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Customer_experience_small.jpgTraditional enterprise infrastructure management tends to focus on the components of software and hardware systems. It may include Web and application servers, databases and various network infrastructure components. Unfortunately, this siloed approach to measuring availability doesn’t provide a complete view of the user experience. It can indicate database server uptime, or average transactional latency, but it doesn’t tell you about the customer experience.

From Servers to Users

Business Service Reliability (BSR), or service assurance, builds on these key application parameters but also measures the holistic customer experience, ensuring that every customer interaction is successful. I recently asked Tony Davis, VP of Solution Strategy at CA Technologies, about how he approaches BSR.

 

“Let’s say I’m running an e-commerce site,” he explained, “and a customer makes a request that goes to a cluster of servers. Assume one of those servers is having a slight problem. If I’m monitoring the cluster, it may show 100 percent availability, but to the customer whose request went through the troubled server, service was degraded or even unavailable.” With BSR, Davis said, availability is measured by analyzing each user transaction.

A 3-Part Solution

When tailoring a program for a client, CA Technologies uses a master formula. The first part measures availability based on very granular criteria, as in the example above. The second part measures performance, again with stricter criteria than most companies use today. For instance, if a specific transaction typically takes less than a second to complete, but with an occasional outlier, the entire transaction is marked as defective. The third part of the formula is accuracy. This measurement varies case by case, using key parameters from an application’s workflow that are continuously measured in real time.

 

Combining these three components results in an application grade -- a percentage that measures the level of service reliability you’re providing customers or end users. That grade is continuously reported to IT so that improvements can be made. More than 60 organizations use CA Technologies’ BSR methods, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, BBVA Compass, Lexmark and EMC.

The Human Factor

Also key, Davis said, “is looking at how a human being experiences an application. We measure every transaction against the three variables of the formula. If they fail on any transactions, we mark the entire customer experience as imperfect.” BSR measures both the frequency of a good user experience with an application as well as whether the user got the desired results.

 

In other words, metrics deal with more than numbers. “If your application deals with 1 million requests per day and 4 percent were ineffective in some way, that means 40,000 humans you did business with had a bad experience,” he said.   This can lead to poor customer relationship and even loss of customers and revenues. 

 

Samir Datt, Managing Director at Protiviti Inc., a global consulting firm that helps manage risk and optimize the technology driving critical business processes, describes his approach to BSR as going beyond server utilization and network latency. “We have helped our clients identify, measure, and mitigate the risk factors that can disrupt revenue, internal processes, and business overall.” (See related Q&A for more details.)


Protiviti, a CA Technologies systems integrator that uses BSR methods, works with its clients to define thresholds and take proactive measures on performance issues before they impact end users. DevOps, which encourages better collaboration between app-dev and production, is part of the solution to “drive improvement upstream and better enable BSR and improved coordination,” Datt said.

Tools and Support

Once the three stages of the master formula are in place, specific tools--such as CA Customer Experience Manager --are introduced to measure end-user experience. CA Application Performance Management may be recommended to gain deep insight into application performance, and CA Application Delivery Analysis for end-to-end application analysis. The CA LISA Suite, which supports a DevOps approach when monitoring with BSR, and custom dashboards to gain instant insight into the user experience, might also be part of the plan.

 

How much do these tools and practices improve user experience and reliability? “If you’re really good, you would be 99.5 percent perfect,” says Davis. “And then you would have to figure out how to tweak that last .5 percent of defective customer experience,” he says, only half joking.

 

(Additional case study details can be found at www.ca.com/bsr.)

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Andi:           Hi, Everybody. Welcome back to TechViews Unplugged.  From CA Technologies, I’m Andi Mann. I’m here with my colleague, the ever amazing George Watt. How are you doing, George?

George:       I’m amazing.

Andi:           I know you are. Hey mate, let’s get into this. We know about the Internet of Things right? So how about the Internet of Cars? There’s been a couple of really cool articles I saw this week. Volvo is putting Internet-connected sensors into its cars. They communicate with each other so that they’re all going to help you understand road conditions, what’s happening up ahead, traffic conditions and so forth. Alerting other cars, this is where the Internet comes in and the communication. I think this is fantastic. There was another article I saw which looked into the future of the Internet of Cars, this was in Dezeen magazine, talking about how cars are just a collection of moving sensors these days and it cites each car generating 25 megabytes of data every hour. Now, we’ve spoken before about NCAR, the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, putting sensors into the cars so that they can better understand micro-climates, and this is an extension and this is actually in my mind a lot more useable extension because we’re talking about cars communicating with each other, alerting drivers to road hazards, to weather conditions. This is really interesting. I love the Internet of Cars.

George:       Absolutely. It’s a mobile mesh network of sorts, right.

Andi:           Yeah.

George:       At least that’s one of the things one of the articles was talking about. Well, you know, that’s cool. But, Andi, Cloud Walker Pie is also cool, right.

Andi:           Ah, who doesn’t love pie, right?

George:       Who doesn’t love pie, especially if it’s Raspberry Pi, right?

Andi:           Yeah. I love Raspberry Pi.

George:       I love Raspberry Pi. So a while ago we spoke about a cool, a very cool 64-node Raspberry Pi super computer that Simon Cox and his son assembled using Lego for their enclosure and I’ve got to admit it’s really hard to beat a Lego super computer but an engineer named David Guill, G-U-I-L-L, so apologies if I mispronounced it, he may have risen to the occasion. He’s created a 40-node Raspberry Pi cluster that not only serves a very practical purpose but the very cool-looking acrylic enclosure that he created for his Raspberry Pi cluster has my propeller spinning at Nerd Con One here. It’s not just a fun hobby though for him. The machine was built to test distributed software and it packs 40 Raspberry Pi computers just like this one, five terabytes of hard disk, just under a half terabyte of flash, an internal LAN, an integrated wireless access point into that nerdtastic 22 inch high, 22 inch wide, 10 inch deep case. You should check out the pictures. They’re awesome. Now what’s really cool about this is that we’ve been saying that people will start putting these to use at work in very useful ways and I think this might be one of the most obvious examples of that to date. But we shouldn’t forget that there are plenty of other documented uses of Raspberry Pi that aren’t necessarily any less valuable, right, home automation, we talked about radon detectors once, I think, all sorts of cool use cases and there’s some other really cool arguable green projects which involve recycling things for use in Raspberry Pi projects. I’ve even seen someone reuse their magic mouse case as a Raspberry Pi enclosure.

Andi:           Oh, I saw that.

George:       It’s very, very cool. I might actually give that a shot. I dug mine out. But lots of cool things going on with Raspberry Pi and you’ll find the how-to notes for David’s project and many, many others online. It’s definitely worth checking out. And again, it’s not just for hobbyists alone. So, actually, if you’ve done something cool for business with Raspberry Pi, or even anything cool, how about send us a tweet and let us know what you’ve done.

