Class notes - week eleven, Spring 2018

This week the increased B Term workload really kicked in.

Table of contents

It was a good week regardless. My free time has disappeared with the extra studying, but I managed to keep up with the readings and complete an assignment for IDSC. It’s also been a good week at work. Hit my first lull in a while in the most active stage of our CRM implementation, allowing me to work on some other areas of that implementation which needed attention. I wrote the quarterly update for that project, getting to report that the areas we were working to deliver last quarter are now delivered, while other areas we were starting on then are now in full swing. Last night I read the case study for next week’s IDSC class, in which the large company undertaking a data normalizing process for an internal systems consolidation hired a director and a team of 20 for the task. I actually gasped reading that. Having worked on multiple database implementations as the data fixer, and the project manager, and the business analyst, and the sysadmin, it’s a little mind boggling to imagine a team bigger than the entire staff of my org working on just one of those areas. But truth be told, I love the breadth of my work now. This project is a unique challenge to combine four systems, two by conversion (both done) and two by integration (getting there). CRM implementation is 80% of my job right now, but this week I also managed deployment of a critical security patch for the organization’s website and finished setting up a computer for our new boss who starts on Monday. Plus I got a nice opportunity to share a textbook passage on leadership transitions with my coworkers. :)

Notes from IDSC

This week’s IDSC featured a brilliant guest speaker, a former student who now works in process improvement at a large company.


  • How do we make sure that firms leverage their IT resources to the benefit of the business? It takes some very smart people, and not just the ones in the IT department.

Guest speaker

  • IT provides the foundation for the technology, but the business is in charge of deciding what’s going to drive the growth for their customer.
  • Need to co-speak the language with IT to understand the possibilities
  • Understanding technology is essential for business leaders at every level
  • Technology is fundamentally transforming organizations
  • Need to look outside your company to find external sources of information in order to stay relevant. Bringing this information in to the company helps differentiate you from your peers
  • Companies are organizing themselves for transformation right now
  • Rather than functional silos, starting to really understand the customer experience and process to get your product into their hands
  • What is a transformation?
    • Digital transformation
    • Business transformation
    • Process transformation
    • Automation transformation
  • Workforce is now global, and competition for jobs is global. Multilingual talent is prized
  • Large scale technology implementations are giving way to implementations that are much more flexible and iterative
  • Many of the solutions now are low code or no code. Don’t need programmers to build it, tools are there, need people with knowledge of the business and analytical skills
  • Current state of technology is already ahead of the use case
  • It has to be business driven, and has to be focused on the customer. That drives the capabilities. Then go one step further and ask what processes develop that capability
  • It’s not a silver bullet. No technology is going to solve your problem. Needs to come after you understand the business problem
  • Automating a bad process is a wasted investment
  • All of these components need to be working for you to get the full value out of the technology
  • Close collaboration and support from IT is crucial. IT has a key governing role and capabilities to integrate initiatives with existing infrastructure
  • Strategies don’t just happen, they’re a collection of processes
  • If you research transformation, there’s sort of an emerging industry standard. Lots of companies have common elements in their frameworks
  • Strategic alignment - executive-level sponsorship, prioritized processes and transformation initiatives aligned to corporate strategy
  • Governance - establishment of a governance operating model inclusive of decision rights, roles & accountabilities, operating procedures, and oversight
  • Early on in a transformation, you need a very heavy structure to effect the change. As it becomes established, the structure skinnies down
  • Value streams - Definition of processes and intersection points. Standards for processes and documentation
  • Role of third party consultants and vendors - industry expertise, emerging deployment and business case, pilots, technology evaluation, benchmarking. Beware of over-reliance on them though, it needs to be business owned and led, and maintain control over your consultants
  • Maturity - end-state targets for capabilities and processes and the roadmap of how to get there
  • Measures - Connected and transparent organizational performance measures that predict and adjust for desired results. Some tradeoff between efficiency and agility
  • Leadership and change management - Top-down leadership that equips and enables the organizational change and champions the future state. Practical meets inspirational.
  • If you’re going to be effective at bringing new products to market, need to be able to put yourself in the shoes of your consumers and stakeholders. Much of modern innovation is being driven by consumers themselves
  • How do you put yourself in people’s shoes to understand local preferences. This is a challenge not just for change management but for leadership more broadly
  • Doing a lot of small scale pilots to test and learn. Recognizes the importance of building on a common technology platform when scaling up, will run into trouble if fragmented infrastructure exists across the company
  • Legacy systems make it more difficult for established companies to be able to implement transformation, raises the scope and cost to implement change

