Post #6 (and last) in the Series: Accountability

Dr. Westerman writes:

Business says: “Why do you make me go through all of this bureaucracy?”

IT says: “Our methodologies are how we make sure everyone does the right thing.”

“It may often seem to business leaders that IT’s answer to every request is more procedures—more forms to complete, reviews to attend and approvals to get. These procedures, or methodologies, require effort, but they help to ensure that nothing important gets forgotten and that everyone knows their roles.

They become a sore point, though, if people don’t understand the purpose of each step, or if the steps become a bureaucracy aimed at enforcing unnecessary rules rather than helping requests to be executed well. As with the prioritization processes described earlier, the best companies have solid IT methodologies, and IT people make it as easy as possible to follow them.

The CIO of a defense contractor decided to convert IT’s development methodology to the same one the firm used for product-development projects. Suddenly, everyone knew what they were supposed to do, what questions to ask of whom, and how to deal with the answers. Executives made better decisions, project performance improved, and so did the relationship between IT and business people.

Creating transparency takes extra time and effort on everyone’s part, especially IT’s. But this is one project that definitely pays. Transparency around performance and decision processes improves the business value of IT and builds trust between business and IT people. As everyone learns to work better together, IT becomes part of the company’s business-level decisions and initiatives, not its own world. When that happens, the marriage of IT and the business side is really working.”

Tom’s Take: In my book, Building a Winning Business, I devote an entire section to working effectively with vendors. Not surprisingly, a fair amount of that section talks about the importance of taking the time to get key things right.

First, take time to select the right partner.  Next, it’s crucial to clearly define what’s in and out of a project, identify risks and mitigation plans, have clear lines of responsibility, and, as shared throughout the book, a solid communication plan.

As noted an earlier post, in the world of Agile and Scrum, sprints create visibility and accountability… which is good for customer and vendor alike!

Intertech Featured in “How to collect money after the sale” in The Business Journal

Intertech, as one of the 50 fastest growing firms in Minnesota, was selected by The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal to be included in the Fast 50 Diary.

The Fast 50 Diary is a monthly piece that profiles 10 Fast 50 firms over the course of a year.  Each month focuses on a topic.

This month’s topic featured Intertech.  The article is How to collect money after the sale.

Better than being a Fast 50 or selected to be profiled is the painting in the background of the picture.  It was created by my three year-old.  When I showed him the printed article, he looked beyond me and said, “My painting, dad!”  Spoken like a true artist.

Here’s a picture of his work (the solid background of the painting was done by our wonderful marketing person… the balance is my son).

Post #5 in the Series: Prioritization

Business says: “I need this right away.”

IT says: “Sure, but three other executives just told me the same thing.”

“IT people are in a tough situation. While they have to provide service to every unit in the organization, business-unit chiefs tend to recognize only the work IT does directly for them. One CIO said, “We need a way to ensure that resources go to the right people, not just to the ones who yell loudest.”

To accomplish that, executives need to decide which projects are most valuable to the company. The most successful companies have clear ways to estimate the value of every proposed project—how much it will boost sales, say, or increase efficiency. Then they have a clear method to decide which projects are most worth doing. Some firms use a steering committee headed by the CFO or CIO. Others use different methods. Whatever method is used, there must be a way to ask tough questions to ensure the company allocates its IT resources wisely.

But it doesn’t end there. Any good manager knows how to game a system like this by inflating a project’s projected value or overstating its prospects of success. So the best companies require executives to report back with evidence on whether each project met its goals. That reduces fibbing and helps executives learn how to drive more value from IT.”

Tom’s Take:

Engaging a third-party IT vendor, such as Intertech, is a great way to supplement a company’s internal resources, particularly when an IT department needs to quickly scale up resources. Consultants provide the metaphorical extra arms and legs needed to get the job done. Beyond bandwidth, vendors can bring new knowledge and expertise that in-house staff may not possess.

Post #4 in the Series: Focusing on Results versus Process

Dr. George Westerman of MIT writes:

Business says: “I want it this way.”