Andi:           Yeah. In fact, I would love to hear from our audience, especially on things like Raspberry Pi which is such cutting edge stuff. I’d love to hear about what people are doing. Tweet us @techviews @georgewatt @andimann. Hey George, let’s get on to news. I’m going to let you go first. What you got in the news space?

George:       Well, you know, so we started today with small-size consumer computing, so let’s get even smaller, right, maybe we can spend this time talking about wearables. Can I convince you to talk about wearables?

Andi:           Oh, well, look, it will take you a have a millisecond to do that. I’m convinced.

George:       Yeah, I figured it would be difficult. So, we’ve talked about wearables in the past, especially those wearables that have been branded smart watches, and I think that maybe we’ve agreed that what we’ve seen today, they necessarily weren’t that smart and they arguably weren’t watches and in fact, you’ve mentioned several times in the past that the biggest issue with many of those wearables is that they’re just plain ugly or goofy looking and I think you referred to Google glass once as a Segway on your face

Andi:           Segway on your face, yup. You’ve got it.

George:       Right. But, we also agreed that that would change and that the functionality would become better and more useful and that the form factor would become hip and maybe even fashionable and I think we’re beginning to turn the corner here. Have you seen the Moto 360?

Andi:           Oh, I have, I have, I have, yes. Talk about that.

George:       Yes. The Moto 360 is reported to offer some very cool features via touch and voice command, many of which it seem like will be provided by Google Now but what’s really cool about it, I think is how it looks. The Moto 360 has a very nice-looking round face, which designers say, apart from being cool looking, it also lets them display maximum display size without compromising comfort, right, without poking yourself with the corners.

Andi:           Yeah, that’s been an issue.

George:       But, from what I’ve seen in the photos, it also appears to have a very nice looking smart watch display but also a very nice analogue watch display when you’re not using the smart phone features. It’s actually pretty stylish and it automatically adjusts the display so you’re looking at it right side up whether you’re wearing it on your right or left wrist which, of course, is probably an issue for many as well. So, if you haven’t seen the Moto 360, I strongly suggest you check it out. It’s definitely something you could use for one function in the day, perhaps a more smart watchy type stuff, but it would be stylish as well if you happen to just throw on your jacket and go to a play or something at night. I think they’re really on the right track with it. I’ve never had the desire to own a smart watch, but this one’s got me thinking hard so it’s something that I’m going to keep an eye on. But you know, in the world of wearables, smart watches really aren’t the only thing here. We’re seeing other areas make great steps forward.

Andi:           Yeah, you see that’s actually where I’m really excited and I get this new watch. A, it actually really works like a watch, which is one of the big problems with things like Gear, for example, when you go to reach down and turn it on and stuff like that, and you don’t want to do that with a watch. You just want to look at it. This is the use specific kind of use cases that they’re finding. Instead of having general purpose computing on your wrist, you find the right use case. And that’s the thing with, I’ve been playing around with sports wearables recently. So I went on a ski trip and I’ll post along a longer blog about this but I took a bunch of stuff. I took this, this is the Garmin Virb. This is a camera with a GPS and an accelerometer, so it actually tracks you all over the mountain as well as your speed, things like air time and you wear it like a camera, right. You can wear it any way, you can put it on the end of your stalk. You can do all sorts of stuff. I obviously took my Go Pro, a dumb wearable, if you will. All it does is do video. This is the first generation one. So, I took that, what else did it, oh, I took my Garmin, so this is off my cycle computer. This does your classic heart rate monitoring, speed and acceleration, GPS tracking as well. I paired that with a sensor for my heart rate to make sure I’m not having a heart attack. What else did I have? Oh, I had my smart phone as well so I downloaded an application called Ski Tracks. You can’t tell that I’m a bit of a data geek, can you?

George:       NASA sent people to the moon with less stuff.

Andi:           They did. It’s true, they did and it was really interesting and I found that the use case specific wearables, especially that Garmin Virb, much better use case for it, especially, one thing, I’m wearing great big thick gloves, it’s got a big easy button. Right? Compared to, for example, the Go Pro, with its little fiddly button on the top. It’s about that use case specific. The Go Pro is trying to be one camera for all people. Right? The Garmin Virb is actually targeted at people who want to ski and cycle. Very different use cases. The smart phone didn’t have the accuracy because it’s trying to do general purpose computing. It’s sort of interesting. And I read an article about this that talked about wearables, the use case-specific sort of stuff, having a real sort of physical limitation in terms of size and so forth. I mean we’re talking about physical, I’m not getting as hard core as this guy I read about this week, Chris Dancey. Did you see this guy?

George:       Yes.

Andi:           Between 300 and 700 systems on his body and in his body running at any one time and embedded sensors, the guy’s got wires sticking out of his face. It’s freaky, man. But, I don’t want to go that far but the use specific wearables, I am actually loving.

George:       Yeah absolutely and it’s not necessarily just for fun although it’s an awful lot of fun. But we’ve seen a lot of creative uses for things like sports wearables. In cases like the Cardiac Clinic that uses the Fit Bit to help        in recovery and diagnosis and so forth, and I can actually tell you from my own experience, using a Fit Bit, just carrying one in my pocket, has really improved my lifestyle in healthy living. So I think these things are much more useful than maybe is apparent on the surface.

Andi:           Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the big issue that is see is that wearables are very small, right. We’re not at the point in Moore’s Law where we can pack a full size computer into the form factor of a watch or a camera or a Fit Bit. You’ve got to be selective about what you do. The one thing that I have seen though is the idea of wearables playing a role in mobile. So you think about these watches, they’re smart enough, they’re too small to do general purpose computing but they’re plenty big enough to do mobile payments, for example. Store value, loyalty recording, multiple systems. We’re starting to see little, little devices like the Coin credit card you’ve probably seen, the electronic credit card. That’s not a wearable, but gee, it’s small and it could be wearable and so we’re seeing in the Disney resorts, for example, people paying for everything using a wristband. I think that sort of thing is going to be pretty interesting.

George:       Yeah, yeah. And, of course, what’s behind all that? It’s cloud, right? Cloud is providing the most cool functions here and that’s enabling the devices, if you will, to function beyond their internal capability.

Andi:           Yeah, look, it’s always cloud with you, isn’t it? But, you’re not wrong.

George:       You can take the boy out of the cloud…

Andi:           It’s always going to come back to cloud, and rightly so. Okay, Hey George, we’re right down to the edge here and so I want to get into the rapid fire round, and I’m going to ask you a question because I’ve already got an opinion on this but your time starts now. George, Facebook bought Oculus VR out for $2 billion but I can’t see the upside in this for gamers though. Can you?   

George:       Well, Facebook also bought a drone company so my spider senses are tingling a little bit there. Andi, recent studies show that 97% of malware is on Android. What are you doing to that ecosystem?

Andi:           Look mate, though it’s the most popular platform for mobile on the planet, it’s going to attract hackers, but it’s just a reminder you’ve got to be secure, always and often. George, the apps economy is booming in Canada, with Ontario specifically leading the way. So George, what apps are you building?