Remainder of the lecture

  • The world is changing so fast, lessons like this are so valuable.
  • When you’re in a large corporation trying to make a complex change, how do you organize all of the pieces to set the stage for a successful transformation?
  • even after you’ve implemented a complex IT project, whether it pays off or not is a complex question
  • How do we make sure that we have a grand plan, and that we achieve it in stages?
  • Terminology: Multi-business firms - when you think of a multi-business unit, call that an enterprise. Each unit is a firm
  • Each business unit might have completely different goals
  • At the end of the day, the most important consideration behind all of these things is a vision of the future. Defining that vision is the key question to get right when planning a large IT investment
  • Planning for a project that’ll take 3-5 years to implement, you need to understand what your customers are going to want from you at that point in the future
  • What is expected of a firm is a complicated thing. As markets and industries change, what the firm needs to be in the future is a moving target
  • In some industries the key firm processes and standards of performance are better understood than in other industries. Implications for managing uncertainty:
    • When fully known, strategic planning to identify scenarios and planning for execution
    • When those things are partially known, plan for known scenarios and build flexibility to adapt to new changes
    • When there no consensus, ……?
  • Things go both ways. You have a technology strategy driven by business, and a business strategy driven by technology. Needs to be a bit of both
  • One of the things that always needs to happen in the real world, almost all technology investments need a business case
  • A lot of IT investments are fairly complicated. You’re going for long-term growth, but it’s hard to make the case in the traditional mold of asset investment
  • Organizations need to start thinking in a very smart portfolio approach about what they will and won’t fund
  • IRR - Internal Rate of Return - concept used to justify internal investments. Standard cash flow metrics – how do you do an IRR on an experiment?
  • At the end of the day, any IRR is based on projections and assumptions. It gets more acute in the case of technology investments
  • Whichever way you choose, recognize that inherently there is no clear answer
  • Important to establish broad guidelines for allocation access portfolio types. One size fits all models can be too rigid
  • It’s good to have a balance in your portfolio, including some moonshots

Notes from MGNPO

Tonight’s MGNPO class turned out to be more discussion than lecture, starting with a discussion of our recent case study assignment and then of this week’s readings. It was interesting and enjoyable but also means I took fewer notes than usual.

  • In a leadership case there are lots of options, question is which one fits right now? Even an ethical issue isn’t just yes or no
  • The generative “what will it take” reframes the discussion
  • Our goal is to change every threat into an opportunity or every weakness into a strength
  • Leadership style - some people carry themselves with a hero attitude, riding high. Others lead with more of a servant style, more transformational than transactional.
  • Jean Luc Picard school of management - “make it so” then check back later to ensure your staff is following through
  • What does marketing mean to you?
    • Telling our story and getting people to buy in to it
    • It’s a slogan or a commercial
    • It’s your branding
    • An emotional connection to your audience
    • Directed to your target as opposed to promoting your product or service
    • Upstream versus downstream marketing
  • In nonprofits, marketing is usually storytelling, case statements, testimonials from customers, etc.
  • Interesting comment about the social implications of storytelling. Are human rights organizations doing a disservice to certain developing countries when they continually highlight stories of abusive practices in those places?
  • How we tell stories now is less and less through traditional media channels, often now through social media and much more uncensored and unfiltered. It’s not always a source of truth or source of fact.
  • Some nonprofits will weave a bit of social marketing into their traditional messaging
Written on March 29, 2018