichannel experiences. In digital applications, one key factor to success is providing good experiences to your customers when they are interacting with you. It doesn’t matter where they are connecting with you: the app, the website, a phone call, your physical store, watching your VP of trends speech, getting information with the guys in the lobby of your HQ, etc. The user will always abstract this as your brand’s experience. Making all this channels aligned to provide one single message to the user is the difference. Beside “just” doing what your application says it does, it’s time to add even more value to those who interact with your company;

Why should I care: Your customer will talk about you. It has to be something awesome;

 

14 – Market expansion

What’s the goal: stay ahead of competition;

What is it: As mentioned on 12th step, sooner or later your competitors will have great ideas and will launch them before you. Or even a startup will disrupt your market with new technologies.

Do expand market opportunities using design and the experimentation mindset! Insights from other industries are obligatory. Few examples: (1) Investment institutions are bringing e-commerce “upselling” strategies to their investment options. “Customers who invested in this stock have also invested in this new one here” (something like that). Innovative business models like (2) AirBnb (connecting demand and providers), (3) Uber, (4) Blockchain trials to bypass banks, etc, are already here. So, what you have to do is keep the innovative approach at every important part of your strategies. Never stop the cycle of feedbacks and evolution;

Why should I care: You don’t want to end like Blockbuster, Kodak and Nokia;

 

15 – Special Mention – Always look for new talent:

Right on the side of all the steps above, your top priority is always finding new and great talents. They are who will allow your transformations. Without them, you will get stuck in every single step. People have to want to DO the changes, otherwise finding barriers is easy. They have to WANT TO BE PART of the change. They have to be MOTIVATED. So lead them to find these new goals, make them part of the change, and the rest you and your team will find by yourselves;

Digital transformation, Innovation, IT is business

Focus on UX is excellent but not enough

June 19, 2018

When you are designing a new product to get that market share or add a new slice of target people to your company, if you are talking about B2C it’s not possible anymore not to look for user experience. But if you are already good on user experience experts, you know they aren’t everything in a project. Since UX is basic, I’m suggesting the experience and ease to use to be faced as a consequence of a good product design. It means that your UX can be the best in world, but it means nothing if the business idea isn’t good. But how to align your business design to ensure you will reach the expected result?

 

UX is not enough

Whenever a product lifecycle comes to end, and it’s time to design a new one, a lot of questions are made. For sure many things were tried to save that product. But the face the truth: the competition won the fight. In this time you have an opportunity to join the digital transformation wave.

Nowadays our products have to act like Google, Netflix, Apple and big experience brands because people don’t accept less than that. Regarding that, I’ve already seen some companies hiring UI/UX professionals to create the screens for their idea without knowing if the idea is good or not.

 

The whole process is the key

The differences between the traditional business analysis and the new business design focus on “how” to do things. Companies have been aligning their processes/journeys to decrease the risks based on digital transformation insights. But how is that made?

The comparision
Traditional analysis New Business Design
The analyst used to be the owner of truth. Responsible for taking the decisions and at hard times used to be the focus of pressure The business analyst turns into a facilitator. His mission is to lead people and collect their best thoughts and efforts to add to the solution. His hardest part turns into finding differences between the good insights and what is just waste of time
The analyst used to work alone, traveling around the world to bring insights and getting few (when getting) feedbacks about the product development The analyst will accept as many opinions he can. The more people he has with him, the more insights will come. The more free people are to think and imagine, the better the insights are.
Focus on the process to be solved. All the efforts were sent to look specifically to that process. The focus is wide (???). The focus is to create a new product, but not sticking to industry patterns or existing knowledge.
Knowledge restricted on the existing business. The focus were to make more money with low or no change on the business model Insights from a cross-industry mindset are a differential in this new team. Why not apply Uber’s business model to our hundred-years business?
Ideas blind love. It was common to fall in love with a product idea and close your eyes to what’s going on your side Stick to the process, not the idea. Test, validate and have a experimentation mindset is the rule. If an idea takes more than 1 month to be proven (and this is not the only one under evaluation), discard it.
Unproven decisions. Nobody could ask or speak their mind about the idea. It made many products be useless because of blind view of market. Everybody can make their own questions to the idea. EVERYBODY. If the just hired member of the area brings an insight that can turn the idea into waste, let’s celebrate! He saved us from spending money.

 

The challenge of starting

As always, the main challenge is to start. I’ve two suggestions that already worked on huge companies around the world:

  • Retrospectives: probably the hardest but if it work, your cultural change will be huge. Have mature people to conduct mature retrospectives to focus on what must be improved. Do that at every department responsible to product creation. After some time, people will reach the conclusions suggested on the paragraph above.
  • Cancer theory: create a new cell apart from the entire company free to work on the new model. There must be people with maturity and autonomy to apply the new methodologies that can come either from your team or a consultancy. When this team prove themselves is time to spread to the whole organization.