The Innovating IT Service conference is coming to Melbourne soon. Dinsha Palkhiwala will be presenting a workshop and delivering a presentation. Dinsha works directly with CIOs and ICT leaders to enhance their careers and capabilities.
1. You’ve described yourself as a mentor and coach. What does your typical work day involve?
My mentoring and coaching is based on the philosophy of “Developing tomorrow’s leaders using yesterday’s champions working on today’s problems”. It is what I call active coaching and mentoring, whereby the mentee assimilates experience to enhance their capabilities. Hence, when I am engaged in these assignments, typically it will involve working through specific issues, facilitating thinking of options, creating self-awareness of risk and appropriateness of the options and encouraging the mentee to make the decision.
As my business name “Competency Catalyst” suggests, I see my role in the whole process as the catalyst and the mentee to be the prime ingredient. This approach allows the mentee to develop self-confidence and provides sustainable growth of individual and organisational capabilities.
2. You’ve been working in ICT for over 35 years. A lot has changed in that time. In 2015, you’re expecting to see new roles and functions emerge in IT. What do you think some of those will be, and what skills do you think ICT professionals should be aiming to develop?
2015 will see the emergence of new roles, functions and IT organisational structures that go beyond the traditional definitions. A number of researchers have indicated that in the next 3–5 years a number of traditional roles & functions will not exist, and a number of roles & functions, which we have not even thought of yet, will evolve. Internal IT focus will move from “service delivery” to “service brokering and orchestration”
In a world where customers will be more IT savvy and empowered, IT functions will have to make some real difference. Sourcing will be a multi-stakeholder activity and someone will have to take on the role of “conducting the orchestra”. As a result, some likely roles / functions that we can expect are Service Integrator, Service Outcome Assurance and Service Broker.
All IT functions and roles will have to incorporate a healthy balance between:
AGILITY – Business outcome: Market Leader/Risk Taker/High Growth
EFFICIENCY – Business outcome: Market Follower/Risk Averse/Mature
In everything IT does, it will have to think in line with the new paradigm, and will therefore need to:
identify and develop new competencies in IT staff; and
adjust and adopt new IT organisation structures.
In the evolving world of SaaS, IaaS, cloud sourcing, and BYOD, the very definitions and boundaries of infrastructure, application etc. will be redefined. In this situation the most unnerving scenario will have some senior members of IT management finding their roles, competencies and functions becoming irrelevant. One wonders in these situations how these “decision makers” will react. The ones that see this as an opportunity to reinvent will emerge with enhanced career opportunities. The ones who cannot see beyond their own turf will soon find the world has moved on, and they will be “decommissioned” along with the legacy systems to which they are so emotionally attached.
3. No doubt you’ve worked across the generational spectrum. What differences, if any, have you observed in the way Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials approach service management?
The best way to describe this evolution will be to use some of the concepts presented in one of the papers published by Gartner in 2010 titled, Critical Success Factor Choices and Road Maps to 2013.
This paper described IT profiles evolving through following four stages:
Primary role to manage existing service operations & delivery
With the focus on IT cost containment, service predictability and reliability, and continual service and unit cost improvement using governance as a means of self-protection
Primary role to oversee shared technology operations & manage vendor integration using right-sized governance to manage business risk
With the focus on service over cost with evolving anticipation of business needs
The Team Player
Primary role to lead business in exploring and exploiting information services & technology for competitive advantage with the intent to maximise shared value and attain high business alignment
With the focus on business process, while remaining solution driven demonstrating IT value over time, not just cost
Primary role to advise business units on exploring information services & technology innovation while taking “cradle to grave” responsibility for the service portfolio relevant to business
With the focus on managing business risk arising out of information & technology decisions relating to service portfolio.