George:       Well I think it’s fantastic. Right now there’s a reason to set up your cloud and your app development here. Andi, a recent study found your employees don’t care about data security. Should we care about that?

Andi:           Oh mate, this rings true, right? It’s the same for consumers. Look at Snapchat Play Station. I blogged about this recently. They’re as popular as ever, despite massive data breaches. What can you do? Oh, George, a buzzer question. I saw a picture of a skimmer overlaid on top of an ATM keypad. It was indistinguishable from the original. How can we ever be secure with this stuff around, George?

George:       Yeah, that’s very clever and very sinister, right. We probably should have featured it in new and creepy.

Andi:           Yeah.

George:       But, it’s just another reason to beware, to avoid machines you’re not sure you can trust and to keep an eye on your account. But it may suggest that we need to move beyond pin codes as you mentioned earlier and perhaps even beyond passwords. Do you think it’s time?

  Andi: Oh George, it is beyond time. I tell you, I can’t tell you how sick I am of explaining to snooty French waiters why I haven’t got chip and PIN in my credit card, let alone we’re using essentially the same technique to do identity and access as we used to do to get into the vaults of a castle in the 13th century, challenge and password response, right? I’m well over it. We’ve got to move one. George, talk about moving on, that’s all we’ve got for TechViews Unplugged today. Hope you’ll join us next time. My name’s Andi Mann from CA Technologies. I’m always joined by George Watt, also from CA Technologies. We’ll see you next time on TechViews Unplugged. Bye, bye.

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There are only a few reasons why CIO’s are ousted or forced to resign: among the top of the list are the failure to meet budget and spending objectives for an extended period of time, the failure of a major IT initiative and the other is the occurrence of a major crisis where there are many questions but few timely answers.

 

The occurrence of a major crisis, that catches everyone by surprise, usually leads to the ouster of the CIO and many others down the chain of command when coupled with a large financial impact and the lack of timely and accurate information. Some of these become major news events like Target’s hacking crisis while many never make the headlines, but the results are still the same: management cleans house.

 

A fourth and not so newsworthy reason is when customer service degrades due to an increasing number of technology related issues, with few or no reliable answers as to the cause or the resolution.

 

The last thing any executive wants is to be surprised with bad news and this is usually one of the first things addressed when taking on a new role. The first six months or so into a new role is usually spent performing a thorough analysis of the environment, formulating the proper strategy and filling any gaps that are found. The problem is most executives perform this analysis only once, when first hired and perform another only after a crisis. Once all the gaps are filled, many executives then rely on regulatory, internal compliance and industry standard tests, and their staff to give them peace of mind.

 

When do problems appear?

 

Over time as the environment changes and adapts to meet business challenges, many of the problems initially resolved begin to reappear. Decentralizing, moving functions to meet business requirements without maintaining centralized oversight, monitoring and reporting is one cause. When oversight and reporting is moved along with the units, over time, only good news and bad news attributable to others will be reported. Consolidating certain functions has the same effect: moving incident and problem management into the division they are responsible to manage will create a conflict of interest such that over time, only good news will be reported. Ordinarily, some of these consolidations would result in a conflict of interest and an audit finding, but to mitigate that risk, some executives implement co owners – two leaders responsible for different aspects of the same unit. While this means the unit will pass most audit tests, it doesn’t mean the problem is gone. These types of moves result on no clear lines of ownership and much finger pointing when problems do occur.

 

Across the board budget cuts without implementing process improvements usually results in overworked and unmotivated staff whose behavior is unpredictable. For workers who remain motivated there’s less time to pay attention to communications, solving problems or business strategy. Problems which may have been caught and addressed when there were enough workers become harder to detect and even more so to address when everyone’s busy trying to meet workload demands.

 

Over time, executives and managers lose sight of the original problems and risks. Middle managers, wanting to remain in good standing, fail to communicate worker concerns to their seniors. An assumption is made that everyone is on board with current strategy, but as communication lines begin to disappear, workers lose sight of, or fail to understand, business goals and strategies.

CIO’s who frequently move from job to job are usually long gone before anything happens. It’s the next CIO, or the one in for the long haul, who get caught by surprise.

 

Re-examine your environment  

 

One of the biggest mistakes most executives make it to take action to correct a problem only when it reaches certain levels, for example, when business division executives start complaining and the CEO wants answers. The next mistake is to address and correct the cause of the complaints, rather than taking an overall view of what else might be broken. Chances are if something is broken in one area, other processes and oversight controls will be broken as well. 

 

As an organization changes in order to keep pace with business requirements, chances are anything implemented years ago to protect the organization is no longer in place and needs to be revisited. Time, staffing changes, and budgetary constraints if left unchecked have a way of transforming an organization from proactive and responsive to reactive and out of touch.

 

A good way to begin is by implementing a proactive strategy, which includes formalizing the operational review performed when you first took on your role and having it executed on a regular basis, perhaps every two or three years. There are certain things every CIO knows should be in place, and assuming they are still there five years after implementing them could be a costly mistake. These should be the first things looked for as part of the operational review.

 

Abdul Jaludi is the CEO of TAG-MC and the author of: Command Center Handbook: Proactive IT Monitoring.  He is a contributor and member of Smart Enterprise Exchange and can be reached on the community site.

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Small business is not anything like what mainstream media makes it look like. Publications like Forbes, Inc, Entrepreneur and TechCrunch focus on startups that are often VC funded and many times have more money than they need. But for 90% of new businesses out in the real world, bootstrapping is the only option available. That’s because most of these businesses are built with personal savings and bank loans. When there is a debt that needs to be repaid, businesses have no choice but to run their operations on shoestring budgets.

 

Unfortunately in doing so, most businesses avoid investing in technology infrastructure that is critical in pushing their company forward. There is a good reason why this is the case. A study conducted by Panaroma Consulting last year showed that over 50% of ERP implementation projects shooted high over the estimated budget with 60% of the respondents reporting that they saw less than half of the expected benefit from such an implementation.

 

Given this background, how do small businesses plan their IT deployment strategy? The solution lies in finding choices that does not require too much investment and where the return on investment is accelerated. Here are some ways to boostrap your business IT infrastructure.

 

Adopt Cloud Over Legacy Systems

 

Cloud technology has been the buzzword in the tech industry for close to half a decade now. It basically refers to software and tools that are hosted on remote servers and are made available to users via an internet connection. For instance, you may either setup your own email server or make use of the service provided by Microsoft Outlook. The former has been the traditional setup while the latter is cloud-based. The advantage with using cloud based solutions is that it minimizes the need for any sort of capital investment (since you do not have to buy and setup your own servers) and can instead use by paying nominal monthly subscription fee.