IT says: “We can’t do it that way.”

“In too many companies, the CIO is seen as the “CI-No.”

To many on the business side, the way things should work seems simple enough. They want IT changes—new mobile devices, maybe, or new system functionality—and they don’t see why IT can’t deliver what they want. But obviously there’s more to the story.

IT leaders know it’s not that simple. They need to be sure that any changes don’t compromise the safety of the company’s IT systems and business processes. And they know the downsides of introducing nonstandard devices or unnecessary software customizations. Exceptions create complexity, and complexity is the major driver of extra cost and risk in IT.

The key in bridging the gap is for IT leaders to explain clearly the reasoning behind saying “no.” If they give the business side enough insight, future requests might even be more reasonable. IT people also need to be open to exceptions when the new approach is much better than the standard approach, or when there is another good reason for it. Meanwhile, business people should aim to say what they want to do without requiring it to be done a certain way.

For example, in a major energy company, when people request something that won’t work well, the CIO says, “Give me a couple of weeks.” Soon, he’s able to say, “Here are the costs, benefits and risks of doing it your way. And here are two other options that do what you want, but are better.”

Tom’s Take:

At the end of the day, our job is to deliver results in the most cost-effective way possible.  We’re also lucky to work with many smart clients, typically IT people themselves, who do not waste time – or their investment in our services – by explaining to us how to do our technical work (unless, of course, we need to do something in a different or specific way to stay in compliance with their standards). So while we’re usually in complete agreement with customers on the work to be done, we still look for ways to add value beyond the stated objectives.

For example, Intertech recently was working with a firm specializing in product lifecycle management and 3D modeling. Using an agile software development process, our team was able to deliver all of our core requirements and more several weeks early. In fact, most of our team was able to roll off the project earlier allowing our customer to reallocate the funds to other projects.

A Good Cause. A Great Family. The Chicago Polar Bear Plunge.

The Chicago, IL Lakeview Polar Bear Club has chosen to support two great causes for the 2013 Polar Bear Plunge.

One of the two is my best friend Peter Quinn and his family.  Here’s info from their website.

“Peter Quinn loved to run – including the Chicago Marathon in 2010.  But on April 16th, 2011 Peter was out running when he started to cross the street.  A speeding van ran a red light and struck Peter.  He flew 30′ from the impact and suffered many injuries, such as:  broken ribs, a collapsed lung, broken tibia and a major spinal cord injury.  Peter spent 1 month in the hospital and was given a 2% chance to walk again.During the hospital say Peter had surgery to insert titanium rods in his spine and he underwent 3 surgeries on his lungs.  He was then moved to rehab for 2.5 months before finally being healthy enough to move home.  Since the accident, Peter’s life has been all about family, friends and rehabilitation.  Peter rehabs 6 hours/day, 4 days per week.  Another five days each week he travels to Rockford, IL for hyperbaric chamber treatments.  Peter’s family and friends have sacrificed a lot of time, money and energy to ensure that Peter gets to all of his appointments so he reaches the ultimate goal – walking again.

The rehabilitation work is definitely hard, but the benefits are starting to show.  After 9 months Peter was taking steps with the help of orthotics.  Each day has victories and setbacks, but all of the physical therapy that he has completed, Peter is slowly making progress towards walking on his own.

Peter remains a strong individual and is not defined by this accident, as he is also a husband (wife is Rita) and a father of three beautiful children:  Katherine (age 12), Henry (9), and Andrew (6).  The family has additional responsibilities and expenses as the youngest child, Andrew, is autistic.  His condition requires special care and the family is doing everything necessary to ensure that Andrew lives a normal and well-adjusted childhood.  This is a wonderful family that has been dealt a serious and life altering change.  With your donations, the LPBC is able to provide Peter with the necessary therapy sessions to have him walking & playing with this children in the near future.  For videos of Peter’s progress, check out the website:

If you want to help, you can support the Lakeview Polar Bear plunge or donate directly at Peter’s Place.