In the time I have been in the industry, I have seen different colleagues and professionals in each of the above mindsets, and so I would be hesitant to associate a particular mindset to a particular generation. What I have experienced, even in my career is that increasing acceptance of IT and IT professionals to move from Grinder to Butler to Team player to Entrepreneur. The main difference I am seeing as the generation evolves is the shift from Grinder being the dominant profile to the Entrepreneur profile. To some extent this is driven by the change in the IT professional capability from technology dominant to business dominant. As the new generation arrives on the scene, we are seeing more of IT-savvy business managers compared to business-savvy IT managers. I predict that in next 5 to 10 years commoditisation of IT will have IT mainly lead by IT-savvy business managers.
4. The Baby Boomers are leaving the workforce at a rapid rate now, and taking their knowledge with them. What recommendations can you make for organisations that might be facing this challenge?
The ICT industry is presently at a crossroads. On the one hand, the influx of new entrants is declining; on the other hand there has been very little focus on conserving and harnessing the experience, already within the industry, which we are losing, through the exit of many experienced senior professionals leaving their full time roles from within the industry. The combined impact of the ageing workforce and the perceived apparent failure of many employers to upgrade, both breadth and depth of the workplace competencies could well mean that Australia risks being unable to sustain key ICT-based economic capabilities in the future (Building Australian ICT skills, report May 2006).
As such, the participation of mature age workers, (Grey Army), can be used to play a key role in tipping the balance between the number of future retirees, (this should include the so called transition to retirement element), and the number of workers available to support them. In fact, an extra 3% of retention would result in a $33 billion boost to GDP, (Increasing Participation among older workers, report by Deloitte Access Economics, 2012).
The industry needs to focus on preserving the experience of existing senior professionals for the overall benefit of the ICT industry, and as a result in supporting the broader community and the Australian national interest.
Even though Baby Boomers are often no longer permanently employed, this rich resource pool of “Grey Army” (ICT community senior members), still wish to share their years of valuable real life experiences. However they find themselves frustrated and disillusioned by the fact that there does not seem to be any coordinated effort to harvest their experiences, and to enable them to be visible to CIOs.
The irony is that while most of the CIOs and their direct reports are very clear on the importance of technology refresh, and hence invest a great deal of energy and time in creating an annual plan, very rarely do you find them mentioning “competency refresh”, in their annual strategy. Nor have they allocated any investment resources for it in the annual budget.
It appears that traditionally any competency deficiencies are addressed in an adhoc and uncoordinated manner, often by employing, contracting, or engaging consultants. This is not a sustainable solution. From various industry reports one can clearly conclude that when it comes to developing and nurturing internal competencies and capabilities, the traditional approaches do not seem to be delivering the most optimum outcome for the CIO, the organisation, or the stakeholders and shareholders.
I have been championing a “competency augmentation” approach as a sustainable way of increasing organisational competencies, through active coaching / mentoring by the existing Grey Army ICT resources to grow the intrinsic value of an organisation’s human resources. This approach is designed to help the ICT community, to identify the competency gaps, and at same time provide access to senior resources with the desired competencies, to bridge the gap. Active coaching / mentoring means the coaching and mentoring is done through delivery of real tangible outcomes, that have organisational benefit and value, through partnership between the coach / mentor and the recipient of the coaching / mentoring. This approach encourages retired “senior members” of the ICT community to contribute their extensive experience.
5. For an organisation wanting to adopt a new framework, such as DevOps, Agile or Lean, what are the key areas people tend to overlook?
Any adoption of the new framework should be done with clear understanding of the strategic intent and business focused outcome. The idea is to be inclusive and avoid the temptation of throwing the baby out with bath water. There is a common misunderstanding that to successfully implement DevOps/Agile/Lean frameworks organisations have to go away from basic IT governance and service management good practices. This thinking is very dangerous as it assumes that one approach is replacing the other approach.
One has to remember, that IT has a dual role to “serve & secure”. Traditionally, IT has been more focused on the “secure” aspect – governance, control etc. As a result, even when focusing on the serve aspect, IT has appeared to be overly bureaucratic, sluggish and risk averse at the cost of being responsive and accommodating to business needs.