 

Replace Traditional Phone Lines With IP Telephony

 

If you are medium sized business with several dozen employees, you may be considering the set up of a PBX system to handle all the phone lines. This is an expensive proposition that is not really recommended for bootstrapped businesses. You may instead opt for SIP trunking systems that replaces all your voice circuits with a single IP connection that is nearly 40% cheaper.  If you have very few employees who need elaborate communication lines, you could also choose to go with VoIP connections like Skype.

 

Explore BYOD

 

A recent study conducted by network security firm Fortinet showed that nearly 42% of the surveyed employees between the age of 21-31 years were willing to break corporate rules that banned the usage of personal devices at work. In another related survey conducted by Gartner, it was revealed that nearly half of all employers may require their employees to bring their own device to work. This concept of ‘Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)’ serves a dual purpose of letting employees contribute with devices that they are personally comfortable with while allowing employers to reduce capital expenditure on hardware purchases by letting employees bring their own device. A large chunk of the corporate world today employs BYOD in some way or the other. Consequently, your small business may not really feel out of place if you asked your employees to bring their own device. Not only will this boost productivity as several studies have shown, but will also help you bootstrap your business further. 

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wearable-technology.jpg

One of the hottest trends in IT as of late has been the ever increasing number of wearable, mobile devices to help you always stay connected. This trend is still in its infancy as companies are just discovering new ways to have the consumer wear their mobile technology. I was able to attend Mobile World Congress in February, where I was able to see firsthand the growing number of innovative wearable, mobile devices. These mobile devices now far exceed the “simple” smart phone sitting in your pocket and with this growing number of wearable, mobile technology items, it is important to protect yourself so that all of your information doesn’t become someone else’s data.

 

There are dozens of new wearables technologies that allow you to remain connected throughout your day. These devices can enable you to stay on top of your busy work schedule, keep up with your new found fitness, or even document your day in a series of pictures.

 

With all of these great new mobile technologies helping us manage our lives it is easy to forget about all of the information these devices are gathering and where that information is going.

 

FitBit is a great example of new innovative wearable, mobile technology that is recording and tracking your every move. FitBit tracks numerous behaviors including your sleep patterns, how long you’re active during the day, calories burned, and your location. FitBit also gives you the opportunity to track and share your fitness progress. This kind of technology is great for people who want to take control of their fitness and learn their progress, but do they know where their personal fitness data is going?

 

I did a little digging into their privacy policy and the information is consistent with many wearables device privacy policies. They are able to store and use any information that you are storing on the device and are able to access all social media profiles that are active on the device. This information is to be used for improving the customer experience, but the information can also be shared with some of the FitBit partners to better the experience for their customers.

 

Although this doesn’t come across as an invasive act or an abuse of the information you’re making available, it does raise some flags. This is just the beginning of the wearable, mobile device revolution. As I saw at Mobile World Congress, this is a growing industry with new ways to help you connect coming out every year. Soon almost everything we wear will be tracking and storing data on your habits and actions. The potential is there for all of this information to no longer exist on a two way street between you and the device provide, but rather your data might end up traversing the immense data highway between many different companies.

 

So as you contemplate purchasing that new hot smart watch, Google Glass, or fitness wearable, make sure to keep in mind that everything you do while using the device can be stored and used by someone you were not expecting.

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Balancing the need for IT innovation with the needs of patients and hospitals has been a healthcare stumbling block for many years. And even determining which innovations will truly propel healthcare transformation — and how — was a topic at the recent meeting of The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT in Washington, D.C.

 

During a panel discussion on ways to spur innovation, Polina Hanin, Community Director at StartUp Health, said that “startups are definitely paying attention to how they can empower the patient” and how to offer preventative care options to hospitals and doctors.

 

There’s no shortage of bright ideas, but innovators also need to think holistically about their technology visions. As one example, Jacob Reider, M.D., Chief Medical Officer at ONC for Health IT, told the panel he heard about an automated blood pressure cuff that interfaces with a user’s iPhone. It’s a great idea, he said, as long as the developer takes into consideration standards for how that information is communicated to healthcare professionals. It would be unreasonable to expect a physician to log in to multiple websites every day to check the blood pressure readings for patients using different, and proprietary, versions of such devices and software. “That doesn’t scale,” he explained.

 

New Standards Emerging

Leveraging standards not only helps the physician, it can also accelerate development of innovative products. But disconnects remain. Businesses “don’t know we can help them, and they are surprised [that] we are helpful. And we [ONC] are surprised that they don’t know what is buried in 2,000 pages of regulations,” Reider joked.

 

It’s not really surprising that in the healthcare sector, progress is slow. “Healthcare, by definition, is risk averse,” Reider noted. “That’s why technology iterates more slowly in the healthcare domain. Providers do need to be thoughtful and careful in adding IT to their practices,” he said.

 

But the pace may accelerate if a new risk-based regulatory framework for health IT takes hold. It is designed to promote innovation, protect patient safety, and avoid unnecessary and duplicative regulation, Reider said.

And one panelist even found an upside to the long wait. Said Bijan Salehizadeh, Managing Director of healthcare-focused private capital firm NaviMed Capital: “Things do take a lot longer in healthcare … but once you get that customer, [the relationship] tends to be extremely sticky.” —Jennifer Zaino

 

 

See my full blog here about how healthcare companies are coping with new federal regulations.

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The U.S. Affordable Care Act (ACA) hasn’t had the smoothest launch in history, and IT had its share of problems. Initial glitches with the operation of the Healthcare.gov website were widespread, and more recently the Department of Health and Human Services has had to address concerns that the “Obamacare” computer network might be vulnerable to Belarusian malware.

 

Still, sign-ups to get health insurance through the federal government’s website, or state-run exchanges, are up to 3.3 million people nationwide as of Feb. 1, according to new federal enrollment data. Despite the early IT difficulties, “President Obama is committed to modernizing our healthcare system,” said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, at a January meeting of The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Obama “believes, as you all do, that digitizing records and data can save lives in addition to resources,” she said. (See related article for more on innovation in healthcare IT.)

 

Like other insurance carriers, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, has had to adapt to the changes resulting from healthcare reform, and that includes ensuring that internal and external customers continue to enjoy strong service. In support of its various contracts in South Carolina and nationally, the state BlueCross processed more than 1 billion claims in 2013 -- more than 6 billion production Customer Information Control System (CICS) transactions last year.

 

Service Pressures on the Rise

Not surprisingly, trickle-down pressures are increasing on the monitoring team in the IS department at BCBS South Carolina, which is led by Jimmy Cunningham, Senior Manager, Tech Support, Enterprise Monitoring. The group must guarantee that business service reliability doesn’t falter as the new processes take hold, he told me recently. Service assurance extends to internal businesses users who depend on the BCBS South Carolina Web pages and desktop apps to process claims and help customers. It also includes external insurance providers not affiliated with the BCBS Association that leverage its systems to register clients and review policy payments. And perhaps most important are the consumers who rely on the website to look up claims information and check for doctors and coverage details. http://beta.ubmdesigncentral.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/jimmy+head+shot+2a.jpg

 

Responsive, reliable apps are critical “whether it’s to help our call center employees resolve issues in a certain time window,” or ensuring that customers are satisfied with their service, Cunningham continued. Healthcare customers are already stressed out by all of the changes taking place, he said. “We don’t want to add to that by taking a long time to respond to their queries,” and have them “watching the clock on the screen tick along.”

Long before the act became law, the app dev team updated its website and systems to reflect the law’s new requirements and Cunningham’s team worked to adjust its monitoring efforts accordingly. “The customer experience is always important, but now it’s a little more important because we want to be seen as a friend of the insuree,” Cunningham added.

 

Monitoring, App Dev in Lockstep

The team needs to produce the right metrics “so that BlueCross as a whole is providing a helpful and positive experience to our customers. We’re making sure we are in lockstep with app dev when [the developers] add new things, so that both the app dev team and my team can see how a new page is working and [how] new information is being presented,” he said.

 

IT consolidated the monitoring function and tools into a single group a few years ago, which has helped to generate meaningful, reliable and proactive reporting in contrast to discovering problems only when customers called about them. “We built a toolkit that monitors from the click all the way to the back end,” Cunningham said, so that BCBSSC is no longer trying to respond to multiple alerts about the same problem.

 

That toolkit includes the CA Application Performance Management technology to monitor live traffic and Java JVM metrics. It also handles monitoring of the customer experience and highlights metrics on the services and programs that support BCBSSC applications and desktops. And even though customers are happy with the service and response time, Cunningham’s team is constantly running gap analyses to ensure a positive experience as customers traverse across functional silos.

 

Moving forward, the next challenge will be “integrating the information that comes out of the tools.” Additionally, culling the data from the monitoring tools and feeding it back into the system to do capacity planning and preventative diagnostics are also thorny at such a large scale, he added.

 

Cunningham is proud that BCBS of South Carolina is leveraging IT in a way that improves the customer experience and keeps intact the “affordable” part of the Affordable Care Act. “We’re a low-cost claims processor, and always have been,” he said. And that’s one goal IT doesn’t want to change.

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Consider these facts for a moment:

  • Women in the U.S.s degrees, and 52 percent of all doctorates in the graduating class of 2013. 
  • Women comprise only 11 percent of the IT security workforce.
  • By 2050, Hispanics will represent s workforce.
  • One-quarter of global organizations report a shortage of security skills in their workforce, and the gap is growing.


As I gathered these statistics from several excellent blogs and videos featured on Smart Enterprise Exchange this month, a few disconnects became clear to me about workforce trends and IT. Many CIOs and IT leaders may be unaware of the critically important labor trends taking place inside and outside their own enterprise. If they are aware, too few are leveraging this information to build the strong IT staffs and workplaces their businesses need. 

 

As Julie Peeler, Foundation Director of ISC2, told Leanne Agurkis of CA Technologies during an interview at RSA last month: “We need to change the definition” of IT security jobs and make people—especially women—aware that broad skill sets, not just technical skills, are necessary.

 

Security jobs are predicted to grow 10 percent annually, Peeler said. “If we just doubled the number of women in IT security, we would wipe out the gap” between supply and demand. You can also watch Jon Oltsik, Senior Principal Analyst, The Enterprise Strategy Group, speak with Agurkis about the looming IT security skills crisis  as did Javvad Malik,
Senior Analyst at 451 Research here.

 

Contingent by Choice

The dramatic employment shifts taking place go far beyond women or security, of course. Workforce expert, Tamara Erickson, the source of the data about women and Hispanics cited in the beginning of this blog, offers many insights about what’s going on in her blog, 3 Global Workforce Trends You Can’t Ignore.winning author on subjects such as talent management and collaboration, writes that:

 

 

“Many people are choosing a contingent work style… and benefits for corporations are adding up: cost flexibility from adjusting staff sizes up and down based on business requirements, greater speed and agility.”

 

 

How many HR managers or CIOs are taking a hard look at these trends and figuring out ways to capitalize on them to fill skill gaps?  Erickson keenly “IT work requires high levels of discretionary effort.  People have to choose to do it and have to want to do it well. They must dig deep within themselves to form innovative ideas and put their best thinking forward.”

 

Meanwhile, in her blog this month, executive coach Dina Lichtman writes about changing requirements for IT leaders themselves. While IT is increasingly critical to every business, she says, technical skills alone are not enough to assure a spot in the executive suite.  need development and strengthening as well. Only when executives fully focus on their business and employees, can they match skills to business requirements, according to Lichtman.

 

I’m also happy to see that although Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (Knopf, 2013), has gotten most of the attention about women and leadership recently, s Strategy + Business, recently featured three blogs on the topics of women leaders, developing new talent and “outing gender bias.”

 

How are you retooling your own skills and those of your staff in light of current trends?

 

 

Paula Klein

Editor and Community Manager

Smart Enterprise Exchange

 

 

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With each unique vertical industry, there is a different result for emerging and disruptive technologies. Take, for instance, mobility and the healthcare industry. IT organizations, equipped with mobile technologies, can improve not only the end-user (whether it be doctor or patient) experience with technology but also the overall health of those using the technology. That is something worth discussing. techviews.jpg

 

While mobile devices and mobile apps are making an impact across vertical industries, uses for mobility in healthcare could be the most personal and productive to date. Recently, the #TechViews Twitter Chat on Healthcare and Mobility asked many industry watchers to share their take on how the technology is changing the healthcare industry. The discussion proved mobility will help healthcare make great strides toward better focused, patient care, improved treatments and overall more healthy people.

 

The healthcare industry, like others, needs to strike the balance between enabling access to confidential medical records via mobile devices and apps while also securing patient data. The information contained in today’s wearable computers can increase the quality of patient care as well as improve patient health.

 

Equipping healthcare professionals with mobile tools can go a long way to speeding diagnoses and treatments to patients, but those in IT understand the importance of incorporating mobility in such a way as to also protect patient privacy. With regulations specific to the healthcare industry, such as HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act], mobility will pose significant challenges to IT organizations needing to protect patient privacy.

 

While the online discussion pointed to privacy as a key challenge to IT organizations looking to enable more mobility across applications, the benefits to patients, doctors and hospitals cannot be ignored. Not only would medical record keeping improve, but using the information collected and applying analytics to it could also result in improved treatments for chronic illnesses. As the #TechViews Twitter chat participants also pointed out, mobility will help doctors and hospitals maintain records and avoid lawsuits.

 

Still there is much to do be done to get the healthcare industry where it needs to be in terms of mobility. According to research from CA Technologies, nearly half (46%) of healthcare respondents said they should be doing more with mobility, but just 21% of healthcare respondents have an enterprise mobility strategy in place – compared with an average of 44% with broad strategies in place across other industries. Yet the true benefit patients being better able to take care of themselves, which will ultimately mean more healthy people.

 

The challenge will be changing the culture of IT first and then healthcare. Right now many IT organizations are working toward a new approach to management, one in which the device or system is not the key focus. The focus should be on data: analyzing it, enabling access to it and protecting it. IT needs to enable access and understand the data pulled from technical devices as well as those collecting data from people (wearable computers, health monitors etc in the case of healthcare) and then mitigate the risk of exposing this data to the applications that can make the best use of it.

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A recent study published by Panorama Consulting threw some really interesting results. Compared to 2011, the ERP implementations were far smaller in size. While the average cost of the project was around $10.5 million in 2011, this had come down significantly to $2.8 million. Despite the smaller size of the projects, the average duration of the project stayed more or less the same at around 16 months. Consequently, the estimated percentage of duration overruns increaseed 18 percentage points from 54% in 2011 to 72% in 2013.

 

Why is this change happening? There are two major reasons. One is the smaller size of businesses that are adopting ERP today as compared to a few years back. The second, and perhaps the more important reason is the increasing proliferation of cloud ERP among enterprises. Both these reasons directly explain why the cost of projects are coming down. According to the analysts at Panorama Consulting, smaller businesses tend to spread out their ERP implementation process due to the costs involved and this could potentially explain the increase in duration overruns from 2011.

 

Cloud ERP constituted 15% of all ERP adoption in 2013 according to this report. This is a major drop from the previous year when SaaS and cloud ERP solutions constituted 26% of all ERP adoptions. The report is not clear on the actual reasons behind this drastic drop. But what is clear is that enterprises may have overestimated the potential cost savings from cloud ERP and the adoption rate could now be in correction mode. Here are a few challenges that face cloud ERP at the momentt. This needs to be tackled if we have to meet Gartner’s prediction that traditional ERP will start being referred as legacy systems by 2016.

 

SMB Market Needs More Cost Savings

 

A major reason behind the rise in prominence of cloud ERP vendors like NetSuite and JD Edwards EnterpriseOne is the cost savings that is offered. The reduced cost of operations is also a major factor behind the proliferation of ERP deployments among businesses in the SMB sector. According to the Panorama Consulting report, over 36% of businesses that deployed cloud ERP systems noticed cost savings of between 0-20%. This inconsistency in cost savings is a reason why ERP had failed to take off beyond the large business segment for so long. For the ERP market to grow, the SMB market needs to adopt ERP more aggressively and this will only happen if there is a more consistent savings in overall deployment cost.

 

Industry Requires More Emphasis On Security

 

Is it a coincidence that the drop in adoption rate of ERP came around the same time that the NSA spying revelations happened? Could it be that businesses are now wary of cloud solutions given the security hazards involved? It’s not very likely considering that Amazon has reported a growth in their cloud services despite these security concerns. Regardless of this, it is a fact that businesses today are deliberating on the security risks before adopting a cloud solution. An ERP application contains the entire DNA of business operations and a security breach here is something that businesses would not risk.

 

Realistic Resource Optimization Expectations Need To Be Set

 

The tech media has for long advocated cloud as some sort of a magic pill to alleviate all of a business’ problems. Cloud has been offered as the solution to fix man power constraints (since it could do away with in-house IT resources), budget constraints and even infrastructure constraints. While we are definitely moving there, the expected benefits from cloud ERP solutions need to be more realistic. New businesses that are considering cloud ERP adoption may be in a dilemma about the move given the negative reviews from other businesses that have adopted cloud ERP. This negative opinion primarily stems from the fact that these businesses may have overestimated the resource and cost benefits that cloud ERP could bring. With a more realistic understanding of what’s in store, businesses that are considering an adoption might be in a better position to estimate the benefits and thus plan their budget.

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#TechViews Twitter Chat on “The Changing Role of IT”: 1 PM ET – Tuesday, March 25, 2014, hosted by @TrendsinTech. 



techviews.jpg IT leaders often need to embrace change to adopt technologies and drive business growth. But the challenge today is that all the new technologies, evolving software delivery models (for instance, cloud, SaaS, IaaS and more) and trends such as DevOps, mobility and big data (to name just a few) aren’t just changing the tools IT professionals use, but they are also molding new roles for IT professionals across the front-line technologists to the C-Level executives. CA Technologies recently explored the Changing Role of IT with the help of a survey, conducted by Vanson Bourne, of 1,300 IT leaders to learn more about how the role of IT is perceived today and how it will change in the coming years.

 

The study, detailed in the CA Technologies white paper: TechInsights Report: The Changing Role of IT and What to Do About It, also provides insight into the impact of the growing independence of other departments to obtain IT services and apps outside the control of IT, and what successful IT leaders are doing to make sure IT remains relevant and is positioned as a driver of innovation for their organization. Here are a few key results taken from the research

 

The results are revealing and provide valuable insight to IT leaders concerned about their organization and its relevance to the business:

  • 39% now say IT acts as a service broker or consultant to the line of business departments rather than as an exclusive supplier of all IT services to them;
  • 35% of spending on IT is now happening outside the IT department, and this will grow to 44% in three-years’ time; and
  • Only 31% share key performance metrics with the business, only 27% frequently evaluate the impact of shifts in investments, only 37% evaluate whether IT is meeting its KPIs.

Here is a preview of the questions we will pose during the #TechViews Twitter Chat on “The Changing Role of IT” on Tuesday, March 25, hosted by @TrendsinTech:

  1. How do you see the role of IT changing in your organization?
  2. What technologies or trends are driving this change for IT?
  3. How can IT use emerging technologies to better drive innovation for the business?
  4. Why is IT spending happening outside of the IT department today?
  5. How is the relationship between IT and lines of business evolving? Is IT becoming an internal service provider?
  6. What must IT do to further build its credibility as a broker or consultant to the business?
  7. What should IT leaders do now to capitalize on this changing role of IT?

 


Download a calendar invite to the #TechViews Twitter Chat on The Changing Role of IT here.

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Three trends are gathering momentum in the workforce. Neither you nor your business can afford to ignore them this year.

 

1. Diversity Is Destiny

 

Workforce diversity has obvious business benefits, including in-house access to a varied and broad range of skills and a market presence that says you are committed to acquiring, developing and retaining top talent from every possible source. For companies that strive to become more consistently innovative, diversity is essential to bringing new ideas to bear. And for companies designing apps for a global marketplace or delivering e-commerce services to global customers, having staff that represents the many languages, cultural backgrounds, races, genders and ages your business is trying to serve just makes sense.

But two dimensions of diversity are particularly important to address this year.

 

First, you must create a workplace that is geared to attract and retain women. For companies seeking a workforce with higher education, women will be essential. In the U.S., the Department of Education estimated that

women earned 62 percent of all associate degrees in the graduating class of 2013, 57 percent of all bachelor’s degrees, 60 percent of all master’s degrees, and 52 percent of all doctorates.