While adoption of new techniques like DevOps etc. allows IT to enhance the focus on the “serve” aspect, any effective transformation can only occur if the “secure” role is not totally ignored. Remember this transformation is not about taking the so called “cowboy” attitude of shoot first and aiming later, but maintaining a healthy balance between both perspectives. Be assured that business will not forgive IT if they drop the ball on “secure”. No one in their right mind will accept an automobile manufacturer that said “I will give you all the wonderful features you want very quickly, but by the way, some of them might fail while you are driving. But we can fix that once you have crashed”.
In reality any organisation adopting DevOps/Agile/Lean frameworks needs to ensure coexistence and integration with the existing IT service management eco-system. Every organisation operates within its’ own IT service management eco-system; it is important to understand the culture and context of this and adopt the frameworks to ensure these are appropriate and relevant. A blind adherence to the exclusion of other good practices will only aggravate “fragmentation” within IT and result in a confrontational outcome. This is not advantageous for delivering quality IT Services.
6. What part should knowledge management play in these transformations? What really happens?
We have many times heard that “knowledge is power”, but it has to be right kind of knowledge. Traditionally, IT seems to be focusing on the knowledge about technology, infrastructure and assets, but with the changing role of IT, from service delivery to service integrator and service broker, the key artefacts of the knowledge are changing. Service catalogue, service profile, service category plans, contract database, vendor profiles, and market intelligence and trends are becoming more important artefacts than traditional technology architectures, product details and even the good old CMDB. The issue is that these knowledge artefact transcend the traditional boundaries of IT silos and go even beyond IT—into procurement, strategic sourcing, finance, legal, shared services and even business. Many times it is very difficult to find a single owner and single source of truth, so establishing this knowledge base is difficult. When you add the complexity of many different stakeholders, each wanting different perspectives of the same knowledge, it can lead to a “too hard basket” situation and knowledge becomes fragmented and inconsistent.
On the flip-side, service providers and vendors are very good at reusing this type of information because it can make a huge difference to their competitive position. Hence when the organisations have to deal with service providers who are well-armed with these knowledge elements, lack of this knowledge within organisation can shift the balance of power to the service providers. This may lead to organisations ending up on the back foot in contract negotiations.
7. One assumes that your mentoring and coaching clients have sought you out because they want to improve the way their IT organisations run. What characteristics do you think these CIOs have that set them apart from those that haven’t?
Let us accept at the outset that this approach to enhancing organisational competency is not traditional, and to many IT professionals it is quite challenging to their mindset. Hence the CIO, or her / his direct reports, wanting to take the organisation down this path needs to be prepared to innovate in areas of capability management and be prepared to take some risk. They also need to be seriously committed to the belief that people are our best and most valuable resources.
As I said before, this approach is about “developing tomorrow’s leaders using yesterday’s champions working on today’s problems”. Inherently the approach focuses on identifying and developing transferrable capabilities while acknowledging the capabilities which are redundant. It also challenges the established organisation functional grouping. Hence for this to work, the CIO and her / his DRs need to have a strong belief in their capability, but at the same time they themselves need to be prepared to face the truth about their own limitation and see this as opportunity to reinvent their own careers. In summary, the CIO & their DRs, who are really the leaders and not just the managers, are most likely to see the benefit of this approach and be comfortable enough to take it up.
For this approach to succeed the CIO has to have a “capability refresh strategy” as part of their overall strategy and should be ready to lead from front. This has to be a top-down initiative. This is not something that will work overnight; it requires persistence and commitment to the objectives. Many times, when speaking about this approach to the CIO and their DRs their response is typically, “good idea, but I do not have time I have to get things done now, so I am better off getting a consultant or contractor from outside and get this done”. Unfortunately the lack of vision and planning gets them in this situation again and again, as they are reactive.
Thank you, Dinsha!