Today, women are educated in higher numbers in most major countries throughout the world, and the gap is expected to grow, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

 

Second, for more than a decade, Hispanics have been the nation’s largest minority and, by 2050, will represent more than half of the nation’s workforce. In sharp contrast to Gen Y’ers as a whole, our research indicates that Hispanics are particularly likely to be drawn to larger, well-established firms with recognized brands. This cohort will be an important — perhaps even the single most important — source of talent for major corporations over the years ahead. Developing an environment that is attractive to Hispanics should be an immediate priority for every large organization. This will require a mix of traditional values — including well-thought-out career development options and status-related recognition — and forward-thinking practices, such as a wide variety of flexible work arrangements and options for exercising personal choice.

 

 

2. Contingent by Choice

 

More and more people are choosing a contingent work style — that is, temporary work that may be project-based or time-based — over full- or part-time work. The numbers will continue to grow. Yes, some will be involuntary; not everyone can find full-time employment. But, intriguingly, many people are choosing a contingent work style, seeking a better work/life balance, the ability to design their own careers or choose projects of particular interest.

 

New technologies and services for contingent workers make it easier and less painful to make the choice to go independent. Companies can reach out flexibly to individuals, while new types of talent brokers — such as YourEncore, an online network of retired engineers, or InnoCentive, which offers crowdsourcing services to companies with innovation challenges — connect free agents with project-based work in virtual marketplaces. 

 

Although the IT industry has used offshoring and outsourcing for years, the benefits for corporations of the growing pool of individuals available on an ad hoc basis are adding up: cost flexibility from adjusting staff sizes up and down based on business requirements; greater speed and agility as talent needs can change on a dime, and a boost to innovation as contingent talent brings in new knowledge and fresh ideas based on experiences outside of the company or even the industry.

 

To take full advantage of this important emerging cadre of workers,

get rid of any perception of contingent workers as somehow less important, less skilled or less committed

than “permanent” employees. Going forward, employers must incorporate contingent workers in meaningful ways.

 

3. Meaning Is the New Money

 

IT work today involves the successful execution of activities that managers cannot prescribe or even monitor. This work asks individuals to deal with rich content that flows through infinite links. Individuals must make intelligent, well-informed decisions about what to share with whom — and what to ignore — with little guidance from the hierarchy to simplify the patterns of interaction.

 

Perhaps most significantly,

IT work requires high levels of discretionary effort. People have to choose to do the work and have to want to do it well.

They must dig deep within themselves to form innovative ideas and put their best thinking forward.

 

My research has clearly shown that discretionary effort ties directly to the individual’s level of engagement. Engagement, in turn, occurs when our work experiences reflect a clear set of values that we share. It can’t be mandated or monitored through physical oversight, nor does it respond to monetary incentives. For most workers today, meaning is the new money — it’s what motivates people at work to go the extra mile. Clear company values, translated into the day-to-day work experience, are the strongest drivers of an engaged workforce. By strengthening meaning and increasing engagement, firms can inspire employees whenever and wherever they work.

 

************

Tamara J. Erickson is a McKinsey Award-winning author, a leading expert on generations in the workplace, and a widely-respected expert on the changing workforce, collaboration and innovation, and the nature of work in intelligent organizations. She has three times been named one of the 50 most-influential living management thinkers in the world by Thinkers50; has written a trilogy of books on how individuals in specific generations can excel in today’s workplace: Retire Retirement, What’s Next, Gen X? and Plugged In; and is working on a fourth book for the generation under 18 today. Tammy has also authored or co-authored numerous Harvard Business Review articles and the book Workforce Crisis: How to Beat the Coming Shortage of Skills and Talent.

 

She is the Executive Fellow, Organizational Behavior, at London Business School, where she has designed and co-directs the school’s leadership program for senior executives, Leading Businesses into the Future. She is the founder and CEO of Tammy Erickson Associates, a research-based firm dedicated to helping clients build intelligent organizations. Erickson has also served on the board of directors of two Fortune 500 corporations. She holds  a degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Chicago and an MBA from the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration.

 

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453594511-titanic.jpg

 

I recently learned an interesting fact about the sinking of the Titanic that isn’t widely known: The catastrophe had its genesis with the requirements and the resulting design. An absolute requirement was that the Titanic be unsinkable, but there was also the desire to build a ship of unprecedented luxury for first-class passengers, and that included a grandiose ballroom. The problem was that the water-tight bulkheads required for the ship’s integrity interfered with the ballroom, so someone made the decision to forego some of the ship’s integrity in favor of ultimate luxury.

 

 

Another problem, which everyone is familiar with, is that the captain totally ignored the warnings of ice because he sought the fame and glory of setting an Atlantic crossing speed record. His goal of arriving at port ahead of schedule trumped all other considerations, so he ignored the risks.

 

 

When the lookout spotted the iceberg, no one had considered that eventuality, so the crew had no time to consider how to minimize potential damage. The captain’s order was instinctive: Avoid the iceberg. The ship scraped the iceberg, breaching not only its front compartments (which had the required water-tight bulkheads), but also compartments below the ballroom. The compartments below the ballroom flooded with seawater, which spilled over the inadequate bulkheads into compartment after compartment, filling compartments that were necessary to keep the Titanic afloat.

 

 

Here’s the irony: If the Titanic had run head-on into the iceberg, odds are very good that it would not have sunk, and many more people would have survived. Only the bow would have been damaged, and it’s possible that the integrity of the rest of the ship would have remained intact.

 

What does all of this have to do with project management? Here are some points we can learn from the Titanic:

 

  • Project success starts with proper requirements (see this blog for more). When requirements conflict, the project manager needs to make sure that technical details don’t get lost in translation. Technical experts and executives speak different languages, and the project manager must ensure that the impact on the business of choosing one option over another is clear to all stakeholders.
  • There is no substitute for proper risk management. Sure, you spend a lot of time talking about problems that might never happen, but risk management also opens everyone’s eyes to obstacles. The expectation that a project isn’t at risk simply because a project manager who has led a similar project is at the helm is completely unrealistic. The more experience a project manager has, the more he or she can contribute to the risk inventory and provide options for navigating around potential problems.
  • Once the probability of a particular risk reaches 100%—in other words, when the risk turns into an issue—you often don’t have the luxury of time to figure out the best response. For example, during a production rollout, time is of the essence. A proper risk management plan includes how to respond when a risk turns into an issue. Because the project manager helped to evaluate the response options and select the optimal one for your project, your reaction to the issue will be much more effective than if you have to shoot from the hip.
  • When a risk turns into an issue, it’s almost always best to face it head on. It may adversely affect your project budget and schedule, but the vast majority of issues don’t behave like a fine wine, getting better with time; instead, they don’t go away—and they usually get worse. In addition, most executives prefer to learn about a problem early on. If you skirt the issue, the impact on the business will be worse than inciting the momentary ire of your leadership.

 

Rarely does a project sink because of a single problem; rather, it happens because of an accumulation of unexpected issues, errors in judgment, ignoring the basics, lack of communication and the project team’s pride. If you can prevent just one weak link in the chain, your project will sail along much more smoothly. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to project management fundamentals like scope management, financial management, risk management, quality management, and so on. They are designed to alert you to potential problems early on and help you navigate around trouble spots—like icebergs—for a smooth journey.

 

 

 

Published originally on CA.com Project and Portfolio Management blog Feb 27, 2014. View original post here>>

 

 


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Recently, the Wall Street Journal held a CIO networking event where CIOs talked about moving up the ladder into the corner office. It’s logical that if technology is the future, a CIO’s deep knowledge of technology will help organizations succeed in a world dominated by big data, cloud storage and social media. Yet, technical skills alone are not enough.

 

In my experience as an executive coach, it takes much more than tech savvy to rise to the highest ranks of the organization.

 

I work with CIOs, CFOs, cyber security mangers, engineers, scientists, physicians and finance executives. Some have recently been promoted, or have excellent technical skills, but still lack leadership qualities that will push them ahead. What’s missing might be described by a supervisor as either lack of confidence or lack of what we call “emotional intelligence.”

 

As I have written about previously, executives who make it to the top have a unique combination of self-awareness, self-restraint and social skills that I call emotional intelligence. But even that is not enough these days.

 

Developing Strong Presence Two Ways

Another set of skills that need development and strengthening could be called "executive presence." What are the signs of weak executive presence? When a client defers to their bosses too much either by looking down at their notes, or not making eye contact; when presentation skills fall short or when someone has a slouching posture—these all put you at a disadvantage.

 

These may seem like small shortcomings, but they are very important if you want to move ahead. One of the best executive coaches I know Jeff Kaplan, writes that: “Executive Presence is about being present with your audience, whether that's one person or a room of 1,000... It's about how you "present" yourself regardless of whether you're giving a formal presentation, participating in an executive team meeting, or talking to one person at the water cooler.”

 

Fundamentally, it is about truly being “in the moment” with others. In our multitasking, mobile-device filled business world, this is increasingly difficult. To improve in this area, two key ingredients are required. First, you must be absolutely fully prepared regardless of whether you're giving a presentation to clients or having a quick conversation with your boss on the phone. When you're fully prepared, you can then deeply listen to what others are saying without worrying about what they're thinking of you or what great wisdom you want to say next. You’ll be relaxed, connected to your breath (instead of cut off from your breath due to anxiety or disorganization), and able to pick up nuances from what others say and how they say it. 

 

Fostering Creativity

The second key ingredient is that you must be fully present, completely engaged in the moment and not "in your head" with thought -- such as judging the person or audience you're speaking to, or wondering what your audience is thinking about you or what you're going to make for dinner.

 

When people are fully present, creativity flows, new ideas emerge, awareness gets deepened, and problems get solved.

By contrast, if someone is unprepared, in their head, or pushing through a pre-set agenda, there is no room for the creative thoughts.”

 

Beyond having confidence in your ideas, executive presence also means dressing the part, knowing how to hold an audience’s attention, having confidence in who you are and what you believe in, having excellent social skills, knowing when to show self restraint and being organizationally savvy. Surprisingly, these are things that can be taught-- even if initially, the new behaviors feel artificial. Many a TED talk focuses on powerful behavior and how “fake it until you make it or become it.”

 

Executive presence is hard to describe, yet easy to spot. Most importantly, it’s vital for CIOs and others who aspire to lead and to succeed.

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Robotics Revisited in Editor's Notes

Posted by Paula Klein Mar 11, 2014

What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time we were writing about robots as a long-term play. Something you had to watch and consider, but maybe not on your immediate radar. We asked: Should robots be in your strategic plan for 2013? Now, in 2014, the answer is a decisive yes!

 

Last year I wrote:

“The signs are all pointing to mainstream business use of robotics in the very near future. Gartner analyst Jackie Fenn told Smart Enterprise Exchange that “IT staffs should expect employees or business units to introduce robots into the enterprise, so robots should also be a part of your consumerization plans and initiatives.”

 

Are you prepared for the swift progress that’s taking place? Beyond the much-touted autonomous cars and vacuum cleaners — and even Amazon’s widely reported use of package-delivery drones — mainstream manufacturing businesses, such as Toyota and Tesla, are using industrial robots for parts assembly and other tasks, and additional industry sectors are jumping in as well. The TechNavio research firm recently forecast that the global service robotics market will grow at a compound annual rate of 19.05 percent from 2012 to 2016. One of the key drivers is the increasing demand of professional robots for medical applications, according to the report.

 

Medical Applications

As an example, a business unit of the Henry Ford Health System in February announced it will invest in and partner with the Quality of Life Technology (QoLT) Center to develop new digital health and robotic solutions to improve patient outcomes and transitional care after hospitalization. Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute will be a key R&D partner working on this initiative to develop “assistive robotics” that pair humans and with robotic aides. [Photo shows robotic surgery at Henry Ford Hospital].maze-WEB-21.jpg

 

Separately, Google is also reportedly acquiring robotic technology and talent, and is working with Foxconn on new robotics and software for manufacturing and assembly.

 

What does it all mean for IT leaders? As I also wrote previously, technology and the economy are at a crossroads on the issue of automation. CIOs — as both technology and business leaders — must encourage and support robotic efforts to keep their businesses competitive. At the same time, the U.S. government must addresses potential job loss and economic impacts. As Gartner’s Fenn noted: "CIOs and IT managers should consider mobile robots as a way to automate tasks, ... engage users and extend human capabilities.”

 

When the book Race Against the Machine was first published in 2011, it sparked conversation and debate about what automation can achieve and how it will affect jobs and the economy. This year, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee’s new, highly acclaimed book, The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, is taking the discussion even further.

 

Considering the Challenges

It’s not the gee-whiz factor of Google cars or intelligent robots that’s generating the most attention. It’s what the authors call the “thorny challenges” and choices we face as a result of digital disruption, such as job displacement, economic shifts and deep-rooted cultural and social change. CIOs should be leading these discussions along with conversations about automation technology and its impact on the business.

 

Some of the disruption may come from business process automation (BPA), not robotics, and might seem more mundane. For example, everyday processes such as expense reporting, invoicing and employment reviews are among the areas where organizations are using digital technology to move away from paper and manual processes, CompTIA’s Trends in Workforce Automation and Communications study finds. That’s why business process automation is making inroads with smaller businesses, as reported here. Three-fourths of small firms (fewer than 100 employees) surveyed by CompTIA have seen a significant or moderate increase in their use of BPA technology over the past two years

 

And the impact is far from mundane. “Technology is no longer functioning in a simple support role, but is increasingly used to meet business objectives and drive differentiation,” Seth Robinson, director of technology analysis at CompTIA, reports. “Companies with aggressive technology adoption mindsets are able to advance to process-level issues and create competitive advantage.”

 

What is your mindset regarding robotics? Are you convinced yet that robotics should be the next digital technology included in your 2014 IT plan—and beyond? What initiatives are you involved with?

 

 

Paula Klein

Editor and Community Manager

Smart Enterprise Exchange